& Changes: Sunday, December 26,
2010, thru Saturday, December 31, 2010
December 31, 2010 - Yesterday was a good day. I received my first bank-transfer payment from Amazon for books sold via Kindle, and I received the biggest order in years from Barnes & Noble for actual printed copies of my book. And that order was 33% larger (4 vs. 3) than the order they placed in November. Two "big" sales months in a row!
But, today was not as good. I went to the biggest hardware store in town looking for silicon carbide sandpaper, and 99% of the sandpaper they had didn't identify the type of "sand" on the paper. The 1% that did identify the "sand" were all aluminum oxide, which is of no help. They had lots of sandpaper that looked like it might be silicon carbide, but I didn't bring an Energy Dispersive X-Ray Spectrometer with me to check it out.
On the positive side, however, the research I'm doing into the AFIP report is really interesting. The new web page that started out as "How Ivins Dried the Anthrax" and then became "Mysteries of the AFIP Report" is now being called "Analyzing the AFIP Report," since it's now more about the analysis than the mysteries, and some of the mysteries may be solved by the time I upload the page and put it on this site early next year.
Have a happy New Year everyone!
December 30, 2010 - After studying the images in the 2001 AFIP report and discussing them with other people, it now seems clear that the background material in the picture below is most likely "the double stick conductive carbon tape that is often used in SEM laboratories":
After viewing a different image that was very grainy, I previously speculated that the material in the background might be the sandpaper. But, in this image the three tiny particles that were analyzed are clearly visible between the arrows. They look like they could be crystals of silicon carbide from sandpaper, but obviously they are not mounted on a piece of sandpaper. Furthermore, the scale indicates they are most likely the same kind of crystals seen in a cluster of crystals found in the New York Post powder. That cluster is shown in the image below:
These crystals are many times larger than Bacillus anthracis spores, and that makes them far too heavy to aerosolize easily, so they almost certainly have nothing to do with weaponization. And, if they truly are silicon carbide crystals from the sandpaper on which the New York Post powder was dried, that would mean they have absolutely nothing to do with the silicon detected inside the spore coats of the attack spores.
Since there is no solid proof that the crystals are silicon carbide, nor is there any solid proof of where the crystals came from, there are still "mysteries" here, but it also seems very likely that any proof that may eventually be found will show this analysis to be correct, not incorrect. All the known pieces seem to fit.
December 28, 2010 (B) - Hmm. As I was working on my new web page about "The Mysteries of the AFIP Report," I found another "mystery" that has been around since September of 2009, and no one seems to have asked about it. Could it be just a coincidence that there seems to be a piece of paper in the New York Post powder as seen the image below from the FBI? What could that piece of paper possibly be? A piece of the letter? A piece of the envelope? Someone suggested it might be a tiny piece of folded "weighing paper" used to scoop the last remaining particles out of corners of the envelope. It looks too thin to be sandpaper, so it's another unsolved mystery to add to the list.
December 28, 2010 (A) - After sleeping on it, it now appears that I should be talking about "the sandpaper hypothesis," not "the sandpaper finding." So, when I manage to find the time to create the new web page about the AFIP report, it will probably be titled "The Mysteries of the AFIP Report" or possibly "The Sandpaper Hypothesis."
It also occurred to me this morning that I have a piece of sandpaper in my toolbox. I've had it for many years.
I tore off a piece about 1/2 inch square and put a drop of water in the center of the "sand" covered side. It remained as a bead. It did not soak into the "sand" on the paper. However, the "sand" on the sandpaper seems the same color as the paper, tan, not black, which made me think it's not silicon carbide. On the back of the paper it says it's made by Carborundum, and it says "Flint". Researching that, it appears that flint is an alternative to silicon carbide. So, I've proved nothing. The particles are flintstone, not silicon carbide.
December 27, 2010 (D) - People are beginning to punch holes in my hypothesis that Ivins used sandpaper as a desiccant to dry the New York Post powder. I find sources which say silicon carbide is hydrophilic (absorbs water) HERE, HERE and HERE. But, I can't find any source which specifically states that it works as a desiccant. And there are other references which seem to suggest that some silicon carbide particles may be hydrophobic (repels water).
This doesn't change the hypothesis that Ivins used sandpaper when making the New York Post powder, it just puts in question exactly what he did with the sandpaper. And I'm getting some strong doubts that the material in the AFIP images is silicon carbide from people who know a lot more about such things than I do.
December 27, 2010 (C) - The main argument with the AFIP images is that there is no explanation for how the samples were prepared, who prepared them or what the background was made of. And, there doesn't appear to be any way to get that information, either. So, the evidence that the AFIP sample shows pieces of sandpaper is "circumstantial evidence," not prima facie ("smoking gun") evidence. As such, the circumstantial evidence must be viewed in its entirety. Arguing that there could be other explanations for a specific of evidence is not a valid argument, because it is the totality of the evidence that is important, not any single piece of evidence.
December 27, 2010 (B) - Someone just argued that pure silicon pieces look very much like silicon carbide pieces. Doing a Google image search for silicon, I found a web site with images of what appears to be pure silicon. Here's one:
There are other, much larger images HERE and HERE.
These images seem to show rock-like pieces, not chip-like pieces with smooth surfaces as silicon carbide appears. And the rocks of silicon seem to be very large compared to the pieces of silicon carbide. So, I cannot do a real comparison of particle shape as I can when I compared silicon carbide with the AFIP image of particles of similar size and shape.
December 27, 2010 (A) - I'm definitely going to have to take yesterday's comments and rewrite them on a separate web page, possibly with the title "How Ivins dried the attack anthrax." It was Ivins' comments about using sand to purify and dry anthrax that joined all the pieces together. There can be no denying that Ivins knew about that method. There can be no denying that Ivins had the capability to use that method. And the evidence seems to suggest very strongly that Ivins used that method for the New York Post powder. And he may have modified it slightly for the senate powders. Instead of spreading the centrifuged material onto the sandpaper as he probably did with the New York Post material, with the senate material he may only have put sandpaper inside a container with the damp spores, allowing the hydrophilic silicon carbide on the sandpaper to draw the moisture out of the spores through desiccation.
Yesterday's comments may be somewhat of a jumble. That's because pieces were falling together as I was writing it, and I had to continuously go back to revise and add things.
Of course, there's always the possiblity that I could be totally wrong. But, so far, the responses seem to show that it's a good analysis. Furthermore, the arguments against it can be shown to be not thought out.
December 26, 2010 (B) - Something occurred to me while I was out doing some shopping. It relates to what I wrote in my (A) comment this morning. Silicon carbide is used as a grinding material, and I remembered that Ivins once said something about using sandpaper to purify spores. Checking into it when I got back home, I found this on page 27 of FBI pdf file #847443:
was recently at Home Depot and
saw the many different grades of sandpaper that they sell which made
about the use of sand in purifying B.a.
pasty block of
spores can be shaken with
sand of varying coarseness to achieve very pure or fine spores.
IVINS advised that
According to Wikipedia, "silicon carbide powder has been mass-produced since 1893 for use as an abrasive." And, "particles of silicon carbide are laminated to paper to create sandpapers."
If there was silicon carbide in the New York Post powder, it can be argued that Ivins was fishing for information about it, or he may have been using the occasion to point the finger at Iraq.
Ivins may have rubbed sandpaper together to get some fine grit, and then put the fine grit into the New York Post powder as a way of suggesting that the anthrax powder came from Iraq.
Or he may have put the centrifuged paste onto some sandpaper and used it's hydrophilic properties to help dry the paste. It would be an improvised method of desiccation! Then he'd have to scrape it off the sandpaper to get it into the letters. That would take some of the grit along.
The more I think about this, the more sense it makes. I'm going to have to think about rewriting all this to put it on a new supplemental page.
December 26, 2010 (A) - Hmmm. I just found something that was right in front of me for months, and I just never paid much attention to it before. Now, it looks like it could contain some good information -- or possibly bad misinformation.
The AFIP report that others have been discussing for a week on Lew Weinstein's site has pages that are the size of bed-sheets. That makes the pdf file slow and awkward to view on a computer screen. I tried printing it out a few weeks ago, but, it wouldn't print with standard options, and I never bothered to look at other options because the report didn't seem to contain much of interest. But, yesterday, I became frustrated with paging back and forth through the pdf file, and I decided to spend a few minutes trying to figure out if there was a way to print it. I found that my printer has a “Page Scaling” box with an option called “Shrink to Printable Area.” Presto, I was able to print a nice readable copy.
The first thing that jumped
me as I looked at the printed copy is was that the sample of the
Daschle powder (SPS02-57-03) examined
by the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP) seems to consist of
just five particles of various sizes, none
of which is any smaller that roughly 20 microns by 20 microns. There
are NO individual spores
visible in any
of the particles. Nor
does any sample look anything like a cluster of pure spores. This
is very different from the
way the Daschle powder was described in
Richard Preston's book "The Demon In The Freezer." In that book,
Geisbert saw inside his Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM) was
described this way:
The view was wall-to-wall spores. The spore were ovoids, rather like footballs but with more softly rounded ends. The material seemed to be absolutely pure spores.
book also says that the sample that Tom Geisbert of USAMRIID took to
AFIP for examination in their Energy Dispersive X-Ray Spectrometer
(EDX) was already mounted on a
cassette. Did Geisbert only take samples of unusual
clumps to AFIP for examination? Here are four of the
Daschle samples they analyzed at AFIP:
In the spectral diagrams that
accompany this image, that
fourth reading gives very different results than the first three
readings, but silicon is still
present, and the reading for Calcium seems to skyrocket.
Is it a calibration reading to get a reading on the background? If so,
what does it indicate? If it's not a calibration reading, what is it?
Here are the spectral
readings from point #1 (in the center of the sample) and point #4
(below the sample):
On page 33 of the AFIP report
the explanation letter that
AFIP sent to the FBI on November 26, 2001. It says that
“Typically, samples are
coated with a thin layer of carbon to assist with the conduction of
electrons away from the sample and prevent the buildup of a charge;
consequently, all the EDXA data (spectra) exhibit a peak for
This seems to indicate that AFIP didn't know how USAMRIID prepared the
sample on the cassette. Was it prepared with a coating of carbon
not? Typically that
would be the case. It appears that AFIP was only to analyze the
samples without really knowing what the samples represented - or even
how they were prepared.
Page 25 contains larger
the Daschle particles examined earlier in the report. I also
noticed that the larger image of the D-1 particle above is
identified differently. Instead of being sample SPS02-57-03, it's identified as
sample SPS01-57-03. Is
it a typo? There's no way to tell. It could represent
a different test number.
Note the number of the
It also seems significant that there is no spectra information in the
AFIP report about this particle. There are no numbers in the
image to indicate that they even did spectral readings.
If this is truly a picture of
particle from the Daschle powder, it is very different from anything
described in Preston's book. Perhaps it's something neither
nor Jahrling wished to share with someone writing a book, like Richard
Preston. The only explanation that comes to my mind for
this particle is that it's a piece
of dried agar. If so, then it's confirmation that all the
powders originated as spores grown on agar. If not, what is it? It looks like
material that is rubbery and somewhat flexible. That is how agar
has been described to me.
In a conversation I had with
anthrax expert on November 5, he said that scraping bacterial growth
off of agar plates is aways a problem because you always get pieces of agar.
However, later, he also wrote:
When you scoop the bugs [spores & bacteria], you slide along the perfect smooth agar surface.
I suspect he meant that you always get small pieces of agar,
but you occasionally get
LARGE pieces of agar.
On the next few pages of the
report things really get
Pages 27, 28 and 29
images of the NY Post
particles (SPS-02-88-01). They
show VERY different kinds of particles. Some particles look like pieces of broken
plastic. Others look like solid chunks of coal. And some pictures seem
to show torn threads of something that is flexible.
Image #1 below is from
page 28, and it shows a particle that looks very much like other
seen of the New York Post powder. This particle looks like it has
surface that could consist of dried spores and/or dried bacteria.
But, it also looks chair-shaped, and I'm not sure what that indicates:
Image #2 below (from
page 29 of the AFIP report) might be a very
similar but (based upon the scale) a much larger particle. It seems to show a very solid chunk
of something. But, there also appears
to be layering in the material. It looks like a chunk of fatty
bacon with some slices removed:
Image #3 below is from page
the AFIP report and almost defies analysis. Initially, I had no
clue as to
represented. It appears to show crystals. But they're also
stuck together. Could it be that the centrifuge caused all these
pieces to accumulate in one spot? At first glance, I thought they
might be Bacillus
spores. But, the NY Post material
was contaminated with Bacillus subtilis spores, not Bacillus
thuringiensis spores. And, Bacillus subtilis spores look very
much like anthrax spores. Here's the image from AFIP:
On Lew Weinstein's web site, "BugMaster"
has been arguing that the spectra indicates there must be Silicon Carbide in the
New York Post samples. The first Google
search I did found Silicon Carbide
that doesn't look anything like what is in these images. But a
second search was more fruitful. Here's an image of Silicon
Carbide that I found:
If there were crystals of silicon carbide in the New York Post powder, why has no one mentioned it during the past nine years? And, why is it so easily distinguishable from the other New York Post powder particles? Why don't we have pictures where the silicon carbide particles are together with the other kinds of particles? Why are they never mixed? One could assume that the silicon carbide isn't part of the New York post powder at all, but some test sample to be used for comparison purposes.
But, as weird as above
is, things get even more weird in two other pictures which are also
to be of some kind of
material in the NY
Post powder that looks like frayed pieces of string amid more particles
of Silicon Carbide:
Could those "threads"
paper fiber from the envelope or the letter? For all I know,
paper fiber could be a hundred times as thick as what is in the
photographs. Interestingly, the shape of the "silicon carbide"
picture #4 look very much
like what's in the cluster of "silicon carbide" pieces in picture
the scale is the same!
It seems very possible that
the strands might be paper fiber from sandpaper, not from the letter or
envelope. That generates an image of Ivins taking the dry
pellet from the centrifuge tube and grinding it up with sandpaper,
instead of chopping it up. (See my (B) comment for today.)
Something is definitely amiss
here. It makes no sense that the New York Post powder would
contain so much silicon carbide, but no one ever mentioned it
before. It seems more likely that the chip on which the New
York Post samples were placed was made from silicon carbide, and the
material in images 3, 4 and 5 were sent along to help AFIP calibrate
their EDX to compensate for the silicon carbide background.
Inexplicably, none of these images was
accompanied by a spectral analysis.
Images 1 and 2 above have tiny numbers at points on the particles, but
there are no spectra graphs for those numbered points. Image 4
the number "1" on the fat, flat tip of the "piece of string."
Presumably, that means they did an a spectra reading or tried to do an
analysis, but, again, no
spectra were provided.
The only spectral
the New York Post powder made available by AFIP in their report was the
analysis done on the eight particles in the two images below:
Was the chip on which the New York Post samples lay made from silicon carbide? How can that be? Why would that be? Why don't we have spectral graphs of multiple points on the individual particles? Why did AFIP only provide graphs which appear to be bulk analyses of entire particles (and possibly much of the background material as well)? Here is a typical spectral chart present by AFIP. It's from point 1 in the image to the left above (and from page 7 of the report):
It's these charts which set off the conspiracy theorists. The spectra for all the points examined show that the material seems to be nearly solid silicon. But there has to be some other explanation. It now appears that the chip on which the New York Post particles are laying is a silicon chip - or a silicon carbide chip - and AFIP was supposed to block out the silicon readings and test only for other elements. But, that's not what AFIP did, and it doesn't seem logical that there could be such a basic lack of communications. It seems there has to be some other explanation. The particles that clearly show spores in the New York Post powder were obviously NOT solid silicon. Could the culprit have deliberately added a fine silicon dust to the powder to make analysis more difficult. That's possible - especially for a devious sociopath like Ivins - but is it likely?
Now here's the kicker. Look at this image of silicon carbide from HERE:
Why does the background in the AFIP pictures look so much like the silicon carbide in the image above?
Unfortunately, there is no scale for the above image. But there is a scale with the image below with comes from HERE and is presumably a closer view of a similar piece of silicon carbide:
My second impression upon viewing the image above (after my first impression of how the background in the AFIP pictures looks like silicon carbide) was how similar the black and white image looked to pictures of spores in the New York Post powder, but that's apparently just that - a similarity. One is clearly spores, the other is silicon carbide.
Of course, none of this has anything to do with the silicon found in the spore coats of a high percentage of the attack spores. That silicon could not have come from silicon carbide particles. And it also has absolutely nothing to do with "weaponization." So, it shoots down the "weaponization" theories once again.
The major dispute underway at the moment is the complaint from a conspiracy theorist that the FBI claims that there isn't enough material left from the New York Post powder to do any comprehensive analysis. The conspiracy theorist claims that is an outright lie and proof of some kind of sinister plot (which would have to involve nearly the entire U.S. Government).
I'm going to have to try to discuss these images and all of the information in them with people who have a lot more experience in examining EDX and SEM images than I have.
It appears that there is a lot of important information here that could answer a lot of questions. Or the silicon carbide could just be a mistake of some kind, a point not mentioned that everyone at AFIP and USAMRIID knew.
For me, the images and the data just need to be examined and interpreted by a real experts - which probably means I'll have to try to get a consensus from experts, since everyone will probably have a slightly different point of view. But, I don't think I can even try that until after the NAS review comes out in February. The conspiracy theorists are claiming that the NAS review will prove that the FBI (and the entire U.S. Government) is lying about being unable to get a thorough analysis of the New York Post powder because there isn't enough material left. I seriously doubt the NAS will do that. But it will be interesting to see if the NAS even mentions any analysis of the New York Post powder. If they don't, the conspiracy theorists will go bonkers.
& Changes: Sunday, December 19,
2010, thru Saturday, December 25, 2010
December 24, 2010 - I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a happy holiday season.
December 22, 2010 - In an interesting discussion on Lew Weinstein's site, the scientist who claimed the New York Post powder consisted of 30% silicon was forced to aknowledge that that figure could be wrong. He now says it could be as little as 15%. But, he still ignores the fact that the material was centrifuged before it was dried and chopped up to make the powder. So, particles containing high concentrations of silicon should be expected.
I'm trying to compile a list of people who are known to still believe the attack spores were weaponized. So far, the list seems to consists of just four people:
1. "Anonymous" who is a scientist I have also argued with via emails, so I know his name.
2. Lawyer Barry Kissin.
3. Edward Jay Epstein.
4. Richard Spertzel -- probably.
December 19, 2010 - Believe it or not, there are still a few conspiracy theorists who continue to argue that the attack anthrax - including the New York Post powder - were "weaponized" using some super-sophisticated process that could only be done in some secret and illegal U.S. government bioweapons laboratory. (And, therefore, the entire Amerithrax investigation is a massive criminal conspiracy to cover up the facts about that illegal bioweapons program.)
It's being argued once again that a report released by AFIP back in 2001 says that the New York Post powder contained chunks that were 30% silicon. (It seems that bit of information is deduced from the charts in the article, since it's not mentioned in the text.) And the scientist who did the calculations believes it proves "weaponization," although, when asked, he continues to refuse to explain how 30% silicon it proves "weaponization" other than arguing that it is just too much silicon to be there "accidentally."
But a very simple answer seems to have been provided in what Dr. Ezzell said at the seminar on November 29 about creating the NY Post material in a centrifuge and then drying it: "Whoever produced the anthrax in the first two letters likely chopped up the entire anthrax pellet instead of just the white section with pure anthrax spores."
A centrifuge separates material by its specific gravity. And it is a near certainty that the silicon was in the growth medium as part of the natural nutrients. So, if such material is put into a centrifuge, a pellet of the centrifuged material, dried and chopped up, should contain particles that are very high in silicon -- perhaps even 30% silicon. The centrifuge would have concentrated all loose particles containing silicon together.
It's a very simple and straight-forward explanation, and it has nothing to do with "weaponization" or anything sinister. It's just new information made clear by the observations of Dr. John Ezzell that were never made public before.
The AFIP report also seems to clearly indicate that the NY Post powder was not homogeneous, it consisted of different particles of different compositions just as you'd get from doing as Dr. Ezzell said: chop up a dried centrifuged pellet after the original ingredients have been separated by their specific gravities.
However, perhaps what's most interesting about the text of that AFIP report is how it compares to an AFIP newsletter from that same time. The newsletter said:
When US Army investigators at Ft Detrick, Md, examined anthrax found in a letter sent to Sen. Thomas Daschle last fall, they discovered that the highly refined spores floated in the air, making them much easier for potential victims to inhale. What made this anthrax so easily aerosolized? A series of sophisticated tests revealed some clues, but the presence of another unidentifiable substance left the investigation incomplete. That’s when Ft Detrick contacted AFIP’s Department of Environmental and Toxicologic Pathology for assistance.
The "unidentifiable substance" they needed to identify was the "goop" that Tom Geisbert and Peter Jahrling saw oozing out of the Daschle spores when they turned up the power on their Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM). It was "goop" added by the investigators. But, the samples tested by AFIP were sterilized by radiation, instead of using chemicals, so they didn't contain the "goop." I described those actions in detail in Chapter 15 of my book. I also explain how AFIP reached the conclusion they state later in their newsletter:
“Ft Detrick sought our assistance to determine the specific components of the anthrax found in the Daschle letter,” said Florabel G. Mullick, MD, ScD, SES, AFIP Principal Deputy Director and department chair. AFIP experts utilized an energy dispersive X-ray spectrometer (an instrument used to detect the presence of otherwise-unseen chemicals through characteristic wavelengths of X-ray light) to confirm the previously unidentifiable substance as silica. “This was a key component,” Mullick said. “Silica prevents the anthrax from aggregating, making it easier to aerosolize.
The AFIP report issued about this testing differs considerably from what was in the newsletter. The report mentions both the Daschle powder and the NY Post powder, and it says on page 32:
Significant findings for the SPS02.57.03 [Daschle] sample include the presence of silicon and oxygen, which is indicative of silica (SiO2) or silicates (SiO4, etc.). It is not possible to distinguish between silica and silicates (clays). Other components, which are not expected to be significant to the question at hand were sulfur, phosphorus, sodium, calcium, and chlorine. It is worthwhile to note that there was no evidence of aluminum in the specimen.
The SPS02.88.01 [New York Post] sample had regions which exhibited the same set of elements found in SPS02.57.03 [Daschle sample], but these tended to be on “large” pieces within the sample. Many of the smaller pieces within the sample exhibited the main peak associated with silicon. It appears that silicon (not bonded to oxygen or other elements) is present in many areas of this sample.
So, the AFIP newsletter claimed it was confirmed that the unidentifiable substance was silica, but the AFIP report says it is not possible for the equipment at AFIP to distinguish between silica and other silicates. And the report states that the New York Post powder contained silicon that was not bonded to oxygen and therefore could not be silica.
The newsletter information was publicly available for years before the AFIP report was made public.
Here's what the FBI's summary report says about the AFIP misinformation on page 14 (page 18 of the .pdf file):
Throughout the course of the investigation, repeated challenges have been raised to this finding that the spores were not weaponized. The challenges have their root in an initial finding by the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (“AFIP”) that, upon gross examination, the spores exhibited a silicon and oxygen signal. However, subsequent analysis of the spores by Sandia National Laboratories, using a more sensitive technology called transmission electron microscopy (“TEM”) – which enabled material characterization experts to focus its probe of the spores to the nanometer scale – determined that the silica was localized to the spore coat within the exosporium, an area inside the spore. In other words, it was incorporated into the cell as a natural part of the cell formation process. “The spores we examined lacked that fuzzy outer coating that would indicate they’d been weaponized,” stated Dr. Paul Kotula of Sandia, who personally examined the spores from the 2001 attacks. When presented with these results, Dr. Peter Jahrling, a USAMRIID scientist who had reviewed the initial AFIP results and stated publicly in late 2001 that the spores had been weaponized, retracted his earlier statement, telling the Los Angeles Times on September 16, 2008, “I believe I made an honest mistake.”
In other words, all the nonsense about "weaponization" cames from AFIP, and everyone but AFIP has acknowledged that there were no signs of "weaponization" in the attack anthrax. AFIP's newsletter claim of finding silica was pure self-serving nonsense evidently intended to show the importance of their findings to their employees. Instead, it showed the world that they used assumptions instead of actual data to produce their newsletter findings. And their own report shows that the claims in the newsletter were total nonsense.
But that doesn't mean that the subject won't be endlessly argued by conspiracy theorists. who expect that their beliefs will be verified by the NAS review, and if not by the NAS review then by the GAO review, and if not by the GAO review then by some fantasy review by some fantasy group of conspiracy theorists in the fantastical future.
Interestingly, while doing research on agar and the elements in growth media such as sheeps' blood, I stumbled across the abstract for an article titled "Preparation of Silicic Acid Jellies for Bacteriological Purposes." It says:
“For the preparation of jellies intended for the cultivation of micro-organisms, agar-agar is generally used. For some purposes, however, it is desirable to have an opportunity of obtaining cultures of bacteria or fungi on inorganic gels to which only known substances are added. Agar-agar is an organic substance varying in composition and containing other organic substances, which may influence the cultivation of bacteria. …. Instead we have tried to make silica gels for bacteriological purposes from ortho-silicic acid tetra-methyl ester, Si(OCH3). When water is added to this silico-compound, silicic acid and methanol are formed, and the solution is transformed into a firm coherent gel as clear as glass.”
It's my understanding that silicic acid is exactly the form of silicon that is most easily absorbed by a bacterium when forming a spore coat.
However, I'm assuming that if
Bruce Ivins ever had a reason to make growth medium using silicic acid
instead of standard agar, someone would have mentioned it
somewhere. So, I’m not saying that Ivins used
plates in which silicic acid was the solidifying agent instead of
standard agar to form the gel, but it’s certainly an intriguing
possibility. It’s something I’d consider if lowering growth and
sporulation temperatures doesn’t fully answer the question of how the
silicon got into a high percentage of the spore coats.
The explanation for how
silicon got into 65% to 75% of the spore coats of the attack anthrax is
probably the most important mystery still unsolved in the Amerithrax
case. Fortunately, it seems like a mystery that can and will be
eventually solved. And, it's a virtual
certainty that the answer will not
have anything to do with "weaponization" or any secret and illegal
government bioweapons program.
& Changes: Sunday, December 12,
2010, thru Saturday, December 18, 2010
December 15, 2010 - I was reminded this morning that author, Professor Leonard Cole of Rutgers University was also at the November 29 seminar, and he even gave a slide presentation. A 15-minute video of most of it is HERE. It seems clear after listening to his talk, why no one previously mentioned the presentation by Professor Cole: It's just a neutral review of the case. Cole even avoids mentioning Bruce Ivins, only saying that the subject had been covered by other people at the seminar. There's nothing controversial in what Cole said, and he said nothing that hadn't been said many times elsewhere in news reports and official documents.
Professor Cole was interrupted several times by questions or comments from Dr. Meryl Nass, but she's not near a microphone and her words are very difficult to hear.
Her first interruption is at the 3:40 mark, and it seems to be about the availability of detection equipment that would detect spores in the air inside a building. She seems to be complaining that such equipment should be more widely in use.
At the 6:25 mark, Dr. Nass says that there were four other mailboxes that the investigators never checked that were in the vicinity of the mailbox in Princeton the FBI determined was where the anthrax letters had been mailed.
At the 9:09 mark, Dr. Nass corrects Professor Cole by pointing out that it was previously estimated that 80% of inhalation anthrax cases would be fatal if not detected before symptoms presented. Professor Cole had just said it was nearly 100%.
At the 11:17 mark, Dr. Nass interrupts briefly, apparently to ask about psychological after-effects of inhalation anthrax.
The comments and questions by Dr. Nass seem consistent with her general thinking: the attack was worse than the government says, there is more the government can do to protect people, and there were important details the government's investigation missed.
December 14, 2010 - After nearly two weeks of writing comments nearly every day - and sometimes as many as 5 comments in a single day - about newly released information from the November 29 seminar, I've suddenly shifted into contemplation mode. What did it all mean? What was learned? Were any significant questions answered? Except for the Ezzell Q&A, was it all as meaningless as it seems?
It was well established before the seminar that conspiracy theorists and True Believers have no true factual support for their beliefs. They only question, distort and attack the evidence presented by the FBI and the government because that evidence does not support the beliefs of the conspiracy theorists and True Believers. The conspiracy theorists and True Believers have only one common belief: the FBI must be wrong. Because, if the FBI is right, then all of the conspiracy theories and all of the basic beliefs of the True Believers must be wrong.
Unless they think that Ivins may have been part of a massive government plot, they all believe that Ivins was innocent because they each have their own theory of who did it. They ignore all the evidence which says Ivins was guilty and acted alone because they can conjure up possible scenarios which they believe explain away each specific item of evidence. And, of course, they refuse to look at the evidence the way circumstantial evidence would be viewed in court: as a mass of evidence which in its totality proves guilt beyond any reasonable doubt. Dr. Michael Intriligator was the prime example at the seminar. He made it clear he has no real evidence to support his belief that Ayman Zawahiri was behind the anthrax attacks, but he still believes it to be true, and evidence pointing to Bruce Ivins is evidently irrelevant to him. Dr. Meryl Nass is another example. She distorts all the facts to fit some belief that the government murdered Dr. Ivins as part of some massive conspiracy to cover up some illegal activity that she presumably believes was initiated by the Bush administration and is now fully supported and perpetuated by the Obama administration. Another seminar speaker seems to be promoting some idea that the FBI's case against Ivins was somehow manufactured by fellow scientists at Ft. Detrick who may have been dupes or cronies of a different Muslim - not Ayman Zawahiri - who that seminar speaker believes was actually behind the crime.
And, until someone scientifically proves that their beliefs are all totally impossible, they are going to continue to believe what they want to believe regardless of what any evidence and/or facts say.
Same old, same old. It's what they've argued since the news about the anthrax attacks broke in October of 2001.
At what point does it all become just background noise that needs to be filtered out because it can be clearly shown to be nothing except meaningless noise from the Lunatic Fringe? I'm really beginning to feel that that point has been passed - and it was passed on November 29, 2010. The Lunatic Fringe no longer has anything of value of their own to offer. They only have baseless theories that are unsupported by any verifiable facts.
But, that doesn't mean I can ignore them. Buried in the endless, meaningless noise there is an occasional signal from other sources - like the information from Dr. Ezzell. We wouldn't have heard about Dr. Ezzell's observation - that the media powder looked like growth material from a centrifuge tube that had been dried and chopped up - if it hadn't been for the November 29 seminar. So, while the Lunatic Fringe may not have anything of value of their own to say, they still serve a useful purpose in finding things written or said by other people that can illuminate aspects of the case.
So, while waiting for new information to analyze, I'm pondering things just learned.
If the media powder looked like it was something taken from a centrifuge tube, dried and then chopped up, certainly someone tested samples of the various chunks to see if they consisted of different materials. Where is that report? Is it in the middle of some peer review process in preparation for publication? Is it part of what the NAS is reviewing? Or is it just something no one thought would be of interest to the public, something that doesn't directly relate to Ivins' guilt or innocence, so it was never released? Except for reports written by Bruce Ivins, there were no scientific reports in the 2,720 pages of supplementary documents the FBI released with their summary. Pehaps they don't want to publish anything that someone might use as a blueprint for another biological attack.
It's really frustrating to know that there are answers around somewhere, but there's no way of knowing where the answers are or if they'll ever be made available. An FOIA request might get results, but you pretty much have to know that a document exists and where it exists before you can request it.
And, what will I gain by finding out that some chucks of the media powder were nothing but dried agar? It will help me resolve arguments over Ivins' analysis of a sample from the NY Post letter. But, I'd really prefer that someone write a detailed scientific report about exactly what was in the NY Post letter and the Leahy letter, how the powders compared, and whether any conclusions could be reached as to how the spores were grown - on agar plates or in broth.
It probably doesn't make any difference to the case, but it might help a great deal when trying to describe how Ivins managed to do what he did without being detected. I'd hate to write a book saying Ivins grew the spores for the attacks in plastic bags laying on the floor in the autoclave room only to learn later that that idea can be definitively disproved.
December 12, 2010 - I don't know if we'll ever get to see the video from the November 29 seminar where Dr. John Ezzell states that Dr. Ivins could have created the attack anthrax. It appears that Ivins' lawyer, Paul Kemp, walked out during Ezzell's comments. We have a video from the start of Dr. Ezzell's statements and another video continuing after the first video where Paul Kemp is seated at the table in both segments, and we have a video from later in Ezzell's Q&A where Kemp is no longer at the table.
Digging around, I also found a transcription of a brief exchange between Kemp and Ezzell, where Kemp evidently leaves the table. But, without the entire context it's difficult to evaluate its significance:
EZZELL: It’s not an uncommon practice for a scientist to put this material into a freezer and hold on to it for future use and for future ...
KEMP-interupting: You mean white spores? Wet spores?
KEMP: Did you ever see any evidence that he produced dry spores?
KEMP: I gotta go.
The only other evidence we have so far of what Dr. Ezzell said about Ivins is the article from The Frederick News-Post which reported this:
Despite some strong opinions from the panelists and audience members, the seminar itself never drew any conclusions as to Ivins' guilt or who the real attacker could have been. When Van de Velde asked Ezzell if he thought Ivins could have done it, Ezzell responded with a hesitant "possibly yes."
As I've stated before, I'd certainly very much like to see the group's reaction to that statement. I can also see that that reaction could be the main reason why the video hasn't yet been released. Did someone ask Ezzell why he believed Ivins could have done it? If so, I'd certainly like to see and hear that answer -- and the group's reaction to the answer.
The most significant part of the seminar, it seems, was the total inablity of any of the participants to provide any kind of meaningful evidence pointing to anyone else besides Dr. Bruce Ivins.
Peter Katona appeared to have some objectivity and some understanding of the complexity of the FBI's investigation. He used a number of slides to point out that Dr. Hatfill's ordeal was "Trial by Media," which evidently prevented any further mention of Dr. Hatfill.
Dr. Intriligator was very clear that he didn't have any proof to support his belief that Ayman Zawahiri did it, but he was going to believe want he wanted to believe anyway.
Lew Weinstein seemed to have no opinions at all, except the opinion that anyone describing any scenario where the FBI is covering up a sinister secret is good for sales of his book.
Dr. Meryl Nass's arguments were a biased hodgepodge of meaningless questions, distorted information, false information and bizarre conspiracy theories. There's not a single word about evidence against anyone but Ivins.
Lawyer Paul Kemp was simply defending his former client, Bruce Ivins, mostly with unsupported claims that are contradicted by the FBI, by the DOJ and by basic logic.
Lawyer Ross Getman presumably had something to say, yet all we know about his presentation is that the Frederick News-Post says he questioned the FBI's finding that Ivins had no alibi for the time of the Senate mailing. We've seen no video of his remarks at the seminar. We only see him questioning Dr. Ezzell.
The presentation by John Van de Velde was just an overview of Van de Velde's expertise regarding al Qaeda's efforts to obtain and use various kinds of chemical, radiological and biological weapons. According to the Frederick News-Post, at some point, Van de Velde argued that Ivins "would not have been dumb enough to use anthrax from his own beaker in an attack." But, we've seen no video that includes that misinformed remark.
If I were to sum up the seminar, I'd say it was mostly people arguing that the evidence against Ivins wasn't enough to convince them they are wrong in their unshakable beliefs, therefore the FBI and DOJ haven't proved their case. And, the only information of real value from the seminar came from a member of the audience, John Ezzell. And much of what Ezzell said is still not available unless you give them your home address and checking account number.
& Changes: Sunday, December 5,
2010, thru Saturday, December 11, 2010
December 11, 2010 (B) - It's amusing to see how Dr. Meryl Nass describes the delay of the NAS review: "FBI interferes with release of NAS report on the scientific aspects of the Amerithrax case."
December 11, 2010 (A) - This morning's Frederick News-Post contains another article about the delay of the NAS review. Digging through it, I find one new bit of information:
The FBI's move came as a surprise to the academy. Spokeswoman Jennifer Walsh said on Nov. 30 the committee was finalizing its report for the upcoming release, and in a Dec. 10 e-mail she wrote "at that time we didn't know we would receive any relevant information.
"We were surprised given our prior request for all relevant information," she said. "Some, but not all, of what the FBI has now turned over is relevant to the committee's charge, and they are the type of materials we requested previously. However, I can't characterize what types of materials they are."So, the NAS confirms that what the FBI turned over is material that was previously requested by the NAS. Since a line was drawn to make certain the NAS review is about the science used in the case, not about Ivins' guilt or innocence, it seems possible that the material that was recently turned over is material that is close to that line or slightly over the line. Or it could be something else entirely. We'll just have to wait and see.
December 10, 2010 (D) - Science magazine has also released an article about the change in schedule for the NAS review of the science of the Amerithrax investigation. It includes two tidbits not previously mentioned in other reports:
Last night, NAS Executive Officer E. William Colglazier said that the report, which was due out this fall, would be delayed until February 2011 to give the study panel time to review the new information. "We have determined that some of this material is the type of information previously requested by the committee during the course of its review and that some of this information is relevant to the committee's report," Colglazier noted.
Vahid Majidi, head of the FBI's Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate, would not comment on Holt's letter to the FBI director. But asked why new material was submitted so late in the process, he e-mailed ScienceInsider: "Recall that the study had started before the case was formally closed; after the case closure we were able to provide additional support material."
December 10, 2010 (C) - The video clips released this morning are not worthy of much comment.
First, there's a 3 minute 1 second "video" that only has barely audible comments by Michael Intriligator. The only thing I find interesting is this bizarre statement at the 2:40 mark:
Despite the largest investigation by the FBI, to close the case without any explanation, without any materials, without any documentation, I think is a mistake.
Apparently, if the lengthy explanation, the massive amounts of materials and mountains of documentation do not pertain to al Qaeda, then they do not exist for Dr. Intriligator.
Second, there's a 31 second clip of Michael Intriligator that is just a small piece of a clip I discussed a few days ago, but viewed from a different angle.
Third, there's a 26 second clip of Peter Katona discussing the difference between the evidence for getting an indictment of Bruce Ivins and getting a conviction of Bruce Ivins.
Lastly, there's an 18 second clip of Peter Katona suggesting that the evidence might not even have been sufficient to get an indictment of Bruce Ivins. This and the third clip appear to be attempts to show only tiny the parts of Peter Kotona's remarks that can be viewed to either support the goal of the seminar or, at least, to not dispute it.
Still missing, of course, is the clip of Dr. John Ezzell stating that Bruce Ivins could have committed the attacks.
December 10, 2010 (B) - This morning's new information includes the release of some emails sent by Bruce Ivins to various people. Searching through them looking for "FBI," I see that page 71 contains this from October 6, 2005:
The bad thing - for me - about taking ambien, is that it basically creates another personality
that does and says things that my usual personality doesn't recognize or remember. Fortunately I wasn't
taking Ambien in the fall of 2001, so there's no possibility that some other personality in me was doing
some vile, ogre-type thing. I'd know if if I did something so awful as to participate in those events.
As far as the FBI goes, they grilled me on going to [redacted] on
sending you - I forget what it was - something from Gaithersburg. I remember telling you that if you
ever needed something, I'd do it for you, and I remember sending you lots of emails when I was going
through depression early on, but really hadn't done anything about it yet. (I had to get my prescription
records to find out that I started taking Celexa in 2000.) They actually pulled out one email of mine to
you that said something about my being paranoid, and they strongly suggested that my mental state
would cause me to be a terrorist and a mass murderer. The fact that I don't know beans about making
a bio-warfare weapon wasn't important, it was that I knew how to make anthrax spores, and I had
emailed lots of very personal things to you. After that awful interview, if they want to talk to me about
anthrax - with my lawyer present - I'll be happy to do so. Anything else is off the table. If they want to
call me in front of a grand jury to testify, I'll tell them that I didn't mail anthrax spores or bioweaponize
them, but any other questions I'm not going to answer.
Searching for the word "anthrax," I found this as part of a very long letter dated August 10, 2007:
In the 1980s it was fun and enjoyable. I LOVED coming to work then. About the time of the First Gulf
War, we got a new division chief who was a micromanager (Boo!) and then we got another immediate
supervisor (just under the division chief) who was even MORE of a micromanager. Then funds started
drying up and programs got cut back. Things had started to pick up a bit with our research when 9/11,
followed by the anthrax letters, hit. If 9/11 and the anthrax letters hadn't happened, I think that we
would have been doing well in our vaccine research, but we can't change sad history, and that's that.
From page 221 and from November 26, 1999:
I want to stay away from the press as much as possible! First, because the animal rights people want our
hides. (Some researchers here have been physically threatened.) Second, anthrax is such a controversial
subject that I don't want to become the target for somebody who is "vigorously" anti-military, antigovernment,
anti-science.... Lastly, I don't want to be seen as an official spokesperson for the Department
of Defense. That's not in my job description!
There might be some interesting stuff in the emails, but I don't know when I'll have the time to thoroughly study them.
December 10, 2010 (A) - Uh oh! It looks like it's going to be another busy day, and I've got my 6-month dental cleaning appointment right in the middle of it. In addition to new video clips from the November 29 seminar that I have to view, this morning's New York Times contains an article by Scott Shane titled "FBI Asks Panel to Delay Report on Anthrax Inquiry."
The F.B.I. has told the committee that it wants to turn over an additional 500 pages of investigative documents not provided previously despite the committee’s request for all relevant material when it began the review in April 2009.
And Mr. Shane, of course, plays the Hatfill card:
The F.B.I. had already paid another former Army scientist,, a settlement worth $4.6 million to drop a lawsuit saying the bureau had falsely accused him of being the anthrax mailer.
But, the article includes a few other details about the delay:
E. William Colglazier, the academy’s executive officer, said the F.B.I.’s request was a surprise and came after the bureau saw the panel’s peer-reviewed final report, which was scheduled for release in November. He said that the committee’s 15 members, top scientists who serve as volunteers, were “exhausted,” but that the panel had agreed to extend the study and consider revising the report in return for an additional fee, probably about $50,000, beyond the $879,550 the F.B.I. has already paid for the study.
Dr. Colglazier declined to say if the report was critical of the F.B.I.’s work but said it was “very direct.” The report sticks to science and does not offer an opinion on whether Dr. Ivins carried out the anthrax attacks, he said.But, most of the articles in the Times, the Frederick News-Post and The Miami Herald seem to be based upon a letter from Rep. Rush Holt to Director Mueller in which Holt states,
Despite the FBI's original charge to the NAS to examine only the scientific data and conclusions in the case, it now appears that the FBI -- which has constantly botched and bungled this case from the beginning -- may be seeking to try to steer or otherwise pressure the NAS panel to reach a conclusion desired by the Bureau.
Presumably, Mr. Holt still believes that some damn foreigners were behind the attacks.
December 9, 2010 (D) - Peter Katona's opening remarks at the November 29 seminar are now available on YouTube video by clicking HERE. The introduction to the seminar is very surprising, since it begins by sympathetically describing what a complicated investigation it was for the FBI. But, even more surprising is that Katona describes Dr. Steven Hatfill's "trial by media," and he even names Foster, Rosenberg and Kristof as being participants in the "trial by media." There is no attempt to blame the FBI for anything that happened to Dr. Hatfill. That is extremely surprising and not at all what I expected to happen at that particular seminar. Katona also states that the recent delay in the "IOM review" was caused by the FBI wanting to present more information that they want included in the "IOM review." (Katona refers to the NAS review as the IOM review. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) is a division of the NAS.)
December 9, 2010 (C) - While looking for something else, I happened upon a slide presentation by Nancy Connell of the New Jersey Medical School (and a member of the NAS review committee) that she gave at a conference that took place in Beijing, China from October 31 to November 3, 2010. Slide 13 contains this:
Summary of investigative evidence implicating Dr. Ivins
• Opportunity (RMR1029; alone in lab)
• Motive (failing vaccine program)
• Mental health struggle (“homicidal””sociopath”)
• Proximity to source of envelopes (local batch)
• Language used in the letters (emails)
• Guilty conscious (emails, trash, shifting blame)
• History of disguising identity (pseudonyms)
• Obsessive behavior (KKG sorority)
• Inability to describe/explain his own behavior
I suppose the "hidden message" in the media letters is part of "Language used in the letters." Or it could be why "trash" is mentioned after "Guilty conscious."
December 9, 2010 (B) - Lew Weinstein's web site has made available the first part of John Ezzell's Q&A at the November 29 seminar (with a slight overlap into the second part). Dr. Ezzell (he pronounces his name as Ee-ZELL) is off-screen and evidently starts talking from his chair in the audience, so he's barely audible. Then, he's asked to go to the microphone, but the mike isn't turned on, so that doesn't help much. It isn't until the 3:40 mark in the 4 minute 40 second video that everything becomes fully audible. But, with the volume turned up you can get the gist of what Ezzell is saying. It's nearly all about how the New York Post material was "multi-colored." And the only way that Dr. Ezzell knows to create that kind of multi-colored granular substance is to centrifuge material from a growth of Bacillus anthracis until you get a pellet at the bottom of a centrifuge. After removing the liquid, you dry the pellet. And then you chop it up. (There is no mention of using a razor blade.) His exact words at the 3:55 mark are:
"The only way you can get those three different colors is to take this pellet - which is essentially as I described - and dry it as a pellet, and then chop it up. To me, that's the only way you could prepare material like that."
There's also a 33 second 3rd part to Dr. Ezzell's Q&A, but he doesn't doesn't do much of the talking. At the very end, someone in the audience asks him if al Qaeda could have done it. Ezzell replies, "Sure. I don't see why not." But, when he starts to speak further, the video ends. That missing part might be where Dr. Ezzell reportedly stated that Dr. Bruce Ivins could have done it. Or, even more likely, that critical missing section could be before this third part, since, in the third part, the chair where Bruce Ivins' lawyer was sitting is empty and all of Paul Kemp's books and materials are gone. Could that be why Kemp left? He didn't like having John Ezzell state to all the world that Kemp's client could have been a mass murderer? It would certainly be interesting to see and hear the missing part where John Ezzell says Ivins could have committed the crime and to see and hear the group's reaction to that. Why is it missing?
In the first section of the Q&A, Dr. Ezzell repeatedly talked about how, when he centrifuges spores in his own lab, the top layer of the centrifuged material is "snow white" pure spores. But, there was nothing "snow white" in any of the powders in the attacks - neither in the media powders nor in the senate powders.
Dr. Ezzell's descriptions seem to indicated that the media powder consisted of some particles that were pure debris, other particles that were mostly debris, and other particles which were mostly spores. That certainly doesn't pose any challenge to the reports that the media powder was 90 percent debris and 10 percent spores. And the image of the New York Post powder which shows chunks could be showing any of the chunks - chunks of pure debris or chunks that are mostly spores. There's no way to tell. The close-up images which show spores imbedded in material, would be from the top layer or possibly even the middle layer. (There's no reason to believe that the 3 layers are of equal thickness.)
The picture I get from all this is that the material grown on agar plates was washed or scaped into centrifuge tubes, water was added and then the centrifuge was turned on. When most of the liquid had been squeezed out of the material at the bottom, the liquid was siphoned off and the pellet at the bottom was dried (probably air or heat dried). The pellet was then chopped up (or broken up) and the pieces were mixed up (possibly during handling by the post office).
Assuming that we'll eventually get to see the missing part of the Ezzell Q&A where Dr. Ezzell says Ivins could have done it, the biggest remaining question will apparently remain unanswered for the time being: What was the bulk of the material in the middle and bottom layers in the centrifuged tube? (Or: What was the bulk of the material in the media letters?) The images and Ivins' analysis indicate that it cannot be dead bacteria and pieces of bacteria. It appears to have been something water soluble but heavier than water, so it is pushed to the bottom of the tube during centrifuging.
It's also interesting to note that on Weinstein's web site, Dr. Ezzell is repeatedly referred to as "FBI anthrax expert" as if anyone who helps the FBI automatically becomes part of the FBI. Ezzell was an employee of the U.S. Army at Ft. Detrick.
December 9, 2010 (A) - A website called "Homeland Security Today," which is apparently run by Johns Hopkins University, includes a column today about the delay in producing the NAS report on the science of the Amerithrax investigation. The author is Anthony L. Kimery, and his prime source seems to be Lew Weinstein.
December 8, 2010 (E) - I awoke this morning thinking about what Dr. John Ezzell may have said about the NY Post powder at the November 29 seminar that resulted in this description of his comments in the Frederick News-Post:
Ezzell said that, based on his knowledge of anthrax production and the specifics of the anthrax used in the attacks, he believes the spores were under high centrifugation while being dried with a speed vacuum, the combination of which would dry the anthrax while keeping it in pellet form. From there, a razor blade could chop up the pellet into the form it was found in in the first two letters, which were of poorer quality than the more uniformly colored and textured anthrax in the second two letters.
careful transcription of Dr. Ezzell's actual words might prove me
wrong, but I seriously doubt that Dr. Ezzell actually "believes the
spores were under high centrifugation while being dried with a speed
vacuum." That doesn't seem possible with existing
equipment. It seems much
more likely that Dr. Ezzell was simply saying
that is how the NY Post powder looked to
But, the powder would probably look the same way if the centrifuged
was allowed to air dry in an
open test tube and was then dumped out onto a plate for chopping.
& Changes: Sunday, November 28,
2010, thru Saturday, December 4, 2010
December 3, 2010 (B) - Here are some key snippets of the exchange between an unidentified reporter and Lew Weinstein after the seminar on Monday:
Reporter: Who did it?
Weinstein: I don't presume to know who did it - although in my book I write who did it.
Reporter: But you don't think Bruce Ivins, blamed for it by the FBI, did it?
Weinstein: I don't think there's any possibility that the FBI has proven its case. If they have more evidence, then bring it forward. I don't think they do.
Reporter: Ross Getman makes the case that agents of al Qaeda stole the anthrax from a U.S. lab. Do you believe that?
Weinstein: I don't know.
Reporter: So, what about the possibility that you just raised - one among many possibilities - that the FBI really knows who did it, and just won't tell.
Weinstein: I think that's the most likely scenario of the three alternatives. I don't know that for a fact. I can't know it for a fact.
Reporter: Why would the FBI not want to admit or acknowledge that al Qaeda did it?
Weinstein: Well, maybe it wasn't al Qaeda. Where did al Qaeda get the anthrax? Maybe they got it from a source that people don't want known.
Reporter: A U.S. lab.
Weinstein: A U.S. lab.
Reporter: And it's just too embarrassing to admit that?
Weinstein: It could be. I'm not making that accusation, you understand. I don't know that for a fact. But could it be a U.S. lab? Could it be a biodefense contractor's - someone working on developing biodefense against anthrax created the powder in order to test it, and then lost some?
Reporter: This would mean that the highest reaches of the FBI, including the Director and possibly the President and Vice President of the United States are engaging in deliberate misrepresentation of lying to the American people.
Weinstein: I'm surely not making that accusation. I have no foundation to make that accusation.
So, Mr. Weinstein doesn't know if Ivins did it. He just doesn't think that the FBI has proven their case against Ivins beyond a reasonable doubt. He doesn't know if al Qaeda did it. He won't make any accusations, but he thinks it's possible that the entire U.S. government may be involved a massive conspiracy just because they cannot admit that some anthrax got lost, or that some foreign agent got into a lab and stole some anthrax. But, mostly Weinstein just wants to sell his book. He keeps mentioning it at every opportunity.
December 3, 2010 (A) - Hmm. 21% of the "hits" to my site so far this month come from those Russian sites for which I blocked access. Blocking access doesn't prevent the Russian sites from knocking on the door. But, those "hits" only consume 5% of the bandwidth. So, they're not doing any real harm.
December 2, 2010 - I've listened several times to the videos of Paul Kemp's talk at the seminar on Monday. Mostly, they seem like a defense lawyer's arguments to a jury. But Mr. Kemp's talk begins with what appears to be a rebuttal to Dr. Meryl Nass's absurd theory that the FBI somehow knew that Ivins was going to commit suicide, and they somehow watched him in his own bathroom as he took the Tylenol, and then they didn't tell anyone what Ivins had ingested and how to save him.
In Part 1 of the Kemp video, Mr. Kemp says,
I'm going to begin with something that may be unpopular with some people here, and that is - as to the case agents I dealt with beginning at the end of May of 2007 through the death of Bruce Ivins at the end of July in 2008. And as to the assistant U.S. attorneys, with one major exception, I felt they were being truthful with me and Dr. Ivins. I never felt as if they personally were out to railroad him. In the case of Rachel Lieber, one of the assistant attorneys assigned to the prosecution of the case, she actually took the trouble to call me at home one night in July - early in July - to let me know that that Dr. Ivins had had what she considered to be a 'meltdown' - quote unquote - which she felt he was in danger of doing harm to himself, based upon information she received.
Mr. Kemp then proceeds to complain that the FBI appears to have been getting their information from Dr. Ivins' therapist, which Kemp feels was in violation of Doctor/Patient confidentiality. He then continues,
But, it is not my view - and I want to state this at the very beginning - that either of the assistant U.S. attorneys or either of the two case agents who were assigned to the case and reported directly to the Director - to Director Mueller of the FBI - were out to railroad Bruce, to try to play on his admitted mental problems to avoid a trial, something I wanted very desperately to have if we ever got to that stage. I think they wanted to develop their case, and it had not yet been developed to the state where they could seek an indictment and try the case. I certainly wanted to put it to bed because I could see Bruce deteriorating.
So, if Dr. Ivins' own lawyer disputes the screwball beliefs of Dr. Nass, that should put the matter to rest. But, I think it's safe to assume that Dr. Nass will probably continue to voice her beliefs regardless of who disputes her.
Mr. Kemp then proceeds to argue that there is no evidence that Ivins ever made dried anthrax. And he argues that, if Ivins was guilty, he wouldn't have done some of the things he did. Why didn't he point the finger at Dr. Hatfill, etc., etc.
Part 2 of the Kemp video seems to begin after some discussion of Dr. Hatfill, which is not part of the video. It's more defense attorney arguments that his client didn't act like a guilty person. The FBI couldn't find evidence where Mr. Kemp believes there would have been evidence if Ivins was guilty. He claims that Ivins long hours in the lab at night and on weekends during the time the anthrax would have been made was just normal work. Etc., etc.
Kemp says that the FBI first believed that Ivins drove up to Princeton on a specific day, but then it was shown that Ivins had an alibi for that day, so the FBI adjusted their case to say Ivins drove to Princeton a day or two earlier. Kemp suggests this somehow shows that the FBI wasn't sure exactly when Ivins drove to Princeton, but what it really shows is that there were times when Ivins had no alibi and could have driven to Princeton. The fact that the FBI didn't pinpoint the right night on their first try is irrelevant. The only important point is that Ivins had no alibi.
Kemp argues that the FBI "misrepresented" which post offices sold the envelopes which the anthrax mailer used, and there was actually a very large post office nearby that also sold the envelopes. It's pure lawyer argument. Four post offices in the area instead of three doesn't change anything. The only thing significant about the envelopes is that they were not sold in areas where some of the other possible suspects were located.
Kemp then begins to argue that the FBI accidently broke the first "slant" from flask RMR-1029 that Ivins sent to them in February of 2002. The argument continues into Part 3 of the Kemp video. Mr. Kemp seems to have a basic misunderstanding about that slant. It was not lost or accidently broken. It was discarded because it was not properly prepared as evidence and could not be used as evidence. Ivins did not follow directions when he prepared it -- even though he had prepared such evidence for decades in other cases. It's just lawyer arguments to try to convince a jury that the evidence is not valid. But, it would be carefully explained to the jury by the prosecuting attorney, and if Mr. Kemp tried to suggest it wasn't really evidence, the prosecuting attorney could rebut and show that it was.
Kemp ends with a complaint that the science of the case has not been made fully public. It's not a valid argument. The science hasn't been made fully public because the process of publishing peer reviewed scientific articles is long and complex. It often takes years. And everything was embargoed until Ivins committed suicide, so the process couldn't begin until that time. I know with certainty that there are scientific articles about the evidence in the case currently going through the peer review process. It's not a process that can be speeded up. The fact that the articles aren't yet in the public domain is a concession to the scientists who helped with the science of the case. They need to be able to publish via the peer review processes and not have their findings made public via some FBI memo or some other method which will prevent them from following the rules for getting scientific findings published the correct way. The #1 rule in scientific publishing is that scientific journals do NOT publish anything that has been previously published somewhere else.
Still, Mr. Kemp's talk was very professional and very much biased in favor of the client who had hired him. There's nothing wrong with that.
December 1, 2010 (C) - I've transcribed Monday's brief interview with Dr. Michael D. Intriligator that is on YouTube. Here's the entire exchange:
Questioner: Professor Intriligator, you talked about the bio-Kaczynski option, and Bio-Bin-Laden. It took 18 years to find Kaczynski. But, in terms of the bio-Bin-Laden option, we heard a lot here today from people who think al Qaeda did it. You've indicated that yourself. You believe that. Or agents of al Qaeda in the U.S. did it, perhaps even stealing anthrax from a U.S. lab. Yet, we've got the FBI blaming a dead fellow. You agree that was wrong, that was a mistake. Which means that the FBI is covering up either incompetence or corruption. Which is it? And why the coverup?
Intriligator: It appears to be a coverup. Which one it is, I couldn't tell you. But, that's a conclusion I would reach. Absolutely. You know, al Qaeda has many branches it has evolved and developed over the world. It has many branches. Ayman Zawahiri is an M.D., a medical doctor, an Egyptian medical doctor, and he's really the central figure behind al Qaeda - kind of centrally, because there are many branches, as I said. And, I think this is his baby. That's my interpretation. I don't have much facts to prove that, but I think that blaming a dead man is too much of an easy way out for the FBI. And I find that unaccepable.
Questioner: Why would the U.S. government not want to blame al Qaeda, since al Qaeda is our enemy, we're at war with al Qaeda? What could possibly be justifying a coverup of this magnitude?
Intriligator: It's a good question. They don't want to admit simple incompetency in the handling of this investigation. In spite of the size of this investigation, it seems it was totally incompetent. And they don't want to admit that.
Every time I play that clip, the dumber it seems. Dr. Intriligator doesn't have any facts to prove that Ayman Zawahiri was behind the anthrax mailings, but Intriligator feels that blaming a dead man is too much of an easy way out? And Intriligator finds that "unacceptable"? What kind of logic is that? Who thinks that way? He has no facts to support his beliefs, and he evidently doesn't care about the facts pointing to Ivins, either. Blaming a "dead fellow" is just wrong. Even if he's guilty? Does Dr. Intriligator believe that all dead men automatically go to Heaven and become totally innocent because all their sins are forgiven there? Or just Bruce Ivins? What the f....?
I certainly hope that Intriligator's actual presentation to the seminar - or whatever he told the seminar earlier - will be made available somewhere.
December 1, 2010 (B) - According to a source:
Dr. Ezzell phoned UCDC this morning to say that he had an angioplasty, felt much better, and would be going home in a few days. He is at GWU Hospital (which is at Foggy Bottom Metro)
December 1, 2010 (A) - Dr. Meryl Nass has the text of her presentation at Monday's seminar on her site HERE. Here's part of her theory:
Bruce was under intensive, 24/7 surveillance by the FBI near the end of his life. The FBI almost certainly knew Bruce purchased a large amount of Tylenol on July 24, and probably also knew when he ingested it, and when he developed symptoms and eventually coma.
I have seen no report or evidence that the FBI informed anyone, especially Bruce’s medical providers, of his Tylenol ingestion. Doing so in a timely manner would have almost certainly saved Bruce’s life and allowed the FBI to bring its case against him to its legal conclusion. Nor did FBI intervene to hasten Bruce receiving medical attention after his ingestion.
Was the FBI’s case against Bruce too weak to withstand a trial?
Was Bruce’s death a precondition for closing the case?
It's another lunatic theory. She fantasizes that the FBI somehow mystically knew Ivins had ingested Tylenol and that they could somehow watch him inside his own bathroom as he collapsed. And from this fantasy, she creates a new fantasy that the FBI wanted Ivins to die so they could close the case. She ignores the fact that Paul Kemp stated in his presentation (and to the media) that the FBI had called him expressing concern that Ivins seemed unstable and might possibly do harm to himself.
I'm currently studying some YouTube videos related to Monday's seminar, trying to figure out what to say about them:
UCLA’s Michael Intriligator.
Ivin's lawyer Paul Kemp - Part 1.
Ivin's lawyer Paul Kemp - Part 2.
Ivins' lawyer Paul Kemp - Part 3.
The Kemp video seems to be his part of the program. The Weinstein video seems to have been done after the completion of the program. All Lew seems to be doing is trying to sell his book. The Intriligator interview was clearly done at the end of the program. The Intriligator video is extremely weird. He appears to be another conspiracy theorist or True Believer. He just can't decide if the FBI is incompetent or corrupt - or both. He cannot see any other possiblity.
So far, I cannot find any audio or video of John Ezzell's Q&A.
November 30, 2010 - There's an article about yesterday's seminar in today's Frederick News-Post. The article is titled "Amerithrax experts debate FBI findings, insist Ivins was innocent." The article says,
A group of about 25 scientists, professors, writers, terrorism experts and more convened Monday afternoon to discuss the particulars of the investigation and to debate who the real perpetrator may have been.
That number - 25 - appears to include participants and the entire audience. As I expected after having discussed the Amerithrax case with several of the panelists for many years,
each speaker came from a different perspective and had different opinions on the real killer,
The only thing the speakers truly agree upon is that the FBI must be wrong, because, if the FBI is right, then every one of the speakers must be wrong.
According to the News-Post article, Bruce Ivins' lawyer Paul Kemp was the first to speak, and he provided a laundry list of reasons why he didn't think Ivins committed the crime: Ivins' DNA wasn't found on the letters, no spores were found in Ivins' home or his car, and "Ivins talked openly in front of a grand jury twice in 2007 without legal representation, implying he did not think he had anything to hide."
Dr. Meryl Nass then gave her reasons why she didn't think Ivins did it.
"We don't know if he had access to the equipment and the knowledge because we don't know what knowledge and equipment were required," she said of the FBI's inability to pinpoint how the anthrax was prepared.
James Van de Velde argued that "Ivins, as a prominent anthrax researcher, would not have been dumb enough to use anthrax from his own beaker in an attack." Van der Velde evidently hasn't done much research on the subject, or he would have know about the key errors that nailed Bruce Ivins.
"Ross Getman, a lawyer and author on the subject, said the FBI changed its timeline of when the letters would have had to be mailed to fit Ivins' calendar, which has not been released. Getman asserted that Ivins had group therapy sessions scheduled for the two days the FBI originally thought the letters were mailed."
Then, things evidently really got interesting. Former USAMRIID anthrax expert, John Ezzell, was in the audience. He had been mentioned several times by the seminar speakers.
In what he said was his first time speaking out about the issue, Ezzell stood up toward the end of the panel's presentation to address a question. When those in the room realized a true expert was among them, audience members and panelists tossed question after question his way.The Frederick News-Post article doesn't provide any details of what Ezzell told the speakers and the audience, but the article concludes with this paragraph:
Despite some strong opinions from the panelists and audience members, the seminar itself never drew any conclusions as to Ivins' guilt or who the real attacker could have been. When Van de Velde asked Ezzell if he thought Ivins could have done it, Ezzell responded with a hesitant "possibly yes."
So, there is now one scientist who knew and worked with Ivins who has publicly stated that Ivins could have done it.
Then, in a extraordinarily strange twist, something evidently happened after the seminar that isn't in the News-Post article. According to Lew Weinstein's web site:
John Ezzell had a heart attack. let us wish him a speedy recovery. He looked very distinguished as he took all questions. I believe he was taken to gnu hospital.
And about three hours later:
He is still in surgery. Our prayers and best wishes are with him.
It couldn't have been easy to stand up in front of such a group and tell them that Ivins could have been guilty. I can only imagine how that would truly get the heart to pounding.
It's also very puzzling that the News-Post article says nothing at all about the final part of the scheduled seminar, the part where a different set of experts - Michael Intriligator, Peter Katona and Leonard Cole - were supposed to discuss "Lessons Learned and Broader Implications" of what the previous panelists had discussed. I was somewhat expecting that to be the most interesting part of the seminar.
November 29, 2010 - I'm tempted to take the most recent discussion thread on Lew Weinstein's site and put each separate argument in order on a separate web page. The 243 individual posts are scattered over three different pages: HERE, HERE and HERE. Discussion threads jump around because of the way Lew's site works. You can only post a certain number of levels of responses, and you can put a new response at the top of the thread to get attention instead of where it would sequentially fit. Thread tend to look like the illustrative example below with irrelevant or other matters being posted by other people at every point:
10. Answer #5
11. Question #61. Question #1
2. Answer #1
3. Question # 2
4. Answer #2
5. Question #3
6. Answer #3
7. Question #4
8. Answer #4
9. Question #5
At one point, it became clear to me that the people I with whom I was arguing only have four basic arguments, and I described those four arguments this way in a conversation with "Anonymous":
1. Demands to prove the negative. You have beliefs, and if your beliefs cannot be proven to be totally impossible, then you argue that your beliefs are valid “evidence” which would convince any jury. Total nonsense, of course, but it’s your main argument.
2. Change the subject arguments. When you are proven wrong, you change the subject and go on to argue something else, ignoring the fact that you were proven wrong as if it never happened.
3. Distorted data arguments. You find valid information, distort it to mean something it doesn’t, and then use the distorted information to create a false argument.
4. Personal attacks. When all else fails, you launch personal attacks, claiming that the other person is a “shill” or “stooge” working for the FBI or just part of the vast conspiracy to cover up the facts.There are some very interesting exchanges in this thread. For example, in one posting where we were discussing data that Paul Keim presented during the August 18, 2008 roundtable discussion. "Anonymous" quoted Paul Keim and then argued:
“And if you have 10 to the 12th spores, it turns out that you have almost 10 to the 12th generations.”
If Keim really made that statement he is obviously on drugs. He doesn’t understand exponential growth. A trillion generations, even at the rate of one new generation per second, would take 32 thousand years to accomplish.I then proceeded to explain what Paul Keim meant and how the calculations of "generations" are done. But I made the mistake of saying this is the way generations are correctly counted. I should have qualified that statement to add that it was the correct way when discussing mutations. "Anonymous" demonstrated basic argument #2 by changing the subject, and arguing that the normal way of using the term "generations" is when you calculate "generation time" or the amount of time it takes for a given number of spores in an inoculated plate to produce the number of living bacteria in a colony. The original argument was just forgotten about.
In a discussion with "BugMaster," she wrote:
Ivins could have very well produced the material used in the NYC mailings. But to obtained the highly lethal dried material used in the Senate mailings (especially from plates!) was not something he possessed the knowledge and skill set to accomplish.
And I responded:
Ivins created pure spores every day. In FBI reports, Ivins discussed several times how it was “difficult” to obtain pure spores from plated material. That means he knew how to do it. He also knew how to clean such spores, since he described how difficult it was. Ivins had all the necessary skills. His own testimony says so.
Of course, she just ignored that part of the disussion and just continued arguing something else.
The most frustrating part of the discussion is the conflict I had with "BugMaster" over her theories regarding "microbial genetic transformation" and whether or not it applies to the evidence in the case. To me, it didn't apply to the evidence, but her reponse was to suggest that I read "Avery, MacLeod, and McCarty, Journal of Experimental Medicine, 79:137, 1944." BugMaster wrote:
It describes the mechanism of microbial transformation, where viable mutants take up non-mutated genetic material that was released into the culture from non-mutant wild-type cells. The mutants re-acquire their normal morphology and virulence, and can no longer be recognized as mutants.
And from that point on, the argument was just about microbial transformation and how she believed it would make the results of the investigators' tests for mutations invalid. She wanted me to ask one of my contacts about it, but I couldn't form an intelligent question to ask anyone. It seemed to be an irrelevant aspect of mutations that didn't apply to how the mutation evidence was analyzed. I determined it to be a "distorted data argument," but, everything just degraded into a "No, it isn't" versus "Yes, it is" argument.
Maybe some day I'll find the time to take all those discussions and put them in order. I think they would show how all the debates with people who do not accept the FBI's findings boil down into the four arguments enumerated above.
And, while all this was going on, I was also finding more data that indicates that Ivins most likely grew his spores in bags in the autoclave room and not in his lab. But, that's the subject for another comment to be written later.
November 28, 2010 - It appears that, although I solved the "Russian attack problem," I also had a different problem. This morning, people began telling me that I had the trojan horse "serial.jar" on my web site. It seems to have appeared on November 21. Fixing that problem was my top priority for most of the day. So, I didn't have time to write any other comment for today until around 1 p.m. Central Time. That's when my web site host advised me that the problem has been fixed. It was a problem located in my host's computer in Atlanta, not in my own computer at home.
It appears that the problem originated at WordPress.com which I'm told is "notorious for security holes that let the bad guys in." Someone used an opening at that site to get to my site - or something at that site also infected my site. Since that is where Lew Weinstein's site is located and where I've been arguing with conspiracy theorists and True Believers for the past couple weeks, it seems suspicious, but it could be just a coincidence.
I just don't have enough energy left to write a (B) comment about anthrax for today.
However, I should mention that the "Anthrax Mailings Investigation seminar" is supposed to take place tomorrow at the University of California Washington Center in Washington, DC. I certainly hope there will be some kind of audio file or transcription of the proceedings made available.
& Changes: Sunday, November 21,
2010, thru Saturday, November 27, 2010
November 27, 2010 - I believe I've resolved my "Russian attack problem."
It appears that it began on May 25, 2007 when I exchanged some emails about my web site and put a statistical report on my web site to use as reference. (The report was too large to include as an attachment to the emails, and attaching an .html file as an attachment sometimes causes format changes.). I didn't remove the report from my web site when the discussion ended. The report was a "Referrer Report" which shows a list of web sites that are linking to mine and which are referring visitors to my site. A similar report for someone else's site can be found HERE.
Evidently, at some point in time, someone wrote a program that searches the web for lists of web sites. Presumably, once they find such a list, the program automatically accesses each web site to hunt for email addresses to use to send out junk mail.
I noticed the problem when I went through my web site visitor logs for October 17, 2010. I saw that there were many many hits on that "Referrer Report" that I'd totally forgotten about. Each visit accessed a copy of the referrer report, which meant that it was gobbling up a significant part of my bandwidth - which is how costs are determined for my site. That's what caused me to notice it.
The next day, I deleted the referrer report.
Since then, I've been getting what appears to be countless automatic visits looking for referrer reports or something like them. It's like some robot that keeps bumping into a wall because it has no programming to enable it to turn around.
Yesterday, I put code onto my web site to prevent access from the range of IP addresses used by those programs. The visits still show up on my log files, but now instead of getting a status code of 200 (OK) they get a status code of 403 (Forbidden). They are not allowed access to my site.
I'll continue to check the logs, but I think the problem is solved. However, it's also a good lesson for other web site operators: Don't put statistical reports on your site if you also allow access to search engines.
November 26, 2010 - A new panel member has been added to the seminar titled "The Anthrax Mailings Investigation" scheduled for this coming Monday in Washington. He's James Van de Velde, billed as a "consultant on terrorism."
It's not a name familiar to me, and researching his name I find nothing that he's ever said or written that has anything to do with the anthrax attacks. I find only this:
Van de Velde made two trips to the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to interview an individual involved in al-Qa`ida interest in developing anthrax in Afghanistan.
That may be why he was added to the speaker list. However, a Google search for more information suggests that he may also have been invited to be part of the discussion because he has had experiences vaguely similar to those of Dr. Steven Hatfill - although on a local level, not on a federal level.
Now, I hope even more that some kind of transcription or recording of the "seminar" will be made available on-line.
Added Note: Very soon after I put the above comment on this web site, I received an email from one of the "speakers" at Monday's "seminar." He advised me:
James Van de Velde "was added because he was been the DOD key government analyst on anthrax."
Perhaps. But it appears he was also added because he agrees with the views of some of the other speakers.
November 24, 2010 - In a clear sign that my logic is becoming undeniable, "Anonymous" and Old Atlantic have decided to discuss me instead of the anthrax case evidence. And DXer just posted sixteen complaints that I do not do things the way he thinks they should be done. Hilarious!! Have a great Thanksgiving everybody!
November 23, 2010 - This morning was spent arguing about the material in the New York Post powder in which the spores can be seen to be embedded. Old Atlantic and "Anonymous" performed percentage calculations which totally ignored the unknown material as if it didn't exist, even though the NY Post material looked like this:
The questions are: What is the material in which the spores are embedded? And what percentage of the total weight of the NY Post powder is that unknown material?
It seems clear that the unknown material is water soluble because (1) the spores are embedded in it, and (2) the reports and the data show that the material dissolved when put into water.
That suggests that the unknown material is either dried slime or dried agar - or dried slime and dried agar. No other explanations come to mind.
The problem is: the current data indicates that the New York Post powder was:
.05% vegetative cells.
1% other visible debris.
10% spores, mostly individual spores, plus a few small clumps.
88.5% soluble material (dried slime and/or dried agar).
But, the unknown material clearly does not look like it is 88.5% of what is seen in the picture above. It seems to be a much smaller percentage than that. Maybe 50% or less.
But, the percentages are mostly based upon weight. And dried spores are very light. Therefore, the image could be misleading because it shows light spores imbedded in potentially heavy, dried slime and agar.
It's also possible that the image is misleading because the spores all have a thick coating of dried slime and/or agar, which makes the spores look bigger than they really are. And the exosporium on the spores could be saturated with the dried unknown material, further increasing their size in appearance.
There's also the possibility that the image is not representative of the entire powder. Other pieces might be mostly dried slime and dried agar. But, the only other image we have that is of value is this one:
Looking at the above image, there is simply no way to use it to resolve the question: What percentage of those chunks are spores and what percentage is dried slime and dried agar? Some could be 100% agar.
And, we don't know if Ivins worked with a representative sample as far as "debris" was concerned. It's quite possible that a different sample might have shown a relatively large percentage of dead vegetative cells.
The only thing that was resolved (for me) in the argument was that their bizarre notion that the Daschle powder was nearly 100% spores and the New York Post powder was roughly 85% or 90% spores is not supported by any data. But, they will undoubtedly continue to debate their beliefs even if they have nothing to support their beliefs.
However, it appears that if the dried agar is removed, the remaining material would be roughly 85% spores. So, if you ignore the fact that the New York Post powder was mostly agar, it was a "relatively pure" batch of spores - which is exactly how Ivins described it.
November 22, 2010 - Someone who calls herself "BugMaster" posted a message on Lew Weinstein's web site telling me that the crust-like material surrounding the spores in the image of the NY Post powder that I included in yesterday's (A) comment is more likely dried "extracellular lipopolysaccharide slime" than dried agar. If so, that would more or less confirm that the material was scraped directly out of a Petri dish.
She also says that dried agar would be crystalline in appearance. Could be. I understand it's crystalline before it is mixed with water to create liquid agar to pour into plates. But, will it return to large, visible crystals when dried out? And, will it return to large, visible crystals crystals if it's mixed with extracellular lipopolysaccharide slime?
I awoke this morning realizing a couple things:
(1) The dried agar (or dried slime) could be much heavier than dried spores, so in the image it may look like the spores are at least 50% of the volume, but the comparisons are about weight, not volume.
(2) The image may not be representative of the entire powder. The clump in the image may seem to be mostly spores, but another clump might be mostly agar (and/or dried slime).
I made some minor revisions to yesterday's (A) comment to include these new thoughts.
I also awoke this morning with a possible answer to what's going on with the "Russian attack" (see my comments for Nov. 18 & 19). But, I still need to do some research and work out a few details before posting my analysis.
November 21, 2010 (B) - If you have any interest in astronomy, check out today's image from NASA.
November 21, 2010 (A) - I spent a lot of time last week in more very deep discussions with scientists. I also responded to some screwball arguments on Lew Weinstein's site where "Anonymous" kept distorting data to argue the old, old, thoroughly disproved argument that Bruce Ivins could not possibly have made spores at least 10 times more pure than anything Dugway Proving Grounds ever made when they were making bioweapons during the Cold War. Of course, Ivins was doing exactly that. Any competent microbiologist should be able to make similar pure spores, and Ivins made the pure spores in flask RMR-1029, so there can be no argument that he didn't know how to make pure spores.
When Dugway was making weaponized spores back in the 1950's and 1960's, they were doing it in a factory environment, creating vast amounts of anthrax spores to be packed into cannon and mortar shells which could spread anthrax spores over dozens or hundreds of square miles. When making those types of bioweapons for the military, spore purity is of little concern. To create pure spores is simply not cost effective. It's far more cost effective to pack one kazillion spores and debris into a cannon shell than to put ten kazillion pure spores into the same cannon shell. It takes a lot of extra steps to purify spores - particularly in a factory setting. Extra steps take time, and time is money. The idea is that, if it takes 10,000 spores to kill the average soldier, dumping one billion spores plus debris on him is just as lethal as dumping ten billion pure spores on him. Pure spores would be "overkill."
Thus, the spores Ivins or any competent microbiologist can make in a laboratory are far more pure than what was made for bioweapons created during the Cold War. Dugway simply didn't have any reason to create pure spores for their bioweapons.
To argue his case, "Anonymous" picked the worst example of tests Ivins did of some material from unknown sources and "Anonymous" simply claimed it was the best that Dugway could make. When that was shown to be nonsense, he tried using recent laboratory samples made by Dugway and claimed that those spores where the same purity as the factory spores. More nonsense.
Anyway, that argument seems to have petered out. Among the other discussions I had on Lew's site, Old Atlantic asked a question that I told him I'd try to answer by today. The problem is: Old Atlantic writes very convoluted questions that I find difficult to decipher, and which require a lot of research to fully answer.
Old Atlantic's question appears to relate to an analysis Bruce Ivins made of the New York Post powder and how that analysis compares to my statements on this web site that the New York Post powder was only 10 percent spores and 90 percent debris. I obtained those percentages from Paul de Armond many years ago - probably in 2002.
That requires me to carefully study Bruce Ivins' analysis. And, since I tend to write things down when I'm doing a very careful analysis, I'm going to write everything down here - even though it might turn out to be very long. I'll try to edit it down to something reasonable after I'm done.
Old Atlantic first pointed me to pages 23 to 30 in FBI pdf file #847443. Page 23 is the second page of a document, so I had to go back a page to see what it was all about. Interestingly, it says this in the FBI report dated February 12, 2003, that begins on page 22:
IVINS provided the agents with a packet of materials that he prepared including: a list of individuals that the agents might want to contact; statements of his work on both the Daschle and New York Post letters; a spore calculation form for the Leahy letter; a document labeled as "Hoover Statement" in which IVINS advised of his work with the letters as well as his independent swabbing project and safety concerns. These materials are attached herein.
IVINS advised that there was a safety problem with the handling of the anthrax letters at USAMRIID that put people's health at risk. Two people at USAMRIID had something to gain by the letters being analyzed at the lab, and the situation was just a nightmare for everyone else involved. As such, these two individuals had the most to lose from any problems uncovered with the handling of the letters. IVINS identified these two individuals as [redacted].
Hmmm. I've undoubtedly read this before, I've read the "Hoover Statement" before, and I've seen reports where Ivins tried to implicate others before, but it's sometimes helpful to re-read things to see if they contain information I failed to notice or fully understand the first time around.
The only thing on page 23 that seems to relate to Old Atlantic's question is this:
IVINS did not handle the Leahy, Post, or Brokaw letters. He worked with the powder from the Leahy and Post letters and did not work with any of the material from the Brokaw letter.
Page 24 contains information about how it's easier to grow quantities of spores in broth instead of on plates, how it's easier to purify spores grown in broth, and how you need lots of plates to grow lots of spores.
Page 25 says:
The spores from the three letters that IVINS saw looked very different from each other. He described the spores from the Daschle letter as being very, very clean; the spores from the Leahy letter as looking good, with some clumping; and the spores from the Post letter as okay, with a good bit of clumping.
Page 26 provides some information about what Ivins did after the challenges, but it's unclear exactly where he and his group did the work (this relates to the autoclave hypothesis):
When IVINS had an aerosol challenge scheduled, he would bring the tubes with the spore suspension to the aerosolization area. IVINS advised that the spore suspension looked like milk. The sprays were done in Building 1412 in the room next to [redacted] and [redacted] are where IVINS and his group processed materials during the sprays to include plating out the material to quantify the spore concentration. [redacted] usually conducted the sprays for IVINS.
The rest of page 26 and into page 27 contains a tour Ivins gave to FBI agents to describe where and how he handled the Daschle letter in Building 1425. Page 27 ends with Ivins describing how spores can be purified using sand.
IVINS advised that Iraq had very fine sand.
The "Hoover Statement" begins on page 28. Looking up "Hoover statement" on Google doesn't provide any information about why Ivins used that term. On page 29, Ivins describes analyzing "Sample___SPS02.57.03" which is the Daschle powder.
Page 30 is about analyzing "Sample___SPS02.88.01" which is the Post material. ("NY Post" is handwritten in the upper right corner of the page.) Ivins received the sample inside a microcentrifuge tube inside a ziploc bag. He determined the weight of the dry powder by first weighing the tube and its contents, then he transferred the contents mixed with water into a second tube, and then, after drying, he weighed the first tube without its original contents to determine how much the tube weighed alone. Full tube minus empty tube = weight of contents. Ivins' typed report describes it this way:
I received the sample (in a microcentrifuge tube in a ziplock bag) from [redacted] on the afternoon of 23, October, 2001. The tube was weighed, and it was estimated to contain about [redacted] of material. In B-3, [redacted] of sterile water for injection was added to the material. After thorough mixing, the material was transferred to a second tube. The original tube was disinfected with bleach, dried and weighed. The net weight of the granular material was determined to be [redacted]. Ten-fold dilutions were plated out onto TSA, then incubated overnight. Plate counts were made, and it was determined that the original tube contained [redacted]. Since there was [redacted] of material, this calculates to be [redacted] per gram of powder material.Wow. It's difficult for a non-scientist like myself to decipher that jargon - particularly since key pieces are redacted.
Visual inspection of the suspension of material under phase contrast microscopy found few (<5%) visible vegetative cells, a small amount (<10%) visible debris, and very few small clumps. Most of the material appeared to be individual refractile spores.
He determined the total weight of the powder he was given. But that number is redacted.
He diluted the material by suspending it in a tube of water, shaking the tube to evenly distribute the material in the water, and then he took one tenth of the water and material to "plate out" on Trypticase soy agar (TSA).
The plates were left overnight in an incubator, and the next day "it was determined that the the original tube contained [redacted]. What could "redacted" be in that sentence? It's a long redact bar, indicating that it's covering about 20 letters and spaces. The number of Colony Forming Units (CFUs) on the agar plates were presumably counted. So, he's probably saying that the original tube contained x number of CFUs. And the next sentence says, since there was x weight amount of material in the tube, that calculates to be x CFU's per gram of powder material.
The "visual inspection of the suspension material under phase contrast microscopy" seemingly translates to a visual inspection of the material suspended in distilled water using phase contrast microscopy to see objects which would ordinarily be invisible when suspended in water, but under phase contrast microscopy a shifting of light waves makes them visible. It allows living objects such as bacterial cells to be seen and examined. The standard process of staining such objects to make them visible would also kill them.
Ivins sees the vegetative cells and "visible debris" in the solution and seems to say that approximately 85% of the visible material is small clumps of spores and individual spores. Hmm.
Okay, but then he wrote:
Interpretations and conclusions: If this is a preparation of bacterial spores, it is a relatively pure preparation. This preparation did not appear as pure as the material (SPS02.57.03) previously examined on October 17, 2001. The SPS02.57.03 preparation contained spores at a concentration of [redacted]. The SPS02.57.03 spores were thus approximately [redacted] times "hotter" or more concentrated per gram than the SPS02.88.01 spores examined here.
IF this is a preparation of bacterial spores???? What else could it be? And why did Ivins even ask the question? What am I missing? And what does "relatively pure" mean? Relative to what?
And how can the Post material be "a relatively pure preparation" and yet the Daschle powder was [redacted] times "hotter" or more concentrated per gram than the Post material he examined?
Hopefully, the answer is in the next set of references that Old Atlantic provides - pages 106 and 121 through 123 of FBI pdf file #847545.
Hmm. Page 106 is just a duplicate of what's on page 30 of the first pdf file. Pages 121 through page 123 are the same data representing unknown materials that "Anonymous" tried to claim were the best spore concentrations that Dugway could create.
No! Wait! What the f......? Page 106 is NOT a duplicate! It's the same report on page 30 of the first pdf file, but without the redactions! %^$#@&*(%*&!!! I must have spent an hour trying to figure out what those redacted sections represented! And it's all here with only one minor redaction! Here's the unredacted version:
I received the sample (in a microcentrifuge tube in a ziplock bag) from [redacted] on the afternoon of 23, October, 2001. The tube was weighed, and it was estimated to contain about 0.01 g of material. In B-3, 0.99 ml of sterile water for injection was added to the material. After thorough mixing, the material was transferred to a second tube. The original tube was disinfected with bleach, dried and weighed. The net weight of the granular material was determined to be 0.0145 grams. Ten-fold dilutions were plated out onto TSA, then incubated overnight. Plate counts were made, and it was determined that the original tube contained 1.93 X 10 to the 9th CFU per ml. Since there was 0.0145 grams of material, this calculates to be 1.33 X 10 to the 11th CFU per gram of powder material.
Visual inspection of the suspension of material under phase contrast microscopy found few (<5%) visible vegetative cells, a small amount (<10%) visible debris, and very few small clumps. Most of the material appeared to be individual refractile spores.
Interpretations and conclusions: If this is a preparation of bacterial spores, it is a relatively pure preparation. This preparation did not appear as pure as the material (SPS02.57.03) previously examined on October 17, 2001. The SPS02.57.03 preparation contained spores at a concentration of 2.1 X 10 to the 12th. The SPS02.57.03 spores were thus approximately 15.8 times "hotter" or more concentrated per gram than the SPS02.88.01 spores examined here.
Old Atlantic's exact question is:
It appears from this that the NY Post letter was less than 10 percent debris and 5 percent vegetative cells. This seems to indicate it was over 90 percent spores or 85 percent in another interpretation. Ed please indicate if you agree.
Old Atlantic used the numbers from the second paragraph in the report to suggest that the Post material was 85% to 90% spores. But, the first paragraph says that the SPS02.57.03 (Daschle) spores were approximately 15.8 times "hotter" or more concentrated than the SPS02.88.01 (New York Post) spores.
Those two calculations are not compatible. Where's the misunderstanding?
Ivins wrote that the NY Post powder had 133 billion CFUs (1.33 X 10 to the 11th) per gram of powder. He also wrote that the Daschle powder had 2.1 trillion (2.1 X 10 to the 12th) spores per gram (an unlikely number if the theoretical limit is a trillion spores per gram). 2.1 trillion divided by 133 billion is 15.8.
Since nearly all the spores were viable (1 spore = 1 CFU), the numbers add up, but they don't help me answer Old Atlantic's question. Unless ....
What did that sample of the New York Post powder look like before Ivins put it into water? It looked like this:
What is all that material between and covering the spores? Presumably, it's dried agar. (Someone just suggested it could be dried slime created earlier by the living bacteria on plates.) It's obviously a very large part of the total weight of the powder. And it's almost certainly water soluble. (And, since the comparisons are about weight, is the dried material heavier than dried spores? If so, it would throw off the calculations. It might appear that the spores in the image are at least 70 percent of the volume, but, when dried, the spores might be less than 50 percent of the weight.)
That means that when Ivins put his sample into water to transfer it from the microcentrifuge tube to a different container, the water soluble material solubled - um - dissolved. And then he added more water when he went into the dilution step, and he shook the diluted material to break up clumps, guaranteeing that all the water soluble material would dissolve. When he viewed the suspended material under phase contrast microscopy, the dissolved agar would not be visible. All he saw was the material that didn't dissolve - spores, dead bacteria and probably pieces of dead bacteria. (Slime would also be invisible.)
What part of the original weight of the New York Post sample was dried agar? It's too late to find out. Ivins didn't dry and weigh the remaining material after the dried agar had been removed.
Plus, I cannot be certain that the image above is representative of the New York Post powder. There could be other clumps which are mostly agar (and/or dried slime). If so, that would further reduce the percentage of spores
But Ivins' calculation that the Daschle powder was 15.8 times more lethal than the Post powder probably indicates how the counts of Colony Forming Units compare. In equal quantities of powder, Ivins said there were 15.8 times as many CFUs in the Daschle powder than in the Post powder - since nearly all the spores seem to have been viable. I've been saying 10 times as many.
But, Ivins also said there were 2.1 trillion spores per gram in the Daschle powder, and that's not logical. It's probably not even possible. 1 trillion is the theoretical limit, but Ivins probably didn't know that at the time. Few did. Not many people were weighing pure dry spores. The tiny amounts of powder that Ivins used probably account for the difference in his calculations versus the calculations done by others. The amounts were simply too tiny to be anywhere near 100% accurate. So, adjusting down the number of spores per gram in the Daschle powder to the theoretical limit, and adjusting down Ivins' calculation a bit for the Post powder, you end up with roughly a 10 to 1 difference, the Post powder was roughly 10 percent spores by weight, and the Dachle powder was nearly 100 percent spores.
Whew! So, what's the answer to Old Atlantic's question? Do I agree that the Post powder was 85% to 90% spores?
The answer is no.
& Changes: Sunday, November 14,
2010, thru Saturday, November 20, 2010
November 19, 2010 - I've learned a few things about "the Russian attack." Here's what a typical entry from yesterday's log looks like:
22.214.171.124 - - [19/Nov/2010:00:25:19 -0500] "HEAD / HTTP/1.1" 200 341 "http://filmogun.ru" "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1; .NET CLR 1.1.4322)"
Someone with more expertise about web site attacks advised me:
All of the accesses from the Russkie Web sites are making HTTP HEAD requests. These HEAD requests simply tell them that your home page is up and running. They aren’t actually fetching the home page itself. Doesn’t make any sense to me. Perhaps they are attempting to coax you to come to their sites, in order to try to infect your computer with spyware.That explains why the .ru sites are 10% of the the total hits to my site but only 2.42% of the bandwidth. A "denial of service" attack would try to grab all the bandwidth so no one else can access the site.
The "attack" didn't just start. It's been going on for a long time. Here are the number of hits in 2010 from .ru sites and the percentage of the total those hits represent:
Nov 5784 10.0%
Oct 1706 2.2%
Sept 1916 2.7%
Aug 2304 4.0%
July 2407 3.8%
June 2090 3.2%
May 4888 5.3%
April 2545 4.1%
Mar 1516 3.1%
Feb 1141 1.5%
Jan 2519 3.3%
Clearly it's getting worse. That's what made me take notice. I still plan to take some action, but I keep getting sidetracked by other things. Right now, of course, I have to start working on tomorrow's comment, which I want to be about anthrax and not about my web site. The "expert" gave me more information and a suggestion:
HEAD responses are very short. They are usually 100 to 200 bytes long. TheIt's been years since I did anything like that. I'll have to research the code and where to place the code. That will determine if I'll block all HEAD requests from .ru sites, or all requests from .ru sites, or all requests from the IP address ranges those sites use. I just need to find the time to do the research. And some of the visits aren't from .ru sites. I just noticed one from http://ololo.ws. And the first one in yesterday's list was a .com site. Groan.
November 18, 2010 - I'm being attacked by Russians. For some time now, I've been trying to figure out why so many Russian sites are visiting the main page of my site with no apparent purpose. Most visits seems to consist of exactly 10 accesses to the main page of my site, all one second apart. Here's a list of such visits during the first 5 hours of yesterday, Wednesday, November 17:
IP Address Start Time Site Visit #
126.96.36.199 00:15:30 http://smotrim-kino.com 10 visits, 1 second apart 1
188.8.131.52 00:23:51 http://yamedikdoctor.ru 10 visits, 1 second apart 1
184.108.40.206 00:31:59 http://yamedikdoctor.ru 10 visits, 1 second apart 2
220.127.116.11 00:40:07 http://zapasnoe5koleso.ru 10 visits, 1 second apart 1
18.104.22.168 00:48:16 http://ya-soft.ru 10 visits, 1 second apart 1
22.214.171.124 00:56:21 http://filmogun.ru 10 visits, 1 second apart 1
126.96.36.199 01:02:41 http://seobg.ru/ 2 visits, 1 second apart 1
188.8.131.52 01:04:40 http://blogoaut.ru 10 visits, 1 second apart 1
184.108.40.206 01:13:14 http://yamedikdoctor.ru 10 visits, 1 second apart 3
220.127.116.11 01:21:29 http://forexoider.ru 10 visits, 1 second apart 1
18.104.22.168 01:29:42 http://zapasnoe5koleso.ru 10 visits, 1 second apart 2
22.214.171.124 01:30:36 http://antisalo.ru/ 1 visit 1
126.96.36.199 01:30:57 http://odosuge.ru/ 1 visit 1
188.8.131.52 01:38:06 http://warenik.ru 10 visits, 1 second apart 1
184.108.40.206 01:46:34 http://filmogun.ru 10 visits, 1 second apart 2
220.127.116.11 01:49:33 http://xsmoker.ru/ 1 visit 1
18.104.22.168 01:54:47 http://blogoaut.ru 10 visits, 1 second apart 2
22.214.171.124 02:02:21 http://voprosit.ru/ 1 visit 1
126.96.36.199 02:03:15 http://yamedikdoctor.ru 10 visits, 1 second apart 4
188.8.131.52 02:11:38 http://forexoider.ru 10 visits, 1 second apart 2
184.108.40.206 02:20:12 http://zapasnoe5koleso.ru 10 visits, 1 second apart 3
220.127.116.11 02:28:46 http://warenik.ru 10 visits, 1 second apart 2
18.104.22.168 02:37:02 http://upload-soft.ru 10 visits, 1 second apart 1
22.214.171.124 02:45:27 http://blogoaut.ru 10 visits, 1 second apart 3
126.96.36.199 02:54:06 http://forexoider.ru 10 visits, 1 second apart 3
188.8.131.52 02:58:10 http://zloy-tony.ru/ 1 visit 1
184.108.40.206 02:58:18 http://dotas.ru/ 1 visit 1
220.127.116.11 03:02:40 http://forexoider.ru 10 visits, 1 second apart 4
18.104.22.168 03:11:27 http://forexetoya.ru 10 visits, 1 second apart 1
22.214.171.124 03:13:31 http://dotas.ru/ 1 visit 2
126.96.36.199 03:20:07 http://warenik.ru 10 visits, 1 second apart 3
188.8.131.52 03:28:48 http://upload-soft.ru 10 visits, 1 second apart 2
184.108.40.206 03:37:30 http://blogoaut.ru 10 visits, 1 second apart 4
220.127.116.11 03:40:38 http://zloy-tony.ru/ 1 visit 2
18.104.22.168 03:46:15 http://forexoider.ru 10 visits, 1 second apart 5
22.214.171.124 03:55:05 http://driveroid.ru 10 visits, 1 second apart 1
126.96.36.199 04:03:48 http://forexetoya.ru 10 visits, 1 second apart 2
188.8.131.52 04:12:11 http://arbuzoid.ru 10 visits, 1 second apart 1
184.108.40.206 04:12:21 http://pronim.ru/ 1 visit 1
220.127.116.11 04:20:35 http://upload-soft.ru 10 visits, 1 second apart 3
18.104.22.168 04:29:19 http://filmparad.ru 10 visits, 1 second apart 1
22.214.171.124 04:37:57 http://forexoider.ru 10 visits, 1 second apart 6
126.96.36.199 04:46:19 http://driveroid.ru 10 visits, 1 second apart 2
188.8.131.52 04:54:46 http://forexetoya.ru 10 visits, 1 second apart 3
I don't see any real pattern to the web sites. Lots seem to relate to gaming, others seem to have something to do with cars or movies. I considered putting some kind of block in place to prevent anyone with the IP address 184.108.40.206 from accessing my site, but on the previous day (Tuesday) I found most visits were single visits from 220.127.116.11.
I also found:
18.104.22.168 = http://forexoider.ru on November 17
22.214.171.124 = http://forexoider.ru on November 15
126.96.36.199 = http;//forexoider.ru on November 14
All the IP addresses seem to belong to Irkutsk Central Telegraph, the Irkutsk branch of JSC "Sibirtelecom."
If you look up "forexoider" via Google, you find that it leads to statistical information that appears to have been grabbed from various web sites. Just look at the number of Russian visits to pasadenasunrise.org. So, I'm not the only one with the problem. When I first noticed all these accesses from Russian sites, I also noticed that many were accessing a page of my statistics that I don't recall ever putting on my web site. I wonder if pasadenasunrise.org knows that page is on their site. The Russians may have the ability to put things on my site via Webilizer software.
But, I also find that the Russians aren't attacking me every day. They seem to come mostly on Tuesday and Wednesday. Some days I get no visits at all from anyone in Russia. So, I not only have to figure out how to block them, I need to figure out what's going on and if it's something seriously sinister. At the moment, I'm more curious than concerned. Suggestions are welcome.
November 17, 2010 (B) - Hmm. Evidently, Bruce Ivins also realized that the anthrax in the letters could have been made from material taken from an autoclave. On page 45 of FBI document #847443, it says:
After his telephonic conversation with SA XXXXX on 04/15/2003, IVINS feels sick over the fact that the material used in the anthrax mailings could have come from a stock made from the B.a. aerosol challenge trash.So, I seem to have at least one expert who agrees with me about that (although, he seems to suggest that the material in the letters could have been re-grown using growths found in an autoclave as seed material).
November 17, 2010 (A) - One of the problems with analyzing the 1,270 pages of FBI supplementary reports is that room numbers and building numbers are nearly aways blacked out (redacted). So, it's often difficult for an outsider like me to determine with exactitude where something specific was done. For example, it is known from other documents that Ivins worked in Building 1425, and that is where his lab and the Bacteriology Division were located. That's where most of his co-workers worked. It's also known that animal testing was done in Building 1412 by other scientists in the Diagnostic Systems Division (DSD). And, it's known that Ivins prepared the spores for the challenges in his lab in Building 1425. He would put the prepared anthrax solution in a bottle, which would be put into an autoclavable bag, and that bag would be put into a stainless steel container. The steel container would then be transported to Building 1412 where the materials would be turned over to the DSD scientists working on animal challenges.
Now, the question is: Where did Ivins do his "post challenge" work? Did he do it in someone else's lab on someone else's division in Building 1412? Or were his post challenge materials transported back to his lab in building 1425?
Logic says that Ivins did his post challenge work in his own lab. But, it can be argued that Ivins' post challenge work might have been done in Building 1412, even though that makes absolutely no sense. Wouldn't the Diagnostic Systems Division be very busy in its own labs doing its own post challenge work? Why wouldn't Ivins do his own work in his own lab? The answer appears to be that conspiracy theorists and True Believer want Ivins to have left his post challenge materials in an autoclave in Building 1412 where someone besides Ivins would have easy access to it.
To complicate matters, page 93 of FBI pdf file #847545 says
6) Where the flasks of RMR 1029 were kept. Since we had a lab (room 115) in Building 1412 at the time, and since the spores were intended for aerosols, it's possible that at least one of the flasks was kept in the lab refrigerator in 115 or in the 1st floor coldroom (much less likely) for a certain amount of time. We were eventually - I think it was probably before 2001 - "moved out" of the area by Aerobiology, and at that point may have brought RMR 1029 material back to 1425. I honestly don't remember, but it would make sense.So, at one time Ivins did have a lab in Building 1412, probably around 1997, when the contents of flask RMR-1029 were created. But, apparently Ivins did not have a lab in Building 1412 at the time of the attacks. Did he have 2 labs at that time in the past, one in each building? Or did he move his lab into Building 1415 when he was moved out of room 115 in Building 1412? The information may be in the FBI files, but I haven't yet found it.
On page 19 of FBI pdf file #847406 it says:
At the end of the aerosol challenge approximately six (6) or seven (7) ml of B.a. would remain. The B.a. that was not used in challenges was normally autoclaved prior to being removed from the hood.
So, someone in Building 1412 would definitely have access to a diluted pre-challenge sample from flask RMR-1029.
Obviously, there were also many autoclaves around in the various buildings. In this case, the contents of a bottle could be put into an autoclave before it was even removed from the hood area. It's also known that they autoclaved their lab clothes. It's also known that some autoclaved material was removed from one autoclave and transported to a basement where it was autoclaved again. That says that the autoclaves where things were allowed to accumulate for weeks were different from the autoclaves where things were autoclaved each night or immediately after a test.
But, there is no real dispute over whether or not someone in Building 1412 could have obtained a sample that matched what was in flask RMR-1029. It's just that no one there worked long hours alone in his lab during the time that the anthrax for the letters was being prepared - as Ivins did. And it's just that most people in Building 1412 had proof of where they were when the letters were being mailed in New Jersey, but Ivins didn't. And, if a person in Building 1412 didn't have an alibi, he or she may not have had the necessary skill set or the equipment to make pure spores - either from scratch or from materials taken out of the autoclave before sterilization.
The argument from conspiracy theorists and True Believers continues to be that if someone else had access to the spores in flask RMR-1029, either directly or indirectly, then Ivins cannot be proven guilty. And, if he cannot be proven guilty, that means he was totally innocent. That kind of logic is total nonsense. With so many other samples of anthrax around, why would someone work so hard to access the contents of flask RMR-1029? Ivins used those spores because he believed they were totally untraceable. Would someone who knew so much less about the source of flask RMR-1029 have had the same beliefs about its untraceablity? Of course, it could all be simply a matter of chance. Someone could have just grabbed materials at random and by pure chance grabbed materials from flask RMR-1029 both for the media mailings and for the senate mailings three weeks later. Anything is possible - even things that are totally preposterous can still be possible. You just need to believe, while also ignoring facts.
November 16, 2010 - Yesterday's comment was about bizarre opinions regarding the anthrax attacks of 2001 by someone with no apparent concern for the facts, so I hesitate to do the same thing today. But, here goes: The paragraphs below are from page 43 of Keith Olbermann's new book "Pitchforks and Torches":
Number one: Anthrax-gate. As you know, under Bush, the
FBI closed the case, saying that army scientist Bruce Ivins made
them a flask of anthrax at Ft. Detrick, in Maryland, flask number
RMR-1029, and then he killed himself. Maybe not. The magazine
Nature now reports that at a recent biodefense conference,
a scientist from Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque
presented analysis of three anthrax letters, the ones sent to Senator
Tom Daschle, Senator Patrick Leahy, and the New York Post.
They show anthrax mixed with silicon, oxygen, iron and tin.
Bruce Ivins's flask at Ft. Detrick, good old number RMR-1029,
contained anthrax, no silicone, no oxygen, no iron, and no
tin. In fact, Ivins's entire lab at Ft. Detrick showed anthrax,
silicone, and oxygen, but no iron and no tin. The analysts cautioned
that the iron and tin could have worked their way into the anthrax
between its time in a flask, somebody's flask, and its time in those
You remember the anthrax attacks. Killed five Americans, sickened
seventeen more, from September 19, 2001, until November
21, 2001, thus falling into that time period after 9/11, the time
when George Bush and his apologists still insist he kept us safe.
Of course, the case wasn't closed under the Bush administration. It was closed on February 19, 2010, about a year after Bush left office. Olbermann seems to be suggesting that flask RMR-1029 was not the source of the attack anthrax, because it didn't contain the same elements as in the spores in the letters. Why is it so difficult to understand that all that shows is that Ivins didn't simply scoop spores out of flask RMR-1029, dry them and put them in the letters? Flask RMR-1029 merely provided the seed spores to grow what was in the letters. If he had used spores directly from flask RMR-1029, both mailings would have contained pure spores, because flask RMR-1029 contained pure spores.
There's probably nothing more frustrating about the anthrax case than having some "new authority" present to the world the same old nonsense that was shown to be nonsense years ago. Conspiracy theorists and True Believers immediately jump on the nonsense and declare it to be proof that their theories are correct and all the facts are wrong.
November 15, 2010 - Wow! This is going to be a busy day. I'm going to have to postpone writing about reactions to my comments from yesterday in order to discuss Dr. Meryl Nass's interview on AntiWar Radio. I've downloaded and saved the .mp3 file so I can keep a copy of it forever. It's a terrific example of how conspiracy theorists think. Also, playing the saved mp3 file allows me to note for this comment the times at which key points are made.
The interview begins with discussions of Gulf War Syndrome and Dr. Nass's beliefs about that subject. The discussion of the anthrax attacks of 2001 doesn't start until the 09:23 point in the 17:53 minute interview.
At the 10:13 minute mark, Dr. Nass expresses her view of the case against Dr. Ivins:
basically provided no
evidence implicating Bruce Ivins. There was no physical
They didn't find any spores on his person, in his house, in his car. They couldn't even pin him at the spot where
said the letter was mailed, at the right time. There
were hundreds of people that had access to the
contained the cumulative preparation of spores that had been made at
"So then they went on to some more people, and when Ivins finally committed suicide - or perhaps was helped to commit suicide ... It's not clear at all why when he was under 24/7 surveillance by the FBI from the house next door somehow he was able to overdose and nobody found out about it for at least a day and a half."Wha ..? Ivins overdosed on Tylenol on the evening of the 26th of July, 2008, and was found unconscious in his bathroom by his wife. According to the timeline, she called 911 at 1:06 a.m. on the 27th of July (a Sunday). Pages 43 and 44 of FBI pdf file #847572 say that everything seemed normal at Ivins' house at 10:30 p.m on 26th. At 1:15 a.m. on the 27th, a rescue squad arrived. At 1:30 a.m. Ivins was taken to a hospital, where he arrived at 1:45 a.m. At the hospital, in a moment of consciousness, Ivins nodded when asked if he had intentionally tried to kill himself. His liver was too damaged for him to recover. His family chose not to put him on a transplant list. Ivins died two days later, on Tuesday, July 29, 2008. So, who wasn't able to find out about the suicide for a day and a half? The conspiracy theorists?
The Nass radio interview continues:
"So, Ivins died and two or three days after he died they declared the case closed. They had solved it."
"Ivins was unfortunately the weakest link in the chain of people the FBI had tried to destroy in order to come to some conclusion so they wouldn't have to investigate the actual facts of the case."
"They never entertained the possibility that more than one person was involved. ... They never looked into that."
"They chose what not to investigate. They carefully crafted a report that was just designed to fit ... you know ... all the pieces that fit that, um, we talk about ... and all the pieces that don't fit, they ignored."
reality, of course, they looked at everyone,
they looked for people who might
together, and they looked for any
indication that Ivins had
help. The pieces all fit. The only pieces that "don't fit,"
are pieces the conspiracy theorists believe to be relevant to their
conspiracy theories, but which are really meaningless or irrelevant to
reality, of course, they looked at everyone,
they looked for people who might
together, and they looked for any
indication that Ivins had
help. The pieces all fit. The only pieces that "don't fit,"
are pieces the conspiracy theorists believe to be relevant to their
conspiracy theories, but which are really meaningless or irrelevant to
At the 15:20 minute mark Dr. Nass shows her true conspiracy theorist stripes. She suggests that it's all a sinister plot by someone very powerful in the U.S. government:
"The FBI isn't that stupid. Someone made a decision not to find the answer -- that the FBI was not going to find the answer."
And, a the15:58 minute mark she indicates that she's not only an anthrax case conspiracy theorist, but she's apparently a 9/11 "truther" as well:
"And whether these alleged hijackers ... there's not even good evidence that they're the people who crashed the planes. You know, we haven't seen their names on the manifest. Some of these people have allegedly been spotted alive in other countries since then. So, where's the evidence that a bunch of Yemenis and Saudis crashed a bunch of planes for al Qaeda? There really isn't."
Then she argues how the
"alleged" hijackers weren't really religious fanatics because some of
them drank, but the radio
host manages to get her back
onto the subject of the anthrax attacks at the 17:00 minute mark. Earlier,
she had talked about the FBI not looking at evidence in the anthrax
case which didn't fit, but now she totally ignores the fact that the
accused hijackers' names were
on the manifests. That's how they were initially
identified. It's the first thing investigators checked.
Plus, the investigation provide almost step by step, minute by minute
information about their activities before getting on the planes.
There is even video of some
of them going through security to get on the planes. And, at
least one of the hijackers' bodies remained unclaimed in a Pennsylvania
morgue for months.
she had talked about the FBI not looking at evidence in the anthrax
case which didn't fit, but now she totally ignores the fact that the
accused hijackers' names were
on the manifests. That's how they were initially
identified. It's the first thing investigators checked.
Plus, the investigation provide almost step by step, minute by minute
information about their activities before getting on the planes.
There is even video of some
of them going through security to get on the planes. And, at
least one of the hijackers' bodies remained unclaimed in a Pennsylvania
morgue for months.
"It certainly would have been a lot easier if different people did it, and then you wouldn't have to have one person in the right place at the right time for sending all these letters. It would make a lot of sense if material that had already been made for a large program -- probably a national program -- had just been handed over to somebody to use in the letters, rather than assuming that that person made this very highly weaponized, very pure, very professional product."
14, 2010 - I spent much of last
week in some very heavy
discussions with four different scientists at four different
laboratories. The subject was the feasibility of Ivins having
used not-yet-sterilized spores from his autoclave and the autoclave
area for the
anthrax attacks of 2001, instead of creating all new spores. So,
there it is. 9/11 and
the anthrax attacks. They're both
part of a vast conspiracy
involving tens of thousands of people and orchestrated by some
unidentified super mastermind somewhere in the U.S. Government who
evidently remains in power even when Presidents change and different
political parties gain power.
In the thinking of a conspiracy theorist, it's always easier for tens
of thousands of people to be involved in some vast criminal conspiracy
led by some master manipulator than for one person to have committed a
crime that can very easily be committed by one person. You
just need to start with a belief first, and then twist all the facts to
fit that belief.
there it is. 9/11 and
the anthrax attacks. They're both
part of a vast conspiracy
involving tens of thousands of people and orchestrated by some
unidentified super mastermind somewhere in the U.S. Government who
evidently remains in power even when Presidents change and different
political parties gain power.
In the thinking of a conspiracy theorist, it's always easier for tens
of thousands of people to be involved in some vast criminal conspiracy
led by some master manipulator than for one person to have committed a
crime that can very easily be committed by one person. You
just need to start with a belief first, and then twist all the facts to
fit that belief.
The more that subject gets discussed, the more logical and believable it seems. No one pointed out any errors in the logic or in the science I used in last Sunday's comment on this topic.
It virtually negates the argument that Ivins' co-workers would have noticed if he had been growing large amounts of spores for the mailings in his lab. It's still possible that he could have grown new spores in his lab in plain sight, but if he just used spores awaiting sterilization in the autoclave, the chances of any co-worker noticing his activities dramatically drops off to near zero. There would no longer be any reason to let things visibly run during normal work hours. The growth would take place hidden inside autoclave bags in some remote corner where no one works and few visit. All other work (such as purification and drying) could be done at night and on weekends, during the hours the access records say Ivins was alone in his lab. It's still very likely that Ivins' co-workers wouldn't have noticed that he was doing something unusual or unauthorized, and they wouldn't have questioned him even if they did notice it. But, would Ivins himself have risked getting caught if he was aware of a better way to do things which would vastly reduce the risks of being noticed or getting caught? I think not. That's what makes the autoclave idea so fascinating. And, once Ivins realized that using the spores from the autoclave minimized the chances of him being caught, implementing his plan to send anthrax-laden letters to the media could have become almost irresistible for a diagnosed sociopath. It seems even more likely that realizing that the "untraceable" autoclave spores were available for his personal use came first, and figuring out how to effectively use those spores came second.
I can find nothing in any of the FBI reports that suggests how Ivins most likely made the spores. The autoclave theory seems to be emerging as the most likely. You can almost read Ivins' mind as he evaluates the risks and rewards. But, I'm fully aware that some solid facts totally unknown to me could shoot it all down. That's why I'm looking so hard for such facts. (Example: Can it be somehow scientifically determined if a spore was grown in a plate versus in a shaking flask?) What I'm finding instead, is that using autoclave spores is a very reasonable explanation for how Ivins did it - a reasonable explanation that also fits all the known facts.
Differences between the handwriting on the media letter versus the media envelopes indicate that weeks may have passed between those two writings. And the date on the media letter appears to have been added at a later time by a different hand. Those facts suggest that Ivins may have realized weeks before 9/11 that he could use spores from the autoclave area in the letters he was thinking of sending to the media, and no one would be the wiser. No one would miss the contents from bags stored in the autoclave area. Once Ivins removed the growths from the plates, the plates and bags would be returned to where they had been. Ivins may even have spent some time at night and on weekends in the month prior to the media mailing checking the growths taken from bags in the autoclave area to see exactly what they contained and how useable they were (which would explain his lab activities in August and September before 9/11). Critically for his plan, the growths would probably have looked like something someone could have grown in a garage or in a cave in Afghanistan. And, since Ivins throughly believed that the Ames stain was a strain commonly used in laboratories all over the world, he would have believed the Ames spores taken from the autoclave area would be totally untraceable. The spores weren't even created using any standard lab protocols, something that would further throw off investigators. And, if one or two of the plates were contaminated with Bacillus subtilis, so much the better. Contamination would very likely be viewed as another indicator of a garage lab or Afghanistan cave type operation.
The horrific events of 9/11 turned a vague, tentative idea into an urgent plan in need of immediate implementation.
When the first mailing to the media failed to achieve what Ivins wanted, he could have deliberately grown more spores in the autoclave area for the second mailing. He could have stacked as many inoculated plates as he needed into the plastic autoclave bags and simply let them sit in the autoclave, or in the area around the autoclave, or in some other room where such bags commonly accumulated, and no one would have noticed anything unusual. His autoclave area was notoriously cluttered anyway. FBI reports say, "'hot' trash was allowed to build up for weeks prior to being autoclaved."
I could go on and on, describing details of how he could have avoided having his activities being noticed, but I don't want to prepare a blueprint for someone else to do the same thing again. In 2001, Dr. Bruce Ivins was allowed to work alone and unsupervised in a BSL-3 lab for months. Hopefully, that sort of activity is no longer allowed. Unquestioned lab access was the primary reason Ivins was able to do what he did. Also, according to court records, Ivins had a "history dating to his graduate days of homicidal threats, actions, plans" and Ivins' psychiatrist, Dr. David S, Irwin called him "homicidal, sociopathic with clear intentions." Hopefully, new procedures will also keep such mentally unstable people away from dangerous pathogens.
Very little of this was discussed during the past week, though. Mostly we discussed how it could be proven that the culprit used materials from an autoclave area instead of using newly grown spores created by practicing standard lab protocols. I came up with an idea of how it could be proven while also exploring an important scientific question, but the discussions showed that my idea was too costly and complex, and there were simple ways of just determining whether or not the culprit could have used spores from the autoclave area. The simpler ways wouldn't be as scientically valuable, but if they provided positive results, those results could provide justification for the more costly and valuable work.
The remaining questions now are: Will someone actually take on the scientific project? And, if so, how long will we have to wait for the results? There might be results in a few weeks, but the results probably wouldn't be made public except through the scientific peer review and publication process, which could take years.
The discussions also showed something about the evidence against Bruce Ivins that I don't recall ever mentioning before - or if I fully noticed it before. If it's feasible, it's probably something the National Academy of Sciences committee is carefully studying right now.
We all know about the four mutations (from well over a dozen) that were used to identify flask RMR-1029 as "the murder weapon." The contents of flask RMR-1029 were the result of condensing 13 production runs at Dugway and 22 production runs at Ft. Detrick. While each production run at Dugway may have involved a single fermentor, each production run at Ft. Detrick undoubtedly involved multiple flasks.
The reason there were so many mutations in flask RMR-1029 was because it originally contained 30 trillion spores. In theory, any collection of 30 trillion spores could contain the same mutations as in flask RMR-1029. But, in 2001 there was only one known collection of 30 trillion spores of the Ames strain of Bacillus anthracis. And that was flask RMR-1029.
Suppose there was a second or third collection of 30 trillion Ames strain spores. How could forensic microbiologists tell which collection was the source for the letters? Discussions last week indicated that the number of fermentors and/or flasks used during the creation of the spores should leave a signature unique to a specific 30 trillion spore collection. (Whether or not it is feasible to detect that unique signature is a separate question.)
What Ivins evidently didn't realize when he created his 30 trillion spores was that, if a mutation occurs in one generation out of a billion, that doesn't mean that it every billionth generation is a mutation. The mutation could occur during the first division of cells, or during the billionth, or during any cell division in between. It's only on average that there is one mutation for approximately every billion generations.
During the discussions, it was realized that if a single large fermentor was used to create 30 trillion spores, the four mutations would all likely appear, but not in the same ratios. If a mutation appeared in one of the first divisions of a bacterium during the fermentation process, that specific mutation could end up in half of the 30 trillion spores.
On the other hand, if Ken Alibek's patented process for growing bacteria were used - a process that involves growing bacteria inside tiny droplets of growth media which cannot mix with other droplets due to each droplet having a covering of fumed silica - a mutation would only be able to reproduce the number of times possible within a tiny droplet of growth medium. While, statistically every mutation in flask RMR-1029 could still appear in a collection of 30 trillion spores, spores made using Alibek's process would contain only a very very tiny quantity of each mutation.
Furthermore, since chance is the key factor in producing mutations, and since there are a billion possibilities as to which bacterium in a billion generations will be a mutation, even if you reproduced exactly the process used to create the spores in flask RMR-1029, fermentor by fermentor and flask by flask, the percentage of each mutation in a second collection of 30 trillion spores would still be almost certainly very different from the first.
So, it should be possible to determine beyond any reasonable doubt that flask RMR-1029 was the source of the attack anthrax and not any other collection that is imagined to exist -- or even presumed by theorists to be not found.
And that was how I spent last week. I didn't work at all on my new book. Nor did I work on my book during the previous week when all this interesting science first came up. And, this coming week will probably involve more thinking about all of this - looking for flaws or proofs - and, hopefully, having more discussions.
As long as there are unanswered scientific questions, it's a lot more fun to discuss the science of the anthrax attacks of 2001 than to write a book about it.
& Changes: Sunday, November 7,
2010, thru Saturday, November 13, 2010
November 11, 2010 - Someone had the good sense to check out a Newport Beach web cam showing the same general location where the "missile launch" was seen on Monday evening, and on Tuesday evening the same phenomenon was seen at the same time. Click HERE. It is almost certainly the next day's America West flight #808 from Honolulu to Phoenix. Jon Stewart's Daily Show also discussed the mystery in an hilarious segment titled "Missile Impossible."
November 10, 2010 - Yesterday was one of those days when I had to wonder about the future of the human race. It appears that America West's flight #808 from Honolulu to Phoenix passed near Los Angeles just around sunset on Monday evening. A camera man aboard a CBS helicopter over LA noticed the contrails and recorded them. Because of the angle - looking down the length of the contrails as they came over the horizon - it looked a bit like a missile launch. The contrails far behind the aircraft were also being blown sideways in the upper winds, making them look somewhat like a funnel of smoke heading upward. Because of the angle of sunlight at that time in the evening, the contrails also seemed more yellow than normal, with dark shadows. Sunlight glinted off the bottom of the aircraft and looked like the flare from the tail of a rocket. The CBS photographer zoomed in on the object, and the zoom process made the object look like it was moving faster than it really was. As if to prove the axiom that no idea is so stupid that you cannot find an "expert" with impeccable credentials to support it, a CBS affiliate contacted former Assistant Secretary of Defense Robert Ellsworth, who determined it was a missile launch - probably from a submarine. Numerous news programs seemed to independently also think it was a missile, and they ridiculed the military because no one in the military could come up with an immediate explanation for the "missile launch" clearly visible on a recording made the previous evening. Because the President was out of the country, newscasters and others even speculated that it was a demonstration of some kind - by the U.S. government or by some foreign country. And they argued that the entire U.S. government might be conspiring to covering up the facts. Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! And dangerous, too.
And, this isn't really off topic, because there are many similarities to theories about the anthrax attacks of 2001.
November 7, 2010 - Last week, I happened to read a Newsweek article titled "Wanted: BS Detectors." It's about "what kids should really learn in science class." It says:
what we need to teach is the ability to detect Bad Science -- BS, if you will.
Hear! Hear! I'll second that suggestion! The article also said:
The reason we do science in the first place is so that “our own atomized experiences and prejudices” don't mislead us
The most useful skill we could teach is the habit of asking oneself and others, how do you know? If knowledge comes from intuition or anecdote, it is likely wrong.
Science is not a collection of facts but a way of interrogating the world. Let's teach kids to ask smarter questions.
By a strange coincidence, I happened to read that article as I was preparing to ask a respected scientist - an expert on anthrax and the making of bioweapons - some questions about the anthrax case. We'd discussed the case before, mostly in a long discussion that started in September of 2008 after it was announced that Bruce Ivins was the anthrax mailer, and continuing off and on until sometime in March of 2009. But, that was all before the FBI and DOJ released their summary of the case against Ivins along with the 2,720 pages of supplementary documents on February 19, 2010. It was also before the very informative and facts-laden NAS presentations of September 2009.
I knew the scientist was a busy man, and I didn't want to waste his time by asking trivial questions or questions for which the answers might be obvious. So, I had to do a lot of preparation to make sure I was asking "smart" questions. When I do that, I often find that the process of preparing the question generates more questions which need to be answered before I can ask the intended question. And, sometimes, the process of gathering information for the question also finds the answer. The first question I had planned to ask was:
Does it seem feasible that Ivins could have taken stacks of culture dishes out of his autoclave and simply scraped the contents into the media letters?
There's now so much information available about the Amerithrax case that it's difficult to keep it all straight. And the answers to remaining questions could all be there - if the information is sorted into the right order.
I had plenty of information that bags of test materials would sit for days or weeks in the autoclave and on the floor around the autoclave that Ivins team used at USAMRIID - before the material was sterilized. It's mentioned several times in the supplementary documents, and I wrote about them in my comments for May 4, 2010. Here are some of the passages I quoted:
FBI pdf file #847377, page 77, says:
It was documented during several interviews that Ivins' group did not keep room XXX very clean and tidy. Post-challenge agar plates were left on counters, the incubators were left full of material, samples in the refrigerator were not disposed of in a timely manner, and "hot" trash was allowed to build up for weeks prior to being autoclaved. One former military aerobiology technician XXXXX commented that XXXXX had to clean Ivins' trash himself out of safety concerns. XXXXX said that civilians at USAMRIID did not take safety seriously. XXXXX commented that when XXXXX looked at agar plates that had sat in the biohazard trash bags for several days or weeks in 115, they were covered with bacterial growth.
FBI pdf file #847406, pages 8-9, say:
XXXXX said that XXXXX had seen the post-challenge plates of B.a Ames after they had been sitting in room XXX of Building XXXX at USAMRIID for an extended amount of time in the trash bags. XXXXX described the plates as being completely covered with growth.
And page 19 of that same pdf file says:
The bags would remain in room XXX until nearly overflowing, or until the number of bags in the room became an obstruction. The bags often sat in room XXX for several days or weeks prior to being removed. XXXXX noted that XXXXX was fascinated with how much growth appeared on the plates after several days or weeks.
The problem was: I didn't know much of anything about sterilizing biohazardous materials in an autoclave. I'd assumed that they used paper bags which would dissolve in the steam inside the autoclave, and would allow the steam to penetrate the bag to get to the materials inside. A little preliminary research, however, showed that was wrong. They use polypropylene bags. Here's what is says on Princeton University's web site about autoclaving using plastic bags:
Steam autoclaves are used to sterilize glassware, instruments, gloves, liquids in bottles, biological waste, dressings, and other materials needing such treatment. However, to do this, material to be sterilized must come into contact with live steam. Bags or containers should be left open during autoclaving or water (~200ml) should be added to sealed bags to generate steam.
However, I noticed that another web site for another university says nothing about leaving the plastic bags open. Groan.
I had also assumed that culture dishes (a.k.a. "plates") dumped into the bags would be uncovered to aid in the process of sterilization, but a source informed me the plates are required to be left closed (covers in place). I wondered how live steam would get to bacteria inside a covered plate inside a sealed plastic bag. But, that was off-topic. It had nothing to do with the question I wanted to ask. And I didn't know how USAMRIID actually operated their autoclaves in 2001 (nor even how USAMRIID personnel were supposed to operate their autoclaves). Plus, the agar in the plates contained moisture (probably about 90% water), so live steam would or could get to the cultures - but it would be steam generated inside the plate due to the temperature being 250 degrees, not steam from the autoclave. That tentative answer allowed me to stop wondering and move on.
So, "post challenge agar plates" were laying around in Ivins' lab for weeks. That immediately posed another question: If the challenges used material from flask RMR-1029, wouldn't the post challenge agar plates contain material with virtually identical DNA to the contents of flask RMR-1029? I didn't know the answer to that, but it seemed very likely. And I knew of no way to get a firm answer. So, it was again time to move on.
In my mind, I had an image of dozens of plates covered with growth just waiting for Ivins to decide he needed some Ames spores to send out in letters to the media. And the DNA would be identical to the DNA in flask RMR-1029 - including the critical mutations.
When I was thinking that they used paper bags and left the plates open, I assumed that the contents of the plates would dry out and could be scraped directly into the letters. But, if the plates were closed and sealed inside a plastic bag, that was a very different situation. In fact, it was so different that it generated a new question:
Could the covered plates and sealed bags explain why so many of the attack spores contained silicon?
I know from the NAS presentations that an unusually high percentage of the attack spores contained silicon in their spore coats. Here's the data:
124 spores from the Leahy letter were analyzed and 97 spores (76%) contained silicon.
111 spores from the Daschle letter were analyzed and 73 spores (66%) contained silicon.
141 spores from the NY Post letter were analyzed and 91 spores (65%) contained silicon.
Some other tested samples contained silicon in their spore coats, too:
113 spores from one flask RMR-1030 sample were analyzed and only 7 spores (6%) contained silicon.
172 spores from one Dugway sample were analyzed and only 50 spores (29%) contained silicon.
The contents of flask RMR-1030 were made using Leighton-Doi media. So were the Dugway samples.
However, there was one known collection of spores that didn't fit the pattern:
304 spores from three flask RMR-1029 samples were analyzed and no spores (0%) contained silicon.
It is known that the spores in the "murder weapon" flask RMR-1029 were created in numerous big batches, mostly in fermentors, back in 1997. Leighton-Doi media was not used. And none of the spores contained silicon.
In addition, Sandia Labs did some tests on what the FBI described only as "evidence" spores:
1,051 "evidence" spores were analyzed and only 197 spores (18.7%) contained silicon.
982 "evidence" spores were analyzed and only 88 spores (8.8%) contained silicon.
986 "evidence" spores were analyzed and only 40 spores (4.4%) contained silicon.
476 "evidence" spores were analyzed and only 7 spores (1.5%) contained silicon.
989 "evidence" spores were analyzed and only 12 spores (1.2%) contained silicon.
The "evidence" spores were not spores from the attack letters, but I have no other information about how them or how they were created. So, they don't really prove or disprove anything - except that there were lots of spore samples with spores containing silicon.
This information strongly indicates that there was a connection between using Leighton-Doi media and creating spores which contain silicon in their spore coats. But, I didn't have enough information to come to any firm conclusions.
And there is something else: The sample spores created by Dugway, the spores created for flask RMR-1030 and the "evidence" spores from unknown sources were all almost certainly created using standard lab protocols.
But, the spores which formed in the closed plates laying around for weeks in plastic bags awaiting sterilization were not created using standard lab protocols. For example, according to the CDC,
Cultures should be incubated at 35-37 degrees C under ambient conditions.
That calculates out to be 95 to 99 degrees Fahrenheit. ("Ambient" means "on all sides".)
1. The temperature in the room where the autoclave bags were stored was almost certainly not in the 95 to 99 F degree range. So, lower temperatures might be a factor that causes bacteria to take in more silicon during sporulation.Hmm. Interesting. I can make a good case for the attack powders to have been made from material collected from discarded plates from Ivins' lab awaiting sterilization. But, is there critical information that I'm missing? I've done no actual experiments. I'm just analyzing data.
2. The atmosphere inside the covered plates inside the closed bags was also not the same as in an incubator. I have no clue as to what kind of gasses are given off by the germinating anthrax cultures - or by dying bacteria that have run out of food. But those gasses might be another factor.
3. Free oxygen is required for Bacillus anthracis sporulation. Would there be enough oxygen inside the covered plates inside the sealed plastic bags for all the bacteria needing oxygen to form spores? Oxygen scarcity might be another factor.
4. The amount of light inside the bags would certainly be different from the amount of light in an incubator, so the lack of light might be another factor.
5. Culture plates in an incubator are stored upside down - with the agar on the underside of the top plate, and the bottom plate serves as the cover. But plates in a plastic bag would be laying every which way, probably mostly right-side up, since that would be how they were last viewed. The position of the plates might be another factor, since there could be multiple good reasons for growing the cultures upside down.
6. One reason I've been given for why plates are placed upside down in an incubator is because moisture condenses inside the covered plates, and protocols require that the moisture should be kept away from the agar. When upside down, the moisture drips into the cover, not into the agar. So, moisture affecting the agar might be another factor that causes Bacillus anthracis bacteria to take in more silicon during sporulation.
And the data also says that the powders in both the media letters and in the senate letters might have started out as thrown-away cultures taken out of autoclave bags. In fact, since unusually large percentages of spores for both mailings contained silicon, and the percentages are nearly the same, that says that both powders almost certainly started out the same. The senate spores were simply purified, the media spores were not.
And, there's some other support for that idea: If Ivins had made the attack spores in shaking flasks during normal work hours while everyone was watching (and while everyone was falsely assuming that he was working on some authorized project), he would almost certainly have followed standard protocols during the growing and sporulation processes. (Scientists would likely notice non-standard procedures if done in their presence.) However, standard protocols do not appear to create large percentages of spores with silicon in their spore coats.
I can also now see that Ivins didn't simply scrape the contents of some of his discarded culture plates into the media letters. The contents of the plates would have been wet, not dry, and the wetness would have left indications in the paper. So, he might have scraped the wet paste from many plates into a single plate, spread the paste around a bit to get more surface area for drying, and then probably air dried the sheet of paste for an hour or two. Or he might have washed away the remaining agar and then air dried the paste. That would be what went into the media letters. For the senate letters, he went through the routine additional steps of purifying the spores before the non-routine drying step.
As I see it, there's just one remaining question: If the powders for both mailings came from the same source - the autoclave area - why was the media anthrax contaminated with Bacillus subtilis bacteria while the senate anthrax was not? The answer to that question seems fairly obvious: The spores came from the same source, but not from the same time. One or more of the plates Ivins used for the media mailings was contaminated with Bacillus subtilis. Nearly a month later, when he want back to get more plates for the senate mailing, he was either more careful, or it just happened that none of the second batch of plates were contaminated. No contamination is the "normal" condition.
So, I've answered my own question. It seems very feasible that Ivins could have taken stacks of culture dishes out of his autoclave and used the contents for both mailings of the anthrax letters. But I don't know what I don't know. And there are things I know I don't know. In addition to the various unknowns I've already mentioned, there are some key unknowns: How many spores would there be in a single dish completely covered with growth? I have no idea. How many discarded plates would accumulate in Ivins' lab in a period of two or three weeks? I have no idea. I don't know exactly where the silicon comes from, either. I just know that the evidence says it was not deliberately added, since silicon shows up in spore coats on numerous occasions where it is known that no one deliberately added any silicon for the purpose of accumulating silicon inside spore coats.
So, it appears that the question I should ask the scientist is: Are there logic or science errors in what I just wrote?
But, that's the question I ask everyone every time I write something for this web site.
& Changes: Sunday, October 31,
2010, thru Saturday, November 6, 2010
November 4, 2010 - Hmmm. The program for the "seminar" scheduled for November 29 in Washington has been changed. It appears that some key participants are no longer on the program. Here's the schedule as it looks now:
1:00 pm: Registration, coffee and tea
1:30 pm: Introduction: Peter Katona, UCLA, Master of Ceremonies
1:50 pm: Panel I: The Investigation
3:30 pm: Break
3:45 pm: Panel II: Lessons Learned and Broader Implications
5:00 pm: EndScott Shane of the New York Times is no longer on the program. Neither is anthrax expert Sergei Popov. And, even though Ken Dillon was one of the organizers, his name has also vanished from the program. However, Lew Weinstein's site still lists him as a speaker.
The program definitely makes much more sense now.
I note that all the other Internet locations where the "seminar" has been promoted or mentioned still show the old program. Click HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE. But, since attendees apparently have to sign up, they'll undoubtedly be informed of the program change before they actually head to Washington.
I have to wonder if the way the seminar was being promoted didn't have something to do with the dropouts. Here's how it was promoted on the San Diego Union-Tribune's web site:
Conference slated to show FBI coverup of Anthrax attackMaybe the "world renowned anthrax researchers" should have kept that part of their program secret until everyone was in the seminar room and the doors were closed.
This is an important event were world renowned anthrax researchers will meet to discuss the FBI coverup of the Anthrax Attack
November 3, 2010 - Maybe it's time to provide some information about the National Academy of Sciences (NAS).
According to their web site, the NAS was created in 1863 by a Congressional Charter approved by President Abraham Lincoln. It is a private, non-profit organization created to advise the federal government - when requested and without a fee - on questions of science. The NAS is an honorific organization; new members are elected annually; and membership is considered a high honor.
Some on the Lunatic Fringe, however, apparently do not like the way the NAS has been operating for 147 years and repeatedly rant that everyone on the Internet (and everyone else) should have an equal chance to advise the government on matters of science - even if they wouldn't know the difference between a science and a sèance. Example:
"the National Academy of Sciences has withheld all the documents produced to it by the FBI, conducting its entire study in a level of secrecy that matches the way the FBI has informed us of the details of its investigation … how infuriating this should be for any American who wants to believe that the government we support is actually working on our behalf"The above comment suggests some on the Lunatic Fringe feel that all investigations by federal agencies (or private organizations like the NAS) should be done in full public view. Do they believe that every time the FBI questions someone, all the information learned should be made public - even if it's erroneous information? Do they believe that, if the FBI questions a confidential informant, the name of that confidential informant should be made public, and everything said should be made public regardless of the consequences? Do they believe that all persons of interest and potential suspects should be identified so that every nut case can do his or her own private investigation of them. The Lunatic Fringe evidently feels that type of lunacy would be better than keeping tentative and incomplete investigative matters confidential until all the facts are known and officially evaluated.
Who but a lunatic would argue that the public should get all the information about a new scientific procedure before the science has been evaluated by expert scientists? Who but a lunatic would argue that keeping a criminal investigation confidential until the case is closed somehow indicates that the government is not working on the public's behalf? What purpose would be served by first giving all the investigative information to everyone who wants it? All that would do is allow every nut case with a theory to try to sway the jurors or scientists who are supposed to be neutral on the subject before the jurors or scientists can come out with their official verdict or findings.
Here is how some on the Lunatic Fringe see the situation:
It is typical of the FBI and the NAS, as they collude to keep the truth from being known for as long as possible
And someone else clearly wants the NAS to evaluate evidence against Bruce Ivins:
The person who made the decision to withhold the documents until after the NAS issued its report has prevented others from pointing out the documents the FBI has withheld from the NAS. The FBI provably has withheld 1000s of pages of information pertinent and necessary, for example, to the question of contamination and the application of Daubert principles.
The FBI has set the NAS up to look like fools once litigation forces disclosure of the additional thousands of pages of documents that should have been provided.
Those "thousands of pages of documents" have nothing to do with the science of the case. Here's the logic used by that person:
What does it help to have an experienced member of the federal bench on the panel if the FBI failed to produce material documents showing, for example:
The FBI’s lead genetics expert (KS) in charge of testing the sample provided by Bruce Ivins in 2002 provided a former Zawahiri associate (TH) — who was funded by DARPA — with a BL-3 lab to research virulent Ames.Where does that have anything to do with what the NAS is evaluating? The NAS is NOT - repeat NOT - evaluating the evidence against Bruce Ivins or against anyone else. It is only evaluating the science of the case in a totally neutral way. The "experienced member of the federal bench" is there to advise the committee scientists on the law.
Some on the Lunatic Fringe even try to distort the NAS's official rules to argue that the NAS is legally required to give everything to anyone who asks for it, because there's a clause which says that the NAS must make public all attempts by individual outsiders - including people like those on the Lunatic Fringe - who might want to manipulate or persuade the NAS committee to adopt their lunatic way of thinking. Here's the clause:
(3) The Academy shall ensure that meetings of the committee to gather data from individuals who are not officials, agents, or employees of the Academy are open to the public, unless the Academy determines that a meeting would disclose matters described in section 552(b) of title 5, United States Code. The Academy shall make available to the public, at reasonable charge if appropriate, written materials presented to the committee by individuals who are not officials, agents, or employees of the Academy, unless the Academy determines that making material available would disclose matters described in that section.
The FBI is not an individual. It is the government agency which asked for and paid for the review as such agencies have done for 147 years. The scientific information provided by the FBI to the NAS review committee will be made public after the committee has completed its review. It will be made public for the Lunatic Fringe to argue about and dismiss, but it will primarily be made public for all the scientists who wish to learn from the review and to understand all the scientific details and reasoning. It's also made public so it can be evaluated by defense attorneys if such scientific evidence is ever used in a court case in the future. It creates a public record of the validation of the science. The defense attorneys are still free to challenge the science, but they will have to do so with better science, better scientists and a better understanding of the law.
In April of 2009, the NAS was requested by the FBI to review the science of the Amerithrax investigation to determine if it is fully valid and can be used in future investigations and in future court cases, if needed. The FBI paid the NAS about $880,000 to do this work (the NAS is non-profit, so the payment is not a "fee," it is for expenses). The Lunatic Fringe, however, evidently feels that the NAS should cease and desist on the work paid for by the FBI and work instead on matters of concern to the Lunatic Fringe - for free. They evidently feel that because the FBI paid for the work, the work must therefore be biased and all the highly respected scientists who are involved in the project must either be part of some vast conspiracy or they are dupes working for the FBI. (And, of course, this would also apply to all previous work done by the NAS during the past 147 years.)
The NAS is doing nothing that evaluates the legal case against Dr. Bruce Ivins in the anthrax attacks of 2001. The project description makes that very clear:
The committee will not, however, undertake an assessment of the probative value of the scientific evidence in any specific component of the investigation, prosecution, or civil litigation and will offer no view on the guilt or innocence of any person(s) in connection with the 2001 B. anthracis mailings, or any other B. anthracis incidents.
The NAS committee is only reviewing the scientific techniques and methods that were developed and used by some of the top scientists in the world during the course of the Amerithrax investigation. The purpose is to determine if the methods and techniques are valid science and therefore useable in court and in future investigations.
But, that's not what the Lunatic Fringe wants. They want the NAS to review the evidence against Bruce Ivins. So, when the NAS publishes its findings, the findings will undoubtedly be dismissed by the Lunatic Fringe, and they will undoubtedly go into more insane rants that the review should be re-done their way - even if their way is contrary to what the NAS has been doing for 147 years, and even if the formation of the NAS was approved by Abraham Lincoln. If Honest Abe agreed to something disputed by the Lunatic Fringe, then Honest Abe must be part of the conspiracy, too.
November 2, 2010 - Voted at 9:50 a.m. Very few people at the polls at that time. No waiting at all.
November 1, 2010 - Last week, the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command released Batch #87, which is probably the last of the emails Dr. Bruce Ivins sent while at Ft. Detrick. I put them in order to see if they would tell me anything. There's no point in showing them all here, since many are just routine business and/or they have to do with Ivins' pending retirement on September 2, and they can be viewed at the source. But, I've reproduced below all of the emails from his final day at Ft. Detrick, July 9, 2008, plus three other emails from June of 2008 (including two from Batch #86) which seem to show his state of mind.
First, on page 63 there is an email from June of 2008 where Ivins makes the point that material was removed from his lab by the DOJ on November 1. He says he will ask permission to go into a lab to measure what's left, but later emails seem to indicate that he was not allowed to go into any lab to do any kind of work.
From: Ivins, Bruce E Dr USAMRIID
Sent: Thursday, June 05, 2008 8:35 PM
Subject: RE: 1531 Anthrax 12 MAR 08.xls (UNCLASSIFIED)
About 10 ml of this material was removed by DOJ personnel on 1 NOV 2008. I'll ask or
to go in and measure how much we have left and see if we can meet your needs. Otherwise
we'll have to use another prep.
The next day, the recipient replies by email that he/she understands. Strangely, perhaps significantly, Ivins doesn't respond to his/her response until more than a month later, and it is one of his final emails on July 9.
However, in a prior batch of Ivins' emails (Batch #86, page 25) there is an email from Dr. Ivins expressing his concern about what may have been removed from his lab on November 1, 2007:
From: Ivins, Bruce E Dr USAMRIID
Subject: Materials removed from B3/B4 on 1 NOV 07. (UNCLASSIFIED)
Date: Monday, June 09, 2008 8:48:01 AM
As you know, on November 1, 2007, select agent material was removed from my inventory (and
possibly other investigators' inventories)in [redacted] (and possibly [redacted]. My laboratory [redacted] has a PIN required for entry and the refrigerator where my working stocks are kept has a key lock, with the key
contained in a lock box with a combination on it. Despite these safeguards, material was taken. I don't
know how much was taken from any particular Select Agent number, nor do I know if CDC has been
notified of the missing material.
Could you please - if you have it - provide me with the information concerning how much material
was taken from what select agent samples. Then I can account for any discrepancies. Thank you very
Then, again from Batch #86, this time on page 49, Ivins again mentions the search & seizures of November 1, 2007, and he complains that the Judge Advocate General corps (JAG) won't tell him what the FBI & DOJ took:
From: Ivins, Bruce E Dr USAMRIID
Subject: RE: Missing materials (UNCLASSIFIED)
Date: Wednesday, June 11, 2008 11:15:20 AM
I have not been in the laboratory since November 1, so I couldn't go through over 300 select agents
(some in multiple containers). The FBI left the sheet of what was taken at my desk. came
in and seized the sheet, not leaving me a copy, took it forward to Headquarters, who gave it to the
JAG. The JAG refuses to show me what of mine was taken.
I did searches for all July 2008 emails, and all mentions of the word "November," and couldn't find any other mentions of the November 1, 2007 seizures in either Batch #86 or Batch #85. I couldn't find anything that indicates that Ivins was ever told what the DOJ/FBI had taken from his lab. But, he never again asks for such information.
The latest batch, #87, contains an odd email from July 8, 2008, the day before Ivins told his therapy group that he planned to kill some of his co-workers in order to go out "in a blaze of glory." It's from page 44 and it says he doesn't believe that he is even allowed escorted access to the laboratory areas:
From: Ivins, Bruce E Dr USAMRIID
Subject: RE: PRP termination (UNCLASSIFIED)
Date: Tuesday, July 08, 2008 2:42:38 PM
Thanky you, I don't think I'm even allowed escorted access into the laboratory areas. But I can
remember them still...palm trees, sand, the sea rushing up to kiss the shore, soft music playing as the
sun goes down...ah, yes, those were the days of and .
The next email is from page 38, and it's the first in Batch #87 that is dated on the same day of the therapy group session. It contains a very odd reference to Halloween events of October of 2007. It's in response to a routine email sent to him that morning advising him that the autoclaves would be down for all or part of the day:
From: Ivins, Bruce E Dr USAMRIID
Subject: RE: HOUSE DECONTAMINATION (UNCLASSIFIED)
Date: Wednesday, July 09, 2008 2:08:00 PM
Oh, my goodness, ! I thought from the title that YOUR house had to be decontaminated! (And that
we would have a decontamination party instead of a Halloween party there this year! Speaking of
Which...do you still have the picture of me at your party with either the fake bruise, fake mustache,
fake blood, etc.?
[redacted], do you remember last Halloween when I wore the fake blood into the suite and you were
"startled," to say the least?
Another email time stamped 33 minutes later is on page 27 and it seems to confirm the information that he is no longer allowed into any laboratory areas:
From: Ivins, Bruce E Dr USAMRIID
Subject: RE: Emailing: RiskAssessmentJan2006--CombinedForm (UNCLASSIFIED)
Date: Wednesday, July 09, 2008 2:41:26 PM
I turned in my risk assessment this afternoon, I also gave my Medcom form 761-
R (filled out). Since I am retiring on 2 SEP and no longer have access to any laboratory areas, my risk
assessment is nil. I'm not sure what you needed for the BSAT medical records, since I'm no longer in
the PRP, but I filled it out anyway and gave it to On 14 JUL at 1100, I'll go down to for
my Risk Assessment physical.
And, an hour and fifteen minutes later Dr. Ivins sent this email about the possibility that he might receive some kind of payment (possibly as much as $25,000) because he's retiring early. It's in response to an exchange of emails that took place in June. It's on page 32:
From: Ivins, Bruce E Dr USAMRIID
To: Ivins, Bruce E Dr USAMRIID;
Subject: RE: FY 08 VERA/VSIP (UNCLASSIFIED)
Date: Wednesday, July 09, 2008 2:56:33 PM
Has there been any information concerning who may or may not receive VERA/VSIP?
Page 62 has this email, which is time stamped 4 minutes later:
From: Ivins, Bruce E Dr USAMRIIDAbout 5 minutes later, Ivins sent this. It's from page 10, and it's in response to an email sent on June 23 informing Dr. Ivins that he is due for his annual biosurety surveillance:
Subject: RE: 1531 Anthrax 12 MAR 08.xls (UNCLASSIFIED)
Date: Wednesday, July 09, 2008 3:00:25 PM
We have to know the SA number as well as the concentration. Then we'll give to you (or whoever can
receive them) 28 tubes of spores, 10 ml each, diluted to the proper concentration.
From: Ivins, Bruce E Dr USAMRIID
Subject: RE: Annual Biosurety Surveillance (UNCLASSIFIED)
Date: Wednesday, July 09, 2008 3:05:15 PM
I have an appointment scheduled with you for 14 JUL, 1100.
4 minutes later he sent this, apparently in response to an email sent to him on April 21. It's from page 14:
From: Ivins, Bruce E Dr USAMRIID
Subject: RE: BSAT Inventory Audit Report (UNCLASSIFIED)
Date: Wednesday, July 09, 2008 3:09:43 PM
[redacted] (who will be taking over the strains currently in my name) will go in with [redacted] and do a
complete inventory check. Matieral which is totally missing or is lower in volume than it should be,
should be assigned to the FBI confiscation of 1 NOV 2007.
Note that he again mentions the FBI confiscation of November 1, and it is in a reply to an email sent almost 3 months earlier. He appears to have been going through old emails looking for things he was requested to do, but which he can no longer do because he is not allowed in any of the lab areas.
The email below, which is time stamped 3 minutes later, appears to be in response to the same email from April mentioned above. It's from page 16 and again repeats the complaint that he's no longer allowed into any of the labs:
From: Ivins, Bruce E Dr USAMRIID
Subject: RE: BSAT Inventory Audit Report (UNCLASSIFIED)
Date: Wednesday, July 09, 2008 3:12:57 PM
[redacted] and [redacted] will do a complete inventory of this material, since I am no longer allowed
into the suite.
And, 9 minutes later he once again makes a point of mentioning that he's not allowed into any laboratory areas. This is from page 54:
From: Ivins, Bruce E Dr USAMRIID
Subject: RE: Request 5 ml gamma irradiated spores 1749 & 793 (UNCLASSIFIED)
Date: Wednesday, July 09, 2008 3:21:35 PM
Since I can't get into any laboratory areas at all, and can't accompany anybody transferring BSAT, this
transfer should occur after the material goes into possession.
On page 13, there is this email time stamped 8 minutes later:
From: Ivins, Bruce E Dr USAMRIID
Subject: RE: BSAT inventory (04-23-2008) (UNCLASSIFIED)
Date: Wednesday, July 09, 2008 3:29:52 PM
[redacted] and [redacted] will do a complete inventory of BSAT materials once the paperwork is
finished and he can accept them.
On page 51 there's this email time stamped 22 minutes later:
From: Ivins, Bruce E Dr USAMRIID
Subject: RE: PRP termination (UNCLASSIFIED)
Date: Wednesday, July 09, 2008 3:51:43 PM
Could you please send me a 3180 form to fill out? I filled out the risk assessment forms and the the
BSAT forms for I have an appointment on 14 JUL at 1100. Are there any more physical
appointments I need to go to afterward, or anymore forms to fill out? Please advise. Thanks in advance
for sending me the 3180 and the information.
On page 11, there is this email from about 6 minutes later where Dr. Ivins responds to an email sent to him on June 24:
From: Ivins, Bruce E Dr USAMRIID
Subject: RE: Annual Biosurety Surveillance (UNCLASSIFIED)
Date: Wednesday, July 09, 2008 3:57:17 PM
I have an appointment scheduled for 1100 on 14 JUL.
16 minutes later, Ivins sent someone a form. The email is on page 1 of the .pdf file, and it appears to be in response to an email sent to him in March of 2008:
From: Ivins, Bruce E Dr USAMRIID
Subject: Form for irradiation of anthrax spores - sterility check (UNCLASSIFIED)
Date: Wednesday, July 09, 2008 4:13:41 PM
2 minutes later, Ivins sent out what appears to be an answer to an email sent to him on June 6, a month prior (which is mentioned at the start of this comment). The email is on page 63 of the .pdf file:
From: Ivins, Bruce E Dr USAMRIIDOne minute later, Ivins sent another email explaining the purpose of the form he sent at 4:13:41 p.m. It appears to be his last email while at Ft. Detrick. It's on page 29 of the .pdf file:
Subject: RE: 531 Anthrax 12 MAR 08.xls (UNCLASSIFIED)
Date: Wednesday, July 09, 2008 4:15:44 PM
just let us know how much (concentration) of which strain we need to give you.
From: Ivins, Bruce E Dr USAMRIID
Subject: RE: Form for irradiation of anthrax spores - sterility check (UNCLASSIFIED)
Date: Wednesday, July 09, 2008 4:16:37 PM
That's just the standard form that has to be filled out everytime we do an anthrax spore irradiation.
What these emails seems to say is that Dr. Ivins was very distressed over the fact that he could not go into any labs. He couldn't check on what the DOJ and FBI had taken, nor would anyone tell him what the FBI and DOJ had taken. Perhaps, because he didn't have much else to do until his retirement or arrest, whichever came first, he was responding to emails sent to him in the months prior. In late June, he'd been notified by his attorney that an indictment was coming and that he should be prepared to face the death penalty. On July 2, a grand jury issued a directive for a sample of Ivins' DNA (but it's not known for certain that Ivins was made aware of this prior to being taken into custody on July 10).
The emails contain a few hints of the anger and frustrations that led him to tell his therapy group on the evening of July 9, that he had obtained a bullet-proof vest, that he was going to obtain a gun from his son, and that he was going to go into Ft. Detrick and kill the co-workers who had wronged him, fully expecting to go out in a "blaze of glory." Ivins was taken into custody at Ft. Detrick the next day on an "emergency petition for psychological evaluation." He never entered Ft. Detrick again.
October 31, 2010 - Hmm. It looks like it's going to be "one of those days." During the past week, I was so busy writing other comments that I didn't have enough time to work on my regular "Sunday comment." I'd started to work on some thoughts about the final emails Dr. Ivins sent while at USAMRIID, which were made available last week. But, this morning I received an email which temporarily threw those plans to one side.
Someone who read my comment on Friday about the newly announced November 29 UCWC "seminar" was evidently unfamiliar with the name Sergei Popov, so she looked him up. She sent me a link to what she found on Dr. Nass's web site. What she found is a discussion I don't recall ever seeing before - even though I regularly check Dr. Nass's site. (The post is dated September 19, 2008, which probably means I didn't see it because of the flood of other information that was coming out at that time.) Dr. Nass posted a few comments from a lengthy dissection Dr. Sergei Popov performed on some comments by Dr. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg shortly after it was announced that Dr. Ivins was the anthrax mailer and Ivins had committed suicide.
The discussion of the few comments by Dr. Popov that Dr. Nass shows on her site is interesting, but there's also a link to the full dissection of Dr. Rosenberg's opinions by Dr. Popov, and that document is absolutely fascinating.
It's a good example of what has kept me fascinated about this subject for over nine years - it's one "expert" dissecting the opinions of another "expert" who works mostly with opinions and beliefs instead of facts. However, the first expert also seems to have some beliefs and opinions that do not exactly match the facts. But, it's also very deep stuff, so it will require me to study it all in detail before I can comment at length.
I gather from his comments, however, that Dr. Popov doesn't have any serious problem with viewing Dr. Ivins as being the anthrax mailer. If true, that might make the November 29 "seminar" a bit more interesting that I previously thought - unless Dr. Popov, Ken Dillon and Dr. Nass only discuss things they agree about.
Hmm. While looking for a copy of the original comments by Dr. Rosenberg, I found some comments by Dick Destiny which I may never have seen before. Or, it's possible I saw them but was so overwhelmed by all the information coming out at that time that I never had a chance to focus on them.
Ah! I found Dr. Rosenberg's paper. It's HERE. I found them via links in a different discussion on Dr. Nass's site.
Hmm. I just received an email from someone who said I discussed Dr. Popov's comments about Dr. Rosenberg's comments with him via emails. But looking through all my comments for 2008, I find only one mention of Popov, and it was just his name in an article I quoted. But, I find that I made a lot of comments about Dr. Rosenberg's paper on September 10, 2008.
Hmm. It appears I discussed Dr. Popov's paper with him via emails in September of 2008, and I put a lot of stuff about it on my email forum, but I didn't mention Dr. Popov's comments on this web site. And I appear to have received Dr. Popov's paper via an email, instead of from Dr. Nass's site, which may be the cause of the confusion. It's old material appearing from a different direction which made it look new.
Ah well, it still seems worth reading again. In fact, I printed it out so I can go through it with a highlighter. There are lots of things I know now that I didn't know in September of 2008, so it's worth a re-read.
& Changes: Sunday, October 24,
2010, thru Saturday, October 30, 2010
October 29, 2010 - Yesterday, I learned of a "seminar" to be held at the University of California Washington Center on Monday, November 29, 2010 that includes a very interesting collection of "speakers." Here are some of the details:
The Anthrax Mailings Investigation
Monday, November 29, 2010, 1:00 – 5:30 pm
UC Washington Center, 1608 Rhode Island Ave. NW
1:00 pm: Registration, coffee and tea
1:30 pm: Welcome: Peter Katona, UCLA, Master of Ceremonies
1:45 pm: Panel I: The Science of the Case
3:00 pm: Break
3:15 pm: Panel II: The Investigation
4:30 pm: Panel III: Lessons Learned and Broader Implications
5:30 pm: EndI was going to write about this yesterday, but I was at a loss for words. All the names - except for the two professors from UCLA - are well known to me. It looks more like an experiment than a seminar. Can this collection of people with strong opinions actually have a "discussion" of any kind? Or will it just be speeches?
Someone posted a notice about it on the Baltimore Sun's talk forum under the heading "Upcoming conference will focus on FBI coverup of 911 Anthrax attack." Really? Is that what it's all about?
I certainly hope they release some kind of transcript or audio version of the seminar/experiment.
October 28, 2010 - Unreliable sources are reporting that the completion of the NAS review of the science of the Amerithrax investigation has been delayed. Steven Kendall, NAS Senior Program Associate has been quoted as saying, "We anticipate that the report will be issued by the end of the year." The review had been expected to take 18 months; it began on April 24, 2009, which gave it an original October 24, 2010 projected completion date. That date passed on Sunday. A two month extension, would give it a completion date of Christmas Eve. I suspect that they'll try to get the report completed before the Christmas and year end holidays. But, I could be wrong.
It appears that the NAS committee asked for an extension, and the FBI granted it. Amusingly, there are those on the Lunatic Fringe who feel the NAS should be sued for not releasing the FBI documents used in the review, and the extension just increases their anger over not being able to use those source documents to do their own scientific review of the investigation in order to show that all the scientists who assisted the FBI are wrong.
October 27, 2010 (B) - Three weeks ago, on October 7, I mentioned that someone on the Lunatic Fringe who calls himself "anonymous" had written this in response to my comments about NPR reporter Dina Temple-Raston:
I see Ed is desperately trying to spin on his website that Dina Temple-Raston has written she has “no problem” believing Bruce Ivins was the anthrax killer. As usual, a pack of lies.
Interestingly, someone from that same group who calls herself "BugMaster" just attended a lecture given by Dina Temple-Raston, and she's written a brief report about it. In her report "BugMaster" says:
She [Temple-Raston] feels very strongly that Ivins was guilty, and one reason she believes so was that “Ivins and Hatfill were co-workers for a period of time, and it was really Ivins who was responsible for all the FBI attention given to Hatfill”.
And Temple-Raston evidently also stated:
“All his co-workers think Ivins did it”.
I would consider that to be full and complete verification that Dina Temple-Raston has "no problem" believing Bruce Ivins was the anthrax killer.
Unfortunately, it also seems to be verification that Dina Temple-Raston is absolutely clueless about what caused Dr. Hatfill to become a "person of interest." (Of course, it might be possible that Ivins was one of the people talking with Barbara Hatch Rosenberg. But I seriously doubt it.) And Temple-Raston also seems to have overstated the situation if she truly did say that all of Ivins' coworkers think Ivins was the anthrax mailer. Several of his coworkers have publicly stated otherwise (most notably Henry Heine), although I suppose it's entirely possible that they only said that publicly in order to protect their own reputations, because they failed to notice what Ivins was doing right under their own noses.
October 27, 2010 (A) - You might think that the recent brouhaha over the firing of NPR's Juan Williams has nothing to do with the anthrax attacks of 2001, but some conservatives are making a connection.
It appears that back on January 22, 2002, there was a big controversy over some comments made on NPR by David Kestenbaum that organizations like the Traditional Values Coalition (TVC) might be investigated by the FBI to see if there's any connection to the anthrax attacks. It was inappropriate to identify the TVC by name on the air, and it was also like poking an angry man with a stick.
There was a lot of talk at the time that some Right Wing extremists might have been behind the attacks. Today, I can't recall if I ever heard about that particular NPR/TVC controversy. I may just have forgotten about it. But, it seems clear that the TVC will never forget.
October 25, 2010 - Shortly after writing yesterday's comment, I happened to read a Newsweek article titled "America's Holy Writ." The article describes how some Tea Party members practice "constitutional fundamentalism." It says:
Like other fundamentalists, [constitution fundamentalists] seek refuge from the complexity and confusion of modern life in the comforting embrace of an authoritarian scripture and the imagined past it supposedly represents. Like other fundamentalists, they see in their good book only what they want to see: confirmation of their preexisting beliefs. Like other fundamentalists, they don’t sweat the details, and they ignore all ambiguities. And like other fundamentalists, they make enemies or evildoers of those who disagree with their doctrine.
I knew there was something very familiar about most Tea Party leaders. They're just True Believers with a different name and a different cause. All the thought processes are the same.
October 24, 2010 - Because of all the crazy arguments I've witnessed in the anthrax case - including many between scientists - I've been doing a lot of thinking about a basic question: How can smart people have stupid beliefs?
The answer seems to be that you just need to start with a false assumption and continue from there.
And the "problem" seems to be that people do not realize they have false assumptions. An assumption is not like a guess. When you make a guess, you know you are guessing. You know you are not using any solid information. If you think you are making an assumption, you are really just guessing. There are various meanings for "to assume," such as to assume a role or to assume control, but in this situation "to assume" means "to take for granted." In other words, an assumption is an unquestioned belief. It's something you never really even thought about, you just believe it to be true.
Everybody makes assumptions. Everybody also makes false assumptions. If a false assumption is never questioned, you can go through your entire life without realizing you constantly make a false assumption. And, there's usually no reason to question a false assumption unless you are forced to do so because something went wrong.
For example, I remember checking into a hotel in Los Angeles about ten years ago. When I got to my room I couldn't open the door. The key card seemed to work. When I swiped the card, the light turned from red to green, but the knob wouldn't turn. So, I went back down to the lobby and told them about the problem. They gave me a different card. When I got back to my room, I swiped the new key card, and, as before, the light flashed from red to green. But I still couldn't turn the door knob. Then, for some reason, I tried turning the knob counter-clockwise. The door opened without any problem. I think it may have been the first time I ever encountered a door knob that only turned counter-clockwise. Without realizing it, I'd assumed for over sixty years that all doorknobs turn clockwise. It was a false assumption.
Over 40 years ago, I falsely assumed that fiber was like a laxative. It was probably because, at the time, I knew of only one common bowel problem - constipation. So, I assumed that people ate high-fiber foods to overcome constipation. Then I learned that wasn't true at all. In fact, the truth was almost the opposite of what I had believed. There appear to be countless people who have false assumptions about the purpose of fiber - including a lot of people who really need to have more insoluble fiber in their diet, but who falsely assume it would make their bowel problems worse, not better. I've met a few in my day, and they simply cannot believe that fiber is not a laxative and that their problems can be easily solved by just realizing that they have a false belief.
During the past week, I've been debating with a Tea Party member who says he helped form a Tea Party branch in Florida. He wrote me to argue his false assumption that al Qaeda must have been behind the anthrax attacks. He assumed it because one of the 9/11 hijackers went to a pharmacist to find a treatment for a red rash on his hands. And another 9/11 hijacker had a gash on his leg as a result of bumping into the corner of a suitcase. A Florida physician treated it as a gash. But the physician was was later persuaded to agree that it could have been cutaneous anthrax. The Tea Party member in Florida falsely assumes this is proof that the 9/11 hijackers were behind the anthrax attacks.
Of course, since he's a Tea Party member, most of what he wrote to me was about was how Tea Party people just want "simple solutions" to America's problems. It appears to me that he was making another false assumption. He was assuming that complex problems have simple solutions. He's a former businessman who made his millions and then retired to Florida where he evidently now does all of his grumbling.
I sent him a quote from Peter Drucker, who was the expert on business and management I turned to when I was a manager and when I ran a small company. The quote from Drucker's 1973 book "Management" is as follows:
"Most [managers] have learned by bitter experience that intuition is unreliable, if not downright treacherous, if used as the only basis for decision. Indeed, most experienced managers have long suspected what a leading management scientist of today, Jay W. Forrester of M.I.T., brilliantly demonstrated in two books: complex systems actually behave "counter-intuitively"; the plausible tends to be wrong."
In other words, the more complex the problem, the more likely the correct solution will appear contrary to common sense.
So, Tea Party members who demand "simple solutions" to America's complex problems aren't helping to find solutions, they are more likely just adding to the problems by making it more difficult to find a solution.
We've got a businessman in Wisconsin running for Senator. Others are running in other states. Their arguments are all very similar. They ran successful businesses, so they falsely assume (or falsely argue) that running the country will be a similar situation for them. (Or that is what they want to voters to falsely assume.) What they seem to fail to realize is that there is no valid comparison between running a company and running a government - unless you want a dictator to run the government. And that sometimes seems to be what they really want.
When you run a business and you want to do something, you do not have to argue with underlings who want to do things a different way or underlings who do not want to do anything at all. There might be reason to listen, but if you disagree with what they want, you can just replace them or convince them that if they want to continue to work for you, they need to start seeing things your way. The only underlings you might have to listen to are the lawyers who tell you what the law allows and scientists and engineers who tell you what the laws of physics allow. And, you don't even have to listen to them unless you want to.
It's a false assumption to believe that running a government is anything like running a company.
In government -- particularly today's government - there are always people who want to do things in a different way, plus there are always people who do not want to do anything at all. And you often cannot get anything done without them -- as President Obama has painfully learned during the past couple years. And you can't immediately fire them.
The political argument that business people know how to create jobs seems to be another deception. Business people know how to create jobs by growing and expanding their own businesses. That doesn't mean they know how to create jobs for other people's businesses. They usually don't care about other people's businesses - particularly if they are competitors. Causing their competitors to cut jobs (or putting them out of business) can be a measurement of success for a business person. And the objective with almost any business is to create as few jobs as possible, since every extra job you create can mean less profit for the company. Plus, these same business people are saying they want to eliminate government jobs and shrink the size of government. That's just the opposite of what they claim they want to do about jobs. And they constantly equate creating jobs with cutting taxes, which is probably the dumbest comparison of all.
Business is about competition. Government is about cooperation. They are opposites.
(There might be some valid comparison between running a government and running a non-profit business, but none of the business people running for office ran non-profit businesses.)
What is the solution to getting more accomplished in government? That is a very complex problem, so the solution probably runs contrary to what might appear to be common sense. The solution appears to be to run the government more like a government and less like a business. Government is about working together for the common good; it is not about stopping your competitors from getting anything done. So, how do you get the government working again? You do it in the opposite way from the way the Tea Party people believe. You vote for people concerned about working together for the common good, not for people who are only concerned about stopping the other side. America is supposed to be about working together, it's not supposed to be about destroying anyone who disagrees with you. And it's not supposed to be about avoiding taxes at any cost because you have no concern for the common good - only for yourself.
Wow. I'm getting way off the track on this. Arguing with a Tea Party member can do that. This web site is supposed to focus on the anthrax attacks of 2001. And the subject for today was supposed to be "false assumptions."
Last week, I quoted lawyer/conspiracy theorist Barry Kissin who wrote:
The anthrax attacks were an officially acknowledged inside job made to look like the work of radical Muslims. But we in Frederick know this "inside job" could not have been perpetrated by Bruce Ivins. The anthrax attacks must have emanated from somewhere else in our national security complex.
Mr. Kissin seems to be making the false assumption that because many people in the town of Frederick believe that the attacks "could not have been perpetrated by Bruce Ivins" that somehow makes it true. He also seems to make the false - perhaps preposterous - assumption that everyone in Frederick would agree with him that the "anthrax attacks must have emanated from somewhere else in our national security complex." Ft. Detrick is the largest employer in Frederick County, and I see no reason to believe that any employee of Ft. Detrick thinks that the anthrax attacks came from any part of the American government. Every Ft. Detrick employee I have communicated with or have read opinions from, who doesn't believe that Bruce Ivins sent the anthrax letters, seems to believe that the attacks must have emanated from al Qaeda or some foreign government.
But, I'm not assuming that there is absolutely no one at Ft. Detrick - and no one besides Mr. Kissin in Frederick - who believes the attacks came from some other branch of the U.S. government. I can't assume that, because I would know it's an assumption. An assumption is something you "take for granted" without even thinking about it. I thought about it. So, all I can do now is consider it a possibility.
& Changes: Sunday, October 17,
2010, thru Saturday, October 23, 2010
October 18, 2010 - I just noticed an interesting opinion piece by lawyer/conspiracy theorist Barry Kissin in the October 16 issue of the Frederick News-Post. Most of it is about "the military-industrial-intelligence-homeland security complex" trying to control our minds with a "self-destructive policy that is shredding our decency and tearing the world apart." But, he also mentions one of his other favorite subjects, the anthrax attacks of 2001:
What our particular community knows about the anthrax attacks that quickly followed 9/11 should render us especially capable of examining and understanding 9/11. The anthrax attacks were an officially acknowledged inside job made to look like the work of radical Muslims. But we in Frederick know this "inside job" could not have been perpetrated by Bruce Ivins. The anthrax attacks must have emanated from somewhere else in our national security complex.
So, how do they in Frederick know that "this 'inside job' could not have been perpretrated by Bruce Ivins"? They know it because it's what some of them believe - regardless of what the facts say. And, anyone who does not agree must have been "programmed" to follow the official line of "the military-industrial-intelligence-homeland security complex." Facts are irrelevant, of course, because "the military-industrial-intelligence-homeland security complex" controls the facts, and "Our mainstream media and our politicians act as mouthpieces for this power unto itself."
You see how all the pieces fit together? Anyone who doesn't agree with the conspiracy theorists is "programmed" that way. Only the conspiracy theorists and True Believers know the truth. Of course, they don't agree with each other about what "the truth" is. They just know that the government must be wrong. Because, if the government is right about who committed the anthrax attacks, that means that each one of the conspiracy theorists and True Believers must be wrong in what they believe. They don't believe that is possible. And, that's all they really agree about.
October 17, 2010 - I spent a lot of time last week doing research. Some of it may have had very little to do with my new book or even with the subject of the anthrax attacks of 2001. For example, I got into a discussion about the thought processes of Tea Party members versus True Believers and conspiracy theorists. That caused me to do some additional research into "motivated thinking." It appears that the subject has been around for a long time - probably dating back to Sigmund Freud - but only recently has it been refined to where "motivated thinking" is subdivided into "directional" motivated thinking and "nondirectional" motivated thinking:
Individuals who are motivated by directional outcomes are interested in reaching specific desired conclusions, such as impressions of themselves as intelligent, caring, and worthy people, or positive beliefs about others whom they find likable or to whom they are especially close.An interesting example of directional motivated thinking also showed up last week, although it took some research time to get to it. The U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command has been making public thousands of emails sent by and sent to Dr. Bruce Ivins at Ft. Detrick in the nine or ten years before his death. Last week, they released batch #86, which includes some of Bruce Ivins' final emails. Batch #86 might even be the final batch, since it seems to cover a period in 2008 shortly before his suicide. The last of them are dated Tuesday July 1 through Thursday July 3.
In contrast, individuals who are motivated by nondirectional outcomes have more general concerns, such as reaching the most accurate conclusion possible or making a clear and concise decision, whatever this conclusion or decision may be.
I suppose it's possible there might be one more batch covering the 4th through the 9th. But, it was on the 9th that Ivins told his therapy group that he was planning to kill his co-workers and go out in a blaze of glory. That resulted him him being taken into custody and getting committed on the 10th. And on or around the 17th, while he was still in a mental hospital, he was banned from entering Ft. Detrick. So, there wouldn't likely be any more emails after that.
Looking over the emails in the latest batch, they seem to be mostly related to legal matters such as whether or not the Judge Advocate General corps (JAG) would allow Ivins' attorney to interview his co-workers. Some of the earlier emails in the batch relate to Ivins' plans to retire in September of 2008. Others are just lab business.
One specific email dated July 1 on page 88 of batch #86 caught my attention:
From: Ivins, Bruce E Dr USAMRIID
Subject: SIP and PRP status (UNCLASSIFIED)
Date: Tuesday, July 01, 2008 1:44:30 PM
[redacted] and [redacted]
I believe that since I no longer receive special immunizations and no longer go into any laboratory areas, I should be taken off the SIP and PRP programs. Could memos (either email or formal) be sent to SIP and PRP chiefs (please CC me, also) so that I can be officially taken off the two programs. Thank you.
It wasn't news to me that in July of 2008 Ivins was banned from going into any labs at Ft. Detrick. He had been banned since November 1, 2007, when the FBI did that comprehensive search of his home, his vehicles, his safe deposit boxes and his offices and work areas at Ft. Detrick. But I didn't know what the acronyms SIP and PRP stood for. So, I did some research. I learned that:
SIP = Special Immunizations Program
PRP = Personnel Reliability Program
And I found an August 8, 2008 article from The Herald-Mail, a Maryland newspaper which says this about PRP:
Q6. When did USAMRIID institute the biosurety program?
A6. The program was formally adopted in 2003. With the initiation of the formal biosurety program, USAMRIID put into place a Personnel Reliability Program that includes background investigations, medical screening, and mental health and behavior screening. All individuals with access to areas in which biological select agents and toxins (BSAT) are stored or used must be enrolled in the PRP.
The article also has a "principal investigator in the diagnostic systems division at USAMRIID" explaining why the case against Ivins didn't add up for her:
Whether psychological instability in Ivins’ past could have lingered for years. Ulrich said that in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, anyone at USAMRIID who had access to certain biological agents, such as anthrax, had to go through an intensive, all-encompassing review as part of a Personnel Reliability Program, which trumped, for example, privacy rules for health records.
That appears to be a clear instance of directional motivated thinking. She seems to be using a security program that wasn't instituted until 2003 to explain why Ivins' mental health problems before and during the anthrax attacks of 2001 could not have gone undetected. Another:
A flask in Ivins’ custody that contained anthrax said to be the “parent” to powdered anthrax sent through the mail. Ulrich said different anthrax samples were genetically identical, so that flask can’t be proven to be the “parent” sample. Also, the flask was for aerosol use, which would have been done in a different building than the one in which Ivins worked, she said.
More directional motivated thinking. Different anthrax samples are not always genetically identical. Even different samples of Ames are not necessarily genetically identical. She's evidently just assuming that because it fits with her belief that Ivins couldn't have been a mass murderer without her detecting some sign of it. It challenges her self-worth. She's also totally mistaken in her belief that flask RMR-1029 couldn't be identified as the source for the attack anthrax. And it didn't make any difference where testing was done at Ft. Detrick. She's talking about how formal procedures were performed, but Ivins obviously wasn't following formal procedures when he prepared the anthrax letters. So, she seems to be distorting reality to make the facts fit her beliefs. Another:
Ivins’ alleged use of a lyophilizer to make powdered anthrax. Ulrich said Ivins signed out a SpeedVac, but not a lyophilizer, which is too large to fit in a containment hood, or secure protective area.
She said it would take about an hour to dry one milliliter of wet anthrax spores in one vial in a SpeedVac. It would have been impossible for Ivins to have dried more than a liter, which would have been required for the amount of anthrax sent in the letters, in the time frame they were mailed, Ulrich said.
More directional motivated thinking. She's talking about drying an entire flask. Ivins didn't have to dry an entire flask. He would first centrifuge the contents of the flask to separate the spores from the debris and liquid. Then he dried only the spores - a tiny tiny fraction of what was in the entire flask. And he didn't have to use a machine to dry spores. Tiny amounts of spores will easily dry all by themselves in ordinary dry air. She must have known that. Everyone knows that. But she appears to have been rationalizing, distorting the facts to make them fit with her belief that Ivins was innocent, because her friend Bruce Ivins simply couldn't have been guilty without her realizing it.
It isn't just the mountains of solid evidence that so clearly point to Dr. Ivins being the anthrax mailer, it's also the weird, illogical, incorrect explanations his friends and acquaintances come up with to rationalize why he couldn't have done it without them noticing it. Dr. Henry Heine's explanations and rationalizations are still the best examples of that. (See my comments for May 23, 24 and 27, 2010.)
In one of Dr. Heine's interviews, he tried to convince people that here were eight letters, when the facts say there were only seven. He tried to argue that the letters together contained as much as 16 grams of spores, when they probably contained less than three grams of pure spores. He tried to argue that the largest number of spores Ivins could create in one run of four or five flasks was 10 billion spores. "10 followed by nine zeroes." But, Dr. Ivins repeatedly stated that he and his staff routinely made 433 billion spores per run, and they routinely made a trillion spores per week.
These friends of Ivins' are scientists. So, why can't any of them come up with anything that makes any scientific sense? Why is their reasoning all so illogical, so unscientific and so inaccurate, while they try to make it seem scientific?
The answer appears to be that they are unconsciously using directional motivated thinking to create scientific appearing explanations to show why Ivins could not have committed the crime, and thus could not have been the kind of person who the FBI says he was. Because, IF he was the kind of person the FBI says he was, and IF he committed the five murders and injured 17 other people without his friends ever noticing the slightest hint of what he'd done, that would challenge their personal views of their own self-worth. It would mean they are not as observant and smart as they think they are.
Most of us aren't.
By the way, just to complicate things, I should also mention that there's another kind of nondirectional motivated thinking, and it seems to be a favorite among media reporters. They might be looking for accuracy, but, more importantly, they are also looking for something that can be found quickly - whatever that something may seemingly prove or disprove. That's probably why accuracy so often takes second place to being first on the air or to meeting a publication deadline.
& Changes: Sunday, October 10,
2010, thru Saturday, October 16, 2010
October 10, 2010 - It hasn't escaped my notice that we are now passing through the 9th anniversary of the anthrax attacks of 2001. October 5 was the 9th anniversary of Bob Stevens death. Tuesday, October 12 will be the 9th anniversary of the finding of the Tom Brokaw letter, which had infected Brokaw's assistant Erin O'Connor with cutaneous anthrax. It confirmed that someone was sending anthrax through the mails, although the connection to Stevens' death had not yet been established. The 15th will be the anniversary of the day Ernesto Blanco was determined to have inhalation anthrax. The 15th will also be the anniversary of the opening of the Daschle letter, the second letter found. At that point, investigators had 2 anthrax letters, mailed 3 weeks apart, but both postmarked in Trenton, New Jersey. And they had three known anthrax victims, two in Florida and one in New York.
FBI investigators had known since the 5th that Ames was the strain that had killed Bob Stevens, and, although it hadn't yet been made public, they also saw that the Ames strain seemed to be a fairly rare strain controlled by USAMRIID at Ft. Detrick. Today is the 9th anniversary of the media's wild goose chase to Iowa State University (ISU). Mistakes and careless reporting had caused the media to mistakenly believe ISU was the source of the Ames strain. ISU had nothing to do with the anthrax used in the attacks. It would take investigators another month to determine exactly where USAMRIID had obtained the Ames strain and how it got its name, and it would be another three months for that information would be made public. The 12th will be the 9th anniversary of the day that ISU destroyed its collection of anthrax samples, which provided fodder for countless conspiracy theorists.
It was after the finding of the Daschle letter that people really started going nuts with opinions and theories about what was happening. On the 16th, ABC released a report by Gary Matsumoto titled "Anthrax Evidence Points to State Sponsor" in which their source, Richard Spertzel who had directed the UN bioweapons inspectors in Iraq, provided a lot of inaccurate and misleading information about anthrax, which he believed showed that Stevens was killed by spores from a government sponsored bioweapons lab. The article sets up the totally false bentonite "findings" by ABC that would be reported on that network a couple weeks later:
But if the agents used in the attack are found to contain the telltale presence of certain compounds used in a professional drying process, this could be a very revealing clue. For instance, the presence of aluminum clay, an anti-clumping agent employed in an air-drying process for anthrax, would point to professionals rather than amateurs, and narrow the field of possible suppliers.
It's clear the Florida cases involved a less elegant preparation with spores of an inconsistent size. Still, someone succeeded in manufacturing tens of thousands of particles, or more, to the required size to infect two victims with pulmonary anthrax. That took more than a mortar and pestle.On Thursday, October 18, 2001, the Wall Street Journal published a lengthy opinion piece by former CIA Director R. James Woosley making the case that Iraq was somehow involved in the anthrax attacks. The piece, titled "The Iraq Connection," suggested that even if al Qaeda was behind the attacks, al Qaeda could have acquired the anthrax from Iraq. Woolsey had appeared on TV (CNN) as early as the day after 9/11 to point the finger at Iraq and Saddam Hussein as being a possible collaborator with Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.
On the evening of October 18, 2001, John McCain went on The David Letterman Show and stated,
"There is some indication, and I don't have the conclusions, but some of this anthrax may -- and I emphasize may -- have come from
On October 19, Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge would tell the media that the spores found at AMI, in the NBC letter and in the Daschle letter were "indistinguishable." They were the same strain. And Ridge emphasized that
the tests have shown that these strains have not been "weaponized."
But the conspiracy theorists in the media and elsewhere were already hard at work looking for "experts" who would claim that the spores were "weaponized," regardless of what the government was saying or what the facts proved.
The FBI knew that the strain used in the letters and the strain that killed Stevens had come from USAMRIID. They knew that samples of the Ames strain located at Porton Down in England, and Dugway Proving Grounds in Utah were different from what was kept at USAMRIID. They knew it might be possible to determine if the samples of the Ames stain at a given lab could or could not have produced the attack material. But, they didn't yet know for certain that the Ames strain wasn't widely distributed and commonly used everywhere as the scientists at USAMRIID believed. If it was a common strain, that would make finding the source much more difficult.
However, later that October, USAMRIID lab technician Terry Abshire noticed that there were an unusual number of mutations in the attack anthrax. It was an observation which would eventually provide evidence that would lead directly to Bruce Ivins as most likely person to have been the anthrax mailer.
But, as the investigation progressed methodically and quietly outside of the public eye, the conspiracy theorists, True Believers and media people looking for scandal and government deception would provide a flood of theories, opinions and outright false information that would dominate the news about the case for years to come.
It certainly kept me fascinated for nine years.
And examining why people have absurd beliefs about the anthrax attacks of 2001 has also helped me to understand things totally unrelated to the anthrax attacks. For example, how is it possible that next month the American people might elect some of the dumbest, sleaziest and most incompetent people ever to run for public office? A fascinating Newsweek article from their October 4, 2010 issue explains a lot. The explanation is basically the same explanation for why conspiracy theorists and True Believers believe what they believe, as I described on September 21 (when I used a different Newsweek article, "The Limits Of Reason," as a reference). That article said, "humans are really, really bad at reasoning." Evidently, when they're angry, they are even worse at reasoning. Here's what the new article says,
“Gut-level feelings of tremendous anxiety quickly turn into rage,” says psychology professor Drew Westen of Emory University and author of the 2007 book The Political Brain. “Men in particular don’t like feeling anxious, so they very quickly convert anxiety to anger at what made them anxious.”
While anxious voters seek out many sources of information, angry ones “want to rally round their convictions,” says Marcus. “They’re not interested in objective information, but only in the kind that reinforces what they believe.”
“People have a great capacity to engage in what’s called motivated reasoning,” says political scientist Hank Jenkins-Smith of the University of Oklahoma. “If you have a strongly held belief with an emotional component, the brain defends information that reinforces those ‘priors’ and is skeptical of information that challenges them.”
Paradoxically, the more that issues are explained in neutral forums such as the news media, the more people’s beliefs are cemented. “People who hold these hard priors filter information to support their perceptions,” says Jenkins-Smith.
and particularly this:
When people are angry, they want to see their anger reflected in their leaders. Many voters believe “that getting angry is somehow a ‘good thing’ in a leader, and that the [apparent] absence of anger betokens someone who is out of touch or insensitive to the moral dimensions of the problem,” psychiatrist Ronald Pies of SUNY Upstate Medical Center wrote in Psychiatric Times. “There is a ‘magical’ dimension to intense anger: it transforms the world from one in which the person feels helpless and impotent into one in which the person has the illusion of power and control. It is as if to say, ‘If I get angry enough, the laws of physics won’t apply—I’ll be able to plug that damn oil leak through the power of my righteous indignation!’”
Good thing I'm an eternal optimist. I often say, "I don't worry about things I can't do anything about." However, I cannot help but worry a bit about the kinds of politicians all these angry people might put in office. Fortunately, I can at least try to do something about it -- by casting my own vote on election day.
& Changes: Sunday, October 3,
2010, thru Saturday, October 9, 2010
October 7, 2010 - Hmm. I know I probably shouldn't respond to the comments from the Lunatic Fringe, because it only results in me sending them more visitors to read what they write. But, one of them just stated,
I see Ed is desperately trying to spin on his website that Dina Temple-Raston has written she has “no problem” believing Bruce Ivins was the anthrax killer. As usual, a pack of lies.
"Anonymous" uses the links I provided yesterday to find things which he sees as evidence for his point of view. But his links are from 2008, when very little about the evidence against Ivins had been released. Temple-Raston was just expressing the feelings of that time - August 2008. I was basing my point of view on what Dina Temple-Raston wrote and said on February 19, 2010, the day the FBI released its Summary Report and the thousands of pages of supplementary documents. On that day, she said,
DINA TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, by formally closing the case, the FBI is no longer bound by grand jury secrecy requirements. So that means they can release a lot of the evidence that we didn't get to see back in August of 2008, when the story broke.
Now, if you ask the FBI, they'd tell you that they were sure they had the right man back then. But they kept investigating and talking to people for another year and a half until this release today. They've talked to more people who worked with Ivins at the lab at Fort Detrick, Maryland. And at the time, a lot of his colleagues and family members were saying they couldn't believe that he could have been behind it.
the FBI said that they actually
developed a new science to actually type the anthrax and trace it back
to a particular strain that Ivins had access to. And scientists had
cast doubt on that, too. So what they're hoping is that this new
release will kind of put some of that to rest.
ROBERT SIEGEL of CNN: Well, does the new evidence that came out today, does it settle, for once and for all, that Ivins did it?
TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, the fact that Ivins killed himself without a note before he was charged means that - I think - there will always be doubts in this case. But basically, this is how the FBI lays out the case: that the strain of anthrax that was used in the attacks was a strain that Ivins and only a handful of other people had access to. And the FBI says that they've eliminated the other people as suspects.
Back during that time frame in 2001, Ivins was spending a lot of long hours in the lab alone, and there was no big project going on the lab in September 2001 that would've justified his time there. And then, Ivins explained the hours by saying he was having a difficult home life and was trying to get away from it. But he kept changing his story, so it made the FBI sort of doubt that excuse.
SIEGEL: There were reports in 2008 of some disturbing emails that Ivins had sent.
TEMPLE-RASTON: Exactly. The last time they released some information about this, the FBI released some emails that showed that he might have had some mental health issues, talking about feeling like he was two people and not one. He was stalking a co-worker. He was sending her presents and going to different cities to send them. These were all things that worried the FBI because the anthrax mailings were actually mailed from various cities with fake addresses.Dina Temple-Raston also wrote an article on that same day. It's included with the above transcript. The article concludes with this:
His suicide sent conspiracy theorists into overdrive. They pointed to the fact that the FBI had been convinced that Hatfill was their man before turning their sights on Ivins. What's more, some of the letters had been sent from New Jersey, and investigators couldn't place Ivins there.
People familiar with the case told NPR that the evidence to be released today will answer critics and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Ivins was behind the attacks and acted alone.There's nothing in those comments which suggests that Temple-Raston had any problem with the FBI's findings, even though she acknowledges that because Ivins killed himself "there will always be doubts about the case" - particularly from conspiracy theorists operating in overdrive.
October 6, 2010 - I keep thinking I should write a comment about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's conspiracy theory claim that America was behind the attacks of 9/11. But, it doesn't really have anything to do with the subject of this web site. the anthrax attacks, and the only thing I find interesting about it is that his claims supplement what I wrote on September 21 about how "most conspiracy theorists may be True Believers." I wrote, "The primary difference appears to be that conspiracy theorists generally believe 'the government' is dangerous, and True Believers generally believe that foreigners or outsiders are dangerous." In Ahmadinejad's case, he appears to be a True Believer who believes that foreigners or outsiders are dangerous, and the American government is that foreigner or outsider for him.
I've also noticed that NPR's FBI correspondent Dina Temple-Raston is travelling around the country giving lectures on a selection of various subjects, including "Current Challenges for the FBI." Among the "current challenges for the FBI" she talks about are "national security letters and the anthrax investigations of 2001." Some quick research finds that, on NPR, she's written and talked about the FBI's closing of the anthrax case. (Also HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.) She doesn't appear to have any problem understanding or accepting that Bruce Ivins was the anthrax mailer. The only controversy she specifically mentions is the controversy over what happened to Dr. Steven Hatfill. She wrote:
The case has been controversial because the FBI initially believed a different Army researcher, Steven Hatfill, was behind the attacks. Hatfill eventually cleared his name and won a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the government for wrongly accusing him.
I don't know if that's the controversy she talks about in her lectures or not, but the facts show that (1) the FBI never believed that Hatfill was the anthrax mailer, (2) the FBI never accused Hatfill of being the anthrax mailer, (3) Hatfill never cleared his name and (4) Hatfill didn't win his lawsuit. Hatfill's name was cleared by the FBI and the DOJ when they settled the lawsuit shortly before beginning their efforts to indict Dr. Ivins. Hopefully, Temple-Raston doesn't repeat those errors in her lectures. Of course, it's entirely possible that she had an individual source within the FBI who once mistakenly believed that Hatfill was the anthrax mailer. If so, perhaps her lecture is about the controversies such sources can generate in the media when they talk about confidential subjects they really know very little about.
October 5, 2010 - Yesterday's Washington Post contains a very detailed, but somewhat damning obituary of William C. Patrick III. It mentions the anthrax attacks of 2001 in these two paragraphs:
In the mid-2000s, the FBI sought Mr. Patrick's biological weapons expertise for the investigation of the anthrax attacks along the East Coast. A few years earlier, he had been commissioned to write a report on the effectiveness of an anthrax attack spread through the mail system. In the report, Mr. Patrick described how an envelope laced with 2.5 grams of anthrax could do significant harm by direct and indirect contact.
The anthrax attacker - who authorities claimed might have studied Mr. Patrick's report as a "blueprint" - used about the same amount to kill five people and sicken 13 others.Which "authorities" claimed that Dr. Ivins' might have studied Mr. Patrick's report as a "blueprint"? Would those "authorities" be Brian Ross and consultant Kyle Olsen at ABC? I see no mention of Patrick's report in the FBI Summary Report. Of course, the Post article doesn't mention Dr. Ivins. So, maybe the Post is still thinking about someone else who their reporters tried to finger as being the anthrax mailer.
October 4, 2010 - Someone just advised me that William C. Patrick III died on Friday, October 1, at the age of 84. His obituaries can be found HERE and HERE. I knew him as a helpful expert on many aspects of anthrax and anthrax as a bioweapon. We talked on the phone in 2004 and 2005, we communicated by email, he sent me tapes of his lectures, and he reviewed my book when it came out in 2005. I mourn his passing.
October 3, 2010 - I've evidently broken through the "where-to-begin" barrier on my book, and I'm now rolling along with the first rough draft. I'm on chapter 8 with lots of notes complied for everything through chapter 17. But, in my research I'm often coming across things I should have mentioned in early chapters, so I'm plunking notes into them, too, notes which I'll merge into those chapters when I work on the second draft.
The objective now is to keep going. I've learned from past experience - and other writers will say the same thing - it's deadly to go back and try to make everything perfect before continuing on. If the first draft is flowing, keep it flowing and keep moving along.
The chapter titled "Who Was Bruce Ivins?", which I once planned to be Chapter 1, then later moved to Chapter 2, is now planned to be Chapter 13.
I'm doing a massive amount of new research. Nearly everything is being researched from scratch, verifying what was previously known while looking for things which may have been overlooked because they didn't seem important at the time. My first book tended to consist of topics, with each chapter covering a different topic. The new book is more like a story - like a thriller or mystery - that begins with the first case of cutaneous anthrax (Johanna Huden) and proceeds from there. Unlike most fictional thrillers or mysteries, the new book doesn't have a central character for the first 12 chapters, but that doesn't appear to be a serious problem with a non-fiction book.
I've been digging through the various timelines, primarily the Wikipedia Timeline, the Timeline in my first web page, The Ivins TimeLine, The Hatfill Timeline, and the Timeline represented by the daily flood of articles from the media. That is definitely not the way I did the research for my first book.
And I'm finding things that I never noticed before. Some are trivial, an example being that the first victim, Johanna Huden of the New York Post, had a boyfriend named Joe Cunningham, who is described in one article as "another Post reporter." And someone named Mark Cunningham, also and employee of the Post, was victim #21 in the anthrax attacks. Is there something worth writing about there? Maybe. We'll see how things go when I start the second draft.
I also didn't know that victim #6, Casey Chamberlain at NBC, opened mail for victim #2, Erin O'Connor, Tom Brokaw's assistant. That's definitely something worth mentioning, and I do so in Chapter 1.
I found a minor conflict about dates. An article written by the Iowa State Daily claims that the media descended upon them on the 9th of October, 2001. But, everything else says the media feeding frenzy must have started on the 10th. It's not a big deal, but it requires a decision on whether or not to mention the discrepancy.
More importantly, I found at least one news report from November 30 stating that the FBI was focusing on a small number of labs that had received samples of the Ames strain from USAMRIID, more than a month before it was made public that the Ames strain was a rare strain from Texas. The article still assumes that the Ames strain came from Iowa, but it seems clear that FBI investigators had already learned otherwise. There doesn't appear to be any other explanation for how, at that time, the number of possible sources for the Ames strain could have been so dramatically reduced from "countless" labs to probably "no more than a dozen."
The new book isn't a compilation and merging of timelines. Stepping through the case day by day would only cause confusion for the general reader, because in the early days of the investigation there were many many things going on at the same time. So, what I'm doing is following threads. I follow a thread until it intesects with another thread, then I go back to the start of that second thread and follow it until it intersects with a third thread, etc.
For example, I begin with the individual cases of anthrax as they were observed by the first seven victims, and how they were diagnosed or misdiagnosed. That gradually leads to the eighth victim, Bob Stevens, and Chapter 1 concludes with the determination by Paul Keim of Northern Arizona University on October 5, 2001, that Stevens was infected with the Ames strain.
Then, in Chapter 2, I start following Paul Keim's analysis as he compares the 2,000 samples in his archive to the sample from Stevens the FBI sent him. Keim's findings point directly to USAMRIID, but the media is off on a wild goose chase elsewhere.
So, Chapter 3 follows the thread about the media's nonsensical beliefs about the Ames strain, and how the media descended upon Iowa State University on October 10 because of a misunderstanding of some kind that resulted from a false report on NBC news claiming that the Department of Energy in Iowa was the source of the Ames strain.
Then, in Chapter 4, I return to facts and follow the thread that begins with Erin O'Connor at NBC being confirmed to have cutaneous anthrax on October 12, and the finding of the letter that infected her - the letter mailed from New Jersey, not the letter mailed from St. Petersburg, Florida, as she originally assumed. So, now there's a known case with a known source. Chapter 4 ends on October 15 after the Daschle letter is opened, a letter that also came from New Jersey. So, now there are two known letters, both mailed in the Trenton area, but mailed three weeks apart. The Daschle letter is delivered to USAMRIID for analysis.
I don't think it's a good idea to go through each chapter here. I just wanted to describe the basic pattern. The next chapters describe the mistakes at USAMRIID, the finding of the mutaions, the false ABC reports about bentonite, other cases of anthrax that are found, more deaths, the finding of the unopened New York Post letter, the October 25 meeting at the White House, Kathy Nguyen's case, the finding of the Leahy letter, Ottilie Lundgren's case, and then the confirmation that the Ames strain wasn't a very common strain from Iowa distributed by the USDA to "countless" labs around the world, but a rare strain from Texas that was controlled and distrubuted by USAMRIID, and went to only a few labs.
Chapter 12 will probably end with Ivins doing his first cleanup and swabbing to cover his tracks, providing his first example of "consciousness of guilt," and leading to Chapter 13: "Who Was Bruce Ivins?" which will probably have to begin with his birth and trace his history to the point where he learns that he was totally wrong about the Ames strain being a very common and untraceable strain. And in Chapter 14 we learn that he was also wrong in his belief that his lab procedures prevented the formation of mutations. His lab procedures did just the opposite, they increased the number of mutations.
Chapter 15 is tentatively titled "The Hunt Is On" as the FBI starts working to narrow the list of suspects by using every method they have while also inventing "Microbial Forensics" to cover areas that have never been explored before. And Ivins is forced to try to cover his tracks by providing incorrect information to the FBI, which will later help them build their case against Ivins.
Chapter 16 is about another thread that was going on at the same time: "The Attempted Lynching of Steven Hatfill." It's another media wild goose chase which the media put on the front pages and blamed on the FBI even though it was the work of conspiracy theorists mindlessly followed by the conspiracy-hungry media and clueless politicians.
Chapter 17 is tentatively about the J-Lo letter and all that misleading information which created so many True Believer theories, and how the facts show there was only one anthrax letter sent to AMI, and it was not the J-Lo letter. The chapter shows that the anthrax attacks had nothing to do with al Qaeda. The culprit was an American working for USAMRIID. It was just a matter of gathering the proof to pinpoint the culprit.
That's the plan. I've got a jumble of ideas about what the rest of the chapters will be about, the areas they will need to cover while continuing on a path that uncovers more evidence pointing to Bruce Ivins.
The review by the National Academies of Science (NAS) will probably be finished before I get anywhere near being done with even the first draft. So, I'll hopefully be able to incorporate whatever they can add to the story. I'll probably use the misinformation provided by Henry Heine in some way (see my comments for May 23, 24 and 27, 2010), since some people continue to distort the facts or concoct total nonsense in attempts to make the case fit their beliefs.
The book may end with descriptions of a few unsolved mysteries related to the case: how was Bob Stevens exposed? how was Kathy Nguyen exposed? who actually wrote the letters?
That's the plan. In the coming weeks, I'll try to write about other things - hopefully new things I find out in my research - instead of providing weekly updates about the progress of the book.
Okay, now I'm going to break for lunch. Later, I plan to start hanging up pictures, pictures which have been stacked against the walls in my kitchen and office since I moved into my new apartment in August. There are several boxes that still haven't been unpacked, too. This evening, I'll watch a couple movies. The plan includes time for that, too.
But, as they say, life is what happens while you're making plans. So, reality might turn out to be very different.
& Changes: Sunday, September 26,
2010, thru Saturday, October 2, 2010
September 26, 2010 - I seem to have ground to a halt on my new book again. It's a story-telling problem. There are many ways to tell a story, and the way I chose just isn't working out.
A week or so ago, I wrote a new introduction that focused on all the errors by the media, errors by various scientists during initial examinations of the anthrax powders, errors by conspiracy theorists and errors by Bruce Ivins himself. The idea was that the book would be a story about errors and how so much of the truth is hidden by those errors.
That's not working. The errors made by various people are interesting, but they're not interesting enough to be the theme or the message in the story. The facts of the case may indeed be hidden by the murk of countless errors, but the book must be about the facts, not about the murk.
I also tried to avoid mentioning my own analysis in the book, but now I'm thinking that was not a good idea. My analysis supplements the FBI's case with additional details. Example: last week, in a discussion on FreeRepublic.com, "Wideminded" asked why Ivins put the hidden message in the media letters. I explained that, the reason why Ivins put a hidden message in the media letters could be the same reason he trimmed each of the letters to a slightly different size, and the same reason he didn't send out the originals of the letters, only copies: He wanted to be able to prove he sent the letters, if necessary.
The problem is, in the FBI's Summary report there is no mention of the trimming of the letters to different sizes, nor is there any attempt to explain why only Xerox-type copies where mailed. There's nothing about it in the supplemental documents, either.
Plus, the FBI's Summary report and the supplemental documents don't really try to explain why the highlighted A's and T's in the media letters aren't more uniformly highlighted. Some A's and T's are clearly highlighted, others much less so, and some other characters of the alphabet seem like they might be slightly highlighted even though they don't fit the known message pattern. My handwriting analysis explains the reason for this very clearly and precisely. So, it appears I need to mention details of my own analysis in my new book.
Then there's the basic story-telling problem: Where do I begin? At first I thought I'd begin with a chapter about Bruce Ivins. That didn't work. Then I thought I'd start with a chapter titled "Before The Attacks," which was about all the things that people need to know to truly understand what happened after the attacks. But, that's turning out to be too long and too dry. People don't want to read a book that begins with a lot of boring details that won't make any sense until much later in the book. I need to start with something that will grab their attention and hold it.
Do I begin with Bob Stevens being taken to the hospital in the middle of the night? That's where the news stories about the attacks began. That's also the standard opening for type of book known as a "police procedural": Someone dies and then the investigators have to put all the pieces together to figure out who killed him and why.
But, I don't have a hero detective who puts all the pieces together. It even appears that the investigators who were there at the beginning of the investigation weren't the same detectives who were there at the end. So, there doesn't appear to have been any single "detective hero" in this case, not even a single heroic leader of a heroic team of detectives. It can't be that kind of detective story. However, beginning with the death of the person who was believed to be the first victim - but who was actually the eighth victim - could be a good way to start a detective story about how initial beliefs are often disproven by the facts. And the fact that the previous seven cases of anthrax were either misdiagnosed or were still being evaluated illustrates that errors can be the norm before someone finally does something right.
In the FreeRepublic.com discussion, "Wideminded" criticized the FBI for not spotting the hidden message in the media letter a lot earlier. My response was that tens of thousands of DNA experts also saw pictures of letter on TV and in newspapers and magazines, yet none of them realized the letters contained a hidden message, even though they should have been able to decode it by using their knowledge of DNA. Why didn't they see the hidden message? Because, it simply never occurred to them to look for a hidden message. On FreeRepublic, I wrote:
As far as I know, no one even imagined that there was a code in the media letters until Ivins was observed throwing away "the code books" at around 1 a.m. on the morning of November 8, 2007. I imagine it even took considerable time for them to figure out WHY Ivins threw out those materials.
can you imagine the processes it took to figure it out?
Someone had to read through GEB and realize that the image on page 404 was similar to the highlighted characters in the media letter. Then they'd have to realize that the codons described in the magazine article could be the code.
I hope some FBI agent writes a book some day about how they figured that out. How many people were trying to figure out why Ivins threw away one of his favorite books? How many other possible reasons could there have been?
The story of a discovery is often the reason for a book. I'd like to read the story of that particular discovery. But, I'm not the one to tell it. I don't have any of the details. And, Ivins was already the main suspect in the investigation when the hidden message was finally decoded.
That wasn't the situation with Terry Abshire's discovery. Abshire, a lab technician at USAMRIID, discovered the key to solving the case. One day in October 2001, she noticed the unusual number of mutations in the attack anthrax and evidently realized that those mutations might be useable as evidence and might identify the source of the anthrax. Sometimes people see very important things even when they are not looking for them. But, that's her story to tell, not mine. My book needs to mention her discovery, and it needs to mention the discovery of the hidden message, but I don't have the details to tell the story of those discoveries.
So, I appear to have returned to my original plan: to write a book about facts versus beliefs in the anthrax case. The writing of today's comment seems to have given me some ideas about how to organize the book, how to begin it and how to step through all the various parts of the story in an understandable and interesting way. If approached from the right angle, it might read almost like a "thriller," even though the ending is known. But, I'm going to need to do some serious work on the outline to make sure I'm on the right road this time.
Hmmm. Should the title of my new Chapter One be "The First Victim" or should it be "The Eighth Victim"? Or am I getting ahead of myself again? I need to work on that outline first, to make certain the pieces will all follow nicely and interestingly if I begin with the death of Bob Stevens.
But, don't worry. It's not like I'll be starting from scratch again. It's just part of the writing process. It's part of figuring things out. The first idea isn't always the best idea. It doesn't always work. And, what I've already written might still be useable, it just won't be in the same place in the book.
& Changes: Sunday, September 19,
2010, thru Saturday, September 25, 2010
September 24, 2010 - A comment about Temple Grandin may seem off-topic, but it really isn't. A couple days ago, I rented the DVD of the HBO movie about her life, and I found it absolutely fascinating. It's about a woman with autism who became an inventor, a Ph.D, a lecturer, an author of several books, and much more. But, the most fascinating part of the movie for me was the detailed depiction of how she thinks. Dr. Temple Grandin claims she thinks in pictures, instead of words. She also understands animals and can view the world from their perspective. Since she invented processes for keeping cattle calm while they are being led to slaughter, one would think that she'd be a sworn enemy of PETA, but according to Ingrid Newkirk, the head of PETA, "Temple Grandin has done more to reduce suffering in the world than any other person who has ever lived."
I'm often fascinated by other people's thought processes. None of them have been as different as Temple Grandin, but I frequently encounter people who believe totally unbelievable things, and who cannot understand why the rest of the world doesn't view things they way they do. They believe they are right, and they believe that sooner or later the rest of the world will come around to their way of thinking. It never happens, yet they continue to expect it to happen.
The discussion on FreeRepublic.com seems to have ended. I tried to show "Southack" that her reasoning made no sense, and I even put her in a corner by asking her to explain how she can claim in one post that here is no conspiracy but then claim in the next post that "relevant government agencies" are keeping secret all the information that supports her conclusions about a vast criminal conspiracy. The response, as expected, was silence. End of discussion.
But, she's still out there waiting for the rest of the world to come around to her way of thinking.
When "Justice Department" gets frustrated that things aren't going the way he (or she) wants them to go, he posts large pictures that are supposed to mean something. Click HERE and HERE for other examples. What was he thinking in the recent discussion when he posted as his last post a large image of a form filled out by Ivins? The form says the opposite of what his last text said. The form shows that flask RMR-1029 was stored in building 1425, but his previous post in very large text is about how The New York Times reported that flask RMR-1029 was stored in building 1412. I showed that to be a FALSE report, and that ended the discussion - unless he's looking for some other images to post.
The Internet provides a means to discuss things with people who have very different points of view, people you'd never encounter if there was no Internet. But, the Internet also allows them to just disappear if the discussions don't go they way they want them to go.
So, there are almost never any mutual conclusions that are fully agreed upon - at least from my point of view. The people with whom I argue might fully agree with one another that I'm totally wrong. But, they rarely (if ever) agree with each other about what is right. Each has his or her own unique view of what is "the truth." That means you cannot learn much about human thought processes from any single argument, you can only learn from the patterns that can be seen in hundreds of arguments. And no pattern will completely describe any specific person. But, those patterns will allow you to develop better questions. Very often it is the asking of the right questions that gets the truly enlightening answers.
Hmm. Well, enough about that. It's time for me to get back to writing my new book.
September 21, 2010 - I had another epiphany or revelation this morning. Yesterday, I'd been discussing the Florida anthrax cases on FreeRepublic.com with someone who calls herself "Southack." (I think Southack is a woman, but I could be wrong.) Southack started by claiming that the government was covering up the fact that al Qaeda was behind the anthrax attacks. Coverups generally indicate conspiracies. But she couldn't or wouldn't provide any reason WHY both the Bush and Obama administrations would cover up crimes by al Qaeda. She just knows that must be the case because she knows that al Qaeda did it, and she knows there was no Florida letter. In spite of all the evidence, she is absolutely certain that the AMI building was somehow contaminated by rent money some of the 9/11 terrorists paid to their landlord. The landlord had a husband who worked at AMI.
As I was waking up this morning, it suddenly occurred to me that most conspiracy theorists may be True Believers. The primary difference appears to be that conspiracy theorists generally believe "the government" is dangerous, and True Believers generally believe that foreigners or outsiders are dangerous.
It's self-preservation at work. It's survival of the fittest. Attack the perceived danger. It's not a logical fear, but, as stated in the "Limits of Reason" article in Newsweek, "humans are really, really bad at reasoning."
Those who believe "the government" is dangerous generally have better arguments, and they attempt to use logic with distorted facts.
Those who believe that foreigners or outsiders are dangerous primarily argue beliefs. There's little or no logic involved. Facts are simply ignored. Foreigners and outsiders are "different," and "different" is dangerous. Period.
But, I may be over-generalizing. It's just an idea. Maybe it will prove true. Maybe it won't. Time will tell.
ADDED NOTE: Southack just provided an explanation for why she believes the government is covering up for al Qaeda. She believes "rogues" in Pakistan (more dangerous foreigners) were involved in the attacks, and the U.S. couldn't "nuke" Pakistan because they were supposed to be an ally in the war on terror.
I think this may be the first time I've ever managed to get a True Believer to explain her beliefs in detail. Very fascinating.
September 19, 2010 (B) - Last week, in spite of countless distractions, I still managed to get some work done on my new book. So far, I haven't copied a single word from my previous book. Therefore, what I'm working on definitely cannot be called an "update" or a "new version." At least, so far. But, I'm still only on Chapter 2 ("Who Was Bruce Ivins?"), while at the same time revising and reworking Chapter 1 ("Before The Anthrax Attacks") almost continuously as I recall key events which later had an impact on the history of the investigation in one way or another.
My previous book was about how I analyzed the anthrax attacks. The new book is not about me nor my analysis. So far, I haven't used the pronoun "I" even once. The book is turning out to be a detailed history of the attacks that shows how all the various pieces interconnect. It's an explanation of the attacks. There's a saying that you don't really understand something unless you can explain it to someone else and get them to understand it, too. That's what I'm trying to do: explain the anthrax attacks to the reader to make sure that I understand everything. The process of writing things down helps me to see whether or not the pieces fit and whether I know something or just assume something.
All the pieces fit. And they fit very well. And even the pieces which have not yet been made public or publicly discussed fit the known pieces. They do not contradict the known pieces. Examples: (1) The indications that Ivins confessed to the crimes to his psychiatrist, but the confession is "under seal" because of doctor/patient confidentiality. (2) The report that Ivins "took the fifth" when a certain person's name was mentioned to him. (3) The reports that Ivins' wife ran some kind of day care center in her home, and the facts say a child did the actual writing on the anthrax letters and envelopes.
The True Believers, of course, have beliefs that they view as more important than the evidence against Bruce Ivins. Thus, they believe that, if there was no one actually filming or recording every action by Ivins as he created the anthrax and mailed the letters, then there is no real evidence against him. The True Believers feel that their beliefs should be used instead of the evidence. And, if you do not accept their beliefs as the only true facts of the case, then you are simply closed-minded.
The conspiracy theorists, on the other hand, feel that "the government" or some evil organization within the government manufactured all the evidence in order to lead the public away from "the truth." And "the truth" as they see it is: "The government" is lying in order to cover up evil and illegal activities, such as illegal bioweapons manufacturing, illegal bioweapons tests upon innocent Americans, or the deliberate murdering of innocent Americans in order to start a war with Iraq. And because the conspiracy theorists believe the evidence against Bruce Ivins was all "manufactured" by "the government," they have no problem with distorting the evidence and/or ignoring the evidence as they concoct their own theories of what actually happened.
Meanwhile, the media is doing its best to sell soap, cereal and medicines instead of informing the people. The Times of Trenton used this headline last week: "Holt: FBI anthrax investigtion is itself subject of probe." And they reported:
“In the wake of the bungled FBI investigation, all of us — but especially the families of the victims of the anthrax attacks — deserve credible answers about how the attacks happened and whether the case is really closed,” [Representative Rush] Holt said in a statement yesterday.
That's a good example of starting with a belief ("the bungled FBI investigation") and looking for facts ("credible answers") to support that belief. What would an example of "the bungled FBI investigation" be? Rep. Rush Holt and the media will undoubtedly say it would be the way the FBI publicly investigated an innocent man, Dr. Steven Hatfill, before deciding that Dr. Bruce Ivins was the culprit instead. All that is needed to justify that point of view is to totally ignore the fact that it was the media and people like Rush Holt who were behind the attempted lynching of Dr. Hatfill, not the FBI.
Holt and the media may also claim that the approval of the destruction of the anthrax archive at Iowa State University is another example of "bungling" by the FBI, but that was the result of the media's mindless feeding frenzy, and people like Rush Holt misunderstanding or misreading evidence. The media dragged the public off on a crazy wild goose chase that had nothing to do with the FBI's investigation. It was just a brainless sideshow performed by the media. Only those who do not care about the facts - people like Rush Holt, perhaps - were influenced by the media's performance.
On the positive side, there is evidence that the general public sees the True Believers, conspiracy theorists, uninformed politicians and careless media reporters for what they really are. Even though many conspiracy theorists and a few True Believers are liberals, good examples of the views of "the general public" might be found in the comments posted to news stories about the upcoming "Rally to Restore Sanity" and the satirical "March to Keep Fear Alive" scheduled for October 30, in Washington D.C. Click HERE, HERE, HERE or HERE. But, it wouldn't surprise me if polls find that the majority of Americans have never even heard of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert -- or Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh. "Ordinary Americans" have important things in their own lives that occupy nearly all of their time - like jobs, kids and countless other responsibilities - which is supposedly the main theme of the "Rally to Restore Sanity:"
It concerns me a bit that there are probably millions of Americans who simply do not understand satire. They may take Colbert's "March to Keep Fear Alive" seriously and just be totally confused by it.
Along similar lines, I've been watching the number of visitors to someone else's web site for a few months. The site averaged 75 visitors per day in August. And that average was holding true in September until I mentioned the site in some of my comments late on Tuesday the 13th, then again on the 14th and 15th. Suddenly, the site's number of visitors doubled:
In a way, it's a strong indicator that visitors to this web site actually read what I write. That's encouraging. But, it also poses the question: Should I help the Lunatic Fringe promote their beliefs by mentioning them and their web sites? I try to keep mentioning them to a minimum, but sometimes real news goes dry and things get so slow that the rantings of the Lunatic Fringe are the only activities of interest to comment about. On the other hand, there's nothing that more clearly hammers home how The Lunatic Fringe thinks than actual examples of claims and arguments provided by The Lunatic Fringe.
That may be one way that this site differs from the reporting by the media. I tend to say, "Here's an example of the arguments from the Lunatic Fringe." The media would likely just say, "Here's today's news."
September 19, 2010 (A) - For the first time in many months, FreeRepublic.com has a thread about the anthrax attacks. I was very surprised to see that nearly every post was addressed to me. It is turning out to be a very interesting discussion. I think it's the first time I've encountered someone who argues that smart criminals do not incriminate themselves, so if there was evidence against a smart guy like Bruce Ivins, it must mean that Ivins was framed.
Hmm. "Wideminded" just posted the most interesting questions I've been asked in a long time. I hope my answers are equally interesting.
& Changes: Sunday, September 12,
2010, thru Saturday, September 18, 2010
September 18, 2010 - On Wednesday, I provided a few examples of the FBI reports where people (evidently, including Ivins) seemed to be saying that Bruce Ivins had "few or no friends." Today, I decided to see what the FBI/DOJ's Summary Report has to say. I did a search for the word "friend." Here are some examples of what I found:
2. Motive. According to his e-mails and statements to friends, in the months leading up to the anthrax attacks in the fall of 2001, Dr. Ivins was under intense personal and professional pressure. The anthrax vaccine program to which he had devoted his entire career of more than 20 years was failing. The anthrax vaccines were receiving criticism in several scientific circles, because of both potency problems and allegations that the anthrax vaccine contributed to Gulf War Syndrome. Short of some major breakthrough or intervention, he feared that the vaccine research program was going to be discontinued. Following the anthrax attacks, however, his program was suddenly rejuvenated.
Dr. Ivins also sent a provocative e-mail about the anthrax case to himself from an account he established in such a way that it would appear as though the e-mail was being sent by him to a friend, in an effort to see whether investigators were reading his e-mail.
Throughout the investigation, he repeatedly made efforts to shift the blame for the mailings to both dear and professional colleagues through fanciful, far-reaching theories of responsibility. At one point, he sent an e-mail to himself documenting 12 reasons why two of his former colleagues, who were also his two best friends, likely committed the anthrax attacks.
Dr. Ivins’s e-mails revealed that he felt unnaturally close to these former colleagues, counting them as his only real friends. Nonetheless, Dr. Ivins also went through phases where he behaved vindictively towards them, when he thought that they were neglecting him or, worse, conspiring against him. The volumes of his e-mails were replete with evidence of this juxtaposition.
Pages 43 and 44:
Those e-mails, in which he treated Former Colleague #1 and Former Colleague #2 as close confidantes about his mental health problems, contrasted with other e-mails, such as the one he sent to Former Colleague #1 on October 27, 1999, in which he expressed feelings that Former Colleague #2 had betrayed him:Page 47:
It’s getting to be lately that I’ve felt there’s nobody in the world I can confide in. You’re gone now, and one of the reasons I was so sorry to see you go was a very selfish one - I could talk to you openly and honestly, and that was in itself a great lifter of my spirits. Losing [Former Colleague #2] as someone I can spill my guts to is crushing - it would mean that I am truly alone completely alone. I know that you and [Former Colleague #2] are such great friends - when you two are together, I’ve frequently felt like I totally don’t belong. . . . I have come to learn, much to my surprise and disappointment, that [Former Colleague #2] has been saying some very negative things behind my back.
In the course of his 2008 on-the-record interviews, Dr. Ivins provided investigators with details regarding his relationship with a woman with whom he was obsessed during graduate school (hereinafter referred to as “Graduate Colleague”). Dr. Ivins told the prosecution team that when he learned that Graduate Colleague was “a Kappa,” he set out to learn everything about her and to befriend her. He paid close attention to all of the details of her life and drove past her house from time to time, just to look at it. At one point, he wrote her a note explaining his concerns that his friendship was not being reciprocated, which she misinterpreted as a romantic overture.
Footnote: Dr. Ivins described similar behavior with respect to Former Colleague #1. He focused on every detail of her life, and drove past her home from time to time just to look at it. He also wrote her numerous e-mail messages in which he voiced his concern that his friendship was not being reciprocated.
On March 18, 2008, he wrote to Former Colleague #1 directly:
I’m sorry that you have abandoned me. You were the one person I knew I could bare my soul to and tell everything to, and now you have abandoned me. You have put me on your dark list. . . . . I lose my connections. I lose my years. I lose my health. I lose my ability to think. I lose my friends. What do I have left but eternity?
With respect to “PAT,” as noted in more detail, supra, as with Former Colleague #1, Former Colleague #2 was both a close friend, in fact one of his only friends, and also the object of excessive affection and attention by Dr. Ivins. Dr. Ivins was potentially sending both messages, a reflection of his obsession with these two women who so dominated his complicated psyche.
Most of the rest are about other people's friends. But, it's interesting to note that Ivins counted as his "only real friends" two women whom he also identified to the FBI as people who might have mailed the anthrax letters.
September 16, 2010 - The news that the Goverment Accounting Office (GAO) is going to investigate the science used in the FBI's Amerithrax investigation is being reported in various newspapers, including The Times of Trenton, The Frederick News-Post and a single paragraph by Scott Shane in The New York Times. It is news, I suppose. The problem, however, is that the GAO's investigation probably won't quell all doubts. And then, the remaining doubters may have to demand new investigations to investigate the GAO and NAS investigations of the FBI's investigation.
But, on the positive side, it makes me think that what the world needs now is a clear, understandable, all-encompassing review of the Amerithrax investigation and the toxic fog of media nonsense, conspiracy theories and True Believer rantings that surrounded it. I'm working on that.
September 15, 2010 (B) - According to a blog on the Wall Street Journal's web site,
The investigative arm of Congress will take another look at the science the FBI used to determine who mailed deadly anthrax-laced letters in 2001.
In a letter to [Rep. Rush] Holt [of New Jersey, from where the anthrax letters were mailed], GAO officials said they would conduct their review once the NAS reaches its conclusions, which is expected later this year.
Wha....? When the NAS finishes reviewing the science of the case, the GAO is going to review the science of the case? Well, the more the merrier, I suppose. I plan to review the NAS's review. And then I'll review the GAO's review. Since the top-tier scientists devised and performed all the science in the first place, it might be interesting to see what second-tier and third-tier scientists think of it.
Ah! The GAO's letter to Holt shows exactly what the GAO will be studying:
(1) What microbial and technical forensic methods did the FBI use to conclude that Dr. Bruce Ivins was the perpetrator of the 2001 anthrax attack; how reliable and reproducible were those methods; and were the methods validated?
(2) What scientific concerns and uncertainties, if any, remain?
(3) What agencies, including intelligence agencies, are responsible for monitoring high containment laboratories in the U.S. and abroad; how do they monitor these laboratories; and how effective is their monitoring?
The NAS's review should take care of question #1. It's anyone's guess what the answer to #2 will be, since there should be lots of concerns about mentally unstable American scientists secretly creating their own anthrax powders in government labs. And question #3 doesn't have anything to do with the NAS review or with the anthrax attacks of 2001. It appears to be a balm to soothe Rep. Holt's anxieties that some evil foreigners may actually have been behind the attacks.
September 15, 2010 (A) - Wow! I really seem to have set off "DXer." He has evidently communicated personally with some of Bruce Ivins' co-workers and collected information about many others - a total of 40 at last count. And, he cannot understand why I don't do the same. (A True Believer believes that his way of doing things is the ONLY way of doing things.) The reason I don't do the same is because it would accomplish nothing except to bother people unnecessarily. It doesn't make any difference what any individual thought about Bruce Ivins. It doesn't make any difference if 50 people claim they liked Bruce Ivins and were friends of his. It doesn't make any difference if 5,000 people cannot believe that Bruce Ivins was the anthrax killer. History is filled with tales of serial killers and mass murderers who seemed "likeable" and "normal" to people around them.
The evidence developed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice says that Bruce Ivins was the anthrax killer. All I'm currently trying to do is write a chapter about Bruce Ivins before the attacks. The chapter tentatively titled "Who Was Bruce Ivins?" will give his date of birth, his education, etc. And it will describe him as the documented reports describe him: a person who is viewed very differently by some people than by others. He had all sorts of secrets that few if any of his "friends" and co-workers knew about, and those secrets included practices that help show that he was indeed the anthrax killer - such as driving long distances to mail letters so they could not be traced back to him, his fascination with codes, his bizarre fascination with the KKG sorority, his practice of writing letters to politicians, etc., etc.
DXer will undoubtedly complain that if I don't do things his way, then I will be doing them incorrectly. But, I'm doing things differently because I'm not trying to do what he's trying to do. I'm just examining all the known facts and putting them together in a readable and understandable way, showing how they prove Dr. Ivins was the anthrax mailer. DXer is evidently doing his own investigation in an attempt to prove that facts mean nothing, that the evidence means nothing, that only beliefs and opinions have value, that the FBI was wrong, that Bruce Ivins was innocent, and that some Muslim actually sent the lettters.
September 14, 2010 (C) - I've started going through the 2,720 pages of supplementary FBI documents looking for opinions (positive and negative) about Ivins. Here are the ones I've found so far:
#847357, page 36:
IVINS was friendly, but also conducted himself in a manner that made it clear that XXXXX. IVINS was very moody, but could not be faulted for his behavior, as he "always had a heart of gold." According to XXXXX, IVINS always meant well. XXXXX could not determine the cause of IVINS' mood swings.
XXXXX he did not have many friends. XXXXX felt bad that IVINS lacked friends.
IVINS was always a little unusual,
IVNS discussed his own personal issues XXXXX. He discussed the difficult relationship between himself and his wife, and difficulties with his teenage children. He expressed insecurities about being without friends and being perceived as strange or weird.
#847359, page 3:
XXXXX characterized IVINS as a "fruitcake" and opined that IVINS has been somewhat of an antagonist for years at USAMRIID. XXXXX explained that since the first Gulf War, IVINS and many other researchers at USAMRIID, because of the shift in research priorities, were forced basically to conduct many menial type laboratory tasks normally reserved for laboratory technicians, not Principal Investigators. This shift in everyday work responsibilities and functions appeared to effect IVINS and he then appeared to be disgruntled at times. XXXXXXXXXXXXX IVINS tended to internalize his frustration and would not confront anyone. According to XXXXX, Ivins would hold a grudge and would not let it go.
#847360, page 52:
XXXXX described IVINS as a good guy and a jokester. .... XXXXX has had only positive interactions with XXXXX IVINS.Page 57:
XXXXX described IVINS as very lively, intelligent, and someone who likes to joke around a lot.Page 62:
XXXXX knows BRUCE IVINS and they have worked in the hotsuite at the same time together. XXXXX described IVINS as a strange guy. [She] elaborated that Ivins's quirkiness likely comes from a hard childhood and not having many friends. XXXXX impression is that IVINS "lacks social graces" and is inept when interacting with people.Page 71:
XXXXX thought IVINS was strange, but not in a bad way. XXXXX further described IVINS as a strange duck.
When asked about USAMRIID scientist BRUCE IVINS, XXXXX responded that IVINS was a nice individual, but was not organized and described him as "goofy."
are the opinions about Ivins that I found in the first 3 document files
of the 30 total. Most are from 2006. Whether or not this
data search is worthwhile to continue is something I'll have to think
it's being argued that the
female co-worker with whom Ivins was obsessed, and whose name he
encoded in the media letters, was a "friend" of his. Can an
object of obsession be a friend? Obviously at least one
person has that opinion. But what's the point of arguing
opinions? Arguing opinions is something I try to avoid like
theorists make up facts and distort facts to make their case.
True Believers argue that you must be
wrong if you do not believe as they believe and do as they do.
I think I
better concentrate on writing my new book and ignore these endless and
September 14, 2010 (A) - I really should be posting these comments to Lew Weinstein's site, but a few months back Lew advised me that if I do not do things his way, I cannot post to his site. So, I'm posting the comments here.
OldAtlantic has kindly illustrated how conspiracy theorists distort the facts to create "straw man" arguments:
Ed Lake claims that the first mailing had only 5 percent anthrax spores and the rest he claims is debris or vegetative cells. The latter he treats as if it was nutrients, instead of anthrax cells, that had to be grown and thus took time.
First, I've always said that the media powder appears to have contained only 10 percent spores. I got that information from an on-line article many years ago, and nothing learned to-date has contradicted it. (I've also explained this to "Old Atlantic" before and provided him with the source.)
Second, I've always said that the rest of the powder was mostly dead bacteria, a.k.a. "sporulation debris," although there may have a small amount of dried nutrients in it, too.
Then OldAtlantic writes:
Ed admits there was centrifuging for the first mailing and the second and the second was very pure.
But that's just the opposite of what I've said. I've always said that the media powder appears to have been scraped straight out of a Petri dish. No centrifuging. No processing. OldAtlantic then starts making up crazy numbers that are pure fiction and have nothing to do with reality:
If centrifuging a batch gets out 99 percent of the non-spores for a 30 minute round, then the first mailing should have been almost pure anthrax spores. If on the other hand, each 30 minute round of centrifuging only removed one percent of non spores remaining, then to to get to over 99 percent spores would take many centrifuging.
The first "If" is about centrifuging that never happened. The second "If" is a crazy, totally unsupported and unjustified "straw man argument" recalculation that is created only to show that the distorted information OldAtlantic created is "mathematically inconsistent." It has nothing to do with what I've written. All it really does is illustrate how conspiracy theorists distort the facts to create "inconsistencies" that don't really exist.
Meanwhile, someone else on Lew's site is continuing to claim that I said Ivins had "few or no friends":
Ed is relying instead on people who did not know him well and that Ed cannot even name.
I cannot name the people because their names are redacted in the FBI's reports. And, I'm not "relying" on them. I just mentioned what the FBI reports indicated. So, it's another distortion of the facts created to argue something that is totally false. That is known as a "straw man argument." False facts are claimed just so the false facts can be disputed.
But that particular "straw man" argument has had a positive result: It appears to have broken the "block" I had developed regarding the chapter about Bruce Ivins in my new book. I now realize that the chapter shouldn't be just about Bruce Ivins, it should be mostly about the different views people had of him and which view seems most consistent with all the known facts. Unfortunately, that probably also means I'm going to have to go through those 2,720 pages of supplementary documents again to find the confidential comments about him made by his co-workers.
September 13, 2010 - Yesterday, I wrote:
In the 2,720 pages of FBI supplementary documents I read back in March and April, I recall reading a lot of opinions about him [Bruce Ivins] by his coworkers. On April 5, I wrote:
The only opinions that seemed to be universal were that Ivins was "odd," he had few or no friends, he was a "geek," he was a nervous type, he liked to joke around, and he was socially inept.
It's been pointed out to me via an email and a forum posting that I am "mistaken that Dr. Ivins had few or no friends," because his obituaries mention that he had "hundreds" of friends.
First of all, I didn't say that Ivins had few or no friends. I said that the documented opinions of his co-workers seemed to agree on several things, among them that Ivins had "few or no friends."
So, which is right, the documented, confidential opinions of his co-workers or what is written about him in the media after his death? Were the people who showed up for his funeral his true "friends" or were they his "co-workers" and "acquaintences?" A lot depends upon the definition of the word "friend." However, by definition, a sociopath cannot have friends. A sociopath has no empathy for others. Sociopaths are self-centered and unable to see the rights of others. A sociopath may have many people around him who he has convinced to trust him, and he may have convinced them that they can consider him to be a "friend," but, if he's a sociopath, they are the people he enjoys manipulating, they are not his "friends."
One definition of a "true friend" is someone with whom you can share intimate secrets. Bruce Ivins had a lot of obsessions that he evidently shared with no one but his psychiatrist, although he may have shared some with his therapy group. And there may have been some secrets that he didn't even share with his psychiatrists. He certainly he did not share them with "friends."
Clearly, no description of Bruce Ivins is going to please his "friends" or those who continue to believe he was innocent. That's why, as with all evidence, as I write my new book I'll try to focus on the known facts and not on opinions. However, opinions cannot always be ignored, and one known fact about Bruce Ivins is that different people had very different opinions about him. The questions then become: Do I give more weight to the opinion of his psychiatrist or to reporters who just counted people at his funeral and assumed they were all "friends?" And, do I give more weight to confidential opinions given to FBI agents or to public opinions given by co-workers who simply cannot believe Dr. Ivins committed muliple murders right under their noses and they never had a clue?
September 12, 2010 - On Monday of last week, I started writing a new book about the anthrax attacks of 2001, in which I plan to incorporate all the important information I've learned to-date. I developed a preliminary outline, and I wrote what seems to be a good "Introduction." It describes the case as complex, yet also a straightforward investigation buried under a heaping pile of incorrect media reports, conspiracy theories, bizarre beliefs, and the fog of time. The idea was that the book would separate all the extraneous baloney and theories from the actual facts in order to produce a clear, verifiable and understandable picture of what really happened.
Everything seemed to be going fine, but, then I came to a screeching halt on Wednesday as I began working on "Chapter 1 - Dr. Bruce Edwards Ivins." I stared at the computer screen for hours, trying to figure out where to begin.
Bruce Ivins was just about as complex as the anthrax case itself. But how much description of his personal history and his multi-sided personality is necessary for the book? I've never written very much about any of that for this web site, so I have very few prior writings to use as a starting point.
The key bit of information seems to be that he was a diagnosed sociopath with a big ego. Other information just helps explain details.
In the 2,720 pages of FBI supplementary documents I read back in March and April, I recall reading a lot of opinions about him by his coworkers. On April 5, I wrote:
The only opinions that seemed to be universal were that Ivins was "odd," he had few or no friends, he was a "geek," he was a nervous type, he liked to joke around, and he was socially inept.
At that time, I also mentioned that none of those opinions explain why Ivins did what he did. Unfortunately, I didn't make any notes about where to find the opinions Ivins' co-workers had about him. I don't know if they are useable for the book or not, and it's going to take awhile to dig through those 2,720 pages to see if they are important for what I want to write. I was reluctant to start digging for something that might be of no use.
On Thursday, I looked through various obituaries and articles about Ivins, taking notes, trying to find a starting point. Finally, when I found no way around the block, I did what I usually do: I worked on something else. I worked on "Chapter 2 - Before the Attacks." That went fairly well, and I soon realized that it was probably best to switch chapters 1 & 2 around. First I would describe the setting before the anthrax attacks (the truck bomb attack on the North Tower of the World Trade Center in 1993, the plague of hoax anthrax letters that began in 1997 or 1998 and what started it, the talk of bioweapons being "the poor man's atomic bomb," Sverdlovsk, etc.) That would help set up the chapter about Bruce Ivins and would help explain why he did what he did. It also helps explain a lot of the paranoia and conspiracy theories that came later. I did the chapter flip, and it appears I'm making progress again.
However, I've got another problem - something that appears to be "an irresistible impulse."
The experience of putting my first anthrax book on Kindle left me wondering if I shouldn't make my WWII novel available via Kindle, too. It's written. I completed it 15 years ago. Yesterday, I located the WORD version in the stack of floppies I'd made certain to save when I moved to my new apartment. On the front of the floppy it says, "'Clipper' Rewrite - Final draft - Nov. 13, 1995." I cranked up my old computer, which still has a floppy drive, and I copied the book onto a flash drive for transportation to my current computer. The manuscript is evidently in a version of WORD which is no longer supported, since there is unreadable "garbage" at the beginning and end of every chapter. However, in between is what I wrote: 60 chapters, 422 pages, 94,500 words.
Back in the mid 1990s, I had an agent who liked it a great deal, and he'd sent it around to a couple dozen publishers. But, he was unable to convince any of them to publish it. I'd even received a couple complimentary letters from book editors who turned it down. The book has sat in limbo since then.
Chapter 1 (including the "garbage") begins this way:
The wide, brick, trolly-tracked street ten floors below was called The Bund, certainly one of the most famous, magnificent and busiest streets in all the Orient -- even after two years of grim, oppressive Japanese occupation.
For several days a bone-chilling drizzle had been an added burden upon the bowed heads and slumped shoulders of Shanghai's beleaguered populace. But Friday the 28th of November, 1941, had dawned as bright and almost cloudless.
All day the sun had warmed, dried and illuminated. It seemed eerily inappropriate weather to mark the end of an era. Many of the nervously whispering patrons commented upon it on the top floor of the stately Cathay Hotel, in the elegant Sky Room, the most exclusive and finest restaurant in a city noted for its epicurean excesses. It was late afternoon, and the Sky Room was filled to capacity. Standing room only. Dozens stood.
As hundreds of eyes were riveted upon the scene beyond the windows, each movement was nervously announced by apprehensive whispering, craned necks, lip biting, half-forlorn sighs and shaking heads. The anxious crowd gazed out across the teaming Bund, over the narrow strip of autumn-browned park on the other side, over the bustling dockworkers on the quay, to the muddy waters of the Whangpoo River, a short tributary of the great, wandering Yangtze.
Four American vessels were visible, displayed before them in an awesome panorama. Three white-painted American gunboats, squat river craft, had come down from their stations far up the Yangtze, the last of a line that had patrolled the turbulent Chinese waters for more than seventy years. Now they were quietly anchored off the Bund, awaiting further orders, their stacks sending thin columns of bituminous smoke almost vertically into the evening sky.
But it was the
steamship S.S. President Harrison that thoroughly dominated the scene. The large passenger vessel anchored in the
middle of the river had just finished taking aboard the last of the
marines, concluding the evacuation of all American forces from Japanese
occupied territories in China. The war
that had been raging in China for nearly a decade was about to explode
something far larger, something almost certain to involve the United
everyone knew it.
It was just a question of when. Everyone speculated. Next spring? Next month? Next week? Tomorrow?
It seems strangely appropriate to read about the days just prior to the Japanese attack upon Pearl Harbor in December of 1941 while writing a chapter about the period prior to the anthrax attacks of 2001. Believe it or not, I've also had many many arguments with people who believe that President Roosevelt and various American intelligence agencies knew about the Japanese attack before it happened, but they let it happen in order to get America into World War II. That's a direct match to the conspiracy theories which claim President Bush and others knew about (or even planned) the anthrax attacks (and the 9/11 attacks) in order to get us into a war with Iraq.
In "Clipper," the attack takes place in Chapter 19 while the Pan-Am Clipper flying boat that's carrying the lead character is half way between Noumea (which is still the capital of the French territory of New Caledonia, just as it was in 1941) and Auckland, New Zealand. Chapter 1 looks okay. So does Chapter 19. But, there's so much I can't remember! (I just noticed a typo in Chapter 5 and corrected it. Hmm. I spell "traveling" as "travelling" all over the place. That needs to be corrected, too.) And where did those blank lines between the paragraphs come from? They're not in the manuscript, and they shouldn't be in the Kindle file. They just appeared when I did the copy and paste. And the manuscript is supposed to be double-spaced, but that double spacing disappeared. Hmm.
By noon on Saturday, I finished converting the first 20 chapters to the current version of WORD. By 4 p.m., I'd finished converting the entire book. Just a few problems. Why did I spell Bahrain as "Bahrein?" Was it spelled that way in 1941? It's still spelled that way by some people, so maybe that was the spelling back then. I'll leave it.
This morning, I'm going to go through the entire book one last time to make sure it's ready to load onto Kindle. Then I have to create a cover image for the Kindle web page. I wonder if I can find an image of a Boeing-314 flying boat that is in the Public Domain. Or do I have to create one? And I also need to write a brief synopsis for the Kindle page.
Yes, it's become "an irresistible impulse." I'll let you know when it's available on Kindle.
& Changes: Sunday, September 5,
2010, thru Saturday, September 11, 2010
September 11, 2010 - It looks like Pastor Terry Jones' plans to burn 200 copies of the Quran have been "permanently" cancelled. I suspect he's been converted to a new cause: self-preservation. He says he's received over 100 death threats, and he's started carrying a pistol. A parade of odd types have converged on Gainesville. I worry about copycats, but, hopefully, the whole thing will just die down and become nothing but a "learning moment" for all of us.
September 10, 2010 - I'm fascinated by the thought processes of True Believers. Pastor Terry Jones appears to have called off his Quran burning event that had been scheduled for tomorrow. It appears that his new mission is to get the plans cancelled to build a mosque near Ground Zero in New York City. In the mind of a True Believer, that would be a positive act with positive results. That's much better than the negative act of destroying 200 copies of the Quran with the crazy idea that such an act would somehow have the positive effect of persuading all Muslims to reject extremism.
So, he's got a new cause -- at least temporarily. But he's making claims that Muslim leaders have told him things that the Muslim leaders say they didn't tell him. That's bad. He seems to be setting up arguments that Muslims lied to him and misled him in order to persuade him to stop the Quran burning. That could mean that when his new mission fails to get positive results, as it almost certainly will, he'll have additional sermon-points and further imagined justification for returning to his original plans. Time will tell.
September 9, 2010 - I'm usually reluctant to comment on subjects that aren't directly related to the anthrax attacks of 2001, but some things I can't resist.
Is there anyone in the world who supports Pastor Terry Jones? Clearly, there aren't many. Yet, Jones obviously believes that what he is doing is "right," and he seemingly believes that everyone who objects is blind and cannot see the wisdom of what he plans to do. That is the thinking of a True Believer. And there's no way to change the mind of a True Believer. You can only attempt to convert him to a new cause. So, if Pastor Jones should drop his plans for September 11, it won't be because he became convinced that burning copies of the Quran was the wrong thing to do, it will be because some new cause suddenly became more important to him. Self-preservation might be such a cause. Jones has become the symbol of mindless stupidity and bigotry to millions around the world - and probably to many in the Gainsville, Florida area, too. Hopefully, even some of his parishioners. It's difficult for a pastor to lead a congregation if many in his congregation think the pastor is a crazy bigot.
Pastor Jones leads a congregation of only 50 members. Yet, he is currently the focus of world attention. And, if he does as he plans, the media will likely be there to record his burning of copies of the Quran and to show high-definition recordings of it everywhere in the world over and over and over and over and over and over.
There are multiple important lessons here. We have an obscure, lone True Believer suddenly capturing the attention of the world media. The True Believer believes he knows what is best for the world, even though the rest of the world thinks he's nuts. And the media is anxious to show his actions to the entire world, even though everyone - probably including many in the media - knows that showing his actions to the world is stupid and irresponsible.
I think it's called "an irresistible impulse." That may be why I had to write this comment, "an irresistible impulse."
Come to think of it, that may also be why Bruce Ivins mailed the anthrax letters. Once the idea came to him, it became something he had to do - even if it was stupid, dangerous and irresponsible. He only saw what he hoped to achieve.
September 8, 2010 - This afternoon I checked the Kindle "Digital Text Platform" and found that the revised version of my book (without the extra hyphens) is now available on Kindle. For details, click HERE.
September 6, 2010 - As of this morning, my book is available on Kindle, although I still haven't been able to upload the corrected version with all the extra hyphens removed.
September 5, 2010 - I spent nearly the entire week preparing my book for uploading as a Kindle book. After working through countless problems having to do with the location of images, ISBN numbers, creating ZIP files, etc., I thought I'd finally uploaded the book yesterday, and then a new problem appeared.
In the version I uploaded, there is occasionally a word that was originally hyphenated between lines. Example:
By late December of 2001 I had enough facts to establish a
"working hypothesis" about the anthrax case. My working hypothe-
sis told me who most likely did it and why - the operative words being
On Kindle devices, the highlighted word will usually not be broken between lines. It will appear as hypothe-sis. And there didn't appear to be any easy way to eliminate that hyphen. It looked like I'd have to compare one version to another and retype each hyphenated word without the hyphen, deleting the original. That could take a week!
Then someone on an Amazon community support page recommended a solution. The solution fixed all 523 such words in less than a minute. Whew!
This morning I also decided I'd try again to add the ISBN code (the first time didn't work because I apparently have to use the 13 digit code instead of the 10 digit code), and in the process I discovered that I had not yet authorized Amazon to publish the Kindle version (even though I thought I had gone through their entire procedure). So, I gave them the authorization and their automated system advised me the book should appear on the Kindle list in 48 hours or so.
The whole ordeal has been a good lesson that should prove valuable if and when I ever finish my new book about the anthrax attacks of 2001. But, in order to finish writing it, I'll first have to start writing it. And I haven't yet done that - unless thinking about it can be counted as part of the writing process.
Going through the 2005 edition in order to put it on Kindle has shown me that there's a lot less than I thought that will be useable in the new book. The old book is an analysis, it's about how I figured things out. It asks countless questions about things for which the answers are now largely known. I can't ask those same questions, and I can't just say "I told you so" over and over again, either.
I wrote a new "Introduction to the 2010 edition" for the Kindle version. It made me think that the title I had in mind for my proposed new book might not be the best title: "Analyzing the Anthrax Attacks - Beliefs vs Facts." I think I better write the book first and then figure out what title might be best. I'm not certain how much "analyzing" I'll be doing. It might be more about putting together all the pieces than about analyzing individual pieces.
The only other matter that might be worthy of mentioning from last week results from a discussion I had with someone who seemingly cannot accept that the opinions of 12 jurors determine who is convicted of murder or not. In a criminal case, after they've heard all the evidence, each juror must decide whether or not the evidence proves guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If all the jurors are of the same opinion and that opinion is that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, then their combined opinion becomes the "decision" of the jury.
The lengthy discussion last week began with the question: Can circumstantial evidence be wrong?
My response was that it cannot be wrong. However, it can be incomplete or misleading. The fact that Ivins was in charge of flask RMR-1029 is known with certainty. It's a fact. It's circumstantial evidence. However, it's also a fact that others could have accessed the flask without his knowledge. That doesn't make the first fact wrong. It's still just a fact. But there is another fact - another item of circumstantial evidence that partially offsets the fact that Ivins was in charge of flask RMR-1029. It makes the first fact incomplete, since it is somewhat misleading without the second fact. And that second fact is misleading without a third fact: everyone else with access to flask RMR-1029 was thoroughly investigated and no evidence was found that shows someone else actually used the contents of flask RMR-1029 without Ivins' knowledge. And the others have alibis, they don't have the skills to make the powders, they didn't have the time, they didn't have the motivation, etc., etc., -- all items of circumstantial evidence.
ALL the evidence is presented to a jury - the pros and cons. The prosecution presents its evidence, and the defense presents counter evidence. The jury weighs ALL the evidence and comes to a decision. Most of the time their decision is correct. On rare occasions, it isn't correct and an innocent man is convicted.
It may not be a perfect system, but no one has yet come up with a better system.
& Changes: Sunday, August 29,
2010, thru Saturday, September 4, 2010
August 29, 2010 - The plan has been that, as soon as the move to my new apartment was completed, I was going to start seriously thinking about writing a new book about the anthrax attacks of 2001. And, I have been thinking about it. I'm thinking about it as I write these words. I've been thinking about it for a long time.
Back on March 10, I started assembling an outline for the new book. But, that was before I began going through the 2,720 pages of supplementary documents from the Amerithrax investigation. It was also before I started putting together the Bruce Ivins Timeline. It was also a few days before I put together a supplemental page called "The Errors That Snared Dr. Bruce Ivins." A few days after that, I discovered that Bruce Ivins had "taken the fifth" when asked about a person's name. Weeks later, I created my supplemental page about "Bruce Ivins' Consciousness of Guilt."
But, more importantly, I had created the outline 2 months before I created the Hatfill Timeline supplemental page which suddenly caused me to fully realize that Barbara Hatch Rosenberg had, in effect, organized a lynch mob to go after Dr. Hatfill and accuse him of a crime he didn't commit. And, the FBI was trying to stop the lynch mob. But, today, the FBI is almost universally accused of being responsible for trying to lynch Dr. Hatfill, and the actual, undeniable, thoroughly documented facts are totally ignored!
And it wasn't until just two weeks ago that I put together the information about The Media & Iowa State University and discovered that the ISU brouhaha was simply a media feeding frenzy that was evidently started over a silly mistake, and it had absolutely nothing to do with the FBI's investigation.
When I look at the March 10 outline now, it only shows me how much I've learned in the past five and a half months. In metaphorical terms, on March 10, I was planning to build a house from a pile of bricks with no mortar for holding the bricks together. During the past 5½ months I believe I found the mortar.
Now, I've got the mortar and the bricks, but what I need is an architectural design -- i.e., a new outline. How do I put all these "bricks" together to make a solid, sturdy, comfortable house in which to live. I.e., how do I put all these pieces of information together in a way that is easy to understand and enjoyable to read?
The biggest problem is that a lot of things were happening all at once. In the fall of 2001, for example, the FBI was just starting its investigation, which necessarily included pursuing a lot of false leads. But one of the leads found in the very first days of the investigation would eventually lead directly to the anthrax killer. Meanwhile, the media was going off in all directions, using sources instead of facts, reporting beliefs as facts and confusing everyone. And, while that was happening, Dr. Ivins was learning that he'd made key mistakes, and he was trying to correct or negate those mistakes, while at the same time he was attempting to mislead the investigation.
I can't do as they do in the movies. I can't cut from a scene where a scientist assisting the FBI is examinng the DNA of the bacteria that killed Bob Stevens along side a catalog of Ames strain information, to a scene where a reporter is listening to a source tell him something which he then misinterprets as he writes down his notes, to a scene where Bruce Ivins is frantically looking through newspapers for information about how many people were dying from the anthrax he'd put in the letters believing that no one would be seriously harmed. I don't have those kinds of details, and it is extremely unlikely that any two key events happened at the same instant as is so easily and often depicted in the movies. Plus, I'm writing words, so I can't take advantage of the fact that "a picture is worth a thousand words."
So, I've got to organize the information in a totally different way.
And I need to decide how much I'll write about my own methods. The book has to be about what happened before and after the anthrax attacks of 2001. It can't be a book about how I gathered information and tried to figure things out.
I'm somewhat surprised that there haven't already been a bunch of new books published about the anthrax attacks, written by people who were directly or indirectly involved. I know of one that is being written by someone only peripherally involved. There was also talk of a reporter writing a book about Dr. Hatfill, but I wouldn't be a bit surprised if that didn't turn out to be a very bad idea by a reporter who seemed to rely too much on what his sources told him and not enough on solid, confirmed facts.
That may be the problem. It was easier to write a book about the anthrax attacks when anyone's theory could be valid and there were very few solid facts which needed to be understood and explained. It's a lot more difficult to write a book using a collection of facts when there may be solid facts which say that your personal collection of facts is blatantly misleading and missing important, critical details.
Mark Twain once said, "It ain't what you know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so."
Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld probably said it best, almost poetically:
As we know,
There are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns.
That is to say
We know there are some things
We do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don't know
We don't know.
There's a point where a writer/analyst has to stop worrying that there might be things he doesn't know that he doesn't know (unknown unknowns), and he has to start writing about and evaluating things he knows for certain (known knowns) and things he knows he doesn't know (known unknowns).
That point passed when I started this comment this morning.
& Changes: Sunday, August 22,
2010, thru Saturday, August 28, 2010
August 27, 2010 - Just in case someone cares, yesterday I finished moving out of my old apartment. I've still got a lot of unpacking and rearranging to do in my new apartment, but it shouldn't take as much of my time as the actual move. So, I can once again go back to focusing on anthrax related matters for at least a few hours per day.
August 24, 2010 (B) - Hmm. There were 67 responses to Professor Fish's opinion piece when I started writing my (A) comment this morning, and there were 74 when I finished about an hour later. Now, about six hours later, there are 241 comments. And they've stopped accepting comments, possibly because they appear to be endless and repetitious, but more likely because some supervising editor decided 241 was enough and he/she had to head home.
There are a few comments about the anthrax case: #68 is a lengthy comment by Ike Solem (a regular on some forums I watch), and he provides a whole array of mistaken beliefs that he claims dispute the government's position; #77 mentions the "weaponized anthrax; " #112 says "the ultra pure anthrax was weapons grade;" and #115 is Ike Solem again, cutting and pasting the same comment he made earlier in the day, just in case some ignorant weakling who is being duped by the government wasn't persuaded by the first posting of his list of arguments.
August 24, 2010 (A) - Someone who read my comment on Sunday just advised me of a New York Times opinion piece titled "Truth and Conspiracy in the Catskills." It's by Professor Stanley Fish, and it's about "The Truth Gathering" meeting that took place in Livingston Manor, NY, on August 14 and 15. "The Truth," in this context, of course, is the claim that "the government" was behind 9/11 and we are all being manipulated like puppets by the "ruling class" a.k.a. "elites." Barry Kissin was there to present his views about the anthrax attacks, of course. Fish describes Kissin as the "resident rabble-rouser who harangued the audience with the sins of elites who deliberately killed 3,000 of their own citizens and bullied 'beleaguered countries' like North Korea and Iran."
While I generally agree with Professor Fish's comments in the article, until I see some solid data I disagree with his belief that the "Truthers" are "left-wing conspiracy theorists." That doesn't fit the facts as I've gathered them. Prof. Fish seems to be doing the same thing the "Truthers" are doing: he's making a judgment without first examining all the data. Here are several of the reader comments on this subject:
Comment #8 says,
Truthers come in all shades of radical politics, left and right, and their beliefs are as varied as they are extreme
"Truthers" are most certainly not "left-wing" in essence
I'm not sure why Mr. Fish calls the Truthers "left-wing," as anti-government conspiracy theorists tend to be right-wing, which is also supported by the demographic make-up [of the meeting] (95% white, 90% male).
The 74 (as of this moment) comments are probably more interesting than the opinion piece itself. They seem to show a lot of familiar patterns. There are numerous serious misunderstandings that seem to be the result of some image seen on 9/11 or some basic misunderstanding of physics.
For example, reader comment #19 talks about a "miniscule hole" in the side of the Pentagon and asks, "what of the fact that the aircraft left only one single piece -just one, mind you- of wreckage?" #24 also asks, "why is there such a small amount of damage"? #46 says, "the lack of bona fide airplane debris in the pentagon site also leaves more questions than answers."
Some of these concerns seem to be matters of perception. The Pentagon is a BIG building, and the hole made in the side the building by the jet liner was very large. But the hole is small compared to the size of the building. All the parts of the aircraft were there, mostly inside the hole. Only a few pieces of debris were outside. It seems that in many people's minds, that just isn't right. There should have more debris outside. It's a misunderstanding about mass and speed and inertia. I recall seeing photos of other aircraft accidents, situations where the plane hit the ground going straight down at high speed. It was hard to believe how small the impact area was and how little debris there was around the hole. But, though initially "hard to believe," it made perfect sense when the laws of physics were also factored in.
The same with the comments about why the Twin Towers collapsed straight down instead of toppling over like a child's pile of wooden blocks or some brick chimney. I recall seeing TV images of a building demolition project where the exposives didn't go off as planned and the structure seemed in danger of toppling over. But, it didn't. Instead, the remaining beams on the first floor all bent in unison and the building dropped down about ten or twenty feet from its original position, but still upright and still largely intact.
Besides, there's a straight-forward answer for why the Twin Tower bulidings collapsed they way they did: due to a design decision, there was nothing solid holding up the floors between the outer frame and the elevator columns. So, when beams melted and a floor fell upon the floor below, and then both of those floors fell on the floor below them, it became an unstoppable cascade effect. The Twin Towers collapsed from the inside first.
I could probably go on and on, but the point seems to be that a lot of people draw a conclusion from one piece of evidence and never look for additional data. As I commented on Sunday, as soon as they've drawn a conclusion, from that point on they only believe "evidence" that supports their initial conclusion - even if the "evidence" is just rumor and theory.
And each and every one of them is ready to fight with any means at their disposal any competitor who attempts to dominate the herd with counter claims.
August 22, 2010 - Last week, I had what might be called "an epiphany." A question that has been really bugging me for nine years was suddenly fully answered. Things that never really quite made sense before, immediately made complete and total sense. And the explanation was so obvious and straightforward that I had no doubt that it was the right answer. I just never made the connection before. I never viewed things from that particular angle.
As usual, I was arguing with someone who simply could not believe that Bruce Ivins mailed the anthrax letters. And, as with so many other similar discussions I've had in the past nine years, it was clear to me that no amount of evidence could ever persuade her. As far as she is concerned, if there's any possiblity of some other explanation for any item of evidence against Ivins, then it is possible the whole case against Ivins is just a big mess of mistakes. I don't know who she thinks sent the anthrax letters. She's never offered any evidence to support a case against an alternative suspect. Instead, her arguments are totally about flaws that she can imagine in the FBI's case.
I've had countless similar discussions with countless other people over the years, although usually it's clear that most of them have alternative suspects. Yet, they very rarely argue the evidence. They never argue how their evidence is better than the FBI's evidence against Dr. Ivins. They usually only argue that the FBI's case against Bruce Ivins is not sufficient to get a conviction, therefore he must be innocent. (The exceptions are True Believers who argue that they have the evidence, but non-believers are closed-minded and unwilling or incapable of seeing it as evidence.)
That kind reasoning never made any sense to me. A lack of evidence does NOT mean a person is innocent. It only means that person cannot be proven guilty in a court of law. Many guilty people go free due to the lack of evidence proving their guilt beyond any reasonable doubt.
Then, last week I happened to read an article in the August 16, 2010 issue of Newsweek titled "The Limits of Reason" The article is subtitled "Why evolution may favor irrationality." It says,
Reason is supposed to be the highest achievement of the human mind, and the route to knowledge and wise decisions. But as psychologists have been documenting since the 1960s, humans are really, really bad at reasoning.
An idea sweeping through the ranks of philosophers and cognitive scientists suggests why this is so. The reason we succumb to confirmation bias, why we are blind to counterexamples, and why we fall short of Cartesian logic in so many other ways is that these lapses have a purpose: they help us “devise and evaluate arguments that are intended to persuade other people,” says psychologist Hugo Mercier of the University of Pennsylvania. Failures of logic, he and cognitive scientist Dan Sperber of the Institut Jean Nicod in Paris propose, are in fact effective ploys to win arguments.
Of course! How could I not have realized that before!? When a person's motivation is to win an argument, it becomes a matter of "survival of the fittest," and the survivor is the person who wins the argument, which is not necessarily the person with the best logic and reasoning. It's why nerds do not get into arguments with jocks.
The Newsweek article suggests that, to the vast majority of humans, arguing isn't about seeking the truth, it's about overcoming opposing views. It's a competition. And humans are very competitive creatures.
We see it all the time - particularly during election time. Those who can persuade others by ridiculing the opposing side get elected. Those who can win arguments by appealing to human emotions get elected. Those who can win arguments by preying upon fears get elected. Even charisma is better than logic and reasoning when the battle is in the political arena. Luckily for us, charisma isn't an exclusive attribute of people who are incapable of logic and reasoning.
No one sees themself as being incapable of logic and reasoning, however. From a conspiracy theorist's point of view, there is a form of "reasoning" behind their belief in massive conspiracies or a belief that their next door neighbor sent the anthrax letters. The Newsweek article calls it "motivated reasoning." If someone starts out with a strong belief or suspicion, they are motivated to look harder for flaws in any argument that doesn't support the conclusion they prefer.
In arguments over the anthrax case, conspiracy theorists prey on fears that the government is some kind of gigantic, evil cabal run by sinister politicians who are only out to control your mind and take away your stuff. They claim the anthrax attacks were some evil plot to help start an unnecessary war or some kind of crazy plot to test bioweapons on innocent Americans. And tens of thousands of people may have helped, possibly even your next door neighbor. The logic may be idiotic, but logic isn't what is important when persuading people, basic emotions are the more important factor.
I've probably said a dozen times on this web site that the primary tactic used by True Believers is persistence. There's no way to change their minds, so, they'll still be arguing their beliefs long after everyone who opposes them has given up and gone home. And, they will view that as a victory for their cause. It may be a "scorched earth" victory. They didn't persuade anyone. The others just walked way. But, in the area of "survival of the fittest," the "fittest" can also be those who are still standing and who are still ready to fight even after everyone else has quit. They view the others as weaklings who cannot stand up and fight for what they believe -- and, in the "survival of the fittest," weaklings are automatically wrong, regardless of what their weaknesses are.
Those who prefer logic and reasoning may end up sitting on hill tops and sulking because no one will listen to them.
Or they might start a blog.
Faulty thinking impedes the human search for the truth, but it advances arguments.
If your goal is to win an argument, truth may be your mortal enemy.
& Changes: Sunday, August 15,
2010, thru Saturday, August 21, 2010
August 19, 2010 - While pondering a very interesting Newsweek article that's going to require a lot more careful thinking before I can write a comment about it (I expect to be done by Sunday), I stumbled upon a different Newsweek article of more basic interest. It's also from Newsweek's August 16 issue. The article is titled "Take this blog and shove it,"and it seems like the author may have been reading this web site. The article begins with this:
In the history of the web, last spring may figure as a tipping point. That’s when Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit”—a site that grew from 100,000 articles in 2003 to more than 15 million today—began to falter as a social movement. Thousands of volunteer editors, the loyal Wikipedians who actually write, fact-check, and update all those articles, logged off—many for good. For the first time, more contributors appeared to be dropping out than joining up.
Since I recently "tossed in the towel" in my efforts to update the Wikipedia article about the anthrax attacks of 2001, it's certainly something to which I can relate. Whether or not I've logged off "for good" remains to be seen, but that seems to be the way things are looking. Here's more from the Newsweek article:
There’s no shortage of theories on why Wikipedia has stalled. One holds that the site is virtually complete. Another suggests that aggressive editors and a tangle of anti-vandalism rules have scared off casual users. But such explanations overlook a far deeper and enduring truth about human nature: most people simply don’t want to work for free.
It wasn't working for free that bothered me. I have no problem with donating time to the "common good." After all, I've spent a lot of time (i.e. work) updating the information on this web site, and I certainly don't get paid for doing it. In fact, it costs me money to do it. But, there's one big difference between putting research information on this web site and putting research on Wikipedia. On this web site, no one is going to override what I write and replace it with something that suits their own personal beliefs. The problem on Wikipedia is the working for free and having those "aggressive editors" distort the "tangle of anti-vandalism rules" to prevent solid facts from being used on Wikipedia and having your hard work negated by people who prefer their own beliefs to the facts.
Why do so many Wikipedia editors prefer their own beliefs, instead of the actual facts about the anthrax attacks of 2001? That's the subject of the other Newsweek article that I'm still thinking about.
August 15, 2010 - I spent much of the past week moving my library to my new apartment. As part of the process, I've also been getting rid of old books that I don't need or want anymore. I'll still have between 1,000 and 1,100 books left after the move.
I've hauled roughly 30 plastic shopping bags full of books to Goodwill, including nearly all the paperback novels I had acquired years ago when I made it a regular practice to check out every advertised book sale within 20 miles. At an average of about 12 books per shopping bag, that means I gave away roughly 360 books. Counting the books I kept, that also means I had to make approximately 1,400 decisions.
Deciding which books to keep was usually easy. If it was a general reference book, or if it had to do with science, psychology, writing, criminology, forensics, anthrax, the Civil War, WWII, general history or the military, I kept it. Even deciding what to throw away was occasionally easy: Will I ever get around to reading Norman Mailer's autobiography? Probably not. A biography of Gary Cooper? No. George Lucas's autobiography? No. So, into a bag for Goodwill they went. Same with biographies of President Eisenhower, Teddy Roosevelt and George C. Marshall. Some decisions were less easy: Will I ever find a need for all those books about the Watergate investigation I bought and read in the late 1970s? I once found it extremely interesting how each person involved saw the situation from a very different point of view: Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Dean, Magruder. But, now I can't see that I'll ever need to do any more research about that subject. There are just too many more recent events of far more interest to me. And I need the shelf space more than I need those books. So, into the bags those books went.
(I just weighed a "typical" bag of books. Exactly 10 pounds. That means I've hauled about 300 pounds of books to Goodwill. I've got two more bags ready to go. But, that should be the last of them.)
Also on the subject of books, last week I read an interesting article in the August 8, 2010 issue of Newsweek titled "Who Needs a Publisher?" It contains this very interesting paragraph:
Until recently, reviewers and booksellers looked down on self-published authors the way Anna Wintour scorns Dress Barn. Now new writers and established authors alike are increasingly taking publishing into their own hands, and the publishing establishment is paying attention. According to a recent Bowker report, the market for “nontraditional books” in the United States grew by more than 750,000 new titles in 2009—a 181 percent increase over 2008. Five of the top 100 bestsellers in the Kindle store—which now produces more sales than Amazon’s hardcover list—are currently self-published.
I don't know why I never looked into turning my book "Analyzing the Anthrax Attacks" into a Kindle book, but I didn't. That's a mistake I don't expect to make when it comes time to publish my next book on the subject. In fact, writing those words caused me to spend a few minutes checking out how books are put on Kindle, and I'm now wondering if I shouldn't get the current version onto it. But, I think it's going to require either some research or some hand-holding by someone who has already done it. The Q&A pages seem to indicate that it's a very easy process -- almost too easy. It looks like something I could set up all by myself in about 15 minutes at no cost to me. But, that can't be right. I'll try to find some time this week to look into it. (Another interesting Newsweek article titled "Books vs E-Books" gives additional information about the change in how books are bought and read.)
There were also some other "books" in my closets that required decisions. I had several early drafts of my anthrax book in 3-ring binders. The binders went to Goodwill. The thousands of sheets of computer paper went into a dumpster. I have plenty copies of the final version that was printed and self-published.
I once wrote a novel based upon a true story of high-adventure that took place from November 30, 1941 to January 7, 1942. It involved a flight around the world in a Pan Am flying boat at a time when World War II was raging. Years ago, an agent was interested, but he couldn't get any publisher interested. So, I had lots of copies that were returned by the publishers. They went into the dumpster. I just saved one copy for myself. I have other books that I wrote long ago, but which never got any publisher interested. I'll have to decide what to do with them. Do I save paper copies, or do I save only the digital copies in my computer? Decisions, decisions. The copies of my screenplays were easy decisions. I saved one paper copy, and the other paper copies went into the dumpster. (I wonder how my WWII book would sell via Kindle. I've got to learn more about selling books via Kindle.)
Meanwhile, on the subject of anthrax, I notice that people are once again changing the Wikipedia article about the anthrax attacks of 2001 to include or emphasize their favorite subjects.
On Friday, someone at IP address 188.8.131.52 extracted the information about the Chile anthrax letter from the section about "Other letters reported in the media" and turned it into a section all by itself. The explanation: "This was actual anthrax and deserves its own section." Yes, it was "actual anthrax," but it was just a trace, it was a different strain, and it harmed no one. Yet, for some reason, several editors feel the Chile anthrax letter is so important that it needs a section all by itself. It was a section by itself before I combined it into the section about letters that weren't related to the attacks. Others had even tried to get rid of it altogether. Now it's back to the way it was in May. The IP address belongs to something or someone at 1180 Avenue of the Americas in New York City.
Also on Friday, someone who calls himself JoshNYC added a new section titled "Anthrax archive destroyed," which evidently relates to his favorite conspiracy theory: why the anthrax archive at Iowa State University was destroyed. The addition uses a November 9, 2001 article from The New York Times as its only source -- just as if nothing new has been learned in the past nine years. The Times article uses journalistic theories which we now know had nothing to do with reality. In fact, it now appears the FBI went straight to Ft. Detrick, and it was only the media reporters who were bumbling around in the dark as they misinterpreted data and went on a wild goose chase to Ames, Iowa. The addition to Wikipedia prompted me to create a new supplemental page to this web site. It's a "work in progress" about "The Media and Iowa State University." Currently, it's just my July 25 comment with some added notes.
JoshNYC also added another new section titled "Evidence of 9/11 link to anthrax" which resurrects the old idea that al Qaeda was somehow behind the attacks. The three sources he uses are actually a single article from the March 23, 2002 issue of the New York Times. He just links to the same article three times.
JoshNYC also created a new section he calls "False report of Bentonite." He used information that was previously part of the section titled "Controversy over coatings and additives," which is now only about silicon and silica theories. So, that change might have been a good idea.
All the Wikipedia editors I had been arguing with a couple weeks ago went silent the day after I threw in the towel. There's been no discussion since then.
On Wednesday of this coming week (August 18), my computer gets moved to my new apartment. That's when the cable guy arrives to set up the new connections. Busy busy busy. I'll also be switching my phone from AT&T to my cable company. Decisions, decisions, decisions.
& Changes: Sunday, August 8,
2010, thru Saturday, August 14, 2010
August 8, 2010 - On Thursday, I threw in the towel and stopped trying to edit and improve the Wikipedia article about the anthrax attacks of 2001. I just don't have the time to participate in all the debating. I needed to get on with my move to my new apartment, and when I'm done with that, I still plan to try to write a new book about the anthrax attacks.
In one of my final postings to the discussion page, I described what they were doing as "bull in a china shop editing." The other Wikipedia editors evidently felt they were "improving" the article by smashing (i.e., deleting) important information, and I would have to go in and try to put the pieces back together. The problem was, while it might take another editor only a second to blindly delete something, it could take me hours to find the original sources and write new text in order to put things back together -- and, at the same time, I'd have to explain on the discussion page why the deleted information was important, explaining it in a way that wouldn't generate more endless arguments, and explaining it in a way that wouldn't offend the editor who brainlessly made the deletion.
Worst of all, if I tried to rush my own edits, I could easily make mistakes, which I'd then have to spend even more time to correct. And my mistakes would give the other Wikipedia editors ammunition to justify further deletions and modifications. It all became an exercise in futility. It wasn't worth the time and effort.
But, while I'm not going to be debating edits to the Wikipedia article on Wikipedia's discussion pages for awhile, that doesn't mean I won't be checking the article and the discussions from time to time to see if something interesting as been posted. On Friday, something interesting was posted. Someone found the "BIO Personal" message that Bruce Ivins forwarded to a former colleague in July of 2000. The message was mentioned on page 59 of the FBI's Summary Report as one part of the circumstantial evidence case against Dr. Ivins:
In addition, on July 27, 2000, Dr. Ivins forwarded an e-mail to Former Colleague #1 which began “Biopersonals: I have single-stranded too long! Lonely ATGCATG would like to pair up with congenial TACGTAG,” along with a note “this is some cute humor for anyone who has ever had anything to do with biochemistry or molecular biology..”(41)
Footnote 41 says:
(41) This e-mail was notable not because of any particular meaning ascribed to those specific nucleic acids, but rather because it demonstrated Dr. Ivins’s familiarity with DNA, specifically As, Ts, Cs, and Gs.
In a discussion on the Wikipedia talk page, a link was provided to the 'BIO personals" message Dr. Ivins had forwarded and commented upon. The message is in a "scijokes" section of a biology web site and begins this way:
It seems to be a terrific example of "geek" humor, since it turns complex, arcane, scientific terminology into a story that only another "geek" would be likely to appreciate -- a story about a "lonely ATGCATG" seeking true love.
In the Wikipedia discussion, the consensus of personal opinions among the other editors appears to be that this item of circumstantial evidence wasn't really evidence against Ivins. Indications are that those Wikipedia editors don't believe that any circumstantial evidence is real evidence. In that same discussion, I tried to explain that most criminal cases that go to trial are circumstantial evidence cases, but there was no sign that anyone paid any attention to what I wrote.
One Wikipedia editor dismissed the FBI's circumstantial evidence this way:
The only thing that seems clear upon a close reading of the source is that he [Ivins] was fascinated by and familiar with such codes, as were some of his colleagues, and that the FBI summary report merely points out two instances which demonstrate Ivins' general familiarity with such codes, a general familiarity which some of his colleagues quite clearly shared with him.
It's a very good example of Wikipedia editors replacing good circumstantial evidence with uninformed opinion. The editor assumes that because Ivins forwarded the message to Former Colleague #1, that must mean that Former Colleague #1 shared with Ivins "a general familiarity" with such codes. However, the evidence indicates it is far more likely that it was another example of Ivins being a lonely, mentally disturbed "geek" who used what he considered to be "cute humor" to try to ingratiate himself with a woman who really wasn't interested.
On page 41, the FBI Summary Report says this about Former Colleague #1:
Former Colleague #1, with whom he would become increasingly obsessed, left the lab in the summer of 1999.
And page 42:
In e-mails sent in 2000 to Former Colleague #1 and Former Colleague #2, two women on whom he was admittedly fixated and reliant, he expressed concerns about “delusional” thoughts he was having and feared that he was becoming increasingly mentally disturbed.
Those e-mails, in which he treated Former Colleague #1 and Former Colleague #2 as close confidantes about his mental health problems, contrasted with other e-mails, such as the one he sent to Former Colleague #1 on October 27, 1999, in which he expressed feelings that Former Colleague #2 had betrayed him
Pages 44 and 45 discuss Ivins sending emails to Former Colleague #1, telling her about his mental problems. The one below is probably the most significant item on those pages, because it took place 6 months before the anthrax attacks:
On March 4, 2001, he sent an e-mail to Former Colleague #1 revealing that:
The [therapist] I saw before I went into group wanted to get me put in jail.
So, Former Colleague #1 wasn't exact an intimate buddy of Ivins' who enjoyed sharing mutual interests. The footnote at the bottom of page 46 says this about how she viewed Dr. Ivins' emails:
Over the course of her first few years after she left USAMRIID, Former Colleague #1 was inundated with e-mails from Dr. Ivins, literally hundreds and hundreds of them, many of extraordinary length and detail. As she stated in numerous interviews, she frequently did not reply to those e-mails for days, and when she did it was often in a cursory fashion.
I can see how a Wikipedia editor who is unfamiliar with the Amerithrax investigation might conjure up a theory that Ivins sent the "BIO personal" email to Former Colleague #1 because she shared an interest in such "jokes," and therefore the FBI's evidence must be just another theory. However, the facts seem to show that only Ivins had the fascination with manipulating such codes, and there's no reason to believe that anyone else at USAMRIID shared that fascination.
Furthermore, at the top of page 64 in the FBI's Summary Report, there is this information about what happened when Dr. Ivins tried to share his enjoyment of "Gödel, Escher, Bach" with a fellow scientist:
"it turns out that Dr. Ivins gave a copy of this book [Gödel, Escher, Bach] to another scientist in the fall of 2006, telling the scientist that it was a great book, and later expressing disappointment that the scientist never read it, even asking the scientist to give it back to him, demonstrating that this is not a book he would casually throw away."
On Wikipedia, however, another editor added another opinion about the evidence:
By the way, Gödel, Escher, Bach won the Pulitzer Prize in 1980. So it's also rather unsurprising that Ivins was in possession of the book.
It may not be surprising to someone whose inclination might be to dispute all circumstantial evidence, because he doesn't view it as real evidence, but in a court of law it is real evidence, because all the items of circumstantial evidence are combined and viewed together as "the case against Dr. Bruce Edwards Ivins." Dr. Ivins' interest in the codes described in "Gödel, Escher, Bach" help create a very solid case. And, the discussion about it on Wikipedia shows it to be one of many examples where Wikipedia editors "synthesized" their own conclusions in violation of Wikipedia rules. I tried to put a stop to such things by creating a discussion section about the Wikipedia rule against synthesizing, where I carefully explained the rule. But, it accomplished absolutely nothing.
So, I'm just going to watch how the Wikipedia anthrax article is modified over the next few months. Maybe sometime in the future I'll get back into a mood where I'll want to do more windmill tilting -- but not right now.
& Changes: Sunday, August 1,
2010, thru Saturday, August 7, 2010
August 2, 2010 - Groan again. I spent nearly the entire day on Wikipedia. Some guy tried to add false information about Dr. Zack, and I had to keep deleting what he had added because it was all undeniably bogus. Then others summarized things to fit their personal views, and the results are just plain bad writing. But bad writing isn't worth arguing about, so I'm just leaving it. One guy seems determined to minimize all the evidence against Dr. Ivins, possibly in preparation for adding some theories of his own -- or maybe his goal is just to minimize the evidence against Dr. Ivins. He says he's summarizing, but it's really minimizing. It wasn't worth arguing about, either. Whole sections were cut out of the article about the anthrax attacks of 2001, but I couldn't see any worthwhile argument for keeping them. The deletions probably save Wikipedia a millionth of a penny in on-line storage costs per year.
August 1, 2010 - Groan. This is one of those Sunday mornings when I'm starting from scratch on this comment. I usually try to get started by Thursday -- Friday at the latest. That gives me time to revise and reword and rework and add and change and revise some more. Starting the writing of this comment on Sunday morning will probably mean that I'll be revising and uploading the revisions all day. That is -- assuming I can think of something to write about.
I'm in the process of moving to a new apartment. Along with all the regular things I do each day, that hasn't left much time for thinking about anything else. Do I move that big old TV that's currently stored in the closet, or do I give it to the Salvation Army? There's no phone jack in the small bedroom of my new apartment. I have to wait until Monday to find out what my options are for that. (I used the big bedroom as my office, and it has a phone jack.) I need some new shelves for books and things. Yesterday, I drove to check out six different furniture stores in town, but I found that four of them had gone out of business since since the phone book was printed. And the remaining two didn't have what I wanted. Pier 1 Imports does, but their "50% Off Sale" ended the day before I realized they had what I wanted. Do I want to pay twice as much, or should I look around some more and/or wait for their next "50% Off Sale?" When can I find time to think about the anthrax case?
I've been arguing much of the week on Wikipedia, mostly with one person. The arguments were very similar to other arguments I've had with someone who argued like an obnoxious 12-year-old. It's all deviousness, word games and tactics. He doesn't like what's in the Wikipedia article about the anthrax attacks of 2001, but he won't say what he wants to be there. He's made it clear that he does not want the article to use the FBI's Summary Report. He evidently feels the Summary Report is "biased." Biased in favor of what? The facts? He won't say. So, since the report is now used extensively in the Wikipedia article, he's playing his games while trying to get others to support whatever it is that he wants to do. He's going through Wikipedia's storehouse of rules and trying to argue each one, claiming the current article violates the rule. Then, when it's shown it doesn't violate the rule, he makes the same claim about the next rule. It makes for tedious arguing. But, there are tactics I can use, too.
On my List Of Things To Do is the task of rewriting the comment I made last Sunday in order to turn it into a Supplemental Page that will be in the Table Of Contents, instead of just dropping into the obscurity of the comment history files. I've got the page started, but so far it's just a copy of last Sunday's comment. Everything needs to be reworded. The comment was written as I was discovering things. The Supplemental Page should probably be less about how I discovered things and more about what was discovered and what it means.
Along those same lines, last week, someone sent me some links she felt were related to my findings about Iowa State University and the media frenzy of late-2001, when the media felt ISU could be the source for the attack anthrax. She evidently did a search for the words Department-Energy-Publications-Anthrax, and she found an article that contains those words. That led her to another article on the same subject. But, I don't see how the fact that the Department of Energy funded some research into an anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-chemical foam at Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico really connects in any way to what happened at Iowa State. The DOE research may have been going on prior to the anthrax attacks, but the NBC TV report still appears to be the connection that caused the media to descend upon ISU. And the NBC TV report still appears to be just a mistake of some kind.
Meanwhile, of course, I also need to think about getting to work on a new book about the anthrax attacks as soon as my apartment move is done. I have page 86 from the July 28 issue of Newsweek in front of me. It says that there were 282,242 books published in the year 2000 and 1,052,803 books published in 2010. (Presumably, they're talking about the fiscal year ending on June 30.) There were nearly 4 times more books published this year than in 2000? Why? Can it be because of all the devices like Kindle? With all the couch potatoes out there, I would have thought there would be fewer books published. Another news story says that Amazon now sells more books via Kindle than they do hard cover copies. But that can't translate into 4 times as many books. Hopefully, however, it will translate into quadrupling my chances of getting a regular publisher (from 1 in a million to 4 in a million). Or does the increase in the number of published books come from some massive increase in self-published books? That could be the explanation.
Supposedly, self-publishing is becoming more popular because of new methods of book publishing - like "publish on demand" where the book isn't printed until it's ordered, which eliminates warehousing and distribution costs.
That same Newsweek article also says that there were 12,000 active blogs in 2000 and 141 million in 2010. I believe this web site is considered to be a "blog." If so, it's part of the 141 million. It was started in 2001. I wonder how many visitors the average blog gets per week. I averaged 461 visits per day in July - or 3,227 per week. I assume that means there are still a lot of people who remain interested in the anthrax attacks of 2001. (But I can see from my statistics that there are also a lot of new search engines sending "spiders" through my site every week or so.)
400,000 text messages were sent in the year 2000 and there were 4.5 billion sent in the year 2010. I've yet to send one.
100 million Google searches in 2000, 2 billion in 2010. I probably did five while writing this comment. I just did four more, checking the weekly ads at Best Buy, Target, Shopko and Walgreens. Another example of using a computer instead of something printed on paper. Times are a changin'.
And it's time to get back to moving to my new apartment.
& Changes: Sunday, July 25,
2010, thru Saturday, July 31, 2010
July 27, 2010 - The Wikipedia arguments seem to have heated up again. Someone has put a notice at the top of the article about the anthrax attacks of 2001 claiming: "The neutrality of this article is disputed." And they've put a notice atop the section about the unrelated letters claiming "An editor has expressed a concern that this section lends undue weight to certain ideas, incidents, controversies or matters relative to the article subject as a whole."
July 25, 2010 - On Tuesday, someone sent me an email to tell me how they were still "very disturbed" by the "sudden destruction of the anthrax stocks" at Iowa State University (ISU). For me, it was an old, dead issue. But, in writing my response to the email I realized that there were still several questions about the ISU story that remained unanswered.
The first question that came to mind was: How did ISU get involved? Wasn't it originally believed at USAMRIID that the Ames strain came from the USDA in Ames, Iowa, not ISU? I've never seen any news reports or other information that the federal investigators ever focused on ISU. What caused the media to focus on ISU?
That question brought to mind a second question: If federal investigators did check out ISU, how would they have handled the conflicting information? It seems like it would be a very common investigative situation: an anonymous informant says X was involved, but X has absolutely no knowledge about the subject and has a perfect alibi. What do you do? Do you assume that the informant is right and X is lying? Or do you assume that X is right and the informant is mistaken? The right answer, of course, is to assume nothing, and to instead check out the facts and evidence.
We know that, on October 5, 2001, Dr. Paul Keim of Northern Arizona University determined that Bob Stevens had been killed by the Ames strain of anthrax. And, Dr. Keim had evidently compared the bacteria taken from Bob Stevens to a sample obtained from USAMRIID. According an article in The Arizona Republic dated December 16, 2007:
Keim and a couple of his key researchers worked through the night, isolating, processing and magnifying the DNA using machines and computers similar to ones found in crime labs. In the early morning [of October 5], they compared the results with their anthrax database. They found a match: a virulent type called the Ames strain. The U.S. Army developed the lab strain in the 1980s as a test for the anthrax vaccine.
Keim outlined his results the next morning in a conference call with the FBI and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
The media knew nothing of Keim's analysis. Then a few days later, a Florida U.S. attorney held a news conference on the anthrax investigation and said the FBI had sent samples for analysis to NAU.
I can't find anything about what was actually said by that "Florida U.S. attorney" at that news conference.
Presumably, once it had been determined that the strain that killed Stevens was the Ames strain, the FBI and the Postal Inspectors would then start looking for all possible sources of the Ames strain. There would be absolutely no reason to assume that the original source for the Ames bacteria was also the source for the attack powders. That would be like assuming if someone is shot, the first place to investigate must be the Colt Firearms Company in Hartford, CT.
An article in The New York Times dated August 20, 2008 seems to confirm this:
Dr. Keim’s test could tell two strains of anthrax apart but it could not tell the bureau what it needed to know next, which of the many cultures of Ames anthrax around the world the attack anthrax might have come from.
Moreover, in May of 2002, Debora MacKenzie of New Scientist Magazine reported that Paul Keim had specifically pointed to USAMRIID as having an exact match to the Ames strain that killed Bob Stevens:
[Paul Keim said,] "We can distinguish among different Ames accessions. These are from collaborative laboratories and related to genetic work we have been performing over the years."
[MacKenzie wrote:] The strains from the collaborative labs appear certain to be strains B, C and D. In that case, one was the reference Ames in Keim's collection that came from a freezer at Porton Down, which in turn had got it from USAMRIID. Another was a culture that came directly from USAMRIID, and the last was from the US Army's Dugway proving ground in Utah.
TIGR spokesmen and other sources have stated that Keim could find no differences between the attack strain and the reference Ames in his collection at any marker tested in his lab. The tests reported in Science are no better at doing this. So one of B and C is Keim's Porton Down/USAMRIID reference strain. The other is likely to be the culture directly from USAMRIID, as the reference strain originated there and had since languished in a freezer.
So strain D seems to have come from Dugway. The difference between D and the attack strain is not great - there are 36 adenines in a row, instead of 35 - but Keim's team made doubly sure by sequencing that part of the D strain's genome.
However, the new work does not prove irrefutably that the attacker got his anthrax directly from USAMRIID because it is possible that untested Ames cultures from other labs might also be identical. Those tests are now underway.So, while the media was looking at ISU, the federal investigation was evidently already focusing on USAMRIID -- not necessarily as the source for the attacks, but as a lab which was known to have a sample of Ames which had DNA that exactly matched what killed Bob Stevens. Investigators would also have been trying to figure out how and where USAMRIID obtained the Ames strain, when they obtained it, and where else they may have sent it.
But, while all that was going on in the official Amerithrax investigation, the media was still doing what it does best - looking for sources who would give them printable quotes and interesting sound bytes - instead of looking for facts.
The news about the Ames strain was evidently made public on October 10, five days after Dr. Keim's tests. My files contain a Wednesday, October 10, 2001 article from the Florida Sun-Sentinel which begins with this:
CNN reported Wednesday morning that the anthrax virus that killed a Lantana man and was found in his Boca Raton office appears to be manmade and apparently produced in an American lab about 50 years ago.
The television network reported that the anthrax that was found in a newspaper office in Boca appears to have been made in a lab in Iowa, one of only two in the United States, that made the deadly disease for research purposes.
The report also said the anthrax used in south Palm Beach County was probably manufactured sometime in the 1950s.
and also has this
Also, CNN pointed out investigators will have to backtrack the path the anthrax sample found in Boca Raton took over the years before appearing here. CNN's sources did not identify the Iowa lab, and did not know if it was still in operation.
The February 1, 2002 issue of The Iowa State Daily (which is published by Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa), says that the Miami Herald and NBC broke the news on the 9th, claiming that the Ames strain was "harvested or manufactured in an ISU lab." Officials at ISU reportedly did 140 audio interviews plus 9 television interviews on the 9th and 10th. (I can't find any reports from the 9th, so I suspect someone just remembered the dates incorrectly. It was probably the 10th and 11th.)
On a blog site, I found what appears to be the CNN report. More may have been said in some CNN TV news program, but this appears to be the entire on-line article:
CNN October 10, 2001 Posted: 11:24 PM EDT (0324 GMT)
Law enforcement sources told CNN the anthrax found in Florida seems to have been identified as the Ames strain of anthrax. The Ames strain was discovered in the early 1950s by Ames, Iowa, researchers, who found it in the tissue of a dead animal. In the 50 years since then, the strain has been distributed to researchers all over the world, and used to make anthrax vaccines.
Okay, on the 10th, some law enforcement sources (possibly the "Florida U.S. attorney") told CNN that the strain that killed Bob Stevens was the Ames strain. But, who provided the information about it being discovered in the early 1950's? Was it the same source? Or was it a guess by someone else?
That same link also contains this information from The Miami Herald dated October 11:
Published Thursday, October 11, 2001
Preliminary tests suggest the disease that killed South Florida tabloid photo editor Robert Stevens bears ``unique characteristics'' of a particular form of anthrax commonly known as the ``Ames strain,'' isolated at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, five decades ago.
Since then, the germ has evolved in U.S. research facilities into a lab-grown hybrid of the original, very popular among researchers for its resilient characteristics. The strain has been central in U.S. military research of germ warfare.
I doubt that's the entire article, but when I did Google searches for those exact phrases, I couldn't find the phrases repeated anywhere else. Okay, so it appears someone provided pure baloney about ISU to the Miami Herald. But who?
If that's not confusing enough, according to the October 11, 2001 issue of The New York Times:
The Miami Herald reported on Wednesday that investigators had linked the anthrax to a strain that was harvested from Iowa in the 1950's, and NBC News reported on Wednesday evening that the F.B.I. was beginning to conclude that the anthrax was stolen from a Department of Energy laboratory in Ames, Iowa.A Department of Energy laboratory? Really? Does the Department of Energy even work with anthrax? Where? Why? What does anthrax have to do with energy? Could someone have simply misspoken, saying "Department of Energy" when they really meant "Department of Agriculture." I can't be sure. But, it's still a clue. A check on the location of The Department Of Energy's lab in Ames, Iowa finds this:
Ames Laboratory is a government-owned, contractor-operated research facility of the U.S. Department of Energy that is run by Iowa State University.
Ames Laboratory shares a close working relationship with Iowa State University's , a network of scientific research centers at Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
Aha! That is very likely the source and the connection. The source was NBC News. The connection was the (apparently) bogus claim that "the FBI was beginning to conclude that the anthrax was stolen from a Department of Energy laboratory in Ames, Iowa." Unfortunately, I can't find the contents of the actual NBC report anywhere on-line. It may have only been on TV, on the NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw program for the evening of October 10. (This was still two days before the Brokaw anthrax letter was found on October 12.)
Could it be that simple? Some anonymous source says the FBI is looking at the Department of Agriculture's lab in Ames, Iowa. Someone else somehow misinterprets that to be the Department of Energy's lab, which is run by Iowa State University. And "looking at" is transformed into a claim that it may have been stolen from the DOE lab.
Of course, all of those reporters who had descended upon ISU as a result of the NBC story needed to report something of their own. And they did. They found what reporters seem to be able to find anywhere they look: they found seemingly responsible and respectable scientists and officials who believed what the media was telling them and were willing to make interpretations and assumptions and state those interpretations and assumptions as if they were solid fact.
That New York Times article from the 11th also says:
Kevin Teale, a spokesman for the Iowa Department of Public Health, said today that the Ames strain was discovered in the 1950's at Iowa State University, in livestock that had died of anthrax. It has since been sent to laboratories across the world for research purposes.
But scientists familiar with the investigation said the DNA of the Florida germ was not an exact match to any of the strains, or subspecies, of anthrax samples kept in the most complete anthrax collections, including the Ames strain.
"The Florida isolate is similar to an isolate from Haiti, to one from Texas and to one from Iowa," said Dr. Martin E. Hugh-Jones of Louisiana State University, a leading anthrax expert who is advising scientists who are trying to identify the strain. "It doesn't match exactly any of those three, but those are the three nearest to it. It's not the Ames strain, far from it."
Dr. Hugh-Jones said that if the bacteria involved in the Florida case did turn out to be the Ames strain, "it could be from anywhere," because so many laboratories around the world have used the germ.
All told, American researchers have accumulated 1,200 samples, or isolates, of anthrax from around the world. But only 400 or so of those samples have undergone DNA analysis that reveals their genetic signatures. So the DNA library that allows quick identification of unknown anthrax strains is fairly small compared with what has been so far collected. Scientists believe many more anthrax strains exist in the wild.
They said that it might take another year for the remaining 800 strains to undergo DNA analysis, and that this process might ultimately link the Florida germ to a sample in the collection. Each of the 1,200 isolates is tied to specific places that have experienced disease outbreaks — usually among grazing animals like sheep, cows, goats, horses and bison, which pick up the deadly spores from the soil.
Scientists said knowing that the Florida strain resembled strains found in particular geographical or institutional locations would help focus the search for the source of the Florida germs, but would not necessarily prove their provenance.So, the media was doing it's own research into the source for the Ames strain, filling in missing elements with guesswork and comments from sources. And some scientists and officials who were not actually part of the investigation may have aided and abetted with their own guesswork and assumptions. Situation normal ....
During this time, everyone at USAMRIID believed that the Ames strain came from the USDA in Iowa. In 1996, Dr. Ivins had co-authored an article which said:
"The virulent Ames strain of B. anthracis was obtained from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Ames, Iowa."
Like everyone else, they also believed it was a common strain used by laboratories all over the world. Because they believed it was so common, many (evidently including Dr. Ivins) also believed it would be untraceable.
The San Francisco Chronicle provided this information on October 11, 2001:
While federal investigators remain silent about the strain of anthrax that killed a Florida man last week, the most likely culprit appears to be a virulent natural strain widely used in anthrax vaccine research.
Citing unnamed law enforcement sources, the Miami Herald reported yesterday that the strain that killed 63-year-old tabloid photo editor Robert Stevens matched a strain found in Iowa in the 1950s and since then commonly used by laboratory researchers.
But federal Centers for Disease Control spokeswoman Sharon Roskins called the press reports "very premature" and said that testing of the specimens from Florida was "still ongoing."
The Iowa strain, known to researchers as Bacillus anthracis Ames, is a naturally occurring bacterium isolated from a dead animal at Iowa State University in Ames. Because it was a particularly robust strain, it was sought by anthrax research laboratories around the globe and is still used in anthrax vaccine research.
Lab animals given anthrax vaccine are "challenged" by a dose of the Ames strain. If the animals survive, researchers know the vaccine worked.
"This is a standard laboratory strain worldwide," said Dr. Norm Cheville, dean of the Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine. "Most labs working on anthrax would have it in their stocks."Situation normal. The media is reporting what their named and unnamed sources are saying, while the actual federal investigation is looking for facts and advising the public that the media reports contain "very premature" claims.
According to a source, on October 13, 2001:
Newsday (NY) reports that a team of microbiologists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory tested the Florida anthrax strain and found that, despite denials from health officials, it was the Ames strain that was developed in Iowa in the 1950s.
The media always seems to be able to find respected sources who do not believe the official reports.
Meanwhile, the federal investigation was finding that the attack anthrax had nothing to do with anything at any lab in Ames, Iowa. The DNA of the attack anthrax matched samples known to be stored at USAMRIID. No one at any lab in Iowa had sent any anthrax samples to USAMRIID in 1980 or 1981. No one at any lab in Iowa possessed any strain identified as "the Ames strain." The media was on a wild goose chase resulting from mistakes, assumptions and bad guesswork.
Eventually, it was learned that the Ames strain didn't have anything to do with any lab in Ames, Iowa, and had actually been shipped directly from a Texas A&M lab to USAMRIID. In time, they found everything there is to know about the origin of "the Ames strain." They got testimony from Michael L. Vickers, the Texas veterinarian who examined the dead cow. They had testimony from the people at the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory who sent the sample to USAMRIID. The have testimonry from the scientist at USAMRIID who asked for it. They know why he wanted it. They know why and when it was sent. They know who received it. And they even figured out why it was mistakenly called "the Ames strain." They had the mailing label and the letter that was sent along with the samples.
But, because of the media reports and all the people poking around Iowa looking for any information they could find about anthrax, National Guardsmen had been assigned to protect every lab in Iowa that had samples of anthrax.
While researching all this, I stumbled across a very interesting CNN transcript from October 15, 2001, which I don't recall seeing before. It's from Greta van Susteren's interview show, and it took place on the day the Daschle anthrax letter was found. The show includes a very interesting conversation with Mary Gilchrist, who was the head of the Iowa State Hygiene Lab and president of the Association of Public Health Laboratories.
VAN SUSTEREN: Is your lab under guard right now?
GILCHRIST: Our lab is under guard -- the guard is there because there was an assumption made that there was an Iowa strain involved in the Florida case. That assumption has been completely negated now. We found that those data were not accurate. But we're still retaining that because there's some concerns about the fact that it was suggested that the strain was manmade in Iowa.
In fact, the strain was not manmade in Iowa. It was a strain that was isolated in Iowa about 50 years ago. That strain shared with researchers around the United States and around the world. And they studied the toxins, for example, to try to develop a way to combat anthrax. And now, it could be obtained from any one of several hundred, probably, sources. So even if the strain had confirmed to match the Iowa strain, it would be irrelevant and really wouldn't be from Iowa. But we're still dealing with some of the concerns that people have.
So, it's like the analogy about guns. They still didn't know where the Ames strain actually came from, but, even if the Ames strain had come from some source in Iowa 50 years prior to the attacks, that fact had nothing to do with the attacks. Investigators needed to know who owned "the gun" at the time of the attacks, they didn't need to know who invented "the gun" fifty years earlier. Knowing who first discovered the Ames strain was irrelevant to the initial investigation. It was still irrelevant when it was learned that "the Ames strain" was actually first discovered in Texas in 1981, not in Iowa in the 1950s. The media had somehow assumed that the original source for the Ames strain would be relevant to the case. In a real investigation, relevance needs to be proven, it can't be assumed.
There was no evidence of any kind that the ISU anthrax stocks any connection to the attacks.
VAN SUSTEREN: Mary, when this strain was divided up and sent around to different places so people could examine it, was it kept track of what went where? Is there a good record so at least we know where the Iowa strain went?
GILCHRIST: Absolutely not. This was a time period when everybody believed that all their peers and colleagues were doing the right thing. There was no concern whatsoever. And uniquely, with bacteria, you can't inventory them because you can take just a micro, minuscule amount and walk away with it and have enough to infect a number of other people within a few hours of growth of that organism. So it's a very difficult thing to try to inventory and keep track of.
So, the labs in Ames had no records of where anything had been sent. But USAMRIID had records of where they had sent the Ames strain. And the DNA showed that the samples at USAMRIID were an exact match to the attack anthrax. For federal investigators, USAMRIID was the place to start the investigation, not Iowa.
According to a NewsMax.com article dated October 20, 2001:
AMES, Iowa - The Iowa State University said Thursday it had destroyed its stores of anthrax in response to concerns over the recent cases that have turned up in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.The anthrax samples that were destroyed were of historical interest, but of no interest to the anthrax investigation. It's shame they were destroyed instead of being sent to Paul Keim or to some other lab which was doing historical research, but that's what happened, and it cannot be undone.
The College of Veterinary Medicine said some of the destroyed bacteria specimens dated to 1928.
"After contacting appropriate authorities, these specimens were sterilized and incinerated," the university said in a statement posted on its website.
The university said the samples had been maintained for their historical interest and no research was under way on any of them.
Jim Roth, assistant dean and professor of microbiology, said the collection consisted of multiple vials of four or five strains of anthrax. There was no overall inventory, so there is no way to determine if any of the vials was missing.
"We decided they were more of a security risk now than we wanted to tolerate," Roth said. "We didn't need them that badly and decided to destroy them. We checked with the FBI and CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] to see if it was OK to destroy them. They didn't want them and didn't need them for their investigation."
Roth said the vials were kept in a locked laboratory, and there was no evidence any was missing.
So, that's how I spent the last five days: I spent it researching something I knew was a dead issue, but I researched it anyway in order to be able to explain exactly why it was a dead issue and why the destruction of the anthrax samples at Iowa State University had nothing to do with the anthrax attacks of 2001.
It turned out to be another example of the media misinterpreting or distorting the facts about the anthrax attacks of 2001. It's also another example of respected sources assuming that the media is reporting facts, and thus the sources elaborate upon the bad information from the media with their own interpretations of what is really total nonsense. (In the computer business it's called; "garbage in, garbage out.") There's an old saying that fits here:
A lie will travel all the way around the world before the truth can get its shoes on.
And many people will only remember the lie because it was told when everyone was paying attention.
It's getting close to nine full years since I first began my research into the anthrax attacks. All the important and critical facts seem very clear, but I'm still learning interesting details I never knew before.
& Changes: Sunday, July 18,
2010, thru Saturday, July 24, 2010
July 22, 2010 - I don't know how many people see parallels between what recently happened to USDA official Shirley Sherrod and what happened to Dr. Steven Hatfill from 2001 to 2008, but there seem to be many parallels. (1) Shirley Sherrod was falsely accused by an angry private citizen with a political objective; (2) without checking facts, many in the media joined in on the accusations upon Sherrod; and then, (3) overreacting to the sudden pressure from the media and elsewhere, a government official did something wrong. So, now (4) nearly all the news is about how the government is apologizing to Sherrod. If you dig deep enough, you might find that (5) Bill O'Reilly is apologizing to Sherrod the same way Nicholas Kristoff eventually apologized to Dr. Hatfill, but (6) the blogger who started the Sherrod fiasco, Andrew Breitbart, sees nothing wrong with what he did.
Many are calling the Sherrod matter a "teachable moment," meaning it contains a good lesson worth learning. I hope people do learn from it. It appears that very few learned any actual lessons when the same thing happened to Dr. Steven Hatfill. In fact, most seem to still believe the attempted lynching of Dr. Hatfill was all the government's fault.
July 19, 2010 - One of the people responding to what I wrote yesterday about Louis Pasteur and the history of smallpox vaccinations pointed out to me this morning that, according to Wikipedia, smallpox inoculations were practiced in India as far back as 1000 BC. A paper published in China in 1549 described a smallpox inoculation process: "In China powdered smallpox scabs were blown up the noses of the healthy. The patients would then develop a mild case of the disease and from then on were immune to it. The technique did have a 0.5-2% mortality rate, but that was considerably less than the 20-30% mortality rate of the disease itself."
One of the points I was trying to make yesterday was that, in the past, just as in today's world, many competent scientists do good scientific work without fully understanding the actual science behind the work they do.
Louis Pasteur believed there was some kind of unknown "element" in the bodies of animals (and humans) that anthrax bacteria needed in order to grow and kill. If weak bacteria were injected into the body, the weak bacteria would eat all of that "element," thus providing an immunity against strong or virulent bacteria, because the virulent bacteria wouldn't be able to find any of the "element" needed for growth. His beliefs were far from reality. The concept of antibodies wouldn't be discovered for another twenty years and not fully understood for another seventy years beyond that.
In the days following the breaking news about the anthrax attacks, a lot of scientists expressed firm beliefs that anthrax spores would stick together if they weren't weaponized with a coating of silica, and thus the spores wouldn't be able to float in the air and couldn't cause inhalation anthrax -- even though countless people had died from inhalation anthrax in wool sorting factories and elsewhere for centuries, and those spores were certainly not deliberately weaponized with a coating of silica.
And, even Dr. Bruce Ivins apparently believed untreated dry spores were less dangerous than they actually were. He evidently made the powders and loaded the envelopes under a biosafety hood instead of inside a sealed Level-4 glove box. When innocent people started dying and the facts started becoming clear, he started swabbing down the areas near his lab where spores could have settled. When he managed to get his hands on the Daschle letter, he was stunned to see how the spores were able to get through the paper and float around inside the biosafety hood. He soon realized that when he removed his gloved hands from the cabinet, his gloves and his arms could be covered with lethal spores. That had evidently never occurred to him when he was making the powders and loading the envelopes.
A lot of people seem to need to believe that the deaths and injuries from the anthrax attacks were the work of a mad scientist who wanted to kill people. The idea that an accomplished scientist like Bruce Ivins simply didn't understand all of the actual science behind what he was doing doesn't make any sense to them. They seem to feel that if anyone claims that Dr. Ivins didn't kill those five innocent people deliberately, that's the same as claiming that Ivins didn't do anything wrong. I.e., the anthrax deaths and infections were just "an accident." Yes, the deaths may have been "accidents," but they weren't forgivable accidents. They are accidents like the accidents that can occur when someone in a hurry drives at 90 miles per hour through a school zone. There are such things as unforgivable accidents.
And, whether the deaths were "accidents" or not, what Dr. Ivins did was an act of terrorism.
July 18, 2010 - A couple months ago, someone suggested that I watch the 1936 movie "The Story Of Louis Pasteur" the next time it aired on the Turner Classic Movies channel. I was told that anthrax was an important part of the movie. Last Thursday morning, it aired. I recorded it and watched it that evening.
The first half of the movie did indeed contain a lot about anthrax. It depicted how Louis Pasteur, a French chemist, supposedly discovered that animals could be protected against anthrax through vaccinations using attenuated (weakened) anthrax bacteria. It showed nearly the entire scientific community ridiculing Pasteur for claiming that something so tiny as a microbe could kill a human being. But, the movie also depicted Joseph Lister as a great scientist for promoting the idea of using sterile equipment during surgery. The movie didn't seem to mention Robert Koch, however, and I had to do some research to try to find out exactly who discovered what. My earlier research (seven or eight years ago) had pointed to Koch, a German doctor, as the discoverer of what caused the anthrax disease.
According to one source, in 1906, a Russian zoologist named Eli Metchnikoff wrote a book titled "The Founders of Modern Medicine: Pasteur, Koch, and Lister" which contained this about Koch:
"A powerful impulse was necessary to change this inchoate idea of organized (chemical) ferments into a rigorously proven scientific truth that microbes were responsible (for putrifaction and disease). Robert Koch started such an impetus in his 1876 paper on anthrax. This young health officer in the little city of Wolstein, a god-forsaken hole in Posen (Prussia), suddenly came into the limelight of science. His work was indeed a model of true scientific creativeness. Living in a region in which anthrax was endemic, he set about to study it, without the help of laboratory or library, and was always thrown back on his own resources. He worked in his own rooms where for lack of gas illumination he was obliged to use a petroleum lamp. By means of plates covered with moist sand he constructed a semblance of an apparatus for growing cultures of bacteria. Nevertheless, he achieved results superior to anything yet accomplished. He was the first to succeed in changing the thread-like microscopical corpuscles identified by others (in France) into identifiable filaments (chains of rods) and then into beads consisting of minute grains, the spores. This great discovery of the spore of anthrax removed all doubts regarding the role of bacteria in the causation of anthrax, for it illuminated all points hitherto left unexplained."
There seems no doubt that Robert Koch discovered how the anthrax bacterium functioned to cause the anthrax disease. Koch discovered that the germs would turn into spores when environmental conditions weren't conducive to growth, and the spores could turn back into a living germs again when environmental conditions improved. And the living germs were the cause of anthrax. He reported on his findings in a paper published in Germany in 1876. Anthrax was the first disease proven to be caused by a microorganism - and that proof was developed by Robert Koch.
The movie about Pasteur not only didn't mention Koch, it implied that it was Pasteur and his lab assistants who made all the discoveries about anthrax. The movie apparently implied it because Pasteur implied it.
In 1878, two years after Koch published his report about his discoveries related to anthrax and spores, Pasteur reported on his own "discoveries," which basically just repeated what Koch had done. In his presentation to the French Academy of Sciences, Pasteur never mentioned Koch (which is probably why the movie never mentioned Koch).
The most interesting thing I found in my research was that Pasteur believed that there was some kind of mysterious "element" in the blood of an animal that was required for anthrax bacteria to reproduce. Pasteur also believed that if attenuated (weakened) but living anthrax bacteria were injected into an animal, those weak bacteria would eat up all of that mysterious "element" without actually harming the animal. As a result, if the animal was later exposed to normal, living, virulent, anthrax bacteria, the virulent bacteria wouldn't find that particular mysterious but necessary "element" in the animal, and the virulent anthrax bacteria would therefore be unable to reproduce and unable to kill.
The movie actually showed this without explaining it. What the movie didn't show was that it was a wild misconception. There was no mysterious element. Injecting living bacteria into a patient was still very dangerous, even if the bacteria are "weak." Pasteur also believed that every dangerous germ could be turned into a vaccine the same way, by weakening it so it would consume some mysterious "element" that was necessary for growth, thus preventing virulent bacteria from accessing that mysterious element. It was a misconception based upon a misconception.
Meanwhile, a French veterinarian named M. Toussaint was doing similar vaccination experiments, except Toussaint was actually killing the bacteria by heating them for 10 minutes at 55 degrees Celsius. And he was getting solid results when vaccinating animals with the dead anthrax bacteria. When Pasteur learned of this, he considered it a true revelation, and he wrote Toussaint, "It overturns all the ideas I had on viruses, vaccines etc. I no longer understand anything."
Nevertheless, Pasteur evidently couldn't wrap his brain around that conundrum. He couldn't understand how dead bacteria could protect animals against disease. So, he continued to preach his beliefs about the value of vaccinations using live but weakened bacteria while doing actual experiments using dead bacteria.
I'd better stop my ramblings there, before I get too detailed and start getting things totally wrong. It's a very complex story about a time when new scientific discoveries were being made without any true understanding of the actual biological processes involved in what was discovered. According to one source, "As far back as 1721 in Boston, the Rev. Cotton Mather inoculated 240 persons with smallpox fluid to successfully ward off the disease for virtually all the recipients." That's nearly a hundred and fifty years before the time of Koch and Pasteur. And the term "vaccination" had been coined by Edward Jenner seventy-five years before the time of Koch and Pasteur. Jenner vaccinated people against cowpox, and he also coined the word "virus." Mather and Jenner knew they'd discovered something important and beneficial, but neither had any clue as to the actual biological processes behind what it was they discovered. Koch discovered how anthrax killed, but never got into the area of vaccinations to prevent the killing. Pasteur understood the value of vaccinations, but he didn't understand how the actual process of immunization worked in the human body.
What's my point? I'm not sure. Apparently the point is: Real life is complex - and so is scientific discovery. History books tend to ignore all the missteps and misunderstandings. Instead, it focuses on key accomplishments. Important discoveries can be made without understanding what was actually discovered. Even though no one understood the actual biological processes involved, by 1900, two decades after the discoveries of Koch and Pasteur, twenty-one germs that caused diseases had been identified. Robert Koch said of this, "As soon as the right method was found, discoveries came as easily as ripe apples from a tree."
It's interesting to read about how those misunderstandings and missteps from the distant past actually led to real and eternally valuable scientific discoveries.
But, it's even more interesting to see similar misunderstandings as they take place in more recent times. For the past nine years I seem to have spent most of my time trying to figure out what scientists actually know and can prove, and what scientists simply believe and cannot prove. And there has been example after example of scientists ignoring solid proof because it doesn't fit with their beliefs. And there has been example after example of scientists believing total scientific nonsense simply because they read it in a supposedly "reliable source."
We know a lot more today than we knew in the 1870s. But human nature remains the same. If it is new and conflicts with prior beliefs, then it is to be ignored, misinterpreted, and/or attacked until the facts become so abundantly clear and widely accepted that no scientist will any longer ever admit to ever doubting the facts.
& Changes: Sunday, July 11,
2010, thru Saturday, July 17, 2010
July 15, 2010 - I just tossed a two-foot stack of legal documents into a dumpster. They were from the Hatfill lawsuits. There was a time when I was printing out such documents and going over them with a highlighter to highlight key statements - usually about the anthrax case in general, not about Dr. Hatfill's lawsuits. I still have all the .pdf files, so all I did was eliminate the need to haul those paper documents to my new apartment and to find a place to store them there. It's probablly an indicator that it's getting close to the time for a wrap up -- which will very likely be in the form of a new book. However, I can't focus on actually starting the writing of the new book until I've completed my move to my new apartment. The move should be done before the first of September.
Meanwhile, I'll be going through all my personal possessions the same way I'll be going through all the information I've accumulated about the anthrax case. I'll be sorting things out, putting them in order, and disposing of things that are no longer needed. I'll be thinking about where I'm going to put things in my new apartment the same way I'll be thinking about where I'll put information in the new book. Hopefully, the more time I spend preparing, the less time that will be required to do the actual move and the actual writing. Time will tell.
July 11, 2010 - I probably haven't been paying enough attention to the Stevens v United States lawsuit. Some day, it could be the last big news story related to the anthrax attacks of 2001.
Back on February 25 of this year, a few days after the FBI officially closed the Amerithrax investigation, the Palm Beach Post summarized the Stevens' lawsuit this way in an editorial:
Last week, the federal government closed the case of the post-9/11 anthrax attacks. The finding makes the case of Maureen Stevens so strong that the government should settle it.According to the FBI report, a mentally disturbed — possibly deranged — scientist released the deadly substance as a sick way of testing a vaccine he was working on, or as a way to show how important his research was.
In 2003, Mr. Stevens' widow and her children sued, charging that the government had failed to keep the anthax secure. Despite strong government resistance, the suit moved ahead. In 2008, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that Mrs. Stevens had met the standard for a wrongfiul death lawsuit. Depositions are to begin next week. A trial would be in West Palm Beach before U.S. District Judge Daniel T.K. Hurley.
We agree, however, with Mrs. Stevens' West Palm Beach attorney that the government made his case for him. "First," Richard Schuler said, "the report shows how lax the security at Fort Detrick was — if there was security at all." One guard, for example, patrolled several buildings. Security was lightest between 6 p.m. and midnight, when Ivins was in the lab weaponizing the anthrax.
In addition, Mr. Schuler says, the report
proves" that Ivins was "a nut case." The scientist basically was unable
to control his own anxieties. He became fixated. "Well before 2001,"
Mr. Schuler said, "it should have been determined that (Ivins) should
not have been allowed to work there." Ivins had been at Fort Detrick
While it's possible there could be a settlement at any time, according to the docket, the trial isn't scheduled to begin until Monday, April 4, 2011. On May 21, 2010, other schedule dates were formalized and agreed upon:
Amended Pleadings due by 8/20/2010. Expert Discovery due by 11/19/2010. Fact Discovery due by 12/3/2010. Joinder of Parties due by 8/20/2010. Pretrial Stipulation due by 3/3/2011.
Unlike Dr. Hatfill's lawsuit against Vanity Fair and Readers' Digest, I don't think there's any way to keep a settlement agreement confidential when the United States Government is one of the parties involved. And, whether the case ends in a settlement or a trial, the depositions will probably be made available to the public via FOIA requests.
Since the FBI and the Department of Justice have stated officially that Dr. Bruce Ivins was the anthrax mailer, and that he acted alone, there's no way anyone is going to argue in court that Ivins didn't do it. The government's only argument would be that Ivins acted as an individual, not as an employee of the government. The problem is: That individual made the anthrax in a goverment lab, he dried the powders in a government lab, he almost certainly prepared the letters in a government lab, and no one in that government lab paid any attention to what he was doing, much less tried to stop him.
The lawsuit asks for $50 million. That seems the only point for negotiation. How much less will Maureen Stevens and her lawyers be willing to accept in order to avoid the time, expense and uncertainties of an actual trial?
& Changes: Sunday, July 4,
2010, thru Saturday, July 10, 2010
July 8, 2010 - I think I've finally finished updating and "summarizing" Wikipedia's article about the anthrax attacks of 2001, although other changes might occur to me - particularly if someone tries to insert new arguments of some kind. The article probably needs a section about conspiracy theories. But, it's difficult to write about that when Wikipedia rules require that you must quote the term "conspiracy theory" from some news article, and news articles generally just report the theories, opinions and beliefs of people without ever mentioning that those theories, opinions and beliefs imply a vast government conspiracy of some kind. I'd also like to use the term "lynch mob" when writing about the actions of the people who tried to get the FBI to investigate and arrest Dr. Hatfill. But, no one except me uses that term.
Meanwhile, USAMRIID continues to release emails Dr. Ivins wrote while working there. True Believers and others continue to pore over them looking for holes in the FBI's case and/or evidence that Dr. Ivins was innocent. Every time they find something of interest to them, they just hold it up and more-or-less say, "Aha!" without ever explaining why the email is of any interest at all. Evidently, they believe that if you just say "Aha!" often enough, sooner or later other people will start thinking that the True Believers might actually be doing something worthwhile.
July 4, 2010 (B) - I don't know if it was because of what I posted this morning, but "Kjdillon" attempted to change the beginning paragraphs of the Wikipedia entry about the anthrax attacks of 2001 to bring up old issues that have been resolved or are now irrelevant. For example, he changed this:
FBI files show that the investigation began to focus on Bruce Edwards Ivins as early as April 4, 2005, when Dr. Ivins told the FBI he would not talk any further without his lawyer present. On April 11, 2007, Dr. Ivins was put under periodic surveillance because "Bruce Edwards Ivins is an extremely sensitive suspect in the 2001 anthrax attacks". Ivins was a scientist who worked at the government's biodefense labs at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland. In June 2008, Ivins was told of the impending prosecution, and on July 27, 2008 he committed suicide by an overdose of acetaminophen.
FBI's investigation took various turns, most notably in the case of Steven Hatfill, M.D., who was termed a "person of interest" by Attorney General John Ashcroft and kept under surveillance by FBI amid intense media coverage, only eventually to be exonerated.
I changed everything back. His changes did not illuminate, they blurred the issue once again. I put a note about it on his talk page, where it appears others have warned him about self-promotion.
July 4, 2010 (A) - I haven't finished updating and revising the Wikipedia article about the anthrax attacks of 2001, I'm just taking a break after completing over a hundred changes (some very minor). It's frustrating to have to write text that must fit a fixed set of rules that seem to virtually guarantee that the results will be complicated and difficult to understand. Wikipedia's rules seem to assume that the media will always accurately and thoroughly report on every important event. While there seem to be countless media news articles about the anthrax attacks of 2001, "accurate" and "thorough" are not words that can be applied to most of them.
I've written this before, but it's worth stating again: The anthrax attacks of 2001 is probably the most inaccurately reported news story in the past 100 years.
And the inaccurate reporting continues to this day, the unquestioning news stories about Dr. Henry Heine's (incorrect) beliefs being the latest example.
That makes it difficult to accurately update Wikipedia, where news stories seem to be considered to be gospel.
Example: On June 30, I updated the section titled "Controversy over coatings and additives" with some details about how the "controversy" got started. The problem was: there's only one solid source on that subject, Chapter 15 of my book. And Wikipedia's rules say I can't use my book as a reference source. It's self published, it's "original research," and it was written by a person the Wikipedia rules would not consider to be a "reliable source."
So, how do I write about what's in my book without using what's in my book? Because I was unable to use my book, I had only two other sources to work with: (1) The Los Angeles Times article where Peter Jahrling admitted to making mistakes in his examination of the Daschle anthrax and, as a result, providing incorrect information to a critical meeting of high-ranking officials at the White House on October 24, 2001, and (2) Richard Preston's book "The Demon In The Freezer," which describes in detail all the anthrax examination mistakes that were made by Peter Jahrling and Tom Geisbert at USAMRIID, but before any of the mistakes were realized to be mistakes. Preston described what Jahrling and Geisbert said they believed at the time he talked with them, which was around the same time they did their examinations of the Daschle anthrax. Thus, in Preston's book, all the mistakes were described as brilliant revelations resulting from brilliant science.
After thinking about it for a long time, I decided to begin with quotes from the LA Times article, paraphrasing what David Willman wrote in order to keep the comment to a reasonable length:
"On Oct. 24, 2001, [USAMRIID scientist Peter] Jahrling was summoned to the White House after reporting to his superiors what he believed to be signs that silicon had been added to anthrax recovered from a letter addressed to then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.). The presence of silicon was viewed with alarm because the material, if artificially added to the anthrax, would make it more buoyant in air and more capable of penetrating deeply into the lungs." Seven years later, Jahrling told the Los Angeles Times on September 17, 2008, "I believe I made an honest mistake," adding that he had been "overly impressed" by what he thought he saw under the microscope. The article, "Scientist admits mistake on anthrax" begins with, "He says he was wrong when he told officials that material used in the 2001 mailings had been weaponized."
"'I should never have ventured into this area,' said Jahrling, who is a virologist, referring to his analysis of the anthrax, which is a bacterium. Jahrling's initial analysis -- and his briefing of officials at the White House -- was first detailed in a 2002 book by bestselling author Richard Preston."
But the LA Times doesn't describe the actual mistake. The article merely says Jahrling made a mistake in saying the Daschle powder was "weaponized." But, how did the mistake happen? How can a scientist - even a virologist - look at the Daschle spores and conclude that they are weaponized when they are not weaponized?
That's where I had to shift to quoting from Preston's book, providing quotes which show how Geisbert and Jahrling used a Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM) to examine spores that had been soaked in chemicals and then killed with liquid chemicals. And, according to Preston's book, when the power was turned up on the TEM, "The spores began to ooze." "He saw the goop begin to spread out of the spores. Those spores were sweating something.” "The spores had something in them, an additive, perhaps."
I couldn't say that what was oozing out of the spores. Obviously, it was the chemicals in which they'd been soaked prior to examination. But, that would be an "original analysis" on my part - which is strictly forbidden by Wikipedia rules. I had to use what Preston wrote, describing that the spores had been soaking in a white liquid and were then killed with more liquids, and I had to let the reader put two and two together and realize what was oozing out of the spores. What Jahrling thought was an additive put there by some terrorist was actually the chemicals Tom Geisbert had put there and/or the "white, milky liquid" the FBI's Hazardous Materials Response Unit (HMRU) had used to test to see if the powder contained some lethal agent. I could only point out that no one saw any "additive" oozing out of the spores when they examined spores that had been killed with radiation instead of liquid chemicals.
Nor could I explain that when the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP) later tested other spores that were killed with radiation, they detected the elements Silicon and Oxygen, and that caused Geisbert and Jahrling to conclude that what they had seen oozing out of the spores was some kind of "powdered glass." And, "The silica was powdered so finely that under Geisbert's electron microscope it had looked like fried-egg gunk dripping off the spores."
In reality, the "goop" or "fried-egg gunk" were chemicals that spurted out of the spores when they were heated up by the TEM's electron beam under high power. But Wikipedia doesn't allow me to write that. I have to provide the "two and two" and let the reader (hopefully) put two and two together. It's a very frustrating way to explain things.
I've been waiting for conspiracy theorists and True Believers to start altering what I've written. Years ago, that would always happen when I was updating the Wikipedia article. So far, all that's happened is that "Kjdillon" added a paragraph at the end of the section I'd written about "The hidden message in the media letters." He added this:
Critics of FBI's theory note that various hidden messages have been detected in the letters, including known al Qaeda codewords. Because there is no method for determining which supposed hidden message is the real one, this approach appears to have no probative value. In addition, the nighttime disposal of GEB by Ivins can be interpreted as the act of an innocent man who, knowing that FBI had targeted him, sought to destroy anything that might look suspicious.
He used no references at all. So, I did as others had done to me when I didn't have enough references: I plunked in four "Improper synthesis?" notations, one after every phrase that needed reference support. The effect was that after a few days, "Kjdillon" deleted that entire paragraph and replaced it with two new paragraphs with references:
However, FBI reported showing the letters to a handwriting expert on February 8, 2008: "__________ reiterated that it might be making too much out of trying to find a message in the letter. __________ indicated that it was difficult to differentiate some of the highlighted 'A's and 'T's in the letter and pointed out there were other letters that might be interpreted as being highlighted, and stated 'the more you look the more unclear it is.'" 
Reference  is to page 22 of FBI file #847547.
Another hidden-message theory finds possible al Qaeda code in the envelopes.
Reference  is to page 6 of the file found HERE.
I have no problems with those additions. Both are interesting. The second reference leads to an "original analysis," but it's Wikipedia that doesn't like "original analysis," not me. The first reference, however, reminded me that I've been wanting to write about that particular FBI report for months.
Now seems as good a time as any to comment on that FBI report.
The quotation in the first paragraph "Kjdillon" added to Wikipedia is from an FBI report that occupies pages 18-23 of FBI .pdf file #847547. The report does not say that the person being interviewed is a "handwriting expert" (which makes it an "improper synthesis" in Wikipedia terms). The person being interviewed is merely asked about the handwriting in the anthrax letters. (The person being interviewed seems to be a man, since the 2-letter pronoun "he" fits better than the 3-letter "she" into the redacted boxes where a pronoun seems to have been used.) He is also questioned at length about DNA condons and about the book Godel, Escher, Bach. Some of the questions seem very odd. The questions are asked as if the correct answers are already fully known by the interviewers, but the interviewers want to find out if the person they are interviewing can offer any additional information.
The interviewee doesn't appear to see anything not already previously seen in the anthrax letters. But, sometimes he seems to be trying to shoot down the FBI's analysis of them.
What he seems to notice are things that are unusual to him, but which a professional handwriting expert would or should know about. Example: He finds the public school method of drawing the letter R to be "peculiar":
The interviewee "also indicated that the formation of the 'E's was unique, suggesting that the 'E' were constructed with three horizontal lines and a vertical line. [The interviewee] again indicated that the characteristics of the letters suggest a non-native English speaker may have prepared the letters."
What's "unique" about drawing a block letter E with three horizontal lines and a vertical line? It's the way I do it. Is it another public school method? The report doesn't mention what the "other" method is, but, evidently, it consists of first drawing an L with a single stroke and then adding the two upper horizontal lines. That's the method used in the Goldman Sachs letters and the Lee Malvo letter. Here's how the Goldman Sachs letter writer drew the capital letter E:
Interestingly, one of the 9/11 hijackers, Marwan Al-Shehhi, drew E's with three strokes while Zacarias Moussaoui (a.k.a. "the 20th hijacker") drew E's with four strokes.
Doing a quick search with Google, I couldn't find any indication that public schools or Catholic schools teach children to write capital E's with three strokes instead of four. One illustration of how children are taught to draw the letter E can be found HERE. It shows four strokes to be the proper way. Other illustrations also show four strokes to be the proper way - HERE and HERE.
However, I found one illustration of instructions for adults on how they can write more legibly, which includes starting the letter E by drawing an L: HERE.
But, what's clear beyond any doubt from this analysis is that drawing E's with four strokes is NOT an indicator of a "non-native English speaker." The person the FBI interviewed seemingly just believes that anyone who doesn't write the way he writes is a "non-native English speaker." Or, he's trying to convince the FBI of his theory that foreigners were behind the anthrax attacks of 2001.
There are also other indications the interviewee is not a "handwriting expert." He's asked numerous questions about the code used in the letters, which isn't a handwriting matter, plus he seems to know about A's, T's, C's and G's and how they have meaning to people knowledgeable about DNA. A handwriting expert couldn't be expected to know about that.
"[The interviewee] was asked if the sequence 'TTTAATTAT' could mean anything in the context of DNA condons. He indicated that it was possible but [he] would have to refer to a book for the genetic code."
The interviewee suggests that the lack of punctuation in the media letter indicates that "the Post/Brokaw letter was hurried in its preparation." Does it really take so long to put periods at the end of sentences? And doesn't the tracing over of A's and T's seem to show that there was no hurry?
One big problem with the FBI's report is that, sometimes it's difficult or impossible to figure out who is talking. These two paragraphs are particularly puzzling in that way:
XXXXX briefly discussed the three parts of a message: the frame message, the outer message, and the inner message. The frame message is the information that a message exists in some form; the outer message is the recognition of the 'language; in which the message is encoded; and the inner messages is the decoding and understanding of the message.
Based on the number of 'A's and 'T's that are highlighted XXXXX thought of the word "ATTACCA" which appears in XXXXX Godel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid (GEB). XXXXX explained that in Italian attacca means attach or attack.
Who "briefly discussed" the three parts? Who thought of the word "attacca"? And what does it have to do with anything? There are no highlighted C's in the letters. And what is under the XXXXX that I highlighted in red?
Mulling all this over for a day or so, I recalled something. I checked the DOJ/FBI's Summary Report of the Amerithrax investigation, and I found this at the top of page 64:
"it turns out that Dr. Ivins gave a copy of this book [Godel, Escher, Bach] to another scientist in the fall of 2006, telling the scientist that it was a great book, and later expressing disappointment that the scientist never read it, even asking the scientist to give it back to him, demonstrating that this is not a book he would casually throw away. "
And footnote #43 says:
"When asked in his January 2008 interview what books he had ever given this scientist, Dr. Ivins mentioned two other books – Vaccine A by Gary Matsumoto and a book about the anthrax investigation – but not GEB, one of his favorites, that he had given this scientist only a little over a year earlier."
I wouldn't be a bit surprised if the person who was interviewed in the FBI report discussed above wasn't the same USAMRIID scientist to whom Ivins had given the copy of Godel, Escher, Bach, and the questioning was all about trying to see if that scientist might provide some new information or a new interpretation that could further connect Bruce Ivins to the anthrax attacks. But, the scientist saw what the FBI's "game" was and, to help his friend Bruce Ivins, the scientist kept trying to point the FBI toward some "non-native English speaker," instead. Wikipedia would undoubtedly call that an "improper synthesis" or an "original analysis" from me. "Improper" it may or may not be, but "original" it definitely is.
& Changes: Sunday, June 27,
2010, thru Saturday, July 3, 2010
July 1, 2010 - Because I've taken a break from updating Wikipedia, I've finally found time to doing something that has been on my things-to-do list for months. I created a new supplementary page about Dr. Ivins' "Non-Denial Denials." It's information that I've written comments about in the past, but comments get archived and forgotten. The information seems important enough for a supplemental page and a permanent place in the Table of Contents.
Also, the updates I did to Wikipedia made me realize how informative the supplementary page titled "Anthrax, Assaad, Terror & the Timeline" is if you want to understand the thinking about anthrax and potential bioweapons attacks before details of the actual anthrax attacks of 2001 began to unfold. I compiled the information on that page in March of 2002, and it was in the Table of Contents for the original main page for this web site, but I never carried it over into the main page used from 2005 to 2008, nor to the current main page. It's now in the current Table of Contents.
June 29, 2010 - If anyone is interested, USAMRIID has added more of Dr. Ivins' emails to their FOIA collection. The latest emails are from circa 2004 and 2005, so there are probably a lot more to come. I did searches through the latest emails looking for "FBI" and a couple other terms, but I didn't notice anything of interest.
Also, it took me awhile, but I finally found out what happened to the interesting discussion I had on the Wikipedia administrators' discussion page that suddenly vanished. It has been archived HERE. Apparently, they have so many discussions going at once that they need to archive things if there have been no new comments in 24 hours.
June 27, 2010 - Once again, I don't know if any of this is of interest to anyone but me, but I spent nearly every day last week arguing with various editors on Wikipedia on various discussion forums. The main arguments now seem to be on the discussion page about definitions and the discussion page for the anthrax article.
But, I also found time to add new sections about Dr. Ivins' "Consciousness of Guilt," and Dr. Ivins' Non-Denial Denials. Late today, I added an overview to the new timeline article which was formerly part of the anthrax article.
Meanwhile, the "other side" has posted this warning at the top of the section I added about the hidden message in the media letters: "This section may contain previously unpublished synthesis of published material that conveys ideas not attributable to the original sources." That's okay. It's like having a "READ THIS" headline telling people that the subject is controversial and worthy of reading very carefully.
The arguments got really interesting when I thought of something while working out at a health club. Most of the debate had been about the correct definition of "primary source." It occurred to me that Wikipedia might have a definition of "primary source." And they do. It's HERE. And here is what it says:
That is, of course the definition I had been using. The editors who disagreed with me were evidently using "primary source" as a colloquial term. I wrote:
If I casually ask someone, "What is your primary source for what you just said?" The guy might point to a newspaper article. But the newspaper article could literally be a tertiary source, i.e., a news report about an FBI report which contained an interview of a suspect. The primary source is the suspect. The secondary source is the FBI's report. The tertiary source is the newspaper report about the FBI report. And the guy who mentioned it to me is a quaternary source.
Coloquial uses of "primary source" can mean anything. If you rely on colloquial uses of the term, you can have NO firm rule and NO firm definition. Anyone can make up any definition or rule they want. That seems to be what's happening.
If the FBI interviews Dr. Heine and writes a report about it, is that somehow different from the New York Times interviewing Dr. Heine and writing a report about it? Is the FBI always the "primary source" as if Dr. Heine doesn't exist? Does Dr. Heine only really exist when he's interviewed by The New York Times?
So far, I've gotten no response. It appears that the consensus is that even if the DOJ/FBI is a "primary source," the use of "primary sources" is not forbidden, it's only recommended that care be used when citing "primary sources." And, now the arguments are shifting to being about my writing "style." They say my writing style is not "encyclopedic." I don't write the way other editors write. Or, I don't follow the Manual of style in Wikipedia. But, who can?
Fortunately, a second editor tried to get me to understand a major problem with my "style." When I write something like this, it is in violation of Wikipedia's style:
On page 69 of the FBI's Summary Report  it says, "Ivins claimed blah blah blah."
In the above example,  is a link to the FBI's Summary report.
At first, I didn't know what was wrong with that style. The first editor just said it was "not Wikipedia's style." The second editor, however, provided an example of the proper style. When I figured out what they were telling me, I realized I also didn't know how to do things the way they wanted. And I didn't have the time or energy to dig into Wikipedia's rule books to find out how. But, then I realized: that second editor had provided an example. That mean I could go to the source code for what he wrote to figure out how he did it. So, I looked at the source code (what he'd written to create what appears on your computer monitor) and the light bulb over my head turned on bright. In a matter of minutes I had gone back and changed all the offending statements. The above example would now look like this:
"Ivins claimed blah blah blah."
And link 24 leads you to a line in the Reference Section that looks like this:
FBI Summary report, page 69.
It only took two people a week to drill that through my concrete head. (The key problem was figuring out how to have a link to a 92 page report that also had a specific page number. It's done with a link to a link.)
Perhaps more interesting than all of that to anyone but me is the fact that the second editor then proceded to make some changes to the article about the anthrax attacks of 2001 that he felt should be done. He deleted an entire section titled "Comments by Bio-Weapons experts" and another entire section called "Comments by Government Officials." Both sections were in violation of some Wikipedia rule, even though they'd been part of the article for years and years. They were large sections of random quotes, mostly from 2001 and 2002 when no one really knew anything, plus a few quotes from politicians and conspiracy theorists from later years. I cheered the deletions. If I had deleted those sections, someone would have immediately put them back. But people know who I am. They may not know who "Yoenit" is. That could make them think twice before reverting his deletions.
So, significant progress was made last week in updating the Wikipedia entry about the anthrax attacks of 2001. There's still a lot of work to do, but now I know a lot more about "Wikipedia's style" and I know how to ask others for help in doing things I cannot do without repercussions. And fresh strawberries are only $1.50 a pound. Life is good.
& Changes: Sunday, June 20,
2010, thru Saturday, June 26, 2010
June 23, 2010 - After a lot of discussion on Wikipedia about how to add back a section describing the "hidden message" in the media letters, I wrote a new section following the various suggestions and posted it today at 15:42. 22 minutes later, at 16:04, it was deleted by an editor called "Cs32en," who evidently will not agree with any new entry that shows that Dr. Ivins was guilty or which shows evidence from the FBI's summary report. At 18:16 it was restored again, this time by an editor with an impressive name "Wiki-ny-2007" who provided this reason: "Undid revision 369755655 by 'Cs32en' who seems fixated on blocking any material that doesn't match preconceived notions. Ed Lake's summary of the FBI/DOJ report looks pretty valid." Hmm. Cool. The new section is HERE. I wonder what's going to happen next. I'm going to just watch for a day or so, and if all looks okay, then I'll add a new section about "Dr. Ivins' "Consciousness of Guilt" which may really set off those who believe Ivins was innocent - regardless of what the facts say.
June 20, 2010 - I don't know if any of this is of interest to anyone but me, but navigating through the world of Wikipedia is like being on another planet or in a different culture. However, I lived 2-1/2 years in Japan and 2 months in Thailand, so different cultures don't cause me any serious problems. It's just a matter of getting used to doing things in a very different way. When in Rome ...
As you may recall, last week I posted a new section about the "hidden message" in the media letters to the Wikipedia entry about the anthrax attacks of 2001. Soon afterward, someone deleted the section claiming I cannot use "primary sources" in postings. The last time someone deleted that section, I just put it back, and I was banned from Wikipedia for 55 hours for doing so. So, this time I posted a call for help on my own new Wikipedia "talk page," asking if the deletion was valid. The person who responded to my call for help then started a new discussion about the "primary source" rule on a different page which was evidently a general discussion page about Wikipedia rules. The discussion there really turned bizarre. It was like a court room where only judges argue with each other. Everyone just seemed to be trying to interpret Wikipedia rules to fit their personal understanding. And, as far as I could tell, there was no "judge-of-judges" to decide whose opinion will prevail. Here are some of the arguments and counter-arguments:
Argument: The FBI/DOJ's Summary Report cannot be used because it is a "primary source" and Wikipedia rules say that "secondary sources" are preferred.
Counter-argument: The use of "primary sources" is not forbidden. Wikipedia rules only say that "primary sources" must be used "carefully."
Argument: Is a summary report a "primary source?" Aren't "summary" and "primary source" almost opposite terms?
Counter-argument: If the summary is done by the same group providing the "primary source" it's all the same - "primary source."
Argument: Wikipedia articles are supposed to be based upon "relative prevalence" of views.
Counter-argument: "Relative prevalence" is being interpreted to mean that the FBI's view is one view and if two people disagree with the FBI, then those two people have "relative prevalence" That ignores the facts, including the fact the view of the FBI/DOJ represents thousands of individuals.
Argument: "There are no such things as 'facts' on Wikipedia, only reliable sources, and our job is to neutrally summarize what they say."
Counter-argument: Wha ....?
Argument: "An investigative report produced by a government agency is almost always a primary source, since the agency producing the report is also involved in the investigation. But this does not mean that the source can't be used on Wikipedia."
Counter-argument: "the best way to present a government investigative report is to use reliable secondary sources to interpret it and put it in perspective"
Argument: There are no comprehensive published analyses of the FBI/DOJ's Summary Report by journalists. The journalists mostly just say the case is closed and refer people to the FBI/DOJ's Summary report for details.
Counter-argument: If no journalist thinks the FBI/DOJ's Summary Report is worth analyzing, then the whole subject of the anthrax attacks of 2001 is not "notable" and the entire entry on Wikipedia should be deleted.
Following that last startling piece of logic (which basically says, If he can't have things his way, then there shouldn't be anything at all on Wikipedia), I was informed that the proper place to discuss the issue is on the discussion page specifically for the article about the anthrax attacks of 2001. So, we all moved there. The argument continued:
Argument: "The use of the source is appropriate. As has been discussed elsewhere at length in wikipedia discussions, primary sources are actually preferred in the legal traditions of English-speaking countries. And secondary sources are the ones often prohibited. While wikipedia is not a court of law, the principles underlying the best evidence rule generally apply to wikipedia concerns of verifiability and reliable sources."
Argument: What do you think about the idea of tentatively reinserting the deleted section, and then reviewing it on a different basis, vs. just the primary/secondary issue?
Counter-argument: Just silence so far.
Clearly, though, it was the right place to discuss such things. My arguments about the validity of what I wrote seems to have support from other editors, but, I don't know where it will all end up.
I also noticed there were several other issues on the discussion page that people have wanted to talk about. Ominously, looking at the other discussions, it seems that persistence wins. Example: In October of 2009, there was a discussion about the Chile anthrax letter. The first line is:
The "Letter to Chile" had nothing to do with the 2001 anthrax attacks. No authorites have made the claim it did. The section will be removed.
But the section is still there. Looking back at the history of revisions, I see it was deleted on October 11, 2009. It was immediately put back by someone who reasoned "It is referenced and nothing to contradict it." It was deleted again, and restored again. Then, the person who was trying to delete it evidently gave up. So, it remains.
That could be how my attempt to use information from the FBI/DOJ's Summary report will end up. I'm trying to avoid that by pressing for assurance that my new section about the "hidden message" will not be deleted arbitrarily without repercussions for the person doing the deleting. But, Wikipedia seems to be a place where almost everyone has equal voice. I don't know the hierarchy of editors or even if there is a hierarchy of editors. Pressing for assurances might reveal whether or not there is some kind of hierarchy of editors. But it might also reveal that the editor at the top of the heirarchy is a True Believer or conspiracy theorist who does not want any "facts" from the FBI on Wikipedia.
Looking at the situation from a different angle, it also appears that Wikipedia may be presenting the final performance of "The Anthrax Traveling Circus." Wikipedia is a "Big Time" venue. (Although it's often ridiculed for inaccuracies, it is a primary, heavily used research/information source on the Internet.) All bigger venues are by "invitation only." And no one has any interest in going back to old venues where the audiences are tiny or non-existent.
The tone of the arguments on Wikipedia suggests that the Traveling Circus's "lion tamer" (me) is confronting some of the same "lions" from other performances, even though different names are being used. But it's also clear that some new lions were brought in for the Wikipedia performance. There are plenty of other people around, too, but the situation is unclear. Most of the other "editors" are strangers. Whether or not those strangers will help if the situation gets out of hand - and who they'll help .... time will tell. At the moment, at least one editor seems to be helping me.
It looks like the section about the "hidden message" will probably get restored. If so, that could be the end of "Act One" in this performance. "Act Two" will be about Dr. Ivins' "Consciousness of Guilt." There's currently nothing on Wikipedia about Ivins' attempts to destroy evidence and mislead investigators. But there will be if "Act One" ends with the "hidden message" section being restored -- even if it's only until one of the "lions" arbitrarily deletes it again.
& Changes: Sunday, June 13,
2010, thru Saturday, June 19, 2010
June 18, 2010 - The debate on Wikipedia about whether or not the FBI's files are of any use as information about the anthrax attacks of 2001 is probably the most fascinating and bizarre debates I've been involved with in years.
June 16, 2010 - Hmmm. An editor at Wikipedia removed everything about the hidden message in the anthrax media letters that I'd put on Wikipedia's entry about the anthrax attacks of 2001. The reason provided is that I only used "primary sources." Wha..? They provided a link to their rules about "primary sources." It says:
Wikipedia articles should be based on reliable, published secondary sources and, to a lesser extent, on tertiary sources. Secondary or tertiary sources are needed to establish the topic's notability and to avoid novel interpretations of primary sources, though primary sources are permitted if used carefully.
Our policy: Primary sources that have been reliably published may be used in Wikipedia, but only with care, because it is easy to misuse them. Any interpretation of primary source material requires a reliable secondary source for that interpretation. A primary source may only be used to make descriptive statements that can be verified by any educated person without specialist knowledge.I carefully used the FBI/DOJ's Summary report as the source for what I wrote, carefully quoting from them and making no interpretations.
Now what do I do? The "secondary sources" are newspaper articles which don't say much. The Washington Post's article is WRONG, and even their illustrations wildly misinterpret what is in the Summary report. The Frederick News-Post's article uses only the opinion of someone who doesn't believe what was in the Summary report. And the UK newspaper The Register doesn't provide enough details to be useful.
I'm going to have to try to appeal, instead of just putting things back with added links to the "secondary" sources. That will just get me banned again. If the appeal doesn't work, .....
June 15, 2010 - Wow! Things have really gone quiet all of a sudden. Looking back at my statistics for 2009, I found that I had 14,744 visitors in May and 12,204 in June, an average drop of 84 visitors per day. I'm getting an equivalent drop this June. The logs seem to indicate that it has largely to do with students going on summer vacation. The junk emails I get every day have also declined, dropping by about 60%. I have no explanation for that. And, the Lunatic Fringe has gone totally silent. Their web sites are quiet, and I'm seeing no reaction whatsoever to my postings to Wikipedia.
June 13, 2010 - Yessir, young-uns. I learnt my lesson, I did. Yup. Lemme tell you about it.
Last week I rode into Wikipedia town on my horse ol' Thunder, hell bent for leather, guns ablazing, an I'm whooping an hollering as I set about to clean up the place - just cuz I finally decided it was time to do it. I'd been cleanin' up other towns for years, but I'd stayed away from Wikipedia Town because Wikipiedia Town was kinda different. It was bigger, for one thing. But most of the varmints there were different, too. Strangers, mostly. Some were craftier. Some were sly. And when I came up against the same varmints I'd fought it out with in other towns, in Wikipedia town they seemed to always have new tricks up their sleeves and they liked to partner up with powerful strangers. Wikipedia Town had been like a festerin' sore on my ass for years. I always knew it was there, but I tried to avoid sitting on it. So, when I rode in last week, I hadn't been to the place since way back in August of '08. Back then it was really overrun with varmints. The whole town looked was aswimmin' in varmint poop. It was like a monument to varmint poop.
But, last week things was different. Something had changed, but it wasn't clear what it was. There was still piles of varmint poop everywhere, but the town council had apparently set up some new rules to help keep too much new varmint poop from burying the place. Maybe it wasn't new rules. Maybe they just started enforcing old rules. But, anyway, as I was reloading my six-shooters to begin another charge through the center of town, this very polite deputy sheriff came up to me, looked me in the eye and said, "Sir, you are breakin' the rules." He (or maybe it was a she, I couldn't tell exactly cuz of how fast things happened) anyway ... He grabbed me by the scruff on my neck and hauled me back where I'd come from, depositing me on my behind just outside of the town line. "Don't come back until you're ready to obey the rules," he says to me. And he drops this book of rules in my lap. And all the bullet holes I just put in the place? -- he fixed them in no time flat. In no more time than it takes to blink an eye, it was as if I'd never rode into town at all.
Well, I understand rules. I've made many rules in many a town in my day. For more than a score of years I was hired as a rule maker in towns where they'd grown tired of lawlessness and wanted civilization and "efficiency."
So, I read their rule book. The first rule was that I couldn't be "The man with no name." They didn't like that. It wasn't polite. It wasn't civilized. So, I signed their register, notifying the town that I was comin' in to do some serious business. That was easy to do, and they was all smiles when I did it.
Then, instead of whoopin' and hollerin' and shootin' up the place on ol' Thunder, I hitched ol' Thunder to a wagon and rode into town with a load of lumber, a keg of nails and plenty of tools -- like shovels, axes, hammers and saws. On one side of the wagon I painted in red: "Town fixer upper." On the other side I painted "Varmint poop remover." (Varmint poop removin' is a nasty business, but sometimes there just ain't no way to hire somebody else to do it.)
I sat in the center of town on my wagon for a bit to see if that deputy was going to come out and give me trouble. Nope. No sign of him. Then, I figured that if I began by knocking down things, that might upset that deputy. And, I wasn't sure that the towns folk hadn't become accustomed to livin' on top of and 'tween piles of varmint poop. So, I let the varmint poop just continue to set where it was. I'd developed a stragety. I can be sly, too, when I want to be.
The first thing I did was to set up some signs. I was thinkin' of signs like: Poop Pile Ahead. Beware of Poop. Poop Street. No Poop Street. But, instead, I posted signs that were more civilized:
1. I added a reference to Nicolas Kristof's first column about Dr. Hatfill
2. I added information about when the NAS review will be complete.
3. I added information about Dr. Ivins' first suicide attempt.
4. I added information about Dr. Ivins' sessions before the grand jury.
5. I added information about how Dr. Ivins was declared "an extremely sensitive suspect" in April 2007.
I let them set for a night. The next morning, when those "signs" were still there untouched, I decided to do something bigger and more visible. Not far from the entrance to town, I set up a poop-free building named "The Hidden Message in the Media Letters." Then, I let that set for a night.
Yesterday morning, I awoke to find a "Welcome" letter pinned to my bed-roll. It was from one of the town council members, welcoming me to Wikipeida Town, thanking me for my contributions, and offering to help. She (I think it was a she) gave me a kind of signal to send if I got into trouble. It wasn't a signal to help me fend off varmints, though. It was more like when I might need carpentry advice or town council approval. I might use the signal to figure out how to add a picture of the Brokaw or New York Post letter to the front of the "Hidden Message" building. There's nothing like a good picture to keep away varmint poop. Varmints don't like pictures or facts. They like opinions and beliefs.
Anyway, that's where things stand as of this mornin'. It's Sunday. Time to rest a bit. Restin' is good for the soul, and it gives you time to think about stragety. I've got a wagon train of fresh lumber awaitin' for the signal to move into town, and if I get the stragetizing right, I might even persuade some of the townspeople to help me remove some of that stinkin' varmint poop. All I may need to do is give them a whiff of good, clean facts to remind them of what they've been missin' for so many years.
Time will tell.
& Changes: Sunday, June 6,
2010, thru Saturday, June 12, 2010
June 11, 2010 - The newspaper interview I did for The Racine Journal Times in late-May appeared in print this morning. It's a very nice, concise and well-written article. I'd been a little worried that the reporter might misinterpret something I said, but she appears to have gotten everything right. And the picture of me is excellent, too. When I went out to buy copies of the paper, I found it was on the front page (below the fold). These were all nice surprises. But, it wasn't any surprise at all that, before I'd even seen the story on-line, a member of the "Anthrax Traveling Circus" had already posted a comment to the Journal Times' web site criticizing my analysis and suggesting that people go instead to the web sites run by conspiracy theorists and True Believers to get a "sound analysis by professionals."
June 10, 2010 - At the risk of being repetitious, I just noticed another email where Dr. Ivins talks about how many spores he could make in a specific period of time. In an email dated August 2, 2004 (batch #57, page 3) and in numerous other emails from around the same time period, he wrote:
We can presently make 1 X 10^12 [one trillion] spores per week.
If someone needs a large amount of spores (greater than 10^12 [a trillion]), they should notify me a few months ahead of time, so that the spores can be ready when needed.
So, it appears that Dr. Ivins didn't even consider a trillion spores to be a "large" amount.
June 9, 2010 (B) - I couldn't remember if any journalists wrote about the "hidden message" in the anthrax letters sent to the media, so, I did some quick research and found three news articles that mentioned it.
The February 20, 2010 issue of The Washington Post contained this information and misinformation:
The new documents also suggest for the first time that Ivins, who was known to have a fascination with hidden codes and ciphers, might have sent a hidden message in the handwritten labels on the anthrax envelopes sent to NBC anchor Tom Brokaw. The bioterrorist darkened the letters "A" and "T" in certain words in a manner that, when the A's and T's are looked at together, appears to spell out chains of nucleic acids, the building blocks of DNA. Each of the chains is in turn associated with a letter of the alphabet.
"From this analysis, two possible hidden meanings emerged: (1) 'FNY' -- a verbal assault on New York, and (2) 'PAT,' " the Justice summary said. Pat is the nickname of a former co-worker to whom Ivins was said to have an obsessive emotional attachment.
Hmm. Wikipedia would consider The Washington Post to be a "reliable source," but the hidden message was definitely not in any handwritten labels on the envelopes. That's wrong in almost every way it can be wrong.
In the same issue, probably in a boxed "sidebar," The Washington Post had a more detailed explanation of the hidden message in the media letters. It's HERE. It begins with more misinformation, stating that the code consisted of only the first letters of the first, second and last sentences: TTA. But they finish by repeating some of what was in the FBI's summary report, even though it doesn't match to the first part of the Post's explanation.
The British newspaper The Register did a better job of reporting in their March 2, 2010 issue:
Also never well-publicized until now is the FBI's assertion that there was a hidden message in the anthrax letters.
The printed warnings contained a series of bolded letters, which when assembled corresponded to a type of codons. The FBI explained this was derived from Ivins' fascination with puzzles and codes, in particular a scientific article entitled The Linguistics of DNA and Doug Hofstader's 1979 book Gödel, Escher, Bach.
"It is difficult to summarize what the book is about," the FBI writes with some understatement. "However, the basic premise is that there are surface meanings... and then there are meanings within mathematics, art and music that are hidden."
Ivins tried to dispose of this book, and the article on DNA linguistics, in his garbage.The February 23, 2010 issue of The Frederick News-Post, of course, uses the opinion of someone who worked with Dr. Ivins and who therefore doesn't believe the FBI:
[Jeffrey Adamovicz, former chief of bacteriology who supervised Ivins' work at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases,] said no forensic evidence -- such as fingerprints or strands of hair -- was ever found that links Ivins to the letters. The evidence in the report is less convincing, such as a section about a hidden message in the anthrax letters. Some of the As and Ts appear to be bolded; the letters spell out the genetic code for three proteins, whose names could be abbreviated to PAT or, using the proteins' single letter designators, spell FNY. Investigators said Ivins was obsessed with a coworker named Pat and had a well-known hatred of New York.
"While I admit this is an interesting theory, that is all it is," Adamovicz said.It's not really a theory. It's a statement of facts and how the facts fit together. The only "theory" is Mr. Adamovicz's theory that it's only a theory.
In a courtroom, the prosecutor would have used an enlargement of the letters and illustrations to show the traced-over characters in order and how they translate. When combined with proof of Dr. Ivins' known fascination with codes and his secretive attempt to throw away the "code books" a week after his home was thoroughly searched, the only argument the defense could have would be that it's all just an incredible string of coincidences. But, any jury would see that there are too many coincidences for it all to be just a coincidence.
The trick to putting it on Wikipedia would be to make the explanation simple and straightforward, so that when the conspiracy theorists and True Believers try to counter it with Mr. Adamovicz's claim that it is nothing more than "an interesting theory," the facts will show that there is no theory, there are only solid facts. It is not a theory that F-A-C-T spells FACT. It's a fact.
June 9, 2010 (A) - I'm thinking that I probably shouldn't have tried to make so many changes/additions in such a short period of time to the Wikipedia entry about the Anthrax Attacks of 2001. (But that isn't any excuse for deleting them all without regard for the merits of individiual changes/additions.) I'm pondering the idea of posting just one subject at a time after my banishment is lifted. Maybe one subject per week. But, I don't know if I have enough interest to persist for weeks and weeks. And which subject should I try first?
The changes I made to the entry about Dr. Henry Heine and the NAS seem least important. The best change would be to simply delete everything Dr. Heine said about Dr. Ivins. But, I can't do that without an explanation. And, because no one in the established media ever bothered to show that Dr. Heine was wrong about Dr. Ivins' capabilities, whatever I post could be considered by the Wikipedia editor to be my own "original research," which Wikipedia evidently doesn't allow.
The most important change would be to try again to show the workings of the "lynch mob" that tried to get Dr. Hatfill arrested for the being the anthrax killer, and how the FBI tried to defend Dr. Hatfill for eight months prior to the search of his apartment that turned him into a household name. The meeting between Dr. Rosenberg and the Senate staffers on June 18, 2002, and the media cries that progress was too slow and if Dr. Hatfill wasn't arrested he could kill again, seem vital to understanding what happened. However, the editor at Wikipedia would definitely consider that to be my own "original research." I could try just posting each of the specific news events to the timeline - such as each claim by Dr. Rosenberg or the media that the FBI was covering up for Dr. Hatfill, each statement by the FBI that the FBI did not have a specific suspect in the case, and each statement by the FBI that the conspiracy theorists were wrong about the case. The events speak for themselves. But, some of the news articles are no longer easily available on-line. If I link to my copy of a specific news article, the editor at Wikipedia would probably consider it to be "spam." And laying out the details of the "attempted lynching of Dr. Hatifll" would probably require posting at least a dozen timeline entries, or maybe even two dozen, to cover the entire subject.
(I've been considering sending in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for details about the June 18, 2002 meeting, but that sort of thing tends to fall outside of the parameters of a valid FOIA request. It was a meeting with a "witness." It wasn't an FBI meeting. The meeting was called by staffers for Senators Daschle and Leahy who wanted to listen to Dr. Rosenberg's theories, and Assistant Director Van Harp from the FBI was merely invited to attend. That probably means an FOIA request would have to be sent to Senator Leahy or ex-Senator Daschle. Maybe I'm just not "aggessive" enough, but, somehow, I can't imagine them responding favorably to a FOIA request for details of a "private" meeting with a "witness" who claimed to have information about the anthrax attacks of 2001. The most I could hope for would be a stack of pages where virtually everything is redacted and of no value.)
The place where the Wikipedia entry seems most clearly and most obviously lacking is the virtual omission of any details about the evidence against Dr. Ivins. Wikipedia seems to mention the FBI's case against Ivins only when it's a prelude to showing endless claims by theorist and outsiders that the FBI's case appears to be faulty.
Prime example: The information about the hidden message in the media letters is nowhere to be found in the Wikipedia entry. They don't even have a picture of the Brokaw letter or The New York Post letter. I'm considering trying again to add to the Wikipedia entry a new section with the title "The Hidden Message In the Brokaw and New York Post Letters." All the information would come directly from pages 56-64 of the FBI's Summary Report about the case. All the references would be references to FBI files on the FBI/DOJ's site. The hidden message is "smoking gun" evidence against Ivins, but the FBI reports doesn't use that term, so I probably couldn't get away with using it. The only arguments against the hidden message evidence are that some people simply refuse to believe it. Because they refuse to believe it, as with so much of the other evidence in the Amerithrax case, they tend to pick the hidden message evidence apart piece by piece without ever looking at it in its entirety - as a jury would be required to do. If I added the new section, there would be no "original research" and no references to my site. That doesn't mean the editors couldn't find some reason to delete it. But, if they do, it might be interesting to see their explanation for doing so.
I think my banishment expires tomorrow or Friday.
June 8, 2010 - As expected, someone removed all my changes to Wikipedia's entry about the anthrax attacks of 2001 and put things back the way they were. The claim is that my site is an "unreliable" source. So, I put the changes back and added numerous additional references to the FBI's materials and other sources. You can view the changes - before and after - by clicking on "view history" at the top of the entry.
But, later in the morning, someone else removed all my changes again and blocked me from making further updates for 55 hours. I stated my case for appeal. But, when you deal with strangers who probably don't really know the case, how do you convince them that what is on Wikipedia is mostly disproven nonsense?
This illustrates why people who have solid information rarely bother to change anything on Wikipedia that might be considered "controversial." Those who are "aggressive" about putting their beliefs on Wikipedia will almost always wear down those who try to put solid facts on Wikipedia. And the editor often can't tell who is right and wrong, so they tend to side with whoever is more aggressive and persistent.
June 7, 2010 - I awoke this morning still feeling "aggressive," and I returned to Wikipedia's entry about the anthrax attacks of 2001 to add a few items to their timelines for various years. Since all the additions are documented, there shouldn't be any reason for anyone to delete them. Here is what I added: to the 2001 timeline
* December : Sometime in mid-December, Dr. Bruce Ivins does the first of two unauthorized cleanings of areas around his office and lab, in effect destroying any evidence of contamination from the anthrax letters which may have existed in those areas. When later questioned about this cleaning, Ivins' explanations do not match his actions. On page 9 of the FBI's summary report [] they refer to this as "consciousness of guilt."
And I added this to the 2002 timeline:
* April 10, 2002: In response to a subpoena, Dr. Bruce Ivins sends what he claims to be two new samples from flask RMR-1029 to the FBI repository to replace the samples he sent in February which were improperly prepared. Later, these new samples are determined to be from some source other than flask RMR-1029 as they do not contain the mutations which are in flask RMR-1029 and the attack anthrax. The FBI views this as an attempt to mislead the investigation and further "consciousness of guilt."
And I added this to the 2007-2008 timeline:
* May 2007: Ivins sends emails to himself describing the time he spent being questioned by a grand jury. He says he spent 3 hours on one day and 2 hours on the next day answering questions from the grand jury. He describes it as "a dreadful experience." He says "The questions are very accusatory." And he says they asked "Gotcha!" type questions. The emails are in the FBI's .pfd file #847551, pages 19, 28 and 33. [}
June 6, 2010 - A big part of the problem with getting any accurate information about almost anything is that the people with an agenda will generally be very aggressive and careless in promoting their beliefs and their point of view to the public, while the experts with the facts are generally very passive and very careful in providing the facts to the public. So, we have aggressive people out desperately trying to convince the world of their beliefs, while the real experts sit around and wait for their facts to be peer reviewed and published in some semi-obscure scientific journal.
The media, of course, loves controversy. Controversy attracts the attention of viewers and readers. Facts can be boring. That's why Dr. Henry Heine's controversial and mostly incorrect statements to the National Academies of Science and to the media were made known to the world, while the actual facts were virtually ignored. (The NAS will undoubtedly check the facts, but if the NAS report doesn't provide controversy, it will probably be ignored by the media - unless the media can generate controversy by locating and interviewing people who do not believe the NAS's findings.)
Yesterday, I decided to take a look at Wikipedia's entry about the Anthrax Attacks of 2001. It's a prime example of how people with theories will rush to tell the world of their theories, while the people with solid facts generally don't even look at Wikipedia, and they won't feel any need to make corrections that someone else will simply undo.
For example, the second paragraph in the Anthrax entry says:
In mid-2008, the FBI narrowed its focus to Bruce Edwards Ivins, a scientist who worked at the government's biodefense labs at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland.
The Ivins Timeline shows that the FBI narrowed its focus to Bruce Edwards Ivins on November 1, 2007 (and possibly over a year earlier than that), not in mid-2008. But, if I changed everything that was wrong in the Wikipedia entry, it could become a full time job. I've got my own web site to maintain.
I consider the section titled "Controversy over coatings and additives" to be in particular need of an overhaul, since it seems to counter every fact with a half dozen rumors, opinions and theories as if the objective is to create doubt about the facts. There's no mention of how all the controversy began in the first place. That should be the most important part of that section. But, until the NAS publishes its findings, theories will dominate over facts.
However, sometimes, I do get in the mood to make a change to Wikipedia. (The last time I changed a Wikipedia entry was years ago.) Yesterday, I decided it was time to make another change. The section about Dr. Heine's comments to the NAS caught my eye. Yesterday morning, it read as follows:
A 16-member panel of the National Academy of Sciences has been reviewing the scientific work conducted as part of the F.B.I.'s investigation. Dr. Henry S. Heine, a microbiologist who was formerly employed at the Army’s biodefense laboratory in Maryland where Dr. Ivins had worked, told the panel that it was impossible that the deadly spores had been produced undetected in Dr. Ivins’s laboratory, as maintained by the F.B.I. He testified that using the equipment at the army lab, at least a year of intensive work would have been required to produce the quantity of spores contained in the letters, and that such an intensive effort could not have escaped the attention of colleagues. Dr. Heine also told the panel that lab technicians who worked closely with Dr. Ivins have told him they saw no such work. He stated further that where Dr. Ivins worked biological containment measures were inadequate to prevent the Anthrax spores from floating out of the laboratory into animal cages and offices. “You’d have had dead animals or dead people,” Dr. Heine said.
Technically, it's about what Dr. Heine said. And he did say all those things. So, the entry is not "wrong." It's just that no one has bothered to point out that almost everything Dr. Heine said can be proven to be totally inaccurate. The same happened in the media. They generally just reported what Dr. Heine said. Only one scientific periodical pointed out that what Dr. Heine said about how long it takes to create spores was contradicted by solid by facts. So, the world is left with wildly incorrect information because it's what the media reported and no corrections were ever made.
Feeling momentarily "aggressive," I decided to change the Wikipedia entry about Dr. Heine's comments. I changed it (the sections in red are my additions) to this:
A 16-member panel of the National Academy of Sciences has been reviewing the scientific work conducted as part of the F.B.I.'s investigation. The review is expected to be concluded and published in the fall of 2010. Dr. Henry S. Heine, a microbiologist who was formerly employed at the Army’s biodefense laboratory in Maryland where Dr. Ivins had worked, told the panel that it was impossible that the deadly spores had been produced undetected in Dr. Ivins’s laboratory, as maintained by the F.B.I. He testified that using the equipment at the army lab, at least a year of intensive work would have been required to produce the quantity of spores contained in the letters, and that such an intensive effort could not have escaped the attention of colleagues. However, in radio interviews, Dr. Heine displayed vast misunderstandings about the attack anthrax and Dr. Ivins' capabilities.  Dr. Heine stated the attack spores were "weaponized," which was untrue. He assumed there were eight letters, when there were only seven at most. He assumed that there was as much as 2 grams of spores in each letter, totaling 16 grams, when the actual total figure is around 2.5 grams, since the media powder was very crude and the powder in the Leahy letter weighed only .871 grams.  FOIA requests brought to light many of Dr. Ivins' own emails, and they showed that Dr. Ivins could routinely make three trillion grams of spores per month.  Dr. Heine told the panel that lab technicians who worked closely with Dr. Ivins have told him they saw no such work, but FBI interviews showed that the technicians working for Dr. Ivins didn't know what use Ivins made of the spores they created for him. Dr. Heine stated further that where Dr. Ivins worked biological containment measures were inadequate to prevent the Anthrax spores from floating out of the laboratory into animal cages and offices. “You’d have had dead animals or dead people,” Dr. Heine said. News reports, however, show that Dr. Ivins twice did unauthorized cleanings of the areas where the letters would have been handled, indicating that he did indeed contaminate areas at USAMRIID with anthrax spores while making the powders in the letters.
We'll see how long those changes remain on Wikipedia before someone "more aggressive" than I changes them to suit his own beliefs or attitudes what is right and wrong. Personally, I think everything except the first two sentences should simply be eliminated. When someone says something that is inaccurate, it can be less confusing to just delete the inaccurate statements instead of attempting to counter them with the facts.
When in an "aggressive" mood, it's sometimes difficult to stop. And I can become particularly "aggressive" about countering the totally false claim that the persecution of Dr. Steven Hatfill was entirely the idea of the FBI. Every time I see some careless reporter repeat that total nonsense and/or suggest there is some similarity between the Hatfill "investigation" and the Ivins investigation, I want to do something. I want to make noise. I want to try to persuade people to look at the facts.
So, I changed the Dr. Hatfill section in the Wikipedia entry about the anthrax attacks. It just said this when I started:
Before Dr. Ivins' suicide, the United States Department of Justice had named no suspects in the anthrax case. In the months following the attacks Attorney General John Ashcroft labeled Dr. Steven Hatfill a "person of interest" in a press conference, no charges were brought against him. Hatfill, a virologist, vehemently denied he had anything to do with the anthrax (bacteria) mailings and sued the FBI, the Justice Department, John Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzales, and others for violating his constitutional rights and for violating the Privacy Act. On June 27, 2008, the Department of Justice announced it would settle Hatfill's case for $5.8 million. .
Dr. Hatfill has also sued The New York Times and its columnist Nicholas D. Kristof and, separately, Donald Foster, Vanity Fair, Reader's Digest, and Vassar College, for defamation. The case against The New York Times was initially dismissed, but was reinstated on appeal. Nicholas Kristof was dropped from the suit. Hatfill's lawyers believe the Privacy Act was violated and continue to question journalists who have reported on their client.
Yesterday, I changed the entry to this:
Very soon after the attacks, Dr. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg began making speeches claiming that a "rogue agent" working for the CIA was responsible for the attacks. Although she didn't actually name the person she was talking about, she provided a description of an individual who very clearly matched that of Dr. Steven Jay Hatfill. Dr. Rosenberg and others identified Dr. Hatfill to the FBI as a "likely suspect" in October of 2001, when it became known that the Ames stain had been use in the attacks. Dr. Rosenberg made a key speech about her theory at the Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention in Geneva in November of 2001, where the official delegation walked out on her speech. She posted papers stating her theories to the web site of The Federation of American Scientists where they received wide circulation. Others gradually joined her cause, including Professor Don Foster, some journalists and and some politicians. In February of 2002, Nicholas Kristoff of the New York Times starting writing columns pointing to the same individual. The group pointing at Dr. Hatfill had all the earmarks of a lynch mob as the FBI repeatedly declared that the group's claims about the unnamed "suspect" were untrue. But, the mob persisted and stepped up the heat. Dr. Rosenberg kept telling the media that the FBI was "covering up" for the unnamed suspect in order to hide a secret and illegal bioweapons program. (At one point, the FBI interviewed Dr. Rosenberg and asked her if someone might be trying to frame Dr. Hatfill.) The actions by the "lynch mob" continued for eight months until the "mob" started arguing that if Dr. Hatfill wasn't arrested soon, there could be more anthrax attacks and millions of Americans might be killed. On June 18, 2002, Dr. Rosenberg was asked to present her latest paper and her theories to staffers working for Senators Leahy and Daschle. Van Harp, the head of the Amerithrax investigation at the time was also in attendance. When Harp was openly skeptical of Rosenberg's theory, the staffers demanded that Harp apologize to her. A week after the meeting with the staffers, on June 25, 2002, the FBI performed their first public search of Dr. Hatfill's apartment and put him under 24/7 surveillance, turning him into a household name. A month later, Attorney General John Ashcroft labeled Dr. Steven Hatfill a "person of interest" in a press conference. No charges were ever brought against Dr. Hatfill. Don Foster published an article about Dr. Hatfill in Vanity Fair magazine, which was later condensed for Readers' Digest magazine. Hatfill, a virologist, vehemently denied he had anything to do with the anthrax (bacteria) mailings and sued the FBI, the Justice Department, John Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzales, and others for violating his constitutional rights and for violating the Privacy Act. On June 27, 2008, the Department of Justice announced it would settle Hatfill's case for $5.8 million. The "Hatfill Timeline"  describes in detail the eight months of "lynch mob" activities leading up to Dr. Hatfill's apartment being searched, which turned him into a household name.
Dr. Hatfill has also sued The New York Times and its columnist Nicholas D. Kristof and, separately, Donald Foster, Vanity Fair, Reader's Digest, and Vassar College, for defamation. The case against The New York Times was initially dismissed, but was reinstated on appeal. Nicholas Kristof was dropped from the suit. Hatfill's lawyers believe the Privacy Act was violated and continue to question journalists who have reported on their client. The case was eventually dismissed on the grounds that Dr. Hatfill was a "public figure" and "malice" could not be proven.  Dr. Hatfill's lawsuit against Don Foster, Vanity Fair and Reader's digest was settled out of court and the amount of the settlement is not made public, but it was very likely in the millions.There's also a separate entry on Wikipedia for Dr. Steven Hatfill which, of course, mentioned nothing about the "lynch mob." But, it was a simple matter of "copying and pasting" to update it, too.
After making those changes to Wikipeida, I decided it was time to start working on this "comment" about what I'd done, which had the side effect of quelling my "aggressive" mood. I'd taken an "aggressive" action.
This morning, the changes are still there. If someone changes my entries, will I change them back? Time will tell. It depends upon how "aggressive" I feel. But it could be interesting to see if they are changed, how they are changed - and who changes them.
& Changes: Tuesday, June 1,
2010, thru Saturday, June 5, 2010
June 3, 2010 - I just finished reading a scientific article titled "Multi-generation Cross Contamination of Mail with Bacillus spp. Spores by Tumbling." It's an article about how letters containing spores cross-contaminate other letters mailed at about the same time, and it's intended to relate directly to the cross-contamination that occurred in the 2001 anthrax mailings. Unfortunately, the article doesn't specifically state that the Bacillus globigii spores used in the tests were not coated with silica. Yet, the fact that the spores were milled at Dugway suggests that they were indeed coated with silica. If the spores were "weaponized" with silica, it's another example of how bad information published in the media in the early days of the 2001 anthrax attacks continues to mislead scientists to this day and cause them to do scientific work that could be invalid if any comparison to the anthrax attacks of 2001 is implied or intended. (Another possibility is that someone just assumed that the spores were "milled" because of the small particle size. The spores may have been created via a more modern method which doesn't require milling and the addition of silica to eliminate the "static cling" that results from friction during milling.)
June 1, 2010 - I'm not sure what it proves, but interest in the Amerithrax investigation seems to be increasing, instead of decreasing. While viewing my web site statistics this morning, I noticed that the 16,846 visitors in May was the highest number in the past year. Not only that, there appears to be a fairly steady increase since June of 2009.
I'm not sure what's going on. The logs don't appear to explain anything.