UPDATE HISTORY
2010 (Part 1)
(January 1, 2010 - May 31, 2010)
A log of comments and changes made to the main pages.
www.anthraxinvestigation.com
Updates & Changes: Sunday, May 30, 2010, thru Monday, May 31, 2010

May 30, 2010 - Hmm.  A couple days ago, someone sent me an article titled "When Science clashes with beliefs?  Make science impotent."  The article begins with this:

It's hardly a secret that large segments of the population choose not to accept scientific data because it conflicts with their predefined beliefs: economic, political, religious, or otherwise. But many studies have indicated that these same people aren't happy with viewing themselves as anti-science, which can create a state of cognitive dissonance. That has left psychologists pondering the methods that these people use to rationalize the conflict.

A study published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology takes a look at one of these methods, which the authors term "scientific impotence"—the decision that science can't actually address the issue at hand properly. It finds evidence that not only supports the scientific impotence model, but suggests that it could be contagious. Once a subject has decided that a given topic is off limits to science, they tend to start applying the same logic to other issues.

Somehow, that article kind of fits with something that happened this morning: Someone pointed out to me an email by Bruce Ivins which seemingly contradicts something other scientists have been saying since this case began - that anthrax spores are all roughly the same size. 

In batch #56 of Dr. Ivins' emails, on page 136, there's an email dated July 14, 2004 where Dr. Ivins writes this:

Open the attached Power Point attachment. Although we have known that agar grown spores (Abshire) are larger than broth grown spores, it is interesting that the Leighton Doi broth grown spores from Dugway fermenters are slightly larger than Leighton Doi broth Ivins spores grown in shake flasks.
 
Unfortunately, we don't have the images or any actual numbers.   And it does say that the fermenter-created spores were only "slightly" larger than the flask-created spores.  But some actual data would be nice to have.   Are the larger spores thicker?  Longer?  Both?

It doesn't make any difference to the investigation, of course.  But, I already had a comment written for this morning about one of the supplemental pages I've been thinking about writing and adding to this web site (and perhaps as a new chapter for a new book).  The new supplemental page would be tentatively called "Anthrax By The Numbers."  The idea is to put in one file all the known and confirmed numerical data about the Ames strain and the attack powders: How big is a spore?  How much does a spore weigh?  How much anthrax powder was in the envelopes?  What percentages of the attack powders contained Silicon?  What was the dry weight percentage of the silicon in the attack powders?  What is the "generation time" for the Ames strain?   Etc.

But now we have a comment from a scientist which suggests that the approximate size of a "typical" anthrax spore may vary based upon how it was created.  How much does it vary?  We don't know.  But it probably varies enough for those who argue "scientific impotence" to claim that no number can be relied upon, because Nature is involved.  They'll argue: Nature is not a machine which always produces absolutely identical spores.  Nature prefers variation and mutations. 

I was having a similar problem when I started looking for a definitive average number for the "generation time" for the Ames strain, i.e., the average time it takes a living Bacillus anthracis bacterium to double into two living bacteria.  I've seen numbers ranging from about 10 minutes to about 40 minutes.   I used 20 minutes when I created the comic strip "The Story of Suzy the Spore."  But some of the links to the references I used back then (in 2006) no longer work.  Where did I get that 20 minute figure from?

I started searching for new links to solid data about the generation time for Bacillus anthracis, and that led me to
an article titled "Growth Characteristics of Virulent Bacillus anthracis and Potential Surrogate Strains.  They report the time is about 10 minutes for the Vollum and Pasteur strains, and about 30 minutes for the Stern strain.  No mention of Ames, though.  So, I refined my search to look specifically for Ames strain generation times, and that led me to a scientific article which said the time for Ames was 15 to 20 minutes.  But, that article referenced as its source a November 12, 2001 article in The New Yorker titled "The Ames Strain."  The New Yorker article says:

Once inside the warm, moist environment of the cow's digestive system, the spores came back to life, releasing their bacteria, which grow at phenomenal rates -- each organism replicating itself every fifteen to twenty minutes.

Hmm.  Okay.  But, I didn't think I could cite The New Yorker as the definitive resource for how long it takes a typical Bacillus anthracis Ames bacterium to replicate or double.   Where did the author of the New Yorker article get that information?  The article doesn't say.  But what the article does say about other matters illustrates the main problem I have in getting new supplemental pages finished.  I get sidetracked.  In this case, I realized this was the article mentioned in the October 29, 2001 email sent to Dr. Bruce Ivins with the subject "
New Yorker urgently asks fact-check on one question."  On Thursday of last week, I'd found that email on page 11 in Batch 37 of Ivins' emails.  But I failed to ask myself the question: Did I have a copy of the New Yorker article in my archives?  I checked yesterday, and yes, I did have a link to it in my original web page from that time period.  But the search had led me to the copy archived by UCLA, and I decided to read the article again.

The New Yorker article seems to be a contender for the highest number of errors in a single news article.  Examples:

Early news reports suggested that the F.B.I. had traced the anthrax to a laboratory in Ames, from which the bacteria had perhaps been stolen or otherwise obtained by terrorists.      

Wow.   It's pure fantasy that terrorists were involved.  And, the FBI did NOT trace the anthrax to any laboratory in Ames.  At that time, the FBI was trying to trace the source of the Ames strain and their hunt had led them to Iowa, but the Iowa lead seemed to be a dead end.  No one at any lab in Iowa had ever heard of "the Ames strain."  Nor did they know of any cow in Iowa that had contracted anthrax in 1980 or 1981, which meant that something had to be incorrect in the lead that sent them to Iowa.  That lead was apparently generated by a 1986 scientific article co-authored by Dr. Gregory B. Knudson, which contained this tiny tidbit of information about the source for the Ames strain:

Ames ............................Cow; Iowa, 1980

The New Yorker writer, however, decided that Iowa as indeed the source for the Ames strain:

It now seemed likely that there was an Iowa State connection to the Ames strain, and that the original culture of the Ames isolate was sterilized and incinerated with the rest of the veterinary school's collection. Jim Roth had wondered about that possibility, and the school had contacted the F.B.I. and the Centers for Disease Control before killing the specimens. Both agencies approved the destruction.

And

What they do know is that it all began with a sick cow, probably somewhere in a pasture in the western part of Iowa, probably in 1979.

Probably.  Probably.  That was the reporter's conclusion, probably because there were no anthrax cases in Iowa in 1980 or 1981, but someone remembered a case in 1979.  And the reporter jumps to other false conclusions as well:

The National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames serves as the diagnostic center for the entire nation; it is a repository for all manner of germs and diseases that afflict American livestock. That is why the U.S. Army wrote to the N.V.S.L. in late 1980 requesting a sample of an anthrax culture. The Ames lab made a subculture of the anthrax and sent it to the Army's Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases --USAMRIID  -- at Fort Detrick, near Frederick, Maryland, along with the information that the isolate had come from a dead cow. The Army named it the Ames strain.

And then the New Yorker article provides wrong and/or misleading information about "clumping":

In even the purest concentrate, anthrax spores, like most small particles, will clump together, owing to natural electrostatic force. "If you just grow up spores in a test tube and then you remove the liquid, you'll have a kind of a clump," says Philip S. Brachman, a legendary epidemiologist and an old anthrax hand. "Now, that clump won't go anywhere -- it'll fall to the ground." The next grand step in weaponizing anthrax is to cause those purified spores to separate, like individual sprinkles of a fine powder, so they can linger in the air and be inhaled.

Spores do NOT - REPEAT NOT - clump together due to any "natural electrostatic force."  In nature, spores easily fly free and can infect anyone who breathes in enough of them - as frequently happened in wool sorting factories during the Industrial Revolution and throughout history.  That's why "wool-sorter's disease" became the focus of Dr. Robert Koch who, in the 1870's discovered how the disease now known as "anthrax" was caused by spores floating in the air. 

The act of drying accumulations of spores in a test tube or on a plate will cause the spores to clump the same way a clump of tiny wet particles of almost anything will remain a clump when dried together.  But that doesn't really happen in nature.  There is no natural process which causes spores to locate each other and form clumps.  Clumps in nature are NOT clumps of spores.  They are generally clumps of dirt and blood or animal fats, with some spores mixed in the clumps.

Then the author of the article provides some very wrong information:

A single gram of powdered anthrax can contain as many as a hundred billion anthrax spores.

In reality, a single gram of pure powdered anthrax should always contain roughly a trillion spores - ten times what the New Yorker reporter claims.  (And that probably still holds true even if the spores vary slightly in size based upon how they were made.)   The New Yorker article then provides more wrong information:

The letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle's office last month contained two grams of purified, powdery anthrax spores

Two grams is just someone's guess stated as a fact.   The only apparently solid fact we have is what was reported in The New York Times.  The spores in the Leahy letter were weighed, and they weighed .871 grams.  That's less than half of what the New Yorker author claimed.

Here's something that is more interesting than wrong, but still wrong:

The Ames strain's reputation among laboratory scientists created a demand for it, and the demand was handily met. Philip Brachman says that if he had wanted to get hold of an anthrax strain, he could have simply written to a laboratory that had it and they would have sent it to him. Germ banks around the world maintain and sell from collections of bacteria, and hundreds of university and research laboratories freely exchange strains of various organisms.

We now know that only 18 labs had the Ames strain, nowhere near the number people believed in November of 2001.  So, there was either no great demand or most requests were refused instead of "handily met."

Samples from the anthrax letters were sent to Keim at his laboratory in Flagstaff, where he put the bacteria through genetic-sequencing tests and compared them to known strains. Soon, he had a match: it was the Ames strain.
 
In reality, bacteria from Bob Stevens' body was shipped to Paul Keim, and it was from those samples that it was learned that the Ames strain was the strain that killed Stevens.  That was on October 5, ten days before the first letter was found.  Later, Paul Keim also tested samples from the letters and found that the spores in those letters were all the same strain that had killed Stevens.

Because of its popularity in laboratories, Ames had become a sort of stock strain, untraceable through its genetics alone to any particular source.

Another belief stated as fact.  We now know that it was not any "sort of stock strain" and genetics alone could and did trace it  to a particular source - directly to flask RMR-1029, which was controlled by Bruce Ivins.

The anthrax sent to Senator Daschle's office was weaponized -- that is, it had been pulverized by the method that Bill Patrick pioneered almost forty years ago.

Total baloney.  Made up nonsense.  False conclusions resulting from beliefs instead of from research.  The anthrax sent to Senator Daschle's office was NOT weaponized.

The fact that it was weaponized means that the powder contained not only anthrax spores but the anti-caking material that allows the spores to float free. Identifying that material --which has been described as a fine, brownish particulate -- could help to pinpoint the source.

More total baloney.  More made up nonsense.  More false conclusions resulting from beliefs instead of from research.

In announcing the discovery that an anti-cling agent had been added to the anthrax sent through the mail, intelligence officials declared that only three nations in the world had the capacity to weaponize anthrax in that manner: the United States, the former Soviet Union, and Iraq. According to the Washington Post, an unnamed government official also said that "the totality of the evidence in hand suggests that it is unlikely that the spores were originally produced in the former Soviet Union or Iraq."

The "intelligence officials" who were making those claims - if they really existed - were people who had never seen the attack anthrax and who were making assumptions based upon incorrect information printed in the media.  This New Yorker article is a prime example of just how much nonsense was being printed in the early days of the case.

And, of course, there was never a retraction article from The New Yorker.  They never published a list of all the errors in the article.  And, as a result, people today are probably still using it as a source for scientific papers.   The statement that it takes "fifteen to twenty minutes" for an anthrax bacterium to replicate itself may be totally true, but how can I cite that data when it's from an article so filled with errors?

And there apparently will never be any retractions to the claims made by Dr. Henry Heine about how long it would take Dr. Ivins to create the spores in the attack letters.   Millions of people read what was in The New York Times and all the other newspapers and magazines, and tens thousands probably listened to the same nonsense on radio programs.   I only get about 600 visitors a day to this site.  The emails from Dr. Ivins prove that Dr. Heine was wrong.  But how many people are going to believe the facts when false information is so widely distributed and redistributed, and when there are so many ways to rationalize ignoring the facts?    

Similar thoughts have been keeping me from working on another new supplemental page, the one I've tentatively titled "Dr. Bruce Ivins and the Murder of Bob Stevens."  When I start trying to figure out what was in Dr. Ivins' mind by looking at his actions, things seem fairly clear.  But will my interpretations be convincing?  I don't believe anything I write will ever change the mind of any True Believer or conspiracy theorist, but how convincing would my interpretations be to a person with an open mind?  Here are three examples uncovered last week: 

1. When the source of the Ames stain suddenly became uncertain, Dr. Ivins was inordinately upset about being questioned regarding its source.  He wrote:

"the individuals primarily responsible for determining the location of the strain are located in Ames, Iowa, not in Frederick, Maryland"

2.  When people started claiming that the Ames strain may have come from USAMRIID, Ivins claimed it was an attack upon scientists working for the Department of Defense.  In an apparent attempt to get support from other scientists at USAMRIID, he wrote:

"it is transparently evident that we are being harassed by our regular detractors simply because we are DOD researchers."

3.  When it became totally clear that the Ames strain came from Texas and not from Iowa, Ivins argued that it must have also gone to Iowa - perhaps to Iowa and then to USAMRIID.  He wrote:

"He also said that it is possible that the actual case (dead cow) may have been in Texas, and that the strain may have then gone from Texas to Ames, Iowa, and then to XXXXX.   If that is the case, then USAMRIID is third in line as far the origin of the "Ames strain," and we have no idea as to where the Texas lab or the NVSL in Ames sent the strain."

In his actions, Dr. Ivins' expressed an intense need to have the Ames strain be a widely distributed, totally untraceable strain.  When that fact became doubtful, he then tried to convince people that someone at some other lab - in Texas or in Iowa - could have made the powders.  He was trying again and again to point people away from USAMRIID.  That only makes sense if he used the Ames strain because he believed it was untraceable.  When it became clear that USAMRIID was indeed the source, he then started pointing to others at USAMRIID as possible suspects.

It seems very clear what Dr. Ivins' thoughts were at that time the source of the Ames strain was being investigated.  If he'd been innocent, it shouldn't have made any difference to him where the anthrax came from.  But it clearly did make a difference to him.

Dr. Ivins went through a similar thought process when he learned of Bob Stevens' death.  Dr. Ivins sent out email after email trying to find some way that Bob Stevens could have died from anthrax contracted from some natural source instead of the anthrax-filled letter that Dr. Ivins had sent to the National Enquirer - even though a natural source was extremely unlikely.  Why else would it be so important to Dr. Ivins that the death of Bob Stevens be from some natural source and not from some "terrorist" action? 

In a taped discussion with "a witness" not long before his suicide (as reported on pages 70 & 71 of the FBI summary), Dr. Ivins said:

"I don’t have it in my heart to kill anybody"

"I am not a killer at heart."

"I don’t think of myself as a vicious, a, a nasty evil person."    

So, we know some of what was going through Dr. Ivins' mind before his suicide.  He hadn't intended to kill anyone.  It should be clear that variations on those same thoughts were in his mind when he prepared the deadly letters and mailed them.  I just need to sit down and focus on writing a convincing narrative of what happened.

But, I keep getting sidetracked.  Focus. Focus. Focus.

I have a section in this web page for "References."  Why haven't I updated it to include the web site where all of Dr. Ivins' emails are located?  Why did I spend two days hunting for that link?  And why do I always have to hunt for the link to the FBI's summary report and to the page where the 2,720 pages of supplementary data are located?

Okay, I've updated the References section, adding those three references.  So, now I need to get back to whatever it was I was working on before I got sidetracked.   What was I working on?  Focus.  Focus.  Focus. 

Updates & Changes: Sunday, May 23, 2010, thru Saturday, May 29, 2010

May 27, 2010 - Ah!  Finally!  I'd been looking for the link to the USAMRIID web site where Dr. Ivins' actual emails are posted.  I'd misplaced it.  Someone finally supplied the link for me.  It's HERE.  So, now no one has to rely upon someone else's copies.  We can all go directly to the source.

Batch 55 of Dr. Ivins emails contains the email
I discussed on May 25 where Dr. Ivins calculated the costs and manhours for producing 500 billion spores.  It's on page 8 of the 208 page .pdf file. 

On page 6 of that same batch is the October 12, 2001 email where Dr. Ivins complains that people should be asking the USDA where the Ames strain came from, not Ft. Detrick.

Looking through batch 57 of the emails, I see that page 14 of the 310 page .pdf file contains Bruce Ivins' calculations for making one trillion spores  ("a 12-flask run of anthrax (1X 10^12 spores").  It's a repeat of the calculations for making 500 billion spores, except that all the man-hours are doubled:

Preparation for run ( ordering and preparing all media, glassware, centrifuge, rotor and bottles, laboratory area, etc.) - 32 hours XXXXXXX $1440

Spore production (inoculation, harvest, wash, storage, counts) - 16 hours XXXXXXXX $720.00 ; 16 hours Bruce Ivins - $960.00

Cleanup and decontamination of materials and area - 16 hours XXXXXXX $720.00 ; 16 hours Bruce Ivins - $960.00

Purification of spores on Hypaque - 4 hours Bruce Ivins  $ 240.00; 4 hours XXXXXXXX $180.00

Characterization of spores (% refractile, non-refractile, vegetative cells, debris, clumping, encapsulation, viability, heat resistance ) - 8 hours XXXXXX $360.00 ; 8 hours Bruce Ivins - $480.00.

And if you want to know how many spores Dr. Ivins could routinely make in a year by following documented steps, the answer is on page 43 of that same .pdf file.  It's 36 trillion:

For each production run of 1 X 10^12 spores (3 per month, 36 per year):

(Direct Labor costs (no overhead costs [benefits, retirement, etc.] included):
contract technician - $45.00 per hour; contract technician #2, $50.00 per hour; Bruce Ivins, principal investigator - $ 60.00 per hour)

Preparation for run ( ordering and preparing all media, glassware, centrifuge rotor and bottles, laboratory area, etc.) - 12 hours - $ 540; 8 hours - second contract technician $400.00

Spore production (inoculation, harvest, wash, storage, counts) - 10 hours - $450.00
; 10 hours second contract technician - $500. 10 hours Bruce Ivins - $ 600.00

Cleanup and decontamination of materials and area - 8 hours - $ 360.00 ; 8 hours second contract technician - $400. 6 hours Bruce Ivins - $ 360.00

Purification of spores on Hypaque - 6 hours Bruce Ivins - $ 360.00; 4 hours 180.00; 4 hours second contract technician - $200.00.

Characterization of spores (% refractile, non-refractile, vegetative cells, debris, clumping, encapsulation,
viability, endotoxin content, vegetative cell content, heat resistance ) - 6 hours - $270.00 ; 6 hours Bruce Ivins - $360.00; 6 hours contract technician - $300.00; $150.00; - $150.00

Total labor = $5,580.00


I suppose it could still be argued that it routinely took Ivins almost a month to create the amount of spores that were in the anthrax letters, yet others have said that it could have been done in a matter of days.  The difference appears to be that creating spores at night and on weekends is NOT a routine procedure, and therefore it is not necessary to follow all the steps that are followed when creating spores to be used for official aerosol testing.

The cost calculations are repeated on page 57, 58, 109-110, 115, 120, 124, 127and 136.  It appears that Dr. Ivins merely copied and pasted the same numbers over and over whenever he was asked for such calculations. 

I've downloaded copies of the .pdfs to my own files for my own use.  They are searchable files - unlike a lot of .pdf files which are pictures of documents which cannot be searched.  For example, if you want to look for the term "USDA," it's a simple search to look for it.   I did a search through Batches 50 - 54 looking for "USDA" and found no mention of the term.  Then, I looked at Batch 37 and found a very interesting email on page 11.  It contains questions from the New Yorker magazine intermingled with answers that may or may not be from Dr. Bruce Ivins (and there may be other people asking questions, too, as the email from the New Yorker gets forwarded from person to person at USAMRIID):

From: Ivins, Bruce E Dr USAMRIID
To:
Subject: FW: New Yorker urgently asks fact-check on one question. Please
Date: Monday, October 29, 2001 9:12:13 PM

More info,

-----Original Message-----
From:
Sent: Monday, October 29, 2001 7:08 PM
To:
Cc: bruce.ivins@amedd.army.mil;
Subject: New Yorker urgently asks fact-check on one question. Please

Dear  XXXXXX  Dr. Ivins),

Okay, I give. But I have to turn this story in tomorrow night, for publication next week. In the interest of factual accuracy, would one of you be kind enough to answer this question?

The field tests of the human anthrax vaccine conducted by XXXXXX and his colleagues in the 1950s (testing those workers up in New England who handled goat hair) demonstrated the efficacy of the human anthrax vaccine against inhalation anthrax. Why were y'all still testing it on rhesus monkeys a few years ago?
*****************************************************************
We were testing a vaccine that was somewhat different than the 1950s vaccine, with respect to fermentation conditions and absorption onto different aluminum adjuvants. 

That IS why you all requested what you called the "Ames
strain" in 1980, isn't it? Or, were those for different tests?
***************************************************************
In late 1980 and early 1981, when anthrax research had dramatically picked up as a result of learning of
the Sverdlovsk incident, we began writing to scientists, laborataories and culture collections to gather
sample strains for the impending vaccine research. The strain sent to us by the NVSL at the USDA in
Ames, Iowa, was one of them.  [NVSL = National Veterinary Services Laboratories, Ames, Iowa]

More than anything, I really need to know, even if it's only in the most
general terms, why y'all needed that strain from the NVSL in 1980.
**************************************************************
We were not seeking that specific strain, (which did not come with a specific designation) nor at the time did we know anything about its virulence. We asked for strains from other laboratories as well.  That strain was not singled out for us to obtain by anyone. It just so happened that it was one strain that we obtained through our many requests.

It really
does help to be as factually accurate as possible in moments such as this, especially given the fact that, for example, the New Scientist now reports that USAMRIID had weaponized the "Ames" strain.
**********************************************************************************
You have GOT to be kidding me!!!!!! This is scurrilous, egregious, outrageous, as well as completely
wrong.  XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX  

It's my understanding that
the "Ames" strain was not weaponized by the U.S.
**********************************************************
That is correct.

But I'd really, really love to know if I'm going to be correct in explaining that USAMRIID asked for this
bloody isolate from that unfortunate bovine in 1980 because it was challenging the human anthrax vaccine.
***********************************************************************************
In late 1980 and early 1981, when anthrax research started up again here at USAMRIID, we had no
virulent strains in the institute to use for challenge in vaccine studies. We eventually were sent the
Vollum 1B strain from Dugway Proving Ground. We also obtained strains, including the Ames strain,
from other laboratories. We intended to test the human vaccine against various virulent strains to
hopefully demonstrate in the guinea pig model that AVA was protective against all strains. The "Ames"
strain was one of those tested, and it was found to be highly refractory to AVA in the guinea pig model.

Thank you very much,


On page 19 of that Ivins email batch #38 there's an email which indicates that as of November 28, 2001 they still hadn't figured out where the Ames strain came from.  They still believed that it came from the USDA in Ames, Iowa.  Dr. Ivins wrote at that time:

In view of recent comments by XXXXX and XXXXX to the press about the supposed ease of getting anthrax strains (especially the Ames strain) from XXXXX and USAMRIID, perhaps it should be pointed out to people that neither of the above individuals got the strain from us. The Ames strain was sent to Porton Down in the mid 1980s. From there, the Brits sent the strain to XXXXX who, in turn sent it to XXXXX.   Also, it should be pointed out that this is not a "Fort Detrick strain." It was a strain from the USDA National Veterinary Service Laboratory in Ames, Iowa. Neither they, nor Iowa State University (which conveniently autoclaved all of its B. anthracis strains in October) are able (or willing) to provide a record of all the individuals and institutions that received the Ames strain from them. We know EXACTLY who received the Ames strain (and other B. anthracis strains) from us:

1) Porton Down, mid 1980s
2) 1992, Dugway Proving Ground
3) 1998, DRES (Canada)
4) 2001, Battelle (Columbus, Ohio)
5) 2001, U. of New Mexico Health Science Center (Albequerque)

Cool.

There is no mention of the USDA in batch #39 (nor is there any mention of Texas).  Batch #40, however, contains this email on page 37:

From: Ivins, Bruce E Dr USAMRIID
To: XXXXX
Cc: XXXXX
Subject: Proprietary - not for Public Distribution
Date: Tuesday, January 22, 2002 8:06:27 AM

Proprietary - Not for Public Distribution


This morning's Washington Post described the genomic sequencing of Ames strains. They mentioned the

"USAMRIID" strain, but which USAMRIID Ames strain are they talking about? XXXXX and I have the original seed stock Ames strain from the agar slant received from Ames, Iowa USDA. We also have Ames spores that Dugway made for us. XXXXX and DSD (and possibly others) have XXXXX version of the Ames strain (BA 1004). This version was apparently passaged an unknown number of times while XXXXX was here.

The point is...when someone talks about the "USAMRIID" Ames strain, there are actually three
versions of this "USAMRIID" Ames strain, with only one of them being the original slant seed stock.

- Bruce   


So, on January 22, 2002, Dr. Ivins still believes (or claims to believe) that the Ames strain came from the USDA in Iowa, and he's trying to convince people that a lot of others besides USAMRIID also have the Ames strain.  It's another example of how important it was to Dr. Ivins that his belief be correct that the Ames strain was a very widely-used, very common strain that would be impossible to trace to a specific source.

On page 64 of Ivins emails .pdf file #40 there's a January 29, 2002 email from Bruce Ivins which contains this:

I just spoke on the phone with XXXXX at AFRRI [Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute].  He is going to FAX me whatever information he has on the Ames strain. He told me that the strain was definitely sent to him from the NVSL in Ames, Iowa. He also said that it is possible that the actual case (dead cow) may have been in Texas, and that the strain may have then gone from Texas to Ames, Iowa, and then to XXXXX.   If that is the case, then USAMRIID is third in line as far the origin of the "Ames strain," and we have no idea as to where the Texas lab or the NVSL in Ames sent the strain. I will keep everyone informed on this as soon as I get more information from XXXXX.

- Bruce


Ah!  Texas is now in the picture as of January 29, 2002.  And Dr. Ivins (and probably everyone else) now believes it went from Texas to the USDA in Ames and from the USDA to USAMRIID.

An attachment to that same email on that same page and with the same date contains this:

We most certainly DID get the "Ames strain" from the USDA, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services, National Veterinary Services Laboratories, P.O. Box 844, Ames, Iowa 50010. We have a Xerox copy of the original mailing label from them.

Ah.  I have the mailing label, too.   They still needed to figure out that the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory at Texas A&M used a prepaid USDA mailing label in order to save on shipping costs as they sent the Ames sample from Texas directly to USAMRIID.

Oops.  On the next page, page 65, there's this from January 29:

XXXXX Bruce: Please see message below, which was forwarded to me XXXXX who works in Homeland Security in the White House. Can you clarify at all for me as to assertion that Ames never came from Iowa and that we got Ames from a lab in Texas? Have any of you been contacted by the press on this? Obviously, would like to get ahead of the curve on this if press is going to make these assertions. Immediate feedback, please.

The message that is apparently from the headquarters of the USDA has the subject "Heads Up" and says:

We have been working with XXXXX at the Wash Post on an Anthrax story for  several months.

He initially submitted a FOIA on information. We hooked him up with folks at
our lab in Ames.  XXXXX think I emailed earlier on this). Friday, the NYT called for the same information. Essentially both reporters are doing stories on the history of the Ames strain.  Evidence is becoming more clear that show the so called Ames strain never even came from Iowa...the NYT reporter somehow had the info that showed this. We can expect possible stories on this within the next few days..They have both contacted the Army.  The investigation is turning up info that shows that the Army may have gotten it from a lab in Texas.

Our key points are:
   Anthrax strains are similiar and it is difficult to distinguish, but USDA has no evidence to indicate that the 'ames' strain was ever in our lab in Iowa.

I'd like to give the Army folks a heads up...do you have a contact?
 
Also on page 65 is this from Dr. Ivins:

I remember it coming from Iowa, however.  About the same time that we received the Ames strain, we received the "Texas" strain from XXXXX at Texas A&M.

Let me know if there's more info that we can provide.

- Bruce

Yup.  Now they know that the Ames strain came from Texas A&M, but Dr. Ivins still thinks (or hopes) there may have been some other samples of Ames that went to the USDA in Ames and got widely distributed from there.

Ending my search for "USDA" and looking for "Texas," instead, I found that page 28 of that same .pdf file (#40) contains the January 30, 2002 New York Times article by William Broad which says:

Federal investigators have found in recent weeks that the so-called Ames strain was first identified not in Ames,
Iowa, its reputed home, but a thousand miles south, in Texas. The strain of the bacteria was found on a dead cow
near the Mexican border in 1981, and the geographic gaffe was the result of a clerical error by a scientific
researcher.

The article still contains some incorrect information.  They still think the Ames strain is a common strain in Texas.  It wasn't.   The article suggests the culprit could have simply dug the Ames strain out of the soil in Texas.  Because it is such a rare strain, that is virtually (but not completely) impossible (and it wouldn't contain the 4 mutations).  

On page 30, there's a related article from The Associated Press which names names:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- To Dr. Michael L. Vickers, a dead cow lying in a remote pasture of a South Texas ranch in 1981 was no different from the hundreds of other felled cattle he had seen.

Vickers, who has a private veterinary practice in nearby
Falfurrias, sliced out tissue from the animal -- the liver,
the spleen and other organs -- put them into a plastic ice chest and sent them by bus to a laboratory in College
Station, home of Texas A&M.

He was sure the animal had died of anthrax -- the
blackberry color of the spleen was the main clue -- but he
sought confirmation from the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory.

``It was just another anthrax,'' recalls Vickers. ``In the
field, anthrax is just anthrax. We see it just about every
year.''

Vickers had no idea that 21 years later bacteria perhaps
descended from those specimens he collected would be at the center of a bioterrorism attack that would kill five people, infect a dozen more and force the evacuation and
sterilization of buildings in Florida, New York and Washington.

Back in 1981, workers at the College Station lab received
Vickers' package and cultured specimens from the organs of the dead cow. They quickly confirmed that the specimens were loaded with bacteria with the characteristic bamboo-jointed rods of anthrax.

Dr. Konrad Eugster, chief of the diagnostic lab in 1981,
remembered that the Army had earlier requested a fresh
field isolate of anthrax. He said two vials filled with the anthrax cultures were packaged in ice and shipped to Fort
Detrick, Md., headquarters of the Army's biological warfare research center.

Eugster said the box bore a prepaid label with the return
address of the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, an Agriculture Department facility.

The local reporter who interviewed me last Friday seemed totally puzzled about why I was still fascinated by the Amerithrax investigation after all these years.  What I found and learned today is a very good example of what keeps me fascinated with this case.  I'm always fascinated with seeing how mistaken beliefs are found to be incorrect and how long it takes - and all the steps required - to make everything clear to everyone.

May 25, 2010 (B) - I just noticed something else in the Bruce Ivins emails recently posted to Lew Weinstein's web site.  In an email sent by Bruce Ivins on Sunday, March 21, 2004, Dr. Ivins states:

I get (in open flask production) 3 X 10^11 purified spores per liter of original culture. 

3 X 10^11 in layman's language is 300 billion.  It's also 300 billion spores per liter.  And Dr. Ivins could do 4 or 5 liters at a time.   So, we have a totally unimpeachable source debunking Dr. Henry Heine's claim that Dr. Ivins could only create 10 billion spores per run.  Dr. Ivins himself debunked what Dr. Heine claimed.  (See my comment for May 23.)

Ah!  It gets better and better.  Also on Lew Weinstein's web site is an email written by Bruce Ivins which explains how many man hours it takes to create 500 billion spores.  The email is dated Friday, April 23, 2004 and says:

Following our meeting yesterday, the following is what I calculate our direct costs to be from producing, harvesting and purifying a single run of Ames spores, total of 5 X 10^11 [500 billion] spores:

Preparation for run (ordering and preparing all media, glassware, centrifuge rotor and bottles, laboratory area, etc.) - 16 hours.

Spore production (inoculation, harvest, wash, storage, counts) - 8 hours.

Cleanup and decontamination of materials and area - 8 hours [for each of two people].

Purification of spores in Hypaque - 2 hours [for each of two people].

Characterization of spores (% refractile, non-refractile, vegetatives cells, debris, clumping, encapsulation, viability, heat resistance) - 4 hours (for each of two people).

That last step probably wouldn't be needed when creating spores in secret for sending through the mails.  But, no matter how you look at those numbers, it would NOT take Dr. Ivins a year to create 2.5 million spores as Dr. Henry Heine claimed, particularly if one batch is very crude and doesn't need most of the steps listed above.

May 25, 2010 (A) - Someone on another web site is hunting for proof of Dr. Ivins' innocence, but, as one would expect, he's finding only further evidence of Dr. Ivins' guilt.  Using FOIA requests, he has obtained emails sent by Dr. Ivins in 2003 and 2004.   An email Dr. Ivins sent out in 2004 contains as subset an email Ivins sent out on October 12, 2001.  People at that time were still trying to track down the true source of the Ames strain.  In his 2001 email Dr. Ivins appears very angry or testy as he writes:

I can tell you to whom I have sent this so-called "Ames" strain.  Please keep in mind that a) it is apparently 50 years old; b) that USAMRIID received this strain 20 years ago; c) that it is a USDA strain, not a USAMRIID strain, U.S. Army strain, or Department of Defense strain; d) the individuals primarily responsible for determining the location of the strain are located in Ames, Iowa, not in Frederick, Maryland; e) that of any U.S. labs having human pathogenic strains (including B. anthracis), none have higher security than USAMRIID, f) that if we are the only recipients of this "tasker," it is transparently evident that we are being harassed by our regular detractors simply because we are DOD researchersIt is not within the purview of USAMRIID researchers to ascertain where the USDA has sent its strains such as Delta-Ames and ANR, which can be converted to full virulence using existing molecular biology models, and which would be identified as the "Ames" strain.)

So, we have another confirmation that at the time of the mailings Dr. Ivins (like everyone else) falsely believed the Ames strain came from the USDA in Ames, Iowa.   However, no one at the USDA nor anywhere else in Iowa knew anything about any "Ames" strain.   And because the facts were pointing back at USAMRIID, Ivins argued that they are being "harassed" just because they are part of the Department of Defense.

It's clear from his tone that Dr. Ivins was very heavily invested in his belief that the Ames strain had been distributed by the USDA to countless labs all over the world.  He interpreted the effort to determine the true source of the Ames strain to be an attack upon the DOD and a danger to his beliefs.  A scientist not so heavily invested would probably have found it amusing that people were having such a hard time tracking down the true source of the Ames strain.

I've updated my Bruce Ivins Timeline with this information, and I'll also add it to the page about The Errors That Snared Bruce Ivins.

May 24, 2010 - For what it's worth, this morning someone pointed out an error in the comment I wrote yesterday.  The error is in this quote from the WFMD interviewer:

Interviewer:  I just got an IM [Instant Message] from somebody who said "When Ivins admitted he took the Tylenol-3 overdose, were there only government doctors and witnesses involved there?"  Do you know that?

Dr. Ivins didn't take "Tylenol 3" which contains codeine, he took Tylenol-PM which does NOT contain codeine.  Wikipedia says,

A summary of the police report of his death, released in 2009, lists the cause of death as liver and kidney failure, citing his purchase of 2 bottles of Tylenol PM (containing diphenhydramine), contradicting earlier reports of Tylenol with codeine.[24]

I didn't notice the error, even though it was a subject of several discussions in the past.   Evidently, Tylenol overdosing is a "hot button issue" with some people - particularly some paramedics.  They feel that the FDA should require that all types of Tylenol be sold with an antidote in the capsule, as is done in England.   The antidote (a small amount of an amino acid) would prevent the kind of "ugly deaths" that are associated with overdoses of
acetaminophen.

May 23, 2010 - Last week was another slow week for Internet discussion about the anthrax case, but it was a very active week for me.  Late in the prior week, a local newspaper reporter called me to arrange an interview
for Friday the 21st, which meant I spent much of last week thinking about what the reporter might ask and what important subjects I should probably try to address.  (I also had to spend a lot of time cleaning up my apartment in preparation for the interview.)

And, of course, as with all interviews I've done, as soon as the interview was over, I began thinking about all the things I should have mentioned but didn't.

The interview was evidently partially or wholly prompted by the Dr. Henry Heine interviews in the media, and the fact that on this web site I had dismissed Dr. Heine's opinions as uninformed and self-serving.

During my interview with the local reporter, I talked a great deal about the evidence against Dr. Bruce Ivins, and I stepped through all the evidence which makes it abundantly clear that Dr. Ivins was the culprit responsible for the anthrax attacks.  The reporter must have asked at least three times if I had any doubts at all about Dr. Ivins' guilt.  Each time I told her, I have no doubts about Ivins' guilt.

What she didn't ask, and what I failed to mention, are the reasons I can dismiss the opinions of Dr. Heine.  I'm just a guy on the Internet, and I'm saying that a respected scientist who personally knew Dr. Ivins is wrong.   Is it simply because I have different opinions?  No.  It is because I have facts which show that Dr. Heine's opinions are incorrect.

First and foremost, Dr. Heine still believes the attack anthrax was "weapons grade" and weaponized with silicon.  That is the reason why he doesn't believe Ivins could have made it.  How do I know that is what Dr. Heine believes?  I know it because I listened to the April 21, 2010 WFMD radio interview where the interviewer (apparently Bob Miller) discussed the case with Dr. Heine.  Beginning at the 13:45 minute mark in the 26:06 minute interview, this exchange takes place:

Interviewer: You said that there seems to be - in the department of Justice web site that you saw - there's some missing interviews.

Dr. Heine:  Yes.

Interviewer: The interviews you gave when they were focused on Dr. Steven Hatfill.  Maybe.  Or am I ...?

Dr. Heine: Well, I mean, among other things, the early interviews from about late October of 2001 to 2003 ... that's when the interviews pick up in 2003.   So, there is a little over a year - maybe a year and a couple months' worth of interviews that are completely omitted from what they've released.

Interviewer: In those interviews, you said there is something that is glaring and something that you look at and that other people are looking at as well - and that is the whole silicone issue and how silicone is linked in this.

Dr. Heine:  And it may be coincidence, but that's when there was some keen interest in - early on - the silicone content of the spores.  And they were asking us questions regarding some of the work we had done - and there was a key interest then - Did you introduce silicone?  Why did you do that?  And what happened to those samples?

Interviewer: And why is silicone germane to this whole thing?

Dr. Heine:  Well, it gets back to the guest you had on a couple weeks before my first visit, and there's been a big question about the silicone of the spore preps.  It's very high.  This suggests ... it gets back to the very early reports about this being weapons grade as it were.  And, the point that these spores were manipulated and processed in some way.

Interviewer:  When we talk about silicone about the anthrax, what does the silicone do to with the makeup of the anthrax to make it important in this whole investigation?

Dr. Heine: Well, this is where you need another expert, and I would have to go based upon what I've read and so forth, but what has been suggested is that higher silicone content is what made this particular material so powdery and so readily able to form a cloud - you know, just on a puff.  The material was very much like talcum powder.  And anybody who has ever opened a bottle of talcum powder knows  - you haven't even put pressure on it and it sort of puffs.  That's what this material was doing.  So, what some of these experts in silicone science are saying it that the silicone science was done to do just that to the spores and make them more readily dispersable.

Interviewer: And that, as I remember from out last conversation, cannot be done and produced at Ft. Detrick.

Dr. Heine:  No.  Ft. Detrick doesn't have that ability.   And particularly Bruce didn't have that ability or knowledge.

Interviewer:  And therefore, if Ft. Detrick didn't have the ability, Bruce Ivins didn't have the ability, who did have the ability?

Dr. Heine: Well, this gets back to possible state sponsored terrorismPerhaps there are some other labs in this country that might have that ability.  That I don't know.            

Dr. Heine believes the silicon in the attack anthrax indicates it was "weapons grade" and, therefore, the powders could not have been made at Ft. Detrick and particularly not by Dr. Bruce Ivins.  That is what Dr. Heine said.

But, the attack spores were NOT "weapons grade," the silicon in the spores had NOTHING to do with making the spores more "dispersable," and the silicon was NOT added as part of some "silicone science."  The entire silicon issue was a false lead that went nowhere.  That's probably why it's not included in the Dr. Ivins case files.

How do I know this?  Is it just the belief of some guy on the Internet versus the beliefs of an experienced microbiologist who actually worked at Ft. Detrick?  No.  It's what the facts say.  It was real experts say.  People who have actually examined the attack anthrax say the silicon was NOT added deliberately in some weaponization procedure.  And they've been saying it for over eight years.  Among the vast amount of material publicly available on this subject, I have the slide presentation by Dr. Joseph Michael at the NAS meeting on September 25, 2009.  Images in that slide presentation show the location of the silicon.  They even show that there was silicon inside the spore coats of spores that were still inside the mother germ, proving beyond any reasonable doubt that it was NOT silicon added after the spores were fully formed.   

Dr. Heine is relying upon suggestions by people who have NOT examined the attack anthrax, but who have stated or published their opinions about it anyway.

Because this subject was brought up again, I noticed this statement once again:
 
Dr. Heine:  Well, it gets back to the guest you had on a couple weeks before my first visit
 
What guest from a couple weeks before?  And what did Dr. Heine say during his first visit?  The first time I listened to Dr. Heine's April 21 interview, I believe I accessed it from the web site belonging to the Frederick News-Post.  They didn't provide any way to get to the earlier interviews.

Yesterday morning, I did a Google search for the web site for WFMD and "Morning News Express," and I found that Dr. Heine's "first interview" is also on-line, and that interview actually consists of 3 parts totalling around an hour and a halfThe first part is 28:41 minutes long.  The second part is 27:36 minutes long.  And the third part is 35:12 minutes long.   All three parts are from February 25, 2010.  I also learned that the interview with the other guest, Edward Jay Epstein, is 10:52 minutes long and occurred via telephone on January 27, 2010.   (On my computer, the time information for the interviews are only displayed when you download and save them and then access the saved versions.)

The Edward Jay Epstein interview is basically just a early version of his opinion piece from the February 24, 2010 issue of The Wall Street Journal.
  I discussed that opinion piece in my (A) comment on February 24.  Mr. Epstein is another person who still somehow believes the attack anthrax was weaponized with silicon.

The lengthy, 3-part February 25 interview with Dr. Heine contains a lot of fascinating details about Ft. Detrick.  And it contains a lot of details about his reasoning and his beliefs.

In part one of the February 25 interview, Dr. Heine stated that his work at USAMRIID involved testing antibiotics.  He wasn't involved with vaccines.  When the anthrax attacks occurred, he was only involved in checking to see if the attack anthrax was resistant to antibiotics.  It wasn't.  (It appears he had no need to work with spores.  He grew bacteria and tested antibiotics on the living bacteria.)  Dr. Heine put it this way: "My responsibility was to identify a set of antibiotics that would work in treatment for those people who had been exposed.  Secondarily, my responsibility was to identify if there were any unusual antibiotic resistances, because that would suggest that somebody had manipulated it."

Dr. Heine demonstrates how misinformed he is about how the Ames strain got to Ft. Detrick with this comment at around the 25:10 minute point:

"The Ames strain, which is now the infamous Ames strain, was isolated from a cow that was found dead in Texas back in the 80's at some point.   The U.S. Department of Agriculture is, of course, responsible for that.  They collected that sample.   They had that in their center in Ames, Iowa.  That particular strain was shipped to USAMRIID, and because it had 'Ames, Iowa' on the box, the technician that processed that gave it the name 'Ames'."

In reality, of course, the Ames strain was never anywhere near Ames, Iowa or the USDA.  It was shipped directly from a lab at Texas A&M to USAMRIID.   There is testimony from the sender at Texas A&M, the recipient at USAMRIID, and we have the mailing label and the hand-written letter from the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratories (TVMDL) that was in the package with the biological samples.

In part two of the February 25 interview, Dr. Heine states that one of the reasons he left USAMRIID was because of all the security measures that are now in effect and how they almost prevent people from getting any work done.  Dr. Heine claims that Dr. Ivins didn't have the ability to dry the spores, but he's assuming it was done with a lyophilzer.   Dr. Heine worked in Building 1412, while Dr. Ivins worked in Building 1425.  (Dr. Steven Hatfill also worked in Building 1412, but he left about the same time Dr. Heine started working there.  They never met.)  Dr. Heine claims that samples from RMR-1029 were stored in Building 1412.  I suspect, however, that those were re-growths using the single colony pick technique, which would mean they were genetically different from the contents of flask RMR-1029.

Dr. Heine claims that Dr. Ivins didn't have the ability to make dried powered anthrax, but Dr. Heine did.  However, Dr. Heine had a perfect alibi.  When the letters were mailed, Dr. Heine was in England and unable to get a flight because of the chaos and all the new precautions put into effect after 9/11. 

At the 18:55 minute point, Dr. Heine makes this statement:

"When I got my PhD, as part of my PhD project was growing up large quantities of bacteria and, unfortunately, reducing them down to dry powder.  This was salmonella, and it was to extract certain things from the bacteria.   But, yes, I do know how to do that.   And I told the FBI that."

I find it interesting that Dr. Heine believes that because he made dried salmonella bacteria, that gave him the necessary expertise to make dried anthrax, but nothing Ivins ever did in working directly with anthrax for decades provided anything like the same expertise.

Dr. Heine claims over and over that it would have taken Dr. Ivins 50 weeks of non-stop culturing to create the amount of spores in the letters.

In part three of the February 25 interview, Dr. Heine makes statements about the silicon in the attack anthrax that are similar to the comments he made on April 21.  He repeats his mistaken beliefs about the quantities of spores in the envelopes.

He believes there were at least EIGHT anthrax letters.  He believes that one letter got chewed up in the machinery at the Brentwood mail processing center in Washington, DC, and, for him, that explains why the Brentwood mail center was so contaminated.  That's a theory I never heard before, and it's certainly NOT verified or even supported by any facts.

He believes that each one of the "eight" letters contained "one to two grams" of spores, even though it's been known for almost nine years that the media letters contained a very crude anthrax powder that was very different from the senate letters.   According to Dr. Heine, there were 8 to 16 grams of spores in the letters.  In reality, the contents of the Leahy letter were actually weighed and that letter contained .871 grams of spores.  And the media letters were roughly 90 percent debris and only 10 percent spores, so there were probably no more than 2.5 grams of spores in all the letters combined.

He says that the only large-scale culturing method Ivins had available to him was shaking flasks, with a maximum of four or five flasks being shaken at one time.  And, according to Dr. Heine, 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, as I reported in my May 2-3 and May 4 comments, Dr. Ivins repeatedly calculated that he and his staff were routinely making 433 billion spores per run.  And, according to others who routinely work with anthrax and other spore-forming bacteria, they can routinely get 500 billion spores or more from a single 1-liter flask.  Since Dr. Heine seems to have no experience with making anthrax spores, he doesn't seem to be a better authority than Bruce Ivins and the others who actually made anthrax spores.  (
The question of how many spores can be produced in a given period of time is certainly a question that the National Academies of Science can firmly and definitively answer.)

Dr. Heine also says that a couple weeks before the massive searches of Ivins home, office and properties on November 1, 2007, Ivins had been on a cruise with his brother and a nephew.  And the FBI was there in the form of two female FBI agents who spent a lot of time with Ivins, chatting him up.  No exact dates were mentioned, so I cannot add it to his timeline.  And there is nothing in the existing timeline that even remotely suggests Ivins was on a cruise, although I don't have any solid reason to believe it's not true.  (It seems more likely that Ivins was in some kind of addiction treatment center and just told his co-workers he was on a cruise.)  [NOTE added June 3, 2010: It appears the cruise did happen and the women were FBI agents.  Somewhere, probably in the 2,720 pages of supplementary information, there is a report by one of the female FBI agents.  I've seen quotes from the report, but no link to the actual document.]

Dr. Heine believes that during the nights and weekends in September and October of 2001, when Dr. Ivins was working alone in the labs, Dr. Ivins may have been checking on everyone else's experiments and spending time on the computer.  Dr. Heine says that after 9/11 it was difficult for a lot of people to get to work, and because Dr. Ivins lived just across the street from Ft. Detrick, Dr. Heine believes or suspects that Dr. Ivins was just helping out the others by checking on their experiments for them.  Dr. Heine evidently made no attempt to verify such a belief.  It's just a possible explanation that he chooses to believe.  And it doesn't explain why Dr. Ivins' evening and weekend hours in the lab began in August, before 9/11.   And Dr. Heine criticizes the FBI for not checking on Dr. Ivins' emails for September and October of 2001, clearly failing to notice the FBI report that Dr. Ivins' emails for all of 2001 were deleted from his computer and Ivins couldn't explain why.  (See my comment for March 23, 2010.)

There are lots and lots of other interesting bits of information in the interview.  The mp3 files make a great addition to my archives.  And I found it very interesting that part 3 of the February 25 interview has statements from Dr. Heine that seemingly conflict with what Dr. Heine said in his April 21 interview. 
Beginning at the 31:40 minute mark in the February 25 interview, here is what was said about Dr. Ivins' death:

Interviewer:  I just got an IM [Instant Message] from somebody who said "When Ivins admitted he took the Tylenol-3 overdose, were there only government doctors and witnesses involved there?"  Do you know that?

Dr. Heine: He never admitted that's what killed him.  His wife found him unconscious at home, and he was taken to the hospital where he - you know, the liver damage was so severe that he couldn't recover.

Interviewer:  But the people who found him were the govenment doctors and witnesses, or were they local EMS people?

Dr. Heine: I think it was local EMS.  

Beginning at the 24:15 minute mark in the April 21 interview, here is what was said about Dr. Ivins' death:

Interviewer: But if the FBI was watching Bruce at all times, 24/7, then they had to watch him taking the bunch of things that killed him.

Dr. Heine: Well, if you actually read in there, you read the report, he was actually under observation when he committed suicide.   You can read the report.  Whoever the observer was says he was in there alone, he was in this room and then he was in that room.  I mean there's a very detailed report.   So, for all intents and purposes, whoever that was, did more or less watch him commit suicide.

Interviewer: Which brings up a whole 'nother list of questions there.

Dr. Heine: Yeah.  It certainly does.  I mean, did they see enough that they could have intervened and perhaps gotten him to a hospital sooner? 

You can read the report for yourself.  It's on pages 43 and 44 of FBI pdf file #847572.  Here's what it says:

          The following observations were made on July 26-27, 2008, while on surveillance in the vicinity of XXXXX, Frederick, Maryland.

10:30P   All vehicles present.  No lights 1st floor.  2nd floor bathroom and hallway lights on.  No activity noted.

12:25P  No lights 1st floor.  2nd floor bathroom and hallway lights on.  No activity noted.

1:15A  Fire and rescue responds to residence.

1:25A  Frederick PD reports unresponsive male found in upstairs bathroom.  Male identified as BRUCE IVINS found on the bathroom floor, empty orange drink container on the floor.  XXXXXXXXX has history of substance abuse problems, but all pills, specifically his XXXXXX was accounted for.  XXXXXX stated to Frederick PD, XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX.  BRUCE was in his bed sleeping, she checked then checked on him again and found him in the bathroom unconscious, not talking, she called 911.

1:30A  BRUCE IVINS observed leaving residence on stretcher.

1:45A BRUCE IVINS arrives at Frederick Memorial Hospital Emergency Services Department via ambulance.
...

2:15A   Frederick PD report BRUCE IVINS will be admitted, he had to be paralyzed and a breathing tube was inserted, possibly some sort of overdose.

2:30A  Surveillance terminated.
 
Clearly, the two FBI agents and the Postal Inspector doing the surveillance were "in the vicinity" of Ivins' home, which means they were outside, not prowling around inside.  They could see lights on, but they say nothing about Ivins "being there alone, he was in this room and he was in that room."  They did NOT watch Ivins commit suicide.

The WFMD radio interviewer seems to have started that line of conspiracy theory speculation, and Dr. Heine just supported it with wild misinterpretations of his own.

That's the basic thought process for conspiracy theorists: One person makes some silly suggestion about evil doings by "the government," and others join in with wild misinterpretations and speculations of their own.  Before long, they all feel they know exactly what happened because they all agree that "the government" is evil and up to no good.

Updates & Changes: Sunday, May 16, 2010, thru Saturday, May 22, 2010

May 16, 2010 - Last week was a very quiet week.  I received only a few emails, and I wasn't involved in any forum discussions about the anthrax case.  Early in the week, however, there was an opinion piece in USA Today attacking the effort by a couple politicians to keep the Times Square bomber from being allowed the rights guaranteed to all American citizens.  What attracted my attention was the example the author of the opinion piece used to justify his position:  

Allowing the government to decide that certain citizens aren't entitled to constitutional protections would set a terrible precedent. Imagine, for example, what might have happened to Steven Hatfill, the Army scientist falsely suspected in the 2001 anthrax attacks.

I can't read the mind of the writer of the opinion piece, but he appears to believe that Dr. Hatfill was falsely suspected by the U.S. government instead of by the media and a bunch of conspiracy theorists. 

Wondering if there was any way to make what really happened to Dr. Hatfill more clear, I began thinking about The Bruce Ivins Timeline I recently created, which truly seems to make the sequence of events in the Ivins case very clear (to me, at least).   If anyone tries to argue that the FBI decided to accuse Dr. Ivins after he died, the timeline will prove that they are talking nonsense.  If another careless reporter tries to argue that Ivins committed suicide after he was identified as the anthrax mailer in the media, the timeline will show that to be total nonsense.  

There's nothing better than a timeline to make clear an actual sequence of events.

With the Ivins timeline in mind, I began working on The Steven Hatfill Timeline.  Because there was never even a hint of a pending arrest, however, the Hatfill Timeline depends almost entirely on news articles.  I think the Timeline does a much better job of showing how Dr. Hatfill became a "person of interest" than the previous pages I'd written about him.   There is very little analysis involved in the Timeline.  It just lays out the published information in order by date, providing headlines and quoting from articles.  

The facts should speak for themselves.   The facts say:

In late 2001 and early 2002, a lynch mob consisting of conspiracy theorists, people from the media and a few politicians attempted to lynch an innocent man, and they now blame the FBI for their own actions.

I did, however, stop the timeline at the end of 2002.  
By that time, the facts are clear.  And, in August of 2002, the news reports became so numerous that I mostly just list them one by one without any quotes.

The Steven Hatfill Timeline has been added as a new supplemental page in the Table of Contents

Those who absolutely refuse to believe that a little old lady from Upstate New York and a bunch of amateur detectives can be responsible for what happened to Dr. Hatfill might find the Hatfill Timeline particularly interesting.  Everyone else might also find things in it that they didn't know - or things they'd forgotten.  I did. 

Updates & Changes: Sunday, May 9, 2010, thru Saturday, May 15, 2010

May 14, 2010 - I just noticed something.  A month ago, on April 15, in my (A) comment for that day, I discussed a "meeting" that took place on June 5, 2008, where Bruce Ivins mentioned to someone that the next time Ivins would have to testify, he'd have to have a proffer (e.g., an offer to plead guilty if the government offered something in exchange, like not asking for the death penalty).   Today, I noticed that the meeting were Bruce Ivins made his "non-denial denial" (where Ivins claimed he couldn't remember sending out the anthrax letters) took place on that same day - June 5, 2008.  Since it appears that both meetings were recorded, it seems very likely that there was really only one meeting, and both reports refer to that one meeting.  One report comes from pages 66 through 69 of FBI pdf file #847551.  The other comes from pages 70 and 71 of the FBI's summary report.

I've been working on something else I plan to put on my web site on Sunday, and this popped up as I took a break from that other task.  I'm not certain what to make of it.  The first report seemed to indicate that Ivins was probably talking with a counselor at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, and the second seemed to indicate that Ivins was talking with a psychiatrist or psychologist - but, seemingly, not his regular psychiatrist or psychologist.  Now ..... I dunno.  I'm going to have to study the two reports some more.  Maybe there's something somewhere else that clarifies things.   


May 9, 2010 - In my (A) comment for April 23, I mentioned that I didn't fully understand something Scott Shane had written in his New York Times article that morning.   Scott Shane had written:

In its written summation of the case in February, the bureau said Dr. Ivins’s lab technicians grew anthrax spores that the technicians incorrectly believed were added to Dr. Ivins’s main supply flask. But the summary said the spores were never added to the flask, suggesting that surplus spores might have been diverted by Dr. Ivins for the letters.

It now appears that Scott Shane was referring to this information from page 28 of the FBI summary:

During the time that Dr. Ivins was transferring quantities of spores to, for example, aerobiology for animal challenges and outside labs for their research, lab technicians continued to make spores at the behest of Dr. Ivins, thinking that the spores were needed to go into RMR1029. His junior lab technician thought that the “Dugway Spores” were exhausted, so she needed to make spores for the animal challenges. In fact, she was under the impression that she was hired expressly for this purpose. His senior lab technician, on the other hand, thought that she was continuously making spores to add to the existing stock of “Dugway Spores.” In fact, the investigation revealed that there were never any additions to RMR-1029 after its creation in October 1997. [see Footnote #11] 

But Scott Shane seems to have failed to notice Footnote #11, which says:

Investigators unsuccessfully attempted to determine what happened to these spores. However, there is no evidence that RMR-1029 was the parent material to these new spores, as the laboratory technicians were utilizing frozen stock of Bacillus anthracis – and not liquid suspension such as RMR-1029 – as the parent material for their new spore preparations. In addition, the technique they used to grow new spores, known as a “single-colony pick,” would not produce genetically identical material to the parent material, making it extremely unlikely that these missing spores were utilized in the anthrax attacks.
 
Hmmm.  Not only didn't Ivins' supervisors (like Dr. Henry Heine) know what Ivins was doing, but it now appears that Dr. Ivins' lab techicians were making anthrax spores for him without actually knowing what use Ivins would make of the spores.  Scott Shane seems to be suggesting that those spores might have gone into the attack letters, even though the FBI investigation indicated that the spores made by Ivins' technicians were made from frozen bacteria or frozen spores and NOT from any "seed spores" taken from flask RMR-1029.

Okay.  So, what happened to all those spores Ivins' technicians were making?  Evidently, there is no clear record of what happened to them. 
No doubt, most or all of the spores were put to some proper and authorized use.  But, the point is: Everyone simply trusted that Dr. Ivins was putting the spores to some proper and authorized use. 

It's been abundantly clear for a long time that Ivins' supervisors didn't know what Ivins was doing in his lab at night or on weekends, and they simply trusted that he was doing something that was proper and authorized.

And now we appear to have testimony that the technicians working for Bruce Ivins didn't know what Ivins was telling them to do doing during normal work hours.  In fact, it now seems even possible that they could have helped Dr. Ivins make the attack anthrax during normal work hours without realizing that was what they were doing.  And, obviously, Dr. Ivins' superiors wouldn't have realized it either.

While records seem to indicate that Ivins' lab technicians were working with frozen bacteria or frozen spores when making stocks of new spores for Dr. Ivins, it still seems very likely that, if Ivins had given them samples from flask RMR-1029 on some occasion and asked that a couple trillion new spores be grown from them, his technicians would simply have done as they were told without asking any questions.

That kind of trickery and/or manipulation of others seems very consistent with Ivins' personality and with other actions taken by Ivins before and after the anthrax attacks.

The facts clearly say that Ivins manipulated or tricked someone else into writing the anthrax letters and addressing the envelopes.  All Bruce Ivins did was put the powders into the letters and mail them.

Now it appears to be at least somewhat possible that Dr. Ivins may not have actually made the senate anthrax spores himself.  He may have tricked or manipulated his technicians into making them for him.  All Bruce Ivins may have done was to dry the spores and put them into the letters.

If there had been a trial, I don't know if the Department of Justice prosecutors would even have bothered to mention such a possibility to the jury.  It would probably have been sufficient to show that Ivins could have made the attack anthrax spores by himself at night and on weekends or even during the day without being questioned.  The idea that Ivins could have manipulated his techicians into helping him without their knowing it, is something an experienced prosecutor would let the jurors realize all by themselves.

The facts about the handwriting say that Ivins didn't write the letters and didn't address the envelopes.  Now we see he may not have made the spores used in the senate letters, either.  That made me think about how Dr. Ivins might pass a lie detector test if the examiner didn't phrase the questions in the right way.  And that reminded me of something else I'd  noticed in the FBI's summary of the case.  I was reminded of the footnote at the bottom of page 84:

When [Ivins] took a polygraph in connection with the investigation in 2002, the examiner determined that he passed. However, as the investigation began to hone in on Dr. Ivins and investigators learned that he had been prescribed a number of psychotropic medications at the time of the 2002 polygraph, investigators resubmitted his results to examiners at FBI Headquarters and the Department of Defense Polygraph Institute for a reassessment of the results in light of that new information. Both examiners who independently reassessed the results determined that Dr. Ivins exhibited “classic” signs of the use of countermeasures to pass a polygraph. At the time the polygraph was initially examined in 2002, not all examiners were trained to spot countermeasures, making the first analysis both understandable under the circumstances, and irrelevant to the subsequent conclusion that he used countermeasures.

Wondering if Ivins could have learned how to defeat the polygraph test by doing a Google search, I found an interesting article on the subject by doing a Google search.  The article contains this information:

It’s worth noting that if Ivins had Googled “how to beat  a polygraph” in 2002, he likely would have found AntiPolygraph.org’s on-line book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector [1 mb PDF], which explains precisely how to do so.

Conspiracy theorists and True believers, of course, see everything very differently.   

In a conversation awhile ago, I mentioned the possibility that the powders in the media letters could have been made from unsterilized biological cultures that had been allowed to accumulate for a week or more in Dr. Ivins' autoclave.  Someone immediately jumped on that idea as proof that even the janitor could have had access to the materials to make the anthrax in the letters.  To him, it was further proof that the FBI had no case against Bruce Ivins.

In reality, it changes nothing about anyone else.  It only shows how easily Bruce Ivins could have done it.  Anyone else would still need to have had Ivins' expertise at making spores, Ivins' mistaken belief that the spores in flask RMR-1029 were untraceable, Ivins' unsupervised access to lab materials and equipment,  Ivins' vaccinations which gave him immunity to anthrax,
Ivins' secretive personality, Ivins' talents for deception, Ivins' interest in codes, and Ivins' bizarre desire to become a hero by sending out letters which contained lethal anthrax spores in order to warn America of the dangers of a bioweapons attack by Muslim terrorists.

There do not appear to be "two sides" to this argument.  There are only the facts and those who do not believe the facts.  Disbelieving the facts is NOT an argument.  

Updates & Changes: Sunday, May 2, 2010, thru Saturday, May 1, 2010

May 6, 2010 - The Frederick News-Post's web site has a video of Dr. Henry Heine repeating his belief that Ivins would have had to make spores for "week on end,  week after week after week" to create what was in the anthrax letters.  It appears that some in the media will be repeating this total nonsense until it becomes "an accepted fact."

May 5, 2010 - While paging through the FBI's summary of the Amerithrax investigation, I noticed on page 83 it says Ivins hand-delivered the second set of slants from flask RMR-1029 to the FBI repository on Wednesday, April 10, 2002.  (These were the false slants that were supposed to replace the incorrectly prepared slants Ivins made from flask RMR-1029 in February 2002.)  The date confirms what I'd suspected:  The subpoena to supply new slants from flask RMR-1029 came shortly before the unauthorized swabbing and cleaning on April 15 & 16.  In other words, the second swabbing and cleaning was almost certainly prompted by the subpoena asking for new slants from RMR-1029.

I've updated the Ivins Timeline page and the Consciousness of Guilt page accordingly.    


May 4, 2010 - Hmm.  I awoke this morning thinking how two runs of 433 billion spores per run equals an amount that is pretty close to the 871 billion spores that were in the Leahy letter.  The difference is less than one half of one percent.

So, even using the complex techniques used to create the spores in flasks RMR-1029 and RMR-1030, Ivins could have created the spores in the Leahy letter in 2 weeks if he did one run per week, or 1 week if he did two runs per week.  And, either way, it would have involved only four (4) liters of culture.  And the Daschle letter would be the same.

Yet, we have The New York Times and a bunch of others in the media all mindlessly repeating Dr. Henry Heine's claim that it would have taken "at least a year" to create the powders in those two letters.   Only Science magazine questioned the highly-questionable information. 

I didn't include the powders in the media letters in those calculations because the media powders were very different.  The media powders were very crude.  They were reportedly only about 10 percent spores, with the remaining 90 percent being sporulation debris (dead bacteria, dead spores and dried growth media).  Even Dr. Henry Heine would probably have to admit that the media powders could have been created in a few days.  There's even a possibility that those spore powders didn't need to be "created" at all, since Dr. Ivins may have been able to simply dig them out of his trash before the trash was sterilized in the autoclaves.

FBI pdf file #847373, page 3, says:

There was no consistent method for the disposal of materials, as many researchers would autoclave their own waste, while others would leave items in or around the autoclave until it reached capacity.

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 bags were taken to the basement to be autoclaved.  The bags were placed into metal garbage cans in the basement, next to the autoclave, in case there was a leak in the bag.

There may be some scientific fact which could prove that the media powders could NOT have been created from this accumulated trash.   For example, the fact that there was silicon in about the same percentage of media spores as senate spores seems to indicate that, at some point in time, the same or similar growth methods were used for both mailings.   Also, the trash would have to include materials grown from spores taken from flask RMR-1029.  These are the types of questions that the review from the National Academies of Science should be able to definitively answer.

Too bad no one in the media thought to ask Dr. Henry Heine if the media powders could have been created from the "hot" trash that was just lying around in the areas he supervised.


May 2-3, 2010 - Hmm.  When conspiracy theorists and True Believers claim I'm wrong, about 99 percent of the time it's because they do not believe the facts or simply do not believe me.  But, there is that 1 percent of the time when they are right.   A scientist on Lew Weinstein's web site
who is currently calling himself "Anonymous" says that the contents of flask RMR-1029 were not created to be "seed" spores as I argued a few days ago.  He says, "The records clearly show that the aliquots removed were used DIRECTLY for wet aerosol nebulization." 

He's right.  FBI pdf file #847357, page 64 says this about why flask RMR-1029 was created:

In the e-mail, Ivins calculated the amount of cultures needed and the time it would take to produce enough spores for aerosol challenges of 1000 rabbits and 200 monkeys.  Ivins concluded that the concentration of spores for each animal was based on what he and others in his group administered (or tried to administer) to the monkeys and rabbits in F96-16 and F97-17 or 3.0 E9.  Ivins prepared 8.5 milliliters of aerosol per animal, or about 8 milliliters per tube.  Ultimately, Ivins calculated that it took 13 runs to generate about 3.0 E12 Ames spores for the "current batch."  Since they needed ten times that amount, it would take them 130 runs with the flasks if performed with 2 liters per run, as they currently did.  Therefore, it would take 130 weeks at one run per week or 65 weeks at 2 runs per week.  The total amount of culture needed to produce the spores would be 260 liters. 

3.0 E9?  Uh oh.  It's another one of those scientific numbers.  According to Wikipedia it translates to 3.0 x 10 to the 9th or 30 billion.   So, 1 milliliter from flask RMR-1029 was enough to aerosol challenge just one (1) animal.  The milliliter of spores taken from flask RMR-1029 would be diluted with liquid to create 8.5 milliliters of aerosol.  (I have no idea what "8 milliliters per tube" means.)

Ivins calculated,

it took 13 runs to generate about 3.0 E12 Ames spores for the "current batch."
and
it would take 130 weeks at one run per week or 65 weeks at 2 runs per week

"3.0 E12" is 3 x 10 to the 12th or, in layman's terms, 3 trillion spores.  If it took them 13 runs to create 3 trillion spores for the "current batch" (most likely meaning batch RMR-1030), that means they were creating about 433 billion spores per run using 2 liters of culture per run.

They created more than what was in the anthrax letters in 13 weeks when doing just 1 run per week.  2 runs per week would be 7 or 8 weeks.  No matter how you look at it, it's nowhere near a year

And what was the immediate need?   They evidently didn't have 1,200 animals ready to test.  
In 1998, they only used 1 milliliter.  In 1999, only 5 milliliters.  The material in flask RMR-1029 was used over a period of five years or more.

The Reference Material Receipt Record (see FBI pdf file #847447, pages 110 & 111) shows that quantities ranging from 1 milliliter to 100 milliliters were taken out of flask RMR-1029 from September 17, 1998 until November 18, 2003, and there were still some spores left over.    

There are at least three reports which say that Ivins and his team were creating a trillion spores per week.  That's what made me think they were using the spores from RMR-1029 as "seed" spores.   But now it appears they were using the spores from flask RMR-1029 for one kind of testing and creating NEW spores for some other kind or kinds of testing.  There are a lot of irrelevant details here, details which have nothing to do with the anthrax attacks.  

However, "Anonymous" concludes:

Lake understandably realizes this means Dr Henry Heine is precisely correct – it would have taken more than a year of continuous work to make such a quantity of spores at Detrick.            

That is absolutely false, of course.  It doesn't change anything, because Ivins and his staff were making a trillion spores per week at Ft. Detrick, and there were less than 3 trillion spores in the attack letters.  Plus, even when making the 30 trillion spores in flask RMR-1029, it didn't require a year of work to create just 3 trillion spores, a tenth of the total.

We just don't know why it took so long to create the 30 trillion spores in flask RMR-1029.  Was it because they had to be "Good Laboratory Practices" spores?  That seems to be the best guess for now.

We also know that Leighton-Doi protocols played a role in the creation of the spores in the attack letters.  The spores in flask RMR-1029 did NOT contain silicon, and they were evidently NOT created using Leighton-Doi protocols.  Some of the spores in flask RMR-1030 did contain silicon and were created using Leighton-Doi protocols.  So, the attack spores have more to do with the way flask RMR-1030 was created than the way flask RMR-1029 was created.  RMR-1029 merely provided the "seed spores" for the attack anthrax powders.

There was no intention on my part to "muddy the waters," as "Anonymous" claims in his post.  I just haven't deciphered all of the intricacies of what was going on in the anthrax vaccine testing being done at Fr. Detrick.  My focus has been only on the information needed to confirm who sent the anthrax letters.  This error doesn't change that in any way.   It just tells me to avoid getting too far off track.   I don't need to know every detail of how spores were created at Ft. Detrick in order to confirm or dispute the FBI's findings regarding who sent the anthrax letters.

In another posting in another thread, "Anonymous" wrote:

Lake himself is a scientifically illiterate retiree from Racine, WI – a 70-something with no scientific training – who gleefully takes to the internet and his website to promulgate the information being fed to him – mostly by tax-payer funded anonymous government officials and/or academics with agendas.

And

He also, regularly, has “anonymous scientists” email him with “talking points” that always seem to support the FBI’s case. But, strangely enough, he never gives these anonymous scientist’s names.

That seems a strange complaint from someone who calls himself "Anonymous" or "Anonymous Scientist" in order to hide his identity.

The mistakes I make are my mistakes, not mistakes by the scientists who graciously try to help me understand the intricacies of growing spores and testing vaccines. 
Yet, in that thread, "Anonymous" criticizes Dr. Adam Driks for seemingly supporting my findings by telling Science magazine that it would take only a "number of days" to create the spores in the attack letters.   And he criticizes other scientists for helping "the likes of Ed Lake."

Some time ago, "Anonymous" was using the name "Anonymous Scientist" when he wrote:

The BS from Lake gets higher and deeper. He’s now saying his deductions are better than anyone else’s because his are based on “facts”. In other words, he’s claiming he’s smarter than anyone else.
Is that why he lives in a tiny apartment complex and drives a twenty year old car?

Hmm.  Evidently, to "Anonymous" a.k.a. "Anonymous Scientist," driving an "old car" makes you dumb and driving a new car makes you smart.   He probably considers that to be a very "scientific" observation.

Me And My Camaro
An Old Man And His Old Car

Updates & Changes: Sunday, April 25, 2010, thru Saturday, May 1, 2010

May 1, 2010 - This morning's Frederick News-Post contains another opinion piece by lawyer/conspiracy theorist Barry Kissin repeating once again the total nonsense Dr. Henry Heine gave to the media early in the week.  The objective, apparently, is to repeat the same absurd nonsense over and over until you manage to convince someone.  After all, there are still some people who believe that if it's printed in black and white in the newspaper, there must be some truth in it.  There may have been a time when such a belief was justified, but no longer.  Here is part of Mr. Kissin's opinion:

Heine has explained very clearly exactly why it would have been impossible to make "these samples" at USAMRIID. One element of his proof is that with the production equipment available at USAMRIID, it would have taken Ivins a minimum of 50 weeks just to grow enough anthrax to fill the letters. Roughly speaking, about 25 gallons (200 pounds) of anthrax slurry would then have to be refined into powder weighing about 1 pound -- composed of pure spores -- about 10 trillion of them -- and treated with a silicon-based additive to promote dispersability and thus deadliness.

The point here is not only that there would be absolutely no way for Ivins to pull this off -- the point is also that this impossibility would have been obvious -- painfully obvious -- to anyone conducting an honest investigation.

Wow!  He's claiming there was a pound of spores in the letters?  A pound?!  Where do these conspiracy theorists get such ridiculous nonsense?  Here's some information that Mr. Kissin needs to study and remember:

1 pound = 453.59237 grams.

1 trillion anthrax spores weigh one (1) gram.

The Leahy letter contained .871 grams of spores (7/8ths of one gram).

Dr. Ivins' staff routinely made one trillion spores per week.

And, of course, as everyone should know by now, there was NO "silicon-based additive" in the attack anthrax "to promote dispersability and thus deadliness."  That has been proven in every way imaginable.  But, evidently, there is no way to convince the conspiracy theorists.  To a conspiracy theorist, finding someone who agrees with their opinion is enough to dismiss all the facts in the world as being nothing more than "what the government wants people to believe."

Are you going to believe the facts?  Or are you going to believe someone who agrees with you?  Your choice. 


April 29, 2010 (B) - FWIW, on page 99 of FBI pdf file #847443 it says this:

          IVINS' laboratory group has been producing one trillion Bacillus anthracis (B.a.) Ames spores per week using the Leighton and Doi protocol.  They have not used fermentation in the production of these spores.

The use of Leighton-Doi media appears to be a key factor when growing spores for quantity.  Leighton-Doi also seems to have some kind of connection to the presence of silicon in the spore coats. 

April 29, 2010 (A) - While looking for something else, as I was going through the notes I took when studying the 2,728 pages of supplementary FBI documents released on February 19, 2010, I found a note which led me to this information on page 1 of pdf file #847423:

          XXXXX used to grow XXXXXXX would have used IVINS' spore stock as [her] seed stock for each batch, and would have initially streaked it on a plate, and isolated one colony to grow the batch.  IVINS' spore stock was kept in a tube in the walk-in refrigerator and was not frozen.  XXXXXX would have gone back to the same stock to start each batch, rather than to plate from the previous batch.  Although [she] was not certain what the sample name was for the seed stock that [she] used, [she] knew that it would have been the same as what IVINS used for his seed stock.  Specific batch information could be found in IVINS' laboratory notebooks.  Approximately 100 milliliters (mL) of spores were being produced per week at a concentration of 8.5 x 10 [to the 8th] or 10 [to the 9th] and up to approximately 10 [to the 11th] spores per mL.  

Utilizing my newly-gathered confidence in translating such numbers, let's see if I can translate that last sentence into layman's language.  Here is what was actual written in the FBI report:

Numbers for FBI text

My translation: Approximately 100 milliliters (mL) of  spores were being produced per week at a concentration of 8.5 billion or 10 billion and up to approximately 100 billion spores per mL.

100 milliliters per week at 8.5 billion spores per milliliter comes to 850 billion spores per week.  At 10 billion spores per milliliter, it comes to 1 trillion spores per week.  Both figures seem totally reasonable.

But 100 milliliters of spores per week at 100 billion spores per milliliter is 10 trillion spores per week.  That can't be right.  Uh oh.  I'm losing my confidence again.  However, I suspect the FBI agent who wrote the report meant 11 to the 9th instead of 10 to the 11th, in other words: 11 billion spores per mL.  That would be 1.1 trillion spores per week.  That fits with the rest of the sentence, and it would jibe with the other report (FBI pdf file #847423, page 5) which said that - at a different time - Ivins was making "nearly a trillion spores a week."

Am I the only one who thinks that it would have been better if they'd just used layman's language?

But, this further shows that the claims by Dr. Henry Heine and various conspiracy theorists that it would have taken Ivins a year or more to create the less than 3 trillion spores in the anthrax letters are total nonsense.

April 28, 2010 - I screwed up yesterday when I wrote that flask RMR-1029 contained 3 trillion spores.  It actually contained 30 trillion spores.  I just went back and fixed that comment.  The fix makes it even more certain that Ivins could have created the anthrax powders all by himself.   Here's what is says on the control sheet for flask RMR-1029:
Amount of spores in RMR-1029

In an argument on Lew Weinstein's web site on Monday, I originally argued that there were 30 trillion spores in flask RMR-1029.  I'd translated the number on the control sheet to be 30 trillion.  But I was arguing with a conspiracy theorist/scientist who was claiming:

There is also no rational dispute that the total quantities of purified spores in the anthrax letters were of the same order of magnitude as the total quantities of purified spores specified in the Dugway contracts. Actual spore counts of the powder materials in the anthrax mailings establish beyond any reasonable question that the total quantities of purified spores in all of the anthrax mailings exceeded 10 X 10e12 spores (i.e., 1 X 10e13) — a total quantity of about 40 X 10e12 (4 X 10e13) would be reasonable. The Dugway contracts, on the other hand, specified spore quantities of the same order of magnitude, i.e., 10e13 total spores.

We therefore know from real facts, in the real world, that the spores in the anthrax letters would have required a production time of around two years if made at USARMIID.

So, I began wondering if I was translating the number on the control sheet correctly.   I have zero confidence when deciphering those kinds of numbers.  I'd screwed up once before, and the same conspiracy theorist really jumped on me because of it.  So, I was concerned that I had screwed up again.  I tried typing the "number" into Google, but I couldn't get anything that helped.   I tried asking a scientist who had helped me in the past, but he was traveling and his Blackberry couldn't find the page numbers on the .pdf file that contained the number in question.  He responded that "In the several places where the concentration of spores in the  RMR 1030 flask is cited it is generally 2-3 times ten to the tenth per ml."  Great.  What does that mean?   In the Roundtable discussion of August 18, 2008, a scientist had guessed the original number of spores in flask RMR-1029 to be ONE trillion.   I was tired and running out of time.  I had written everything in yesterday's comment except for the number of spores in flask RMR-1029.  Finally, I decided to err on the side of caution, and I used the 3 trillion number.  I figured that someone would point out my error if I'd made an error.  And the correction - if any - would help my argument that Ivins could have made the spores in the anthrax letters.

This morning, sure enough, on Lew Weinstein's web site, someone pointed out my error.   And I'd had a good night's sleep, so I was thinking a lot more clearly.  To verify what I'd just been told, I typed "ten to the tenth" into Google, and it told me "ten to the tenth = ten billion."  Okay!  So there were originally thirty (30) trillion spores in flask RMR-1029, just as I'd stated on Monday -- 30 billion spores per milliliter in a flask containing 1,000 milliliters.

When arguing with scientists with strong opinions, it seems they will always try to confuse non-scientists by using terms and data that the non-scientist might not know or be able to contradict.   I probably won't make that kind of mistake again.  If I'm uncertain about the translation of a number, I can come back to this comment to see how I handled it.


April 27-28, 2010 - Even the scientific media seems determined to repeat the mistakes they made back in 2002 when they falsely reported that the attack spores were weaponized with silica, and they joined in the chorus pointing the finger at Dr. Hatfill, an innocent man.  Here's a new article from the web site for Physics Today magazine:

Co-worker says Ivins didn't make anthrax letter spores

By Physics Today on April 27, 2010 8:52 AM 

The Frederick News-Post Online: It is absolutely impossible that Bruce Ivins, accused of mailing anthrax and killing five people in 2001, could have created and cleaned up anthrax spores in the timeline and manner the FBI alleges, Ivins' former co-worker said last Thursday.

The National Academy of Sciences brought in former USAMRIID microbacteriologist Henry Heine to explain spore preparation to the panel, which is tasked with investigating the science the FBI used to accuse Ivins, also a former microbacteriologist for the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.

And though Heine discussed only scientific methods and technologies before the panel, he said afterward he firmly believes Ivins did not and could not have grown and prepared the anthrax.

It's the blind leading the blind.  Scientists with opinions telling reporters total nonsense, and the science reporters blindly report it because it's an opinion from "a knowledgeable scientist."

Part of the problem with understanding how long it took to create the spores in the anthrax letters seems to stem from the fact that there are different methods and different reasons for making spores.

According to the "Reference Material Receipt Record" for flask RMR-1029, it originally contained 30 trillion spores.  It was stated at the August 18, 2008 Roundtable discussion that those spores were the result of 13 production runs done at Dugway Proving Grounds and 22 production runs done at Ft. Detrick, which produced 164 liters of spore production, which was then concentrated down to about one liter.

According to The New York Times, the Leahy letter contained .871 grams of spores, or roughly 871 billion spores.   If you assume that there was originally 1 gram of spores in the letter before some of the material was lost in transit, and if you assume the Daschle letter contained the same amount, with the five media letter powders being roughly 10 per spores and  90 percent debris, that produces a rough figure of somewhat less than 3 trillion spores total.   For the sake of this discussion, let's say the seven anthrax letters contained 3 trillion spores total or one tenth of flask RMR-1029's original quantity.

How could it have taken so many production runs to create the contents of flask RMR-1029 while Ivins could create a tenth of it all by himself in a few days working alone?  That's what some people (including scientists) do not understand.

The answer seems to be in the reason the spores were created.  The spores in flask RMR-1029 were created to be "seed" spores for use by Ivins when he needed to inoculate flasks of media in order to produce "production" spores for vaccine testing.   Because they were "seed" spores, they needed to be extraordinarily pure.  No contamination.  No mutations (or so Ivins thought).  And as close to 100% viable as possible.  That's difficult to do if you grow Bacillus anthracis bacteria in large quantities.   Any contamination would ruin the entire batch.  A stray mutation could ruin the entire batch.  So, you do many smaller runs and test each run to make sure it contains no contamination and no mutations.  Any batch which contains contamination or mutations gets tossed out.

Note added May 2, 2010:  While the contents of flask RMR-1029 were used as "seed spores" for the attack powders, and they may have occasionally been used as "seed spores" for other things, they were NOT created to be "seed spores."  They were created to be used DIRECTLY in aerosol challenges.  But, they were still created using different methods than other spores created at Ft. Detrick.  See my comment for May 2, 2010 for additional details. 

FBI pdf file #847423, page 5, says: 

Ivins noted that he is making nearly 1 trillion spores a week for USAMRIID, the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), etc.

And on page 7 there's this:

IVINS explained that since RMR-1029 were Good Laboratory Practices (GLP) spores, they were not accessible to many people.

Apparently "Good Laboratory Practices" are NOT the way spores are normally created, because when Dr. Ivins wasn't creating such spores, he could routinely create "nearly a trillion spores a week."

The spores created using "Good Laboratory Practices" were used to "seed" or inoculate flasks of nutrients where the vegetating bacteria would be allowed to reproduce overnight using procedures which were developed to create large quantities of spores as fast as possible while still assuring that the quality of the seed spores would be reflected in the quality of the production spores.  Those procedures where clearly very different from the "Good Laboratory Practices" used to create the spores in flask RMR-1029. 
 
The goal for the spores in flask RMR-1029 was quality.  

The goal for the production runs using the seed spores from flask RMR-1029 was quantity.

Scientist after scientist is telling me via emails that it is NOT difficult for a lone scientist to create a trillion spores in a few days.  You just need to follow procedures designed more for quantity than quality. 

When the anthrax mailer was making anthrax spores all by himself at night and on weekends, quantity was definitely his main priority, not quality.  (The senate spores were good, but NOT absolutely pure.)  One scientist sent me the 1984 report which showed that creating a billion Bacillus subtilis spores per milliliter (a trillion spores per liter) is routine, and it happens in 24 hours.  Bacillus subtilis bacteria doubles in 40 minutes.  Bacillus anthracis Ames bacteria doubles in 20 minutes.  For an experienced microbioloist, creating the attack spores in a few days was definitely NOT "impossible."  

April 26, 2010 - Before I forget, I need to make a comment about a conversation I had on Lew Weinstein's forum last week.  In the conversation, I had mentioned that there is a difference between knowing someone is guilty and proving in a court of law that a person is guilty.  Someone then asked if knowing someone is guilty is the same as having a theory that someone is guilty.   The answer, of course, is absolutely NOT.   Theories aren't about facts.  Theories are usually based upon past experiences when there aren't any solid facts to work with.  Example: The initial theory in the anthrax case was that al Qaeda sent the letters, because the anthrax mailings happened so soon after 9/11.  When the facts began to accumulate, however, it became very clear that al Qaeda was NOT behind the anthrax attacks.  There was also a theory that the mailer must live in Central New Jersey, since experience says that a culprit doesn't typically drive long distances to a specific area twice to commit crimes.  But no facts could be found to prove that theory, either.

My new supplemental page "The Bruce Ivins Timeline" seems to show when the investigators at the FBI knew that they had found the anthrax killer.   You can almost pinpoint the exact date: Thursday, July 28, 2005.

There are possible dates before that, too.  But, as I've said many times, the FBI is not a Borg Collective.  It is not an organization where everyone thinks exactly alike, and when someone learns something, everyone else automatically and immediately learns it, too.

On Monday, May 9, 2005, someone in the FBI submitted a request for all files everyone had on Bruce Ivins.   That certainly seems like someone decided that they knew who sent the anthrax letters.

On Thursday, March 31, 2005, Ivins is interviewed and questioned in such a way that Ivins notified the FBI that the next time they wanted to interview him, Ivins wanted his lawyer to be present.  That could mean something, too.

But Thursday, July 28, 2005 seems to be a date when everyone at the FBI knew Ivins was the killer.  On that date the FBI checked Ivins home to see if anything unusual was going on or if there were any unknown vehicles parked there.  There wasn't.  That means nothing by itself.  But, then the FBI seems to go into "stealth mode" for a year and a half, and there is almost nothing related to Bruce Ivins until Thursday, January 30, 2007.   It appears the investigators at the FBI knew they had the culprit, but the attorneys at the Department of Justice felt they still didn't have enough evidence to convict Bruce Ivins in a court of law.

What was happening during that year and a half?  The scientists assisting the FBI were finalizing the examination of the 1,070 Ames anthrax samples obtained from 15 or so labs around the world, and they were discovering that the scientific evidence from the 1,0707 samples led directly to Dr. Ivins' flask RMR-1029.  That flask was the murder weapon.  And at some point in time in 2006 they realized/discovered that Paul Keim at Arizona State University (ASU) still had his copy of the slants that Ivins had created in February of 2002.  That February, Ivins had prepared two slants from the material in flask RMR-1029, however, he had improperly prepared the two slants, and, therefore, they were not useable in court.  Because the FBI's slant was unuseable in court, the FBI had destroyed it.  But Paul Keim still had his copy.  And when examined, they found it contained the four key mutations, yet the false replacement slants that Ivins had prepared in April that were also supposed to be from flask RMR-1029 did not have the mutations.  Gotcha!  Ivins had deliberately tried to mislead the investigation.  That's consciousness of guilt.

But, like all prosecutors, the prosecutors in the Department of Justice always want more evidence.  The real clincher was the "smoking gun" the FBI investigators found after the thorough search of Ivins' home, Ivins' office, Ivins' vehicles and Ivins' safe deposit box on the evening and night of November 1-2, 2007.  Frightened by the searches, a few days later, on November 8, Bruce Ivins threw away the materials which explained the hidden code he'd put in the media letters.  When those materials were examined and it was realized what they contained, the prosecutors clearly had a solid case.   They knew who sent the anthrax letters and they could prove it in court.

Yes, there is a difference between knowing someone is guilty and proving it in a court of law.  And it has nothing to do with any theory.

April 25, 2010 (B) - In past months, I've mentioned a few times that I have been thinking about writing another book about the anthrax case.  I even tentatively titled it "Analyzing the Anthrax Attacks - Beliefs vs. Facts."   But, actual publication seems very unlikely to happen.  I have no plans to self-publish again, and regular book publishers aren't really interested in a book by some guy on the Internet they have never heard of.  They also don't like the idea of publishing a book when nearly all the information is available for free on a web site.  And, they don't like the idea of publishing a book that is critical of the media and therefore unlikely to get many good reviews from the media.  Plus, my first book was far from being a "best seller," which is another reason to not publish a new version.

Events of the past week also made something else very clear: Even if I was thinking of writing a new book, I couldn't finish it until after the National Academies of Science (NAS) publishes their review of the science of the Amerithrax case.   There are just too many "Beliefs vs Facts" that need verification by the NAS.

Plus, the flood of news articles and all the heated discussions last week showed me that the media isn't finished with writing pure crap about the case.  The nonsensical stories they wrote accusing Dr. Hatfill in the early years of the case are now being supplemented by nonsensical stories suggesting that Dr. Ivins was innocent.  They used uninformed opinions from people with agendas for their first round of nonsense, and now they're using uninformed opinions from people with agendas for their second round of nonsense.  Facts don't matter.

Of course, it's much easier to get interviews with angry scientists who have uninformed opinions than with careful scientists who have solid facts.  The former group will hunt reports down to talk with them, the latter don't have time to talk with reporters who will probably twist and distort what they say.

Anyway, there's something I've been hesitant to put on this web site because I wanted to save it for the new book.  But, now it doesn't seem to matter.   (If I do decide to self-publish, it will probably be only enough copies to be certain that two copies will go into the Library of Congress for posterity.)  So, I've just added a new supplemental page titled "The Bruce Ivins Timeline."  It's a reference guide to everything about the Ivins investigation that I can associate with a specific date or general time period.   It allows the reader to step through the sequence of events, seeing when Ivins did things, when the FBI interviewed him, when the FBI started putting surveillance on Ivins' home, etc.

The Timeline answers a lot of questions, but it poses a few, too.  For example, almost nothing happened in the last half of 2005 and all of 2006.  Why?  That seems to be when the investigators knew that Ivins was the culprit, but they also knew they didn't have enough proof for the DOJ prosecutors to be absolutely certain of a conviction.  That period also seems to be when the focus of the Investigation turned to finalizing and analyzing all the accumulated information gathered about the mutations in FBI's repository of 1,070 samples of the Ames strain - probably to see if the solid proof against Ivins could be found there.  (The solid proof was found on November 7, 2007.)

I had hoped to have a different supplemental page done by now.  It's the page I'm calling "Bruce Ivins and The Murder of Bob Stevens."  It's like the Timeline, but it only steps through the events from August of 2001 through mid-October 2001, showing how Dr. Ivins displayed his "consciousness of guilt" by destroying evidence and supplying false evidence.  It explains that period in much greater detail.  It's taking me longer than I expected because I keep having to get inside the head of Dr. Ivins to try to figure out why he did certain things and what he appears to have been thinking at the time.  I don't want to do too much "mind reading."  I want the data to show what he was thinking.

There are a couple other supplemental pages I'm considering, too.  They would be like additional chapters of the new book that I'm not likely to get published.  However, although the book might never get published, that doesn't mean it won't get mostly written.  It will just be in web format instead of book format.  

(Some chapters from my first book can be carried over to the new book almost word for word:

1 - Studying The Anthrax Letters
2 - Studying The Anthrax Envelopes
4 - Understanding Anthrax
5 - The First Anthrax Attack
6 - Kathy Nguyen & The Second NY Cluster
8 - The Second Anthrax Attack
12 - Barbara Hatch Rosenberg's Political Campaign
14 - Hoaxes Schmoaxes
15 - To Err Is Human

Except for Chapter 15, the material in the other chapters isn't on this web site except in piecemeal fashion scattered about in comments and supplemental pages that I've written over the years.)

The process of writing helps me think things through and to make sense of everything.

The case against Dr. Ivins is solid and makes perfect sense.  But sometimes I stumble across things that seem to need further investigation and a the writing of a detailed explanation to make sure I understand every implication.  For example, one thing that I need to wait for the NAS report to clarify is the way Ivins stored live growth plates in the autoclave for weeks at a time.  The facts suggest to me that Ivins could have prepared powders for the media letters by simply taking not-yet-sterilized materials out of the autoclave and perhaps cleaning up the spores a bit.  I can't see any problem with that, but I'm wondering if the NAS can.

Time will tell.           

April 25, 2010 (A) -  A
scientist with considerable experience making spores just sent me an article from 1984 titled “Single, Chemically Defined Sporulation Medium for Bacillus subtilis: Growth, Sporulation, and Extracellular Protease Production.”

It’s an article about Bacillus subtilis, but the principles can be applied to Bacillus anthracis.

The scientist explained to me that the report shows that they grew spores in a 300 milliliter flask.

They diluted the spore material in the flask 100 times to do the spore counts. They counted 1 to 2 billion spores in the diluted sample. That equates to 300 to 600 billion spores in the 300 milliliter flask.

The scientist confirms that that means that you would get 1 trillion to 2 trillion spores in a 1 liter flask.  In 24 hours.

And he confirmed that would be equivalent to about 1 gram of dried spores.

Updates & Changes: Sunday, April 18, 2010, thru Saturday, April 24, 2010

April 24, 2010 - It's deja vu all over again!  The media is repeating the early days of the Amerithrax investigation!  Now, instead of listening to Barbara Hatch Rosenberg claiming that the FBI is covering up for Dr. Hatfill and some secret and illegal U.S. government bioweapons program, as they did in 2002, the media is listening to Dr. Henry Heine claim that Dr. Ivins is innocent because Dr. Ivins didn't have the ability to weaponize the attack spores with silica, and it would have been impossible for it to have happened right under Dr. Heine's nose.

In 2002, the media was reporting that the FBI was covering up for the anthrax killer.
In 2010, the media is reporting that the FBI has still failed to catch the anthrax killer.

How can the media be so wrong again?  It's because they listen to scientist sources with impressive credentials who tell them bullshit stories that make good headlines.  They do not bother to look at the facts. 

To be fair, however, just like back in 2002, there are a few in the media who are looking beyond the opinions of scientists with agendas.  In 2002 there were a few media reports which questioned all the attention being paid to Dr. Hatfill, who had NOT been charged with any crime.  And now there is the Science magazine article "Ex-USAMRIID Scientist Defends Bruce Ivins Using Back-of-the-Envelope Math" which lays out a few facts which dispute the claims by Dr. Heine.  And there is a "Dick Destiny" article titled "Matsumoto and Anthrax Conspiracy" which shows some of the the nonsense uttered by Dr. Heine can be traced back to nonsense from Gary Matsumoto.  The Dick Destiny article ends with this:

The press, of course, cannot evaluate independently, being only able to deliver arguments from authority – all depending on who it believes to be authority.

But, for every fact-based media article there appear to be about five or six bullshit-based media articles.

It's deja vu all over again.   


April 23, 2010 (D) - The media crap just keeps coming and coming.  Now we have a voice from the past, Gary Matsumoto, posting to ProPublica.org an article titled "Colleague Says Anthrax Numbers Add Up to Unsolved Case."

Matsumoto reports that Dr. Heine "supervised the work of accused anthrax killer Bruce E. Ivins" and Dr. Heine was "
one of the few scientists at the Army lab with the skills to grow large batches of anthrax"   Science magazine reported, "Heine said he had no experience making anthrax stocks himself." 

Who are we to believe?

Matsumoto reports that. "Heine told the 16-member panel that Ivins would have had to grow as many as 10 trillion spores, an astronomical amount that couldn't have gone unnoticed by his colleagues."  And it would have taken a year to grow 10 million spores.  Dr. Ivins himself stated that he was growing nearly a trillion spores a week.  (FBI pdf file #847423, page 5)  

Who are we to believe?


April 23, 2010 (C) - This is really getting interesting!  I just found a small article from Science Magazine's web site with the great title "Ex-USAMRIID Scientist Defends Bruce Ivins Using Back-of-the-Envelope Math."   It turns out that Dr. Heine has no experience making spores.   So, he was talking through his hat when he said it would take a year to make the spores in the anthrax letters.  Science Magazine asked Adam Driks from Loyola University, "who routinely makes anthrax stocks for research" how long it would take to make the spores in the letters, and Dr. Driks replied,
"Making 10 to 15 liters of anthrax — which is approximately how much would have been required — 'might have meant having to use many, many little flasks (20 to 50 milliliters each) over a number of days.'"

The article ends with this:

Heine, who was himself a suspect early on in the investigation—along with several other USAMRIID researchers, told reporters that he had serious misgivings about how the Federal Bureau of Investigation had handled the case. “I have a strong desire to clear Bruce’s name,” he told reporters.

It appears that there is a very good chance that facts will override uninformed opinions in the NAS review.

April 23, 2010 (B) - There's a radio interview with Dr. Henry Heine stating his beliefs about Ivins' innocence HERE.

It's interesting that Dr. Heine considers those who testified against Dr. Ivins to be "Judases."  That implies that he feels they should have stood by Dr. Ivins whether he was guilty or not.

Dr. Heine also shows his abysmal ignorance of the case by again bringing up the silicon issue.  He still believes the silicon was part of some "weaponization" process, which is totally absurd if you have seen the data.  He suggests that some foreign government was behind the attacks because they have the capabilities to "weaponize" spores with silicon.

Dr. Heine and the host of the radio show seem to suggest that the only reason Dr. Hatfill said that he believes Ivins was the culprit is because Dr. Hatfill doesn't want to become the focus of the investigation again.  That's about as good an example of manipulating facts to fit a belief as we're likely to see.

But, the best example of totally misreading the facts comes at the very end of the interview when Dr. Heine actually says that the FBI was there watching Ivins commit suicide.  He bases that absurdity upon reports he read.  But those reports say that the FBI was watching the house, they saw the ambulance arrive, and they went into the house AFTER the paramedics had entered.  They did NOT watch Dr. Ivins commit suicide.  Absurdities piled upon absurdities.  

April 23, 2010 (A) - A few days ago, I was thinking that I was beginning to run out of things to write about.  But this morning there are two MORE new articles about the anthrax case to comment upon.  Both are about comments made by a former colleague of Bruce Ivins after he met with the panel from the National Academies of Science (NAS).  The first article is by Scott Shane of The New York Times and is titled "Colleague Disputes Case Against Anthrax Suspect."

Asked by reporters after his testimony whether he believed that there was any chance that Dr. Ivins, who committed suicide in 2008, had carried out the attacks, the microbiologist, Henry S. Heine, replied, “Absolutely not.” At the Army’s biodefense laboratory in Maryland, where Dr. Ivins and Dr. Heine worked, he said, “among the senior scientists, no one believes it.”

According to Scott Shane,

The public remarks from Dr. Heine, two months after the Justice Department officially closed the case, represent a major public challenge to its conclusion in one of the largest, most politically delicate and scientifically complex cases in F.B.I. history.

The opinion of a friend is "a major public challenge"?  Really?  And Mr. Shane also says this:

In its written summation of the case in February, the bureau said Dr. Ivins’s lab technicians grew anthrax spores that the technicians incorrectly believed were added to Dr. Ivins’s main supply flask. But the summary said the spores were never added to the flask, suggesting that surplus spores might have been diverted by Dr. Ivins for the letters.

Wha...?  That seems to be Scott Shane's own bizarre interpretation of what's in the summary report.  I'll have to do some research to try to figure out what he's talking about.  I recall reading that newly produced spores were sometimes added to flask RMR-1029 if the amount in the flask seemed low, but I don't recall any suggestion that that had anything to do with how the attack spores were made.   Here is what Scott Shane says about when the National Academies of Science will finish their review:

The panel is expected to complete its report this fall.

The second article I found on the Net this morning is
titled "Co-Worker: Ivins didn't do it," and it's from the Frederick News-Post.  The article begins with this paragraph:

It is absolutely impossible that Bruce Ivins, accused of mailing anthrax and killing five people in 2001, could have created and cleaned up anthrax spores in the timeline and manner the FBI alleges, Ivins' former co-worker said Thursday.

Interestingly, Dr. Heine provides some data that other scientists can try to dispute with better data:

Heine told the panel that the most common way of growing bacteria at USAMRIID is in flasks. Based on the number of envelopes mailed out (eight to 10), the concentration of spores in the powder (10 to the 12th power spores per gram) and the number of grams of anthrax per envelope (1 to 2 grams), he calculated there were at least 10 to the 13th power anthrax spores in the attacks. Under ideal conditions, growing anthrax in a flask could produce only 10 to the 11th power spores -- one hundredth of the total needed.

"At absolute best, if he pushed it, he could have possibly done it in a year," Heine said of Ivins, after the meeting.

Other experts have said that the powders could have been created in a few days.  I suspect that Dr. Heine is talking about how things are done if you follow strict lab procedures designed to meet very rigid testing procedures.  But, obviously, the anthrax culprit did NOT follow strict lab procedures, since strict lab procedures do not allow for the creating of lethal anthrax powders in secret.

The Frederick News-Post reports something different about when the NAS will complete it's review:


The NAS committee left after about half an hour of questioning Heine. Members already met twice to review FBI documents, and they expect a draft report to be ready by midsummer.

Here is more about what Dr. Heine believes:

After the committee left, Heine expressed frustration that he had already told the FBI everything he just presented, but that no one had listened to him. FBI agents he dealt with were professional, he said, but some officials at the Department of Justice were extremely arrogant.

He said the whole investigation was filled with lies. Officials told different USAMRIID researchers their co-workers accused them of committing the attacks, just to see their reaction. They searched his vacation house and car without warrants.

They misled him about the questions they would ask him in front of a grand jury. And they tried to get him to seek a restraining order against Ivins, only days before he committed suicide, by saying Ivins had threatened to kill Heine during a group therapy session.

Heine is not the only one who does not believe Ivins was the real killer.

"At least among my closest colleagues, nobody believes Bruce did this," he said. He thinks the FBI went after Ivins because "personality-wise, he was the weakest link."

Friends of the accused aren't generally considered to be impartial witnesses. 

It appears that we may be having a "trial by media" going on here.  The defense is currently presenting its case.  It's all about opinions of friends and colleagues and miscellaneous conspiracy theorists.  No actual facts.  But there is some data which can be checked and proven or disproven.   The question is: Will the media allow a rebuttal from the prosecution?

This could all get very interesting again.

April 22, 2010 - Hmm.  This morning, I see I have two new articles to write about.  Both are opinion pieces.  The first is Glenn Greenwald's opinion from Salon.com titled "Unlearned lessons from the Steven Hatfill case."  It begins with this:

Andrew Sullivan rightly recommends this new Atlantic article by David Freed, which details how the FBI and a mindless, stenographic American media combined to destroy the life of Steven Hatfill.  Hatfill is the former U.S. Government scientist who for years was publicly depicted as the anthrax attacker and subjected to Government investigations so invasive and relentless that they forced him into almost total seclusion, paralysis and mental instability, only to have the Government years later (in 2008) acknowledge that he had nothing to do with those attacks and to pay him $5.8 million to settle the lawsuit he brought.  There are two crucial lessons that ought to be learned from this horrible -- though far-from-rare -- travesty:

(1) It requires an extreme level of irrationality to read what happened to Hatfill and simultaneously to have faith that the "real anthrax attacker" has now been identified as a result of the FBI's wholly untested and uninvestigated case against Bruce Ivins.  The parallels are so overwhelming as to be self-evident.

And Greenwald's "crucial lesson" #2 is:

(2) More generally, it is hard to overstate the authoritarian impulses necessary for someone -- even in the wake of numerous cases like Steven Hatfill's -- to place blind faith in government accusations without needing to see any evidence or have that evidence subjected to adversarial scrutiny.  Yet that is exactly the blind faith that dominates so many of our political debates.

The "uninvestigated" case against Ivins?  Uninvestigated by whom?  Glenn Greenwald?

I find the two sections below to be of particular interest and representative of Greenwald's entire diatribe:

So unconvincing is the case against Ivins that even the most establishment, government-trusting voices -- including key members of Congress, leading scientific journals and biological weapons experts, and the editorial pages of The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall St. Journal -- have all expressed serious doubts over the FBI's case and have called for further, independent investigations.

and

the American media -- with some notable exceptions -- continued to do to Ivins what it did to Hatfill and what it does in general:  uncritically disseminate government claims rather than questioning or investigating them for accuracy.  As a result, many Americans continue to blindly assume any accusations that come from the Government must be true.

The first section claims that countless people are expressing doubts about the case against Ivins, and the second section claims that everyone is simply taking what the government says as true and, with few exceptions, no one is questioning anything. 

The only parallels in the Hatfill and Ivins "investigations"that are "so overwhelming as to be self-evident" are that the opinion makers in the media were wrong about both.  The opinion "journalists" in the media pointed the finger at an innocent man, Dr. Hatfill, and now they're defending a guilty man, Dr. Ivins.   The opinion makers stand up for and argue that that actual culprit - Dr. Ivins - is probably innocent because the media and people with angry opinions like Glenn Greenwald don't bother to look at the evidence.

The second new article this morning is from a UPI "Outside View" commentator, Lawrence Sellin, Ph.D., a U.S. Army Reserve colonel who knew Dr. Ivins at Ft. Detrick, "although not well."  His uninformed opinion is titled "Anthrax Letters: Was Bruce Ivins hounded to death?

He didn't strike me as being dangerous and I was, therefore, both surprised and shocked that the FBI concluded that he was the anthrax mailer.

The most striking elements in Colonel Sellin's comments are his near total ignorance about the case and his reliance upon people who appear to be equally ignorant about the case.  

It has been reported that Ivins underwent a similar degree of harassment [as Hatfill] and subjected to an equivalent amount of leaking of confidential information as Hatfill, before the case was officially closed in February 2010.

I've been tracking the case since Day One and I never saw any leaks about Ivins in the media.  When Ivins' name was first mentioned in the Los Angeles Times a few days after his suicide, it seemed to be a name out of the blue.  I thought I'd never heard it before.  However, research showed that he was co-author of some articles I'd read, and he was mentioned in the media when they reported the unauthorized cleanups at Ft. Detrick.  That was it.  No leaks whatsoever.

Colonel Sellin even argues the silicon issue once again:

Apparently, equivalent levels of silicon in the anthrax spore coats weren't found at Fort Detrick. If true, then the anthrax in the second mailing may not have come from there. Silicon isn't required to grow anthrax but must be added. It isn't only a common constituent of anti-foaming agents used during the fermentation process in anthrax production but it can help make a better anthrax aerosol to generate greater lethal effects.

There's also a hint that Colonel Sellin still believes that al Qaeda was probably behind the attacks:

It is interesting to note that the second more lethal anthrax letters were likely mailed between Oct. 6 and Oct. 9, 2001. The coalition attack on Afghanistan began Oct. 7, 2001.

Could the phrase "We have this anthrax" have referred to the high potency anthrax in the second mailing and meant, not only to instill panic, but also as a mutually assured destruction-type threat to limit or prevent effective action against Taliban and al-Qaida targets in Afghanistan?

All that is needed to believe that al Qaeda was behind the anthrax attacks is to be totally ignorant of the facts.

What these two opinion pieces seem to show is that the people who are abysmally ignorant of the evidence, but who have angry opinions anyway, are making their voices heard in the media and on the Internet, while those who actually know about the evidence have stated their findings and have moved on to other things.

But, it's not a hopeless situtation.  When enough ignorant people make enough ignorant claims, someone usually decides it's time to set the record straight.  That may come after the NAS has finished their review of the science of the case. 

April 21, 2010 (B) - I just noticed that Salon.com has an article about the Hatfill interviews.  I'll probably write a comment  about it tomorrow.  Like so many others who don't do research, they compare the Hatfill case to the Ivins case.

April 21, 2010 (A) - Although it seems hard to believe, people on the Lunatic Fringe are still making absurd claims about the silicon that was detected in the spore coats of the attack anthrax. 

For many years, a report from AFIP (Armed Forces Institute of Pathology) that had not been publicly released was used by conspiracy theorists to make absurd claims that the unreleased AFIP report could prove that the attack spores were coated with silica and utilized some supersophisticated weaponization technique.  The AFIP report would also prove that the U.S. government was hiding that facts so no one could show that the attack powders were made in some secret and illegal U.S. government lab.  The analysis performed at Sandia National Laboratories which showed the spores were NOT coated simply caused the conspiracy theorists to argue that Sandia must be part of the vast conspiracy.

The AFIP report was recently released in response to an FOIA request, but whoever created the .pdf file created a file that is about 16 times larger than it should be.  The 41 pages measure
35.4 inches by 45.8 inches each, instead of 8.5 inches by 11 inches.  That means the file is 26 million bytes when it should be less than 2 million bytes.  And that means it is too big to be sent by email, and it's even a problem to put it on a web site where people can download to it. 

If you manage to obtain a copy of the report, you will see that AFIP made no claims about weaponization.  The report consists of many images and graphs and a few paragraphs of explanation.  The only conclusion drawn is that there was no bentonite in the powders (bentonite was a primary ingredient in weaponized anthrax spores made in Iraq).

The claims made by the Lunatic Fringe were their own absurd interpretations of the images and graphs, which is what they continue to do.   Silicon is only mentioned in two places in the AFIP report.  Page 32 of the pdf file has these two paragraphs:

Significant findings for the SPS02.57.03 sample [probably the Daschle powder] 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 sample [probably the NY Post powder] had regions which exhibited the same set of elements found in SPS02.57.03, but these tended to be on "large" pieces within the sample.   It appears that silicon (not bonded to oxygen or other elements) is present in many areas of this sample.

The same information is repeated on pages 33 and 34 with different phrasing for the second paragraph:

The SPS02.88.01 sample had regions which exhibited the same set of elements found in SPS02.57.03, but these were generally on the larger aggregates within the sample. Many of the smaller pieces within the sample exhibited the main peak associated with silicon with very little oxygen as shown in the attached data sheet.

The image for SPS02.57.03 on page 2 shows a clump or pile of spores that appears to be roughly 70 microns in length by 40 microns in width.  (A spore is 1 (ONE) micron in diameter.)  Here is a screen capture of the image and one of the graphs for the (presumed) Daschle powder with the Silicon peak identified in red:

AFIP image #1

As you can see, the graph shows the presence of Silicon (Si) at the spot marked by the cross near the center of the image.   The report contains other graphs for each of the 4 crosses.  But, because this is a bulk analysis, NOT an examination of a single spore, the location and amount of silicon is not really known.  The EDX is reading what is at that spot, which could include parts of several spores or material between spores.

The image on page 3 of the report shows a clump that is about 40 microns by 40 microns.  
The image on page 5 shows a clump that is about 25 microns by 35 microns.  The image on page 6 is a clump roughly 20 microns by 20 microns.     

Then on page 7 we have this image and graph of what appears to be a chunk of material from the NY Post powder:

AFIP image #2

The graph shows a massive peak for Silicon, but the bulk analysis was done on a large chunk that extends well beyond the 200 microns by 200 microns image.  Without knowing more about what is located at the particular point being examined, there's no way of knowing whether the reading represents anything real.  It seems even possible that the reading could be from the background.  What material was the powder set upon?  We don't know.    

To the untrained eye of a rabid conspiracy theorist, the reading says almost the entire powder is silicon and the spores are barely detectable in the silicon.  That is absurd, of course.   But the conspiracy theorists are trying to argue that it means something sinister, even if they have no clue to exactly what it means.

(A weaponization process used at Dugway Proving Grounds back in the 1950s and 1960s involved covering spores with a layer of siliCA so they wouldn't stick together.  Click HERE for a picture of a single weaponized spore coated with silica.  A silica molecule consists of one Silicon atom attached to two Oxygen atoms.  The AFIP report specifically states that there is very little oxygen in the readings, therefore the material being detected cannot be silica.  The AFIP graphs show nearly pure silicon.  Plus, the material is a very big clump, which says there is no coating to prevent clumps.)

The AFIP report also contains images and graphs for samples of materials that can be used for comparison, like pure sea sand and chunks of bentonite, which showed silicon readings very close to the above readings.

More information is needed.  The idea that the New York Post powder was actually pure silicon with a spore inserted here and there is preposterous - except, evidently, to rabid conspiracy theorists and True Believers.  They're arguing that the CLUMP of spores was coated in a supersophisticated way that prevents clumping.   That is logical to them.

The scientists I've asked about this report merely state that the images are too fuzzy to be certain what they contain.  You cannot see the individual spores.  And it's obvious that the AFIP readings for the NY Post powder do NOT represent the actual elements in the NY Post powder.   Rather than make guesses about what the readings represent, they'd prefer to wait for an explanation from AFIP - which we'll probably never get.  Until then, the analysis done at Sandia is the ONLY accurate analysis available.  That analysis shows silicon only inside the spore coats of some of the spores.

So, we have the AFIP report which shows that AFIP made no claims about the powders, but conspiracy theorists did their own interpretations of the data in order to come up with their screwball beliefs.

Situation normal.  The Lunatic Fringe believes what they want to believe.  Reality is something else altogether.
 

April 19, 2010 (B) - The same unconfirmed source who reported that Dr. Hatfill was going to appear before The National Press Club in May is now saying, "
Dr. Hatfill’s appearance at the National Press Club will not go forward in May as planned."

Meanwhile, someone else reminded me of the August 23, 2002 profile of Barbara Hatch Rosenberg in Science Magazine, titled "
Unconventional Detective Bears Down on a Killer."  The profile is very admiring of the way Dr. Rosenberg accused a person she didn't even know of mass murder, a person who later turned out to be totally innocent.

April 19, 2010 (A) - Foreign Policy Magazine has a refresher course on the early days of the anthrax mailings in an article which praises the work of the CDC's Epidemic Intelligence Service.

April 18, 2010 - When I first learned that Dr. Hatfill was going to be interviewed by Matt Lauer on The Today Show and would also be the subject of an article in The Atlantic magazine at about the same time, my first thought was that Dr. Hatfill had written a book about what happened to him after the anthrax attacks.

But there was no mention of any book in either interview.  The unconfirmed report that Dr. Hatfill is also going to be talking to The National Press Club in May also seemed to be part of some "media blitz" for a book.  But, now I'm looking for some other explanation for Dr. Hatfill's sudden willingness to appear in public.

I suspect it could simply be that he's clearing the way for becoming an "ordinary citizen" again.  He's getting the media attention done and over with.  He's answering all questions, so he won't be hounded for questions any longer.   It seems he's trying to make himself "old news" and not worthy of any further hounding by the media.

Seems reasonable.  If I'm wrong, I hope someone will let me know and explain Hatfill's real motivation behind all this.

The speech at the National Press Club - if it's going to be a speech - could be interesting.  It could be what I was hoping to see in the book by Dr. Hatfill that hasn't yet materialized. 

Yesterday, while looking for some confirmation of the May event, I couldn't find anything about it.  However, I did find this worthwhile item from a few years ago on The National Press Club's web site

National Press Club Deplores Court Order To Compel Source's Identity

WASHINGTON -- The National Press Club joins other journalism organizations in expressing concern about a decision to hold a newspaper reporter in contempt of court for failing to disclose her news sources.

Former USA Today reporter Toni Locy is being held in contempt of court by U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton for failing to reveal her sources for stories she wrote about the federal government's investigation of former Army scientist Steven J. Hatfill's potential connection to the 2001 anthrax attacks. Hatfill is suing the government.

Locy will be fined $500 a day for seven days, $1,000 a day for the following seven days, and $5,000 a day for the seven days after that.

"We believe it will have a chilling effect not only on those currently in our profession but also on aspiring newspaper reporters such as those Locy teaches at West Virginia University," said NPC President Sylvia Smith.

"If confidential news sources fear that reporters can be coerced into divulging their sources' names, then news sources will start to dry up. That will reduce the flow of news and ultimately weaken our democracy," she said.

"No one will ever agree with everything newspapers print," Smith said. "But we encourage all those involved in the case to recall the words of Thomas Jefferson: 'Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.'"


It could be interesting to hear what Dr. Hatfill has to say to a group that felt he was wrong in trying to get Toni Locy to reveal the names of the FBI/DOJ sources who where helping to ruin Hatfill's life with false information.

It would be interesting to hear what Dr. Hatfill has to say if we can hear it without any media editing.

NBC and Matt Lauer evidently expected that they would have a blockbuster exclusive in getting the first interview of Dr. Hatfill after so many years of silence.   Before the interview, I heard talk that the interview would be shown again several times on MSNBC during the day, and it would be mentioned and summarized on the NBC Nightly News.  But none of that seems to have happened.  There was nothing on the Nightly News about the interview.  And, if there was anything on TV on MSNBC about it, it escaped my notice.  Clearly, the interview wasn't what NBC and Matt Lauer expected to get.

We don't know exactly what they got, since all we saw of the interview were eight minutes of heavily edited ordinariness.  And those eight minutes were mostly narrative and questions.   We probably saw less than four minutes of Dr. Hatfill actually talking, and that was from an interview that undoubtedly took at least an hour, and more likely closer to two hours.  Except for talk shows where you usually see everything, that's the way TV news interviews are typically done.  They film or tape or digitally record questions and answers for hours and then chop, snip and edit everything down to get what is actually shown on TV. 

I suspect they wanted a haggard, frustrated, angry Dr. Hatfill lashing out at the government for what was done to him.  Instead, they got a healthy, semi-content, mellow Dr. Hatfill who wasn't really upset about anything.  The first question was about being given a lie detector test.  Was Dr. Hatfill upset at being asked to take such a test?  Dr. Hatfill merely shook his head and told Matt Lauer it was standard stuff and didn't bother him at all.   According to Dr. Hatfill, the questions asked by the FBI were "mundane," not aggressive or accusatory.  That part of the interview ran from the :45 minute mark to the 1:25 mark.   Then there was some narration and clips.

At the 1:55 mark, the interview turned to the first search of Dr. Hatfill's apartment on June 25, 2002.   Hatfill described the search as "a show" for the media.  He was surprised.  No anger.  That part ended at the 2:50 minute mark.

At the 3:00 minute mark, Lauer asked Dr. Hatfill about what his life was like for "the next several years."  According to Dr. Hatfill, his basic attitude during that time was that it was all going to end some day.  It was just something he had to put up with until then.  That part of the interview ended at the 3:40 mark.

At the 4:00 minute mark Lauer talked about Hatfill losing his job and being under constant surveillance.  Dr. Hatfill seemed to simply accept it.  He said, "The law says they can do that, so .... fine."  Hatfill did show some anger at having the FBI contact his friends and warn them about associating with him.  The attempts to "isolate" him from his friends were clearly very painful to him.  That part of the interview ended at the 4:55 mark.

At the 5:15 mark, Lauer started asking Dr. Hatfill about Bruce Ivins.  Lauer started by asking, "Given what you've told me, Steve, about your complete lack of confidence in the Justice Department and the investigation they conducted surrounding you, do you think they got it right now?" 

Wow!  What a loaded question!  And, clearly, the answer Dr. Hatfill gave was NOT what Lauer wanted.  Dr. Hatfill merely shook his head and said he had no way of knowing.  He hasn't seen the data.  The FBI hasn't found it necesssary to share any of their investigation material regarding Ivins with him.  Then Hatfill said, "I have talked with some senior scientists whom I respect, and I have to take their opinion that ... yeah.  Other than that, I can't say."  To be clear, Lauer asked, "Do you think they got it right now?" and Hatfill responded, "Yeah."  (In the interview in The Atlantic, Dr. Hatfill says he originally thought that al Qaeda was behind the attacks and was surprised when the FBI indentified a fellow scientist from USAMRIID as the culprit.)  

The Lauer interview then explored the fact that Dr. Hatfill was only able to get through the terrible ordeal because he had a "band of brothers" who stood by him.   That part of the Lauer interview ended at the 7:35 minute mark.

In that final part of the interview, it is clear that Hatfill was distraught over the FBI's harassment and the fact that the FBI was able to do what they did without his being able to stop it.  It wasn't what he expected from his government.  The interview ended on that note, which is undoubtedly what NBC and Lauer felt was the "best" ending they could get.

How could any competent journalist have NOT asked: When and how did you first learn that you were being suspected of being the anthrax mailer?

If Matt Lauer asked that question, they didn't show it.  Up until the Lauer interview, NBC's record regarding reporting on the Amerithrax investigation was better than average.  Now they are just average or lower than average.

To someone familiar with the facts of the case, the Lauer interview was like only being shown the last third of a thriller movie.  You get there when the crisis is already in full swing.  You're not shown all the parts that led up to the crisis.

Who made Dr. Steven Hatfill a suspect?  It was NOT the FBI.

How can anyone understand what happened to Dr. Hatfill if nothing is mentioned about how he became suspect???!!!

How can anyone understand what happened to Dr. Hatfill if you begin with the search of his apartment??!! 

How can anyone understand what happened to Dr. Hatfill if there's no explanation of how he was picked from all the thousands of people who should have been even more likely suspects??!!

All you hear about the Bruce Ivins case from doubters is how there were hundreds of other scientists who theoretically could have taken the seed spores from flask RMR-1029 besides the man who was actually in control of the flask.

But almost no one in the media seems interested in how Dr. Hatfill became a suspect. 

No doubt that is because that is a story which shows the media in a bad light.  Media reporting was abysmal.  It was the most blantant example of media bias and poor reporting America has seen in the past hundred years or more.

The Lauer interview was just a continuation of the irresponsibly bad reporting about the Amerithrax investigation that we've seen for over eight years.  

The article in The Atlantic magazine was excellent, but even there the reporter distorted a few facts in an attempt to suggest that the Ivins investigation somehow compares to what happened to Dr. Hatfill.  It doesn't compare!

Conspiracy theorists and the media identified Dr. Hatfill as a suspect.  They even claimed that the FBI was covering up for Dr. Hatfill because the FBI was NOT investigating him publicly.

The FBI's investigation identified Bruce Ivins as the anthrax mailer.

The FBI got it right.  The media and the conspiracy theorists got it totally wrong.

Updates & Changes: Sunday, April 11, 2010, thru Saturday, April 17, 2010

April 16, 2010 - As promised, The Atlantic magazine's interview of Dr. Hatfill is now online.  And MSNBC's web site has an article about the Matt Lauer interview, and there is a video of Matt Lauer's 8 minute interview included with it.

The Matt Lauer interview seems to be very heavily edited.  If my experiences with being interviewed by the media are any gauge, Dr. Hatfill was probably interviewed for about two hours in order to get the 8 minutes actually used on TV.  And the bits they used on TV were probably carefully chosen to fit to the agenda of the show, which may not really be representative of what Hatfill actually said or wanted to say.  The show is about the harassment of Dr. Hatfill.  It's not about what caused him to become a "person of interest."

There is only one sentence in the entire 8 minute Lauer interview about what happened in the eight months prior to the June 25, 2002 search of Hatfill's apartment.  They mention that a lot of people were being investigated.  Then, at around the 1:20 minute mark, the narrator says, "But, unlike the others, he [Hatfill] became the focus of the investigation after two outside sources said he fit the profile of the anthrax killer."

That's it!  Wow!  What a disappointment!

The MSNBC article is about the same, except they don't even bother to get the facts right.  They say:

Ivins committed suicide after his name was made public.
 
And then Barbara Hatch Rosenberg becomes part of the article:

Meanwhile, Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, a passionate crusader against the use of bioweapons, was also convinced that an American scientist was to blame for the anthrax attacks. In an interview with the BBC in early 2002, she theorized that the murders were the result of a top-secret CIA project gone awry, and that the FBI was hesitant to arrest the killer because it would embarrass Washington. A molecular biologist and professor of environmental science who had once served as a low-level bioweapons adviser to President Clinton, Rosenberg had taken it upon herself to look into the anthrax murders, and her investigations had independently led her to Hatfill.
....

Foster says he met Rosenberg over lunch in April 2002, “compared notes,” and “found that our evidence had led us in the same direction.” Weeks dragged on while he and Rosenberg tried to interest the FBI in their theories, but the bureau remained “stubbornly unwilling to listen.” Two months later, her “patience exhausted,” Rosenberg, according to Foster, met on Capitol Hill with Senate staff members “and laid out the evidence, such as it was, hers and mine.” Special Agent Van Harp, the senior FBI agent on what by then had been dubbed the “Amerithrax” investigation, was summoned to the meeting, along with other FBI officials.

Rosenberg criticized the FBI for not being aggressive enough.

Exactly a week after the Rosenberg meeting, the FBI carried out its first search of Hatfill’s apartment, with television news cameras broadcasting it live.

More than half way through the article, it describes the columns written by Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times.  It clearly shows how inaccurate and mindlessly stupid those articles were. 

Hatfill would later sue The New York Times for that and a host of other alleged libels. The case would eventually be dismissed, after a judge ruled that Hatfill was a public figure. To successfully sue for defamation, public figures must prove that a publication acted with “actual malice.”

There's also a mention of Dr. Hatfill's lawsuit against Vanity Fair and Readers' Digest over the Don Foster article:

In addition to suing the Justice Department for violating his privacy and The New York Times for defaming him, Hatfill also brought a libel lawsuit against Don Foster, Vanity Fair, and Reader’s Digest, which had reprinted Foster’s article. The lawsuit led to a settlement whose dollar amount all parties have agreed to keep confidential.

That settlement amount was almost certainly in the millions, since Dr. Hatfill now seems to be spending a lot of his own money on projects seemingly intended to fulfill Dr. Hatfill's dreams while also helping people in undeveloped countries. 

Hatfill has committed $1.5 million to building his floating genetic laboratory, a futuristic-looking vessel replete with a helicopter, an operating room to treat rural indigenous peoples, and a Cordon Bleu–trained chef. Hatfill intends to assemble a scientific team and cruise the Amazon for undiscovered or little-known plants and animals. From these organisms, he hopes to develop new medications for leukemia, and for tuberculosis and other diseases that have been growing increasingly resistant to existing antibiotics. Any useful treatments, he says, will be licensed to pharmaceutical companies on the condition that developing nations receive them at cost. Hatfill hopes to christen the boat within two years.

In the Atlantic article, there is lot of information about Dr. Hatfill that I've never seen anywhere before.  You can read the article to get all the details.  But, I will mention one tidbit:

Though Hatfill’s apartment in Frederick was less than a quarter mile from Ivins’s modest home on Military Road, and both men worked at Fort Detrick at the same time, Hatfill says the two never met. Hatfill was surprised when the FBI ultimately pinned the anthrax murders on a fellow American scientist.

“I thought it would eventually be proven that al-Qaeda was behind the attacks,” he says.

I knew that Dr. Hatfill thought that al-Qaeda was behind the attacks, but I didn't know that he and Ivins had never met.

In the Matt Lauer interview, Lauer seemed to be trying to get Hatfill to say he doesn't think that Ivins was the culprit, but Hatfill says just the opposite.  Dr. Hatfill says that experts he knows have concluded that Ivins did it, and Hatfill has no information to dispute what those experts believe.


The only serious flaws I see in The Atlantic's article are two comments which show the opinions of the writer of the article and have nothing to do with what Dr. Hatfill said.  First, there is this sentence from near the beginning of the article:

[Hatfill's] story provides a cautionary tale about how federal authorities, fueled by the general panic over terrorism, embraced conjecture and coincidence as evidence, and blindly pursued one suspect while the real anthrax killer roamed free for more than six years.

And then there is this from around the middle of the article:

The FBI’s sleuthing had produced zero witnesses, no firm evidence, nothing to show that Hatfill had ever touched anthrax, let alone killed anyone with it. So thin was the bureau’s case that Hatfill was never even indicted. But that didn’t stop the FBI from focusing on him to the virtual exclusion of other suspects.

That is conclusively and demonstrably false.  The fact that the public and the media didn't know about the investigation of Dr. Ivins doesn't mean it wasn't happening.  To imply that it did mean it wasn't happening is the same logic used by Barbara Hatch Rosenberg and other conspiracy theorists: If it isn't being done in public, then it isn't being done at all.

When looking at all the facts, it becomes very clear that the harassment of Dr. Hatfill was a separate matter handled by a different group of FBI agents.  While some members of that group may have thought that the respected people pointing the finger at Dr. Hatfill couldn't all be wrong, it was also clear that there was never any real case against Dr. Hatfill.  The clumsy mistake when Attorney General Ashcroft called Hatfill a "person of interest" was an attempt to show that he was not a suspect, but the media didn't take it that way.  They interpreted things the way they wanted them interpreted. 

The facts say that the Amerithrax case was very complicated and solid evidence was extremely difficult to obtain.   The Hatfill matter was a side show that allowed the media to tear Hatfill's life apart.  The real case wasn't as interesting to the media.  It was boring.  It is still boring to them.  They still want to twist and distort it to make news that is easier to summarize in a headline in order to grab the public's attention.

Dr. Hatfill went through Hell for years, but The Atlantic indicates that all the money Hatfill got from the lawsuits is now allowing him to lead the life of his dreams.  

Good for him.

On the other hand, the MSNBC article and Matt Lauer's interview leave you with the impression that Hatfill is still living in misery, only supported by a few friends.  CRAP! 

April 15, 2010 (B) - Someone has just advised me that Dr. Hatfill's interview with Matt Lauer is taking place today and will be on The Today Show tomorrow morning.  It will probably also be on MSNBC at various times during the day.  And I wouldn't be a bit surprised if it wasn't also mentioned prominently on the NBC Evening News with Brian Williams.

Obviously, it's a coordinated appearance with the article in The Atlantic which should also appear online tomorrow.

April 15, 2010 (A) - The word for today is "proffer."

One of my legal dictionaries says it means "to offer evidence in a trial."

My other legal dictionary says it means "An offer; to offer."

But I think the best definition is the one I found on the Internet:

A proffer agreement is a legal agreement made between an individual under criminal investigation and a prosecutor. It is reached in a proffer session attended by the individual, his attorney, the prosecutor and a case agent.

The basic idea is:

Such agreements are used in federal criminal cases. They permit individuals under scrutiny to offer evidence against other criminals as a bargaining chip in their own possible criminal case.

The benefits are:

Prosecutors benefit from a proffer agreement as much as a suspect can benefit. Through the session, prosecutors are able to gain new leads in the criminal investigation and further insight into the person involved in the proffer.

The risks are:

If an immunity agreement or plea bargain is not reached as the result of a proffer session, the person involved may be indicted. If this happens, the chances of presenting a believable defense are impaired.

So, if you're going to "make a proffer," you'd better be very certain that the proffer will be accepted.  If it isn't accepted, then you could have done serious harm to your own case.

Here's some information about proffer risks from another web site:

Why are proffers so risky, since your words are not supposed to be used against you at a subsequent trial? To begin with, unlike immunity or plea agreements, proffer agreements do not prevent the government from making derivative use of your statements. In other words, although the government cannot use your actual proffer session statements against you in its case-in-chief, it can use the information that you provide to follow up leads and conduct further investigations. If those leads and further investigations capture new evidence, such evidence can be used to indict and convict you. Even if the prosecutor is not able to develop new information from your proffer, he will gain a tactical advantage from seeing (at the proffer session) how you fare under the pressure of tough questioning, how you present yourself as a witness and, most importantly, what your theory of the case is. This will better prepare him to build his evidence against you and to cross-examine you at trial, should you choose to testify, and will thus boost his self-confidence. Moreover, if, like many suspects, you implicate yourself in criminal activity during the proffer session, the prosecutor will feel better about prosecuting you, because he will "know" in his heart of hearts that you are guilty. (If the AUSA believes that you lied during your proffer session, he can indict you under Section 1001 of the federal criminal code for false statements to the government. As a practical matter, this is almost never done.)

But there are even bigger risks in proffering. Virtually all proffer agreements allow the government to use your statements against you for impeachment purposes if you take the stand in a subsequent proceeding and testify inconsistently with your proffer. And the version of the proffer that will be compared to your trial testimony, in order to see whether you should be impeached, is the version that was interpreted and written down by government agents. More ominously, in recent years many government-drafted proffer agreements allow use of your statements against you if any part of your defense, including questions your lawyer asks of government witnesses on cross-examination, is inconsistent with your proffer. These broadly worded agreements, which have been consistently upheld at the federal circuit court level, may effectively deny you the right to present a defense at trial if your anticipated post-proffer immunity or plea deal does not come through. Why? Because if any part of your defense is deemed to be inconsistent with your proffer, and if that proffer implicates you in any way, the entire proffer will be admitted against you at trial. Thus, your attorney may find herself in the unenviable position of failing to contest key portions of the government's case, declining to cross-examine certain witnesses and choosing not to put you on the stand, all in an effort to prevent your damaging proffer statements from coming before the jury. Proposed proffer agreements submitted to you for your and your attorney's signatures should be examined with great care.

Given the risk involved, why would you even want to make a proffer if you have criminal exposure? For one reason and one reason only: if you are facing imminent prosecution and need an immunity agreement or plea bargain deal, you usually cannot get either, particularly in white collar cases, without first making a proffer.

So, if you try to make a plea deal and the Justice Department attorney doesn't accept the deal, then the details of your offer can be used to find more evidence against you.  Your statements cannot be used against you, but your statements may lead investigators to something that can be used against you.  If you do not try to make a deal with the prosecution, the prosecution will very likely try to get the maximum penalty for the crime.  In the Amerithrax case, the maximum penalty would be the death penalty.

The word came up while I was reading an FBI account of a June 5, 2008 interview with someone who had just attended a meeting where Bruce Ivins was also present.   I think it may have been an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, since a lot about Ivins' alcoholism is mentioned, as is AA.  (Psychiatric therapy sessions are not meetings.)  The report is on pages 66 through 69 of FBI pdf file #847551.  Here's the paragraph from page 68 that contains the word "proffer":

IVINS told [someone] that his attorney told him that with his dealings with the FBI, sometimes IVINS plays a puppy that wants to appease, and sometimes he plays junior-detective.  IVINS has spent over $100 thousand dollars from his retirement fund, on his attorney.  The next time IVINS has to testify, he will have to have a proffer.  According to IVINS, the JAG on post wont allow anyone to talk to his attorneys.

So, on June 5, 2008, Bruce Ivins was in a position where he had to either try to make a deal of some kind (i.e., proffer) with the prosecuting attorney, or Ivins was going to be indicted.

Ivins and his attorney evidently didn't try to make any kind of deal, because a few weeks later, on or around June 25, his attorney advised him that he was about to be indicted and would likely face the death penalty.


Then, a couple weeks after that, on July 9, Ivins tells his group therapy session that he's going to kill his co-workers and go out in a "blaze of glory" rather than face the death penalty.

April 14, 2010 - Someone just sent me a link which indicates that The Atlantic magazine interview with Dr. Steven Hatfill will be in their May issue, and it will also be on-line on Friday, April 16, the day after tomorrow.   Here's the description of the interview:

The Wrong Man

In the fall of 2001, a nation reeling from the horror of 9/11 was rocked by a series of deadly anthrax attacks. As the pressure to find a culprit mounted, the FBI, abetted by the media, found one. The wrong one. This is the story of how federal authorities blew the biggest anti-terror investigation of the past decade—and nearly destroyed an innocent man. Here, for the first time, the falsely accused, Dr. Steven J. Hatfill, speaks out about his ordeal.

By David Freed
This story will be online Friday, April 16.

The phrase "abetted by the media" gives me hope that the interview will also be about events that took place during the eight months before the FBI publicly searched Dr. Hatfill's apartment on June 25, 2002.

April 13, 2010 - While reading through the 2,728 pages of supplementary documents made available by the FBI and DOJ after the closing of the Amerithrax case on February 19, 2010, I noticed an interesting interview with a scientist who appears to work for the CDC in Atlanta.   He appears to be the CDC scientist to whom Bruce Ivins sent the October 4, 2010, email.  In that email, Ivins seemed to be desperately looking for some other possible explanation than that Bob Stevens was dying as a result of the anthrax letter Ivins sent to Florida.  Here is part of that email:

From: Ivins, Bruce E Dr USAMRIID
To:
Subject: Florida case(?)
Date: Thursday, October 04, 2001 9:57:19 PM
Hi,
I just heard this evening (and read over internet news) that a case of pulmonary anthrax may
have been identified in Florida. Is this true, or is this just hysteria? The only Florida strain of B.
anthracis that I am familiar with is V770, which is the parent of V770-NP1-R, the strain used in
production of the human anthrax vaccine. (I believe that V770 was originally isolated from a cow in
Florida in the early 1950s.) The article said that this person was an “Outdoorsman,” and had drunk
water from a creek in North Carolina. If he really does have anthrax, could he have gotten it this way,
or did he get it by tromping around some dusty field area. (Has North Carolina been dry this summer?)
I know that in the wild in Africa, animals are supposed to be able to get it from water holes by stirring
up spores and presumably ingesting and possibly inhaling them as an aerosol. Could this have
happened? What if an animal had died upstream and the stream was contaminated? (Drinking from a
stream or creek without boiling or purifying the water first is an invitation to intestinal disease or
parasites, but have any other human anthrax cases been documented from people drinking
contaminated water?)

Page 128 of FBI pdf file #847572 contains this description of the early days of the anthrax attacks (with my interpretations of what was redacted in the FBI report):

          Around this time period, [the CDC scientist] recalled receiving an e-mail from BRUCE IVINS regarding STEVENS having been diagnosed with inhalation anthrax.  When asked if [he] knew the date he received the email, [the scientist] stated [he] would have received it the Thursday just before Columbus Day weekend (October 4, 20010.  [The scientist] stated [he] was certain [he] received the e-mail on this date because [he] would not have been at work checking [his] e-mail on Saturday or Sunday of a holiday weekend.  [The scientist] who typically did not respond to IVINS via e-mail, telephoned IVINS on October 5, 2001.  IVINS ...

Then there's a big section that is redacted.  The report continues with this:

          Looking back on that conversation, [the scientist] opined that IVINS was upset because there was very little information in the media regarding this case.  At this time, [the scientist] recalled, there was nothing in the media about the other cases.  The cutaneous cases of anthrax had been missed.  Also, ERNESTO BLANCO, the other employee at American Media Incorporated (AMI), was not immediately diagnosed as having anthrax.  [The scientist] opined that IVINS, having put all his effort into the first mailings, would have been frustrated that it was all for nothing.  [The scientist] felt this would explain the difference in overall quality of the powders used in the two mailings.  [The scientist] recalled that the spores recovered from the letters used in the first set of mailings were described as "granular and multi-colored."  The spores used in the second set of mailings were finer and more uniform in color.  Due to the fact that the first set of mailings did not achieve his desired effect, IVINS may have put more effort into producing the powder used in the second set of letters.

The CDC scientist goes into a lot of other details about Ivins' scientific abilities, Ivins' intelligence and Ivins' actions in attempting to clean up areas at USAMRIID which Ivins' had evidently contaminated when preparing the letters.  On page 132, the scientist also makes a guess as to Ivins' motive: 

          Near the end of the interview, [the scientist] began to provide opinions regarding Bioport, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the anthrax vaccine.  [The scientist] did not believe this was IVINS' motive for the anthrax mailings.  According to [the scientist,] Bioport had "Good Practice Standards" (GPS).  Bioport would have initially had problems getting approval of its anthrax vaccine from the FDA, but this was simply a  'hurdle."  Bioport would have been going back online producing the vaccine; therefore, there would not have been a lack of funding for vaccine research.  [The scientist] opined that IVINS was more like an arsonist.  An arsonist likes to set fires and then "stick around" to watch them burn.  [The scientist] believed this was most likely the motive behind the mailings.

I suppose this could be added to the list of possible motives Ivins had for doing what he did.  My opinion, however, remains that the letters had more to do with concerns about a 9/11 followup attack from Muslim terrorists rather than any "arsonist" motive.   After all, it's clear that when the first mailing didn't accomplish the anthrax mailer's objective, he put together a second mailing that would hit the warnings home a lot harder and more thoroughly.  A person with the "arsonist" motive would typically just repeat the same incendiary actions over again until he got what he needed from it.  (Immediately following the anthrax mailings of 2001, there were hundreds if not thousands of hoax anthrax mailings by people with the "arsonist" motive.)

The CDC scientist also offers a valuable opinion about several methods that Ivins could have used to dry the attack spores.  One of the methods involves the use of chemicals.  The CDC scientist suggests that Ivins could have learned that method from researchers at the Dugway Proving Grounds who use the method, and with whom Ivins worked closely.  If Ivins didn't learn it there, he could have learned it by doing research on the Internet.

I'm tempted to put together another supplemental page with the title "Bruce Ivins and The Murder of Bob Stevens."  The FBI report on the interview of the CDC scientist confirms that on October 4 and 5 of 2001 Ivins had at least some inkling that Bob Stevens may have been infected as a result of the anthrax-laced letter Ivins mailed to the National Enquirer on September 17 or 18.  Yet, knowing that he may have killed someone, Ivins still went ahead and mailed the second batch of letters containing an even more lethal form of anthrax powder sometime within the next few days.

All the facts say that Ivins took care to make certain that the his anthrax letters did NOT kill anyone.  He put a warning in the media letters ("TAKE PENACILIN NOW") and a more explicit warning in the senate letters ("WE HAVE THIS ANTHRAX.  YOU DIE NOW.")  Plus he taped up the backs of the envelopes, he used the pharmaceutical fold to wrap the powders, etc.  Yet, the fact that he may have unintentionally killed Bob Stevens didn't stop him from proceeding with the second mailing.  That was stupid and criminally irresponsible.

Perhaps he somehow managed to convince himself that the Stevens case was just a coincidence.  People in authority were saying Stevens' anthrax case could have resulted from something Stevens encountered while vacationing in North Carolina.   No one was saying anything about receiving any anthrax letters.  And it had been over two weeks since Ivins had mailed those first five letters.  

Plus, Ivins may have figured that even if he had been responsible for the death of Bob Stevens on October 5, it was too late to do anything about that.  And, worst of all, instead of alerting America to the danger of a bioweapons attack from Muslim terrorists, as Ivins had wanted from his efforts, the authorities and the media were trying to tell people to remain calm while at the same time suggesting that the Stevens case could be from natural causes!  

As the old sayings go: In for a penny, in for a pound.  They can only hang you once. 

Ivins probably figured the Stevens case was an isolated instance - a fluke - that could not be repeated now that there was an anthrax death in the news.  Any warning letter mentioning anthrax and containing a powder would now be taken very seriously.   The risk of more people being harmed or killed was probably viewed by Ivins as being very small.

The FBI figures the second batch of letters went into the mail some time between
3:30 p.m on Saturday, October 6 and 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, October 9, 2001, the day after Columbus Day.  Then ...

On October 12, Tom Brokaw's assistant is diagnosed as having cutaneous anthrax.  

On October 12, the media reports that Stephanie Dailey at AMI has tested positive for anthrax exposure.

On October 15, the Daschle anthrax letter is opened.

On October 15,
the 7-month-old son of an ABC freelance producer is diagnosed with cutaneous anthrax

On October 15, Ernesto Blanco at AMI is confirmed to have inhalation anthrax.


On October 16, one of Bruce Ivins' co-workers wrote to former co-worker in an e-mail, "Bruce has been an absolute manic basket case the last few days."
  
Another old saying: The road to Hell is paved with good intentions. 

April 11, 2010 - If Dr. Bruce Ivins had been put on trial for the murders of five people, the prosecuting attorney would undoubtedly have included as part of the case against Ivins the evidence showing consciousness of guilt.

A guilty person knows he's guilty.  And he because he knows he committed the crime, he knows details about the crime that investigators may not yet have learned.  If the guilty person doesn't immediately confess but, instead, tries to escape justice by using lies, trickery or other means to mislead the investigation and the investigators, proof of such actions are evidence of consciousness of guilt.   Examples:

1.  Guilty people often run from the law.  They try to escape justice by heading to another country or city.

2.  Guilty people often make false statements.  They lie to prevent the police from learning the truth.

3.  Guilty people may tamper with evidence.  They may try to destroy or hide evidence.

4.  Guilty people may try to intimidate, coerce or even kill witnesses who can testify against them.

By itself, evidence of "consciousness of guilt" is not enough to convict a person.  Example: Running from the law isn't proof of guilt, it's just an indicator of guilt.   It's a piece of circumstantial evidence, and like all circumstantial evidence it's based upon the principle that a single piece of such evidence may be explainable, but a pattern of repeated lies, trickery or deceit can help prove guilt beyond any reasonable doubt.  A jury just has to evaluate all the pieces together

Evidence of Dr. Ivins' consciousness of guilt are as follows:

1.  In December of 2001, Ivins tried to destroy evidence by cleaning areas at Ft. Detrick where he had prepared the anthrax letters before mailing.  Authorization is required before such cleaning.  He didn't get authorization.

2.  In February of 2002, Ivins tried to tamper with evidence by submitting to the FBI repository samples from flask RMR-1029 that were improperly prepared and which, therefore, would not be usable in court.   Ivins had 35 years of experience in preparing slants, yet this time he prepared them incorrectly.

3.  In April of 2002, Ivins again tried to destroy evidence by cleaning areas of Ft. Detrick where he had prepared the anthrax letters before mailing. 
Authorization is required before such cleaning.  He didn't get authorization.

4.  In April of 2002 Ivins also tried to mislead the investigation by falsifying evidence when he submitted doctored or invalid samples that were supposed to be from flask RMR-1029.

5.  When questioned about the unauthorized cleanups at Ft. Detrick, Ivins gave explanations that were contradictory to what he actually did.  In other words, he lied.

6.  In 2008, when Dr. Ivins learned that a grand jury was about to indicted him for the 5 murders, he told people he was going to kill the co-workers who may be witnesses against him.

7.  When put into a mental hospital because of his threats of killing his co-workers and going out in a "blaze of glory," he called a witness three times and left angry, menacing messages on her voice mail.

8.  While in the mental hospital, Ivins evidently tried to build a case for an insanity plea by trying to convince a psychiatrist that he couldn't remember taking the actions that killed five people.

9.  While claiming that he couldn't remember the actions that killed five people, Ivins also claimed that he was not a person who would deliberately commit murder, indicating that murder had not been his intent and that he was lying about not being able to remember.   (Other evidence indicates he had intended to save lives by sending out the anthrax-laced warning letters, not to take lives.  But, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.  It was still a stupid and criminally irresponsible thing to do.)

10.  On July 27, 2008, rather than trying to prove his innocence by fighting the case in court, Dr. Ivins escaped justice by taking his own life.

I've commented upon some of this before.  But it's important enough to repeat and to rework and re-phrase to make it more clear.  I'm also putting it all on a new supplemental page titled "Bruce Ivins' Consciousness of Guilt" so that it won't just drop out of memory and out of sight.

It's further evidence proving Dr. Ivins' guilt beyond any reasonable doubt.

Updates & Changes: Sunday, April 4, 2010, thru Saturday, April 10, 2010

April 9, 2010 - At the web site for a  radio station which calls itself "No Lies Radio" you can find a bizarre rant by lawyer/conspiracy theorist Barry Kissin in which Mr. Kissin begins describing his beliefs this way:

"The truth would be better served if we substituted for this dismissive phrase 'conspiracy theory' the phrase 'lone nut theorist.'  I mean, we're supposed to believe that Jack Kennedy was assassinated by a lone nut.  We're supposed to believe that MLK was assassinated by a lone nut.  We're supposed to believe that Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated by a lone nut.  And we're supposed to believe that the anthrax attacks were committed by a lone nut.  And it's pure unadulterated misinformation.   And that's very easy to see in the case of the anthrax attacks."

To listen to the broadcast, you have to turn off the radio ON-OFF switch on the right and click on the play button that follows the words "
This show was broadcast March 29, 2010. It is now archived here — Use Player."
 
As you can see from the quote, to agree with Mr. Kissin you merely have to assume that "the government" is lying - all administrations, all parties, all politicians for at least 60 years - except possibly Representative Rush Holt who is calling for an investigation into the anthrax attacks of 2001.  And, evidently, even Rush Holt is misguided, since Rep. Holt seemingly believes foreigners were behind the attacks, while Kissin believes it was a U.S. government conspiracy.  Accompanying Kissin's verbal radio rant is a written rant that can be found by clicking HERE.   I can summarize the text this way: the wildly inaccurate news stories from the first days after the anthrax attacks are correct, while everything we've learned since then is wrong and part of the coverup of an illegal U.S. government bioweapons program that has been going on since 1969 under all administrations, with everyone in the government participating.

April 6, 2010 - I probably should have made a bigger point in my Sunday comment about how it appears that Bruce Ivins'  unauthorized swabbing and cleaning of USAMRIID lab areas in April of 2002 may have been triggered by receiving a subpoena requiring him to provide new samples from flask RMR-1029 to replace the improperly prepared samples he had submitted to the FBIR in February.

Using the 49 pages of notes I developed during the reading of the 2,728 pages of supplemental materials, plus other materials accumulated over the years, I've been putting together a timeline chart for Bruce Ivins' activities.   Knowing what else was going on when Ivins performed certain actions can help determine his likely motivations for those actions. 

The April 2002 unauthorized swabbing and cleaning is an excellent example.  As the FBI reports show, Ivins' actions were basically contradictory to his explanations for those actions.  In other words, he was lying.   So, what was the real reason for the unauthorized swabbing and cleaning? 

The FBI supplemental documents say Ivins did his swabbing and cleaning on Monday and Tuesday, April 15 and 16, 2002.   However, I haven't yet been able to get an exact fix on the date he received the subpoena to provide new samples from flask RMR-1029.   There seem to be dozens of documents which merely say it was in April of 2002.  Was it the the  week before the cleanings?  I'd bet money on it, but I can't prove it - so far.  


There were two highly suspicious actions by Ivins in April of 2002: (1) Ivins prepared the false samples clearly intended to mislead the FBI. 
(2) Ivins did the unauthorized cleanups.  But which came first?

The exact dates are probably around somewhere.  Taking 49 pages of notes from 2,728 pages of documents means a lot of information was thought not worthy of a note - at the time.  I can recall reading about a dispute that Ivins had with the FBI as to how he learned that flask RMR-1029 contained mutations that could be used as evidence.   Ivins claimed that an FBI agent told him, but the agent said that wasn't true.  There could be something there.  Also, I took notes about where to find each of the many interviews the FBI conducted with Bruce Ivins.  Eventually, I'll probably have to print the interview reports and go through them with different colored highlighters while making further notes.

Meanwhile, when I started to put things in order by date, something else popped out: the likely trigger that caused Ivins to do the first unauthorized swabbings and cleanings in December of 2001.  Here is my far-from-complete 2001 timeline for Ivins as it currently appears in my files:

Tuesday, September 11 - After the Twin Towers are stuck, Ivins goes into a virtual panic telling everyone that USAMRIID should be evacuated because a plane that the FAA cannot locate could be headed toward USAMRIID.

Monday, September 17 - Ivins leaves work at 7:14 p.m.

The media letters are probably mailed on this day - probably by Ivins around 11 p.m.  The official timeline used by the FBI for the first mailing is: 5:00 p.m., 9/17/2001 through 8 p.m., 9/18/2001. 

Tuesday, September 18 - The media letters are postmarked.

Ivins arrives for work at 7:03 a.m.

Wednesday, October 3 - Bob Stevens is confirmed to have inhalation anthrax.

Thursday, October 4  - The news breaks about Bob Stevens.

Ivins sends an email to the CDC asking if the Florida case involves some Florida strain of anthrax.

Friday, October 5 - Bob Stevens dies.

Paul Keim determines that Stevens was killed by the Ames strain of anthrax.

Saturday - Tuesday, October 6 - 9 - The letters to Senators Daschle & Leahy are mailed some time during this time period.  The official FBI timeline is: 3:30 p.m., 10/06/01 through 11:00 a.m., 10/09/01.

Tuesday, October 9 - The two Senate letters are postmarked.

Iowa State University is overwhelmed by media reporters wanting to know about the Ames strain.

Wednesday, October 10 - CNN reports 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.

Monday or Tuesday, October 15 or 16 - The Daschle letter arrives at USAMRIID.

Thursday, October 18 - Ivins angrily tells someone via an email that people should be asking the USDA in Ames, Iowa, about the Ames strain, not him.

Wednesday, December 5 - The Leahy letter reaches USAMRIID.

Tuesday, December 18 - Someone sends a fax of the mailing label from the original Ames shipment, showing that it actually came from Texas, not from Iowa.  The date is on the fax.

December date ??? - Ivins does his first swabbing and cleanup of contaminated areas at USAMRIID.    

Hmm.   The news didn't break in the media that the Ames strain came from Texas, not Iowa, until January 29, 2002.  But someone at USAMRIID obviously knew it in mid-December.

Clearly, the motivation for Bruce Ivins' first swabbing and cleaning could have been the stunning discovery that the Ames strain was NOT a very common strain used by countless labs all over the world as Ivins thought at the time of the mailings, but it was a rare strain that only USAMRIID distributed.

All I need to verify Ivins most likely motive for the December swabbings and cleaning is to find the date that it was realized that the Ames strain came from Texas and the exact date that Ivins did his December 2001 cleaning.  I'd bet money that the discovery came first and the cleaning came second.  If the dates turn out as I expect,

Ivins did his first cleanup because he had learned that he'd used a rare strain that could be traced to USAMRIID instead of a common strain that could not be traced anywhere.  Ivins did his second cleanup because he had learned that the FBI was tracking the attack anthrax back to flask RMR-1029 which Ivins controlled.

This is fun!  And strawberries are only 99 cents a pound at Piggly Wiggly!  Life is good!!   


April 5, 2010 - After writing Sunday's comment, I completed my initial read-through of the 2,728 pages of supplementary documents from the Amerithrax investigation.  It produced 49 pages of notes.  In the last document I read, I came across this comment from a May 28, 2008 FBI interview of a USAMRIID scientist as described on page 12 in pdf file #847359.

XXXXX was also of the opinion that if the anthrax-laced letters originated from USAMRIID then the act of preparing the anthrax powder and loading the envelopes would have to be done in a class 3 hood in Building XXXX.

It's always nice to have an "expert" agree with something I've just deduced on my own.

The read-through also showed that there are "experts" with opinions of every variety at USAMRIID.  My notes didn't include taking a tabulation of how many supporters there were for the various theories about who was responsible for the anthrax attacks (there must be over a hundred interviews of USAMRIID employees in the documents), but I'll try to roughly summarize the general views of the USAMRIID scientists from memory:

About a half dozen scientists felt that BioPort was responsible.  One scientist was adamant about it.
Approximately a dozen scientists felt that the attacks must have been the work of some foreign government.
Many scientists claimed that no one working at USAMRIID could have created the attack anthrax.
One scientist claimed that every scientist working at USAMRIID was capable of creating the attack anthrax.
More than a dozen scientists claimed that Dr. Ivins was one of the people who could have done it.
Many scientists believed that Dr. Ivins was incapable of such a crime.
Many scientists believed that no one at USAMRIID knew how to dry anthrax into a powder.
Several scientists described the most likely method the culprit used to dry the powder: with chemicals.

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.   But everyone also seemed to believe, as do I, that none of these factors have anything to do with his guilt or innocence.

The interviews of USAMRIID scientists also showed that security measures at USAMRIID were very lax before 9/11 and the anthrax attacks that followed.  There were NO closed-circuit cameras in the labs or other key areas.  You could run flask shakers for weeks and no one would question it because there were flask shakers in operation all the time.  There was no problem in taking dangerous materials out of the labs or out of the buildings.  They even had a term for it: the "VIP" method of moving materials: Vial In Pocket.    Everyone simply assumed that whatever work you were doing - even if it was in the middle of the night - was authorized and legal.

It also seems clear that the notion that every one of the 350 or so scientists at USAMRIID had access to flask RMR-1029 is absolute nonsense.  That notion is based upon the idea that it is impossible to prove that scientist-X could not have found a way to get to flask RMR-1029 without being discovered and without leaving any trace.  It's a
conspiracy theorist/True Believer belief based upon the fact that it's impossible to prove the negative.

There was no reason for anyone besides Ivins to pick flask RMR-1029 from among the many samples of anthrax available at USAMRIID.  If someone wanted to use anthrax to put in the anthrax letters, they had many OTHER samples to pick from.  Even if they wanted to use "the Dugway spores" (as flask RMR-1029 was generally called)  in order to blame Dugway for some reason, they could have used any of the samples that Ivins provided that were cultured from spores in flask RMR-1029.  However, Ivins' "single colony pick" method of producing such cultures would make it a near certainty that you would not get all the mutations that were also in flask RMR-1029.

Ivins chose flask RMR-1029 as the source for the spores he cultured to put in the anthrax letters because he believed that those spores were identical to what was stored at the USDA in Iowa and which he believed had been distibuted from there to "countless" laboratories all over the world.  Therefore, he believed the spores were untraceable.  No one at USAMRIID knew the true original source of the contents of flask RMR-1029 -- not even the scientist who originally obtained them.

But, clearly some people are still convinced of Ivins' innocence - because they have other theories. 

This morning I found a couple emails in my inbox from someone who feels that I'm biased against Dr. Ivins, and that's the only reason I claim the evidence shows that Ivins was the anthrax mailer.  According to her, if I assumed that Ivins was innocent the way she does, then I wouldn't be biased - and other explanations can be found for all the evidence.  After all, in this country, a person is assumed innocent until proven guilty.  And, apparently, to her that means there is no way to prove a person is guilty if he says he isn't - because, his claim of innocence must be assumed to be true.   His claims of lack of expertise must also be assumed to be true.  His claims of doing other things at the times the anthrax powders were being prepared must be assumed to be true.   And all the evidence that shows he was lying must be assumed to be false or meaningless because we must assume he is innocent.   If we don't, then we're biased.

Who can argue with logic like that?  If you argue, that just proves you are biased.

April 4, 2010 - I've gone through 2,483 of the 2,728 pages of supplementary documents that the DOJ/FBI made public when they closed the Amerithrax investigation on February 19th.  So, I'm 91% done.

Progress has been slow due to the need to write detailed notes, due to ongoing arguments with conspiracy theorists and True Believers, and due to 101 other things that I need to do as part of my "normal" life.  Plus, sometimes the Amerithrax documents I've been reading require careful analysis to understand their implications.  And that always brings the reading to a grinding halt.  For example, page 3 of  pdf file #847376 contains this:

          IVINS stated that the contents of the [Daschle] letter contained a powder that was unlike anything he had ever dealt with previously.  Upon examination, the powder contained in the letter seemed to float easily in the air.  IVINS was surprised by the fineness of the powder and stated that "it floated around inside the hood like dust in the sunlight."   Ivins stated that due to the ease at which the powder became airborne, USAMRIID personnel should have conducted testing within a laboratory that bore an overhead containment hood.


And page 4 has this:

IVINS disagreed with XXXXX processing of the Daschle letter in Room XXX as the BSL-2 laboratory was not adequate to contain aerosolized B.a. powder.

Those passages seem to indicate two things: (1) Ivins didn't examine the Daschle letter inside a biosafety cabinet where everything is enclosed and a person handles materials with rubber gloves that are built into the cabinet.  He examined the Daschle letter under a biosafety hood, which allowed him to insert his arms under an sheet of Plexiglas to handle the letter with his (presumably) latex-gloved hands.  And (2), Ivins thought that others should have used similar precautions when they handled the Daschle letter, but they didn't.

I'm not a microbiologist, and I tend to think of such work as I've seen it done in movies like "The Andromeda Strain" and "Outbreak."  But those movies were evidently about Biosafety Level FOUR (BL-4) work.  Nearly all the handling of the anthrax letters at USMRIID after the mailings was evidently done in B2 an B3 labs.  It seems very likely that the  original loading of the various letters with anthrax powders was done the same way.  (Richard Preston's book "The Demon In The Freezer" says that a BL-4 lab was used initially, by at least one person.  But, that was because people were afraid that the powder might be mixed with something even more deadly than anthrax: smallpox.)   The FBI's web site shows the Leahy letter being opened inside a biosafety cabinet.  And there are also pictures of people in biosafety suits examining barrels of mail - with a biosafety hood clearly visible in two (#3 and #5) of the six images.

I don't know how it can ever be proved, but it wouldn't totally surprise me if Dr. Ivins didn't use anything more enclosed than a biosafety hood when preparing the anthrax letters.   That's probably why he seems to have left tiny amounts of anthrax spores all over his lab, his office and elsewhere.  It's a virtual certainty that he didn't even imagine that the spores could escape through the folded letters and the envelopes after he had taped the envelopes shut.  No one did.  So, he very likely didn't think the spores would escape from under the hood, either.

Evidently, Dr. Ivins' luck wasn't all bad.  It was certainly good luck for him that he didn't infect himself when he prepared the letters.  (He was vaccinated, but a massive exposure can overwhelm the protection of vaccinations.)  And, it was very good luck for him that no one did any swabbings around Ft. Detrick to find spores from the letters before Ivins had TWO OPPORTUNITIES to clean things up.

The same .pdf file identified above also contains on pages 1 thru 26 an extremely interesting May 24, 2005 analysis of the two known occasions where Ivins did those unauthorized swabbings and cleanups.  Starting on page 6, the author of the analysis describes how Dr. Ivins' explanations do not match his actions.  In other words, Ivins was lying, giving the FBI reasons why he did things, but his actions show they were not the real reasons.   Or, as the author puts it:

IVINS' justifications for his actions following the independent sampling contradicted his explanation of motives for conducting the survey in the first place. 

Here is part of the analysis of the December 2001 swabbings and cleanup:

If truly motivated by a concern of contamination on the cold-side of USAMRIID, upon evidence of such contamination, why did IVINS not pursue more extensive methods toward correcting the problem?  How would  improper handing of the B.a. samples be corrected without passing along information that the containment system was not working properly?

Why conduct the survey in the first place if he did not want to cause alarm, especially if he suspected that he would find contamination?

Ivins had the courage to conduct the swabbing without command approval, yet lacked the initiative to inform the appropriate authorities when the results were presumptively positive?

Ivins was obviously concerned enough about possible contamination to knowingly violate USAMRIID protocol, yet at the moment his concerns were validated, he took no actions toward addressing the problems for the benefit of USAMRIID.

The excuse that Dr. Ivins used for doing the first swabbing and cleanup in December of 2001 was that the co-worker with whom he shared an office was worried that the people in Building 1412 who were handing the anthrax letters were not being careful enough.  She was particularly concerned that handling an anthrax letter under a hood could result in spores clinging to the gloves that were being used, and when a person's hands are taken out from under the hood, the spores on the gloves would come along, instead of getting sucked out through the air purifiers.

Here is more of the analysis (information in brackets [example] are my relatively safe assumptions of some of what was redacted,
XX's indicate the rest of the redacted information):

If motivated by concern for [his co-worker], why did IVINS not inform [her] of the presumptive positive results from [her] desk?  IVINS confirmed during an interview that he did not inform [her] of his findings; however, reasons for not telling [her] were not provided.  The assessment by IVINS that the level of contamination within the office was not a health risk to himself, XXXXXX did not diminish the significance of finding contamination outside of the hot suites.

On page 11 there is a similar analysis of Dr. Ivins' unauthorized swabbings and cleaning in April 2002:

IVINS' explanations of his motivations for the April 2002 independent survey were contradictory to his actions following the December 2001 survey.

If IVINS continued to be legitimately concerned that [some other scientist] was contaminating the office space, why did he not inform [that scientist] of his previous swabbing results, or give [him or her] some guidance with regard to safe handling of B.a.?

One of IVINS' previous arguments for not notifying USAMRIID command of his December 2001 swabbing was that he believed he had sufficiently cleaned the contaminated desk area; however, IVINS used the possibility that [his co-worker's] desk was not completely decontaminated in December 2001 as one of the reasons to justify further swabbing. 

[Someone else's] survey of the XXX suite yielded no indication of a breach of containment from the hot-side to the cold-side.  Why were IVINS' convictions so strong regarding possible contamination on the cold-side, while the concerns of other experienced researchers, such as XXXXX and XXXXX were satisfied by the results of [the other person's] survey within XXX.

It was evidently clear to the author of the analysis that Ivins was just making up excuses for what he did.  Why would Ivins do that?  The next part of the analysis from pages 12 and 13 suggests why:

During an interview on March 31, 2005, IVINS claimed that the path he chose to swab was the path that the Daschle letter took from [a specific area] to that through the pass-box in the wall of suite B3.  To the contrary, IVINS did not swab the hallway or locations near [the specific area.]  Aside from the areas near the B3 pass-box and the freezers in the hallway outside the B3 suite, IVINS did not extensively survey the hallway leading to B3.  Of the 56 samples collected on April 15-16, 2002, 38 samples were collected from the men's locker room, and 10 samples derived from locations near the B3 pass-box and the tops of freezers in the hallway between the B2/B3 hallway.

Based upon IVINS' claim that he swabbed the path of the Daschle letter, and given the fact that over half the survey samples derived from his office, the following question could be posed: Did IVINS have reason to suspect contamination in his office because he had intimate knowledge that the Daschle letter was present in room XXX at some point in time?

And, lastly, there's an analysis of the fact that Ivins' Bacteriology Division was in some kind of rivalry with the Diagnostic Systems Division (DSD).  This is from page 13:

IVINS expressed, during multiple interviews and in sworn statements, his concerns regarding the unsafe laboratory practices of DSD employees.  As a justification for his unauthorized environmental surveys, IVINS cited information that DSD personnel did not utilize safety precautions.  However, during neither the December 2001 survey, nor the April 2002 survey, did IVINS swab areas associated with DSD laboratories or personnel, aside from [his co-worker's] desk.  According to IVINS, [a superior] inwardly seemed pleased with IVINS' finding of contamination because it allowed [that superior] to "point a finger' at DSD for poor laboratory safety procedures.   Notably, the majority of the B.a. contamination identified on the cold-side of Building 1425 was in locations associated with IVINS more so than DSD.

Then there is also the fact that when others did swabbings, they didn't find as many spores as Ivins found.  It was as if Ivins knew exactly where to look because it's where he'd carried the anthrax letters he'd prepared.  Of course, the "slippery" Dr. Ivins, being an accomplished liar, simply claimed that he did a better job of swabbing than the other scientists.  Who could prove otherwise?

Then there's the fact that the Diagnostic Systems Division areas where the Daschle letter was handled most extensively were NOT contaminated.  Yet, Ivins tried to get people to believe that moving the letter inside ziploc bags from the DSD area to his area in Building 1425 left a trail of contamination that Ivins needed to clean up.

Then there's the fact that those two cleanups in December of 2001 and April of 2002 were the only times Ivins ever did such cleanups in areas outside of the hot suites.  It was not something he did routinely.

It's important to note that all this comes from a May 24, 2005 analysis by an FBI agent (possibly a profiler).  That was more than three years before Ivins was told that he was about to be indicted by a Grand Jury for multiple murders.  And, of course, he committed suicide shortly afterward -- in July of 2008.

And something else pops out from my own analysis:  April 2002 was not just the time when Ivins attempted to destroy evidence by doing a second cleaning of his lab, it was also the same month when he tried to mislead the FBI by submitting that infamous false sample to the FBI repository. 

On April 15 and 16, 2002, Ivins did his unauthorized swabbing and cleaning.  That same April, probably before the 15th, Ivins received a subpoena telling him to submit two new representations of the contents of flask RMR-1029 to the FBI's repository.  Instead of complying with the subpoena, he either supplied samples that deliberately excluded the mutations in flask RMR-1029 or he submitted samples that were not actually from flask RMR-1029.   Either way, it should be clear that Ivins was acting like a guilty person by attempting to mislead the investigation and by destroying evidence.

Here is a note I made about another FBI report (also probably from a profiler) in that same pdf file:

Pages 99 - 102 contain a July 18, 2005 report where Ivins' state of mind is evaluated by analyzing a book that Ivins claimed got him interested in science: "Arrowsmith," by Sinclair Lewis.  The person writing the report says,

    Martin Arrowsmith, the protagonist, learns that, in order to ensure his experimental plague vaccine works, he must allow some people to die of plague instead of immunizing them.  Arrowsmith's mentor, Max Gottlieb, teaches him that people have to die in the short run in order for the world as a whole to be saved in the long run.  In addition, Gottlieb takes a cynical view of the world, and feels that it may not be worth saving in the first place, with its unlovable people and overcrowded conditions.  This satirical novel presents Arrowsmith's and Gottlieb's view of society and how they, as scientists, must be more loyal to the search for truth and scientific breakthroughs than to soft-heartedness and temporary solutions.

That scientific philosophy from "Arrowsmith" fits perfectly with the anthrax mailer's apparent motive for sending the anthrax letters: To alert America of the dangers of a bioweapons attack by Muslim extremists.

Obviously, FBI investigators had a pretty good idea in May and July of 2005 that Dr. Brice Ivins was the anthrax mailer.  It just took a lot longer to make certain Ivins acted alone and to build a solid legal case that would convince any jury that Ivins was guilty of five murders beyond any reasonable doubt.     

Updates & Changes: Sunday, March 28, 2010, thru Saturday, April 3, 2010

April 3, 2010 - I'm still not finding any details about Dr. Hatfill's upcoming interviews on "The Today Show" or in The Atlantic magazine.  All I've seen is an unverified comment that Hatfill will be speaking at the National Press Club in May.  Looks like some kind of "media blitz" could be in the works.

March 28, 2010 - I've been looking for more information about the upcoming interviews with Dr. Steven Hatfill on the "Today Show" with Matt Lauer and in The Atlantic magazine.  But, so far, I haven't found any dates or other details.

I've also been going through the 2,728 pages of supplemental Amerithrax documents the FBI made public on Feb. 19.  I've examined about 1,500 pages so far, creating 30 pages of notes.  Here are some of my notes from pdf file #847418:

Pages 18 - 19 describe a September 20, 2004 meeting where USAMRIID agrees to allow all of its computers to be examined by the FBI.  There's this on page 18: 

          IVINS advised that there is a laptop computer on his hand receipt, however he has never used it and cannot locate the computer.


Page 30 has this information: 

Details:  Data from aerosol challenges involving Bacillus anthracis (Ba) for the time period August 1998 to September 1999 was analyzed to determine potential windows of opportunity for removal of post-challenge Ames during a ten-day period following each aerosol challenge.  It was estimated based upon spore concentrations of material used that any aerosol challenge involving greater than or equal to three animals would constitute enough available Ba to have assembled the anthrax-laced letters.  All Ames challenges in the time period for which key card access records are available involved at least three animals.


On pages 8, 23, 37 and elsewhere in that .pdf file, people at Ft. Detrick are asked if they ever used "modified G sporulation media."  That makes me wonder if there wasn't some indication in the attack spores that "modified G sporulation media" was used to create the spores.

More notes:

Pages 40 - 46 seem to be a December 1, 2004 "project" to document everyone at Ft. Detrick who handled the anthrax letters and envelopes as part of the FBI investigation.

Page 43 says "Scent was extracted from the Brokaw letter and envelope by PST [Physical Science Technician] XXXXX in Room XXX Building 1412."

On 10/26/2001 "Scent was extracted from the letter and envelope by PST XXXXX ..."  DNA, fingerprint and ink examinations are performed.

Page 45 describes the handling of the Leahy letter.  It reaches USAMRIID on Dec. 5, 2001.  On page 46 there is this: 

At 11.00 a.m. [on December 9, 2001] FBI employee XXXXX (now a Special Agent) extracted scent from the Leahy letter and envelope at FBI headquarters.


So, they did attempt to extract the culprit's scent from the letters.  It was done, of course, after any spores remaining on or inside the paper of the letters and envelopes had been killed by radiation, so the bloodhounds would be safe.  It still seems highly unlikely that they'd get any worthwhile results after all the precautions taken by the anthrax mailer and all the handling by post office employees, but they still tried. 

That's as far as I've gotten in that particular .pdf file.  I've been reading the .pdf files in reverse order (newest first).

Here are a few of my notes from reading .pdf file #847423:

Page 4 seems to indicate that, in his lab, only Ivins and one or two other persons made spores from 1988 to 2004.  At the bottom of page 4 and into page 5 there is this: 

In 1989, IVINS was working with XXXXX.  They were looking at the quality of spores grown in Leighton and Doi media versus the quality of spores grown in agar.  They found that spores grown in Leighton and Doi media were "hotter", cleaner, nicer, smaller, less likely to clump, and aersolize better.


On page 5 there's this:

Ivins noted that he is making nearly 1 trillion spores a week for USAMRIID, the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), etc.

Page 6 explains very clearly that flask RMR-1030 was created BEFORE flask RMR-1029.  It also has a lot of detail about why Ivins created flask RMR-1029.


Here are a few of my notes from reading .pdf file #847245:


Page 8 contains this criticism from someone regarding Bruce Ivins' methods:

          XXXXX has no knowledge of any Ba fermentation being performed, but believes the current spore production procedure and acquisition of wet spore preparations is perceived as an issue.  XXXXX elaborated by saying that spore preparations provided by BRUCE IVINS lack overall consistency in preparation parameters between batches.  This consistency diminished along with the Dugway produced spores (writer believes these Dugway spores to be RMR-1029).  XXXXX believes that IVINS grows batches of spores in order to meet the quantitative demand, with little parameter consistency between batches.


Pages 10 - 12 contain a January 12, 2007 interview with someone at Ft. Detrick who believes that Ivins had the ability to produce the spores used in the attacks.

Pages 13 - 14 contain a January 23, 2007 interview with someone else at Ft. Detrick who believes that Ivins had the ability to produce the spores used in the attacks.

Page 17 has this:

           Ba spores used by the Aerobiology group were always provided by BRUCE IVINS, who was known as the "star spore grower."

Page 24 says that Ivins liked to take showers at Ft. Detrick on days when he wasn't working, and he went into Ft. Detrick to get away from home, to use the Internet, etc.


Page 34 says that Building 1412 was not compartmentalized like Building 1425, which meant that the entire building 1412 was considered "hot."

Page 36 has another person saying that Bruce Ivins could have made the attack anthrax.


It's all interesting stuff.  A lot of work which I would have assumed was done in biosafety cabinets
is actually done under "hoods".   A "hood" is a work station where there's a sheet of Plexiglas between your face and the equipment, but you can reach under the Plexiglas to use the equipment.  (It's like what they have at an all-you-can-eat buffet to keep people from breathing and sneezing on the food in the steamers.  Click HERE, HERE, and HERE for pictures.)  I gather that, in the case of Ft. Detrick, the idea is to keep things you are working on from splashing into your eyes or onto your face.  I wondered about negative air pressure and got this information from the Internet:

" Air from booths, tents and hoods may be discharged into the room in which the device is located or it may be exhausted to the outside. If the air is discharged into the room, a HEPA filter should be incorporated at the discharge duct or vent of the device. The exhaust fan should be located on the discharge side of the HEP A filter to ensure that the air pressure in the filter housing and booth is negative with respect to adjacent areas. Uncontaminated air from the room will flow into the booth through all openings, thus preventing infectious droplet nuclei in the booth from escaping into the room.”

I also noticed several occasions in reading the files where Dr. Ivins seems to made a point to FBI investigators that growing spores on blood agar results in spores that are difficult to clean.  It was like he was trying to point away from the use of blood agar to create the spores in the attack letters.

There are also a lot of details which seemed to suggest that the anthrax killer may have used discarded test cultures instead of starting with totally new batches.   Dr. Ivins seemed to have made it a practice to dump used Petri dishes, plates and flasks into an autoclave for periods of time until the autoclave was filled, then he would turn on the autoclave and sterilize what was inside.  It seems possible that, if he was using material from flask RMR-1029 to do cultures on dishes and then put the dishes into the autoclave, in a week or so he might have enough spores in the autoclave to fill the anthrax letters.  I don't see how anyone could tell the difference between those spores and spores created from scratch for the sole purpose of putting them into the anthrax letters.   The powders in the media letters, in particular, seem very likely to have been created that way, i.e., by taking mature cultures out of the autoclave instead of starting from scratch.

When I take a break from reading the documents to do other things, pieces sometimes start falling together in my mind.   And I start wondering about the details in each step of the tasks that Dr. Ivins went through nearly every work day:

1.  When Building 1412 needed some spores for animal testing, Dr. Ivins would receive the request.  He was Ft. Detrick's "star spore grower."

2.  Creating a new batch of spores for Building 1412 was never done by inoculating a new flask of growth media with spores taken directly from flask RMR-1029.   Evidently, there was always an intermediate step involving a Petri dish.

3.  Ivins would dip a cotton swab into a liquid containing spores that came directly or indirectly from flask RMR-1029, and he would then use those spores to inoculate a Petri dish of growth medium.

4.  The next day, Ivins would look at all the bacterial colonies growing in the Petri dish, and he'd select one of the colonies to use to grow the much larger batch of spores for sending to Building 1412 for testing.  He'd use a "loop" to gather up that one specific colony and use the spores from that single colony to inoculate a flask of growth medium.      
 
5.  And the Petri dish and the rest of the colonies in it would be placed in the autoclave to be sterilized when the autoclave was full.  Ivins was probably tossing away at least ten times as many spores as he used to inoculate the flask.  And those colonies probably wouldn't immediately stop forming spores just because they were put in the autoclave.

6.  Because Ivins used his "single colony pick" method,
the spores that were left behind in the Petri dishes were far more likely to contain all the mutations that were in flask RMR-1029 than the spores he grew for Building 1412.

7.  That probably explains why there were so few samples at Ft. Detrick which contained the four mutations.  The samples in Building 1412 were grown from single colonies, which means every mutation in them would likely be a new mutation, not any mutations that were transferred over from flask RMR-1029.

8.  When other labs received the multiple-milligram quantities of spores that were poured directly out of flask RMR-1029, those spores were to be entirely consumed in tests.  They were NOT used as any kind of seed stock for new growths.  So, the only sample they'd have that matched flask RMR-1029 would be a sample from flask RMR-1029 that Ivins provided but which had not yet been entirely consumed in testing.

No matter where I look, everything continues to point to Dr. Ivins, never away from Dr. Ivins.

Of course, the conspiracy theorists and True Believers tell me that's because I'm only looking at the FBI's evidence - which they also tell me isn't really evidence.  If the FBI would have looked elsewhere, they would have found real evidence against someone else.  And, each believes there is a mountain of evidence pointing to their own suspect, if the FBI would just look for it.  So, there are dozens of undiscovered mountains of evidence pointing to dozens of other suspects.  And the actual mountain of solid evidence before me doesn't really exist.  It's not really evidence, they tell me.  I just believe it is -- the same way they believe it isn't.  I just need to understand that imaginary, undiscovered evidence is far more important than real evidence.  I just need to understand the importance of total nonsense.   

Only about 1,200 pages left to read.  Groan.

Updates & Changes: Sunday, March 21, 2010, thru Saturday, March 27, 2010

March 25, 2010 - Hmm.  The rabid Right Wing web site "Accuracy In Media" actually has something worth reading.  The article has a typical inflamatory title, "Obama Obstructs Oversight of FBI in Anthrax Case," but it also contains this information:

Dr. Steven Hatfill, one of the innocent victims of the FBI investigation, is preparing to go public with his account of how the Department of Justice (DOJ) violated his rights and tried to ruin his career and reputation. He will be the subject of a forthcoming Atlantic magazine article and will be sitting down for an interview by the NBC "Today Show's" Matt Lauer.

The "Accuracy In Media" article is also very interesting because it cites some well-known conspiracy theorists and True Believers and explains why they do not think that the FBI found the real culprit.   The article concludes with this:

If Ivins didn't do it, as these analysts suggest, then the perpetrators are still free, America remains vulnerable to a biological weapons attack, and the FBI is clueless about the nature of the threat we face. 

On top of this, President Obama doesn't want Congress to get to the bottom of what really happened.


And, on top of that, the sky is falling!!!!

If the conspiracy theorists and True Believers are right, that means nearly everyone in the government is lying about nearly everything, the lies are perpetuated from administration to administration, Americans never went to the moon, 9/11 was a CIA plot, thousands of government employees are covering up who really killed John F. Kennedy, and the Earth is really flat because evidence is something that only evil government conspirators provide, while it is only beliefs which truly matter -- to conspiracy theorists and True Believers, the only people who really know anything.


March 24, 2010 - From the For-What-It's-Worth Department there are these two bits of information:

1.  The documents released by the FBI make it very clear that Dr. Ivins was becoming the focus of the Amerithrax investigation in the early months of 2005.  On April 4, 2005, Dr. Hatfill advised the FBI that he wanted to have his lawyer present during all further interviews.

2.  After spending 4 years in charge of the Amerithrax investigation, FBI Inspector Richard L. Lambert transferred to the Knoxville Field Office in September of 2006
.   So, Lambert was in charge when the investigation began to focus on Ivins, and he was still in charge for the next 1-3/4 years as the case against Ivins continued to develop.      

March 23, 2010 - I've been digging through the 2,700 pages of supplementary data that the FBI/DOJ provided when they closed the Amerithrax case on February 19.  I'm a long way from being done, but some of the things I've found already are very interesting to me.  For example, here are a couple paragraphs from page 6 of pdf file #847444:

           ADMINSTRATIVE: On January 13, 2005, the hard drive of IVINS' assigned USAMRIID computer was copied by the FBI with his consent.  A review of the hard drive copy revealed that e-mails for the year 2001 appeared to be missing from the hard drive, although e-mail activities for the prior and subsequent years were located.  IVINS was asked by interviewing agents to explain the reason for this omission.

            IVINS advised that he was very surprised by the interviewing Agents' claim that his 2001 e-mails were missing from his hard drive.  IVINS said he archives e-mails by subject, not by date, however, he believes e-mail for this time period should be on his computer. 

Ah, the "slippery" Dr. Ivins has an unverifiable answer for everything:  The emails should be there.  I don't know what happened to them.  Are you sure you looked in the right place?  Maybe YOU accidentally deleted them.

On page 199 of pdf file #847545 there's this information about the day the first letters were probably mailed:

IVINS cannot recall taking leave on September 17, 2001, and, therefore, cannot recall why he did so.

As I wrote in Sunday's comment.  There appears to be an endless stream of facts pointing to Dr. Ivins as the anthrax mailer and NEVER anything that points away from Dr. Ivins.   The fact that there were a hundred or more people who could have accessed flask RMR-1029 does NOT point away from Dr. Ivins.  It points to Dr. Ivins as one of those hundred or more people.  From there, it's a process of elimination.

There seem to be dozens of FBI interviews with Dr. Ivins in pdf files #847443 and #847444.   A common thread seems to be that Dr. Ivins has a very long list of other people who could have sent the letters.  He seems to mention a name or two during almost every interview, and he sometimes produces lists of people the FBI should talk with.  Mostly, though, they seem to be people in another division of USAMRIID, not in Ivins' Bacteriology Division. 

The conspiracy theorists and True Believers made endless accusations against the FBI when they couldn't find emails from the times of the mailings to prove that Ivins couldn't have gone to New Jersey at that time.   The idea that Ivins may have destroyed the emails to hide evidence to so they couldn't show that he was NOT on his computer at those times never seems to have occurred to the conspiracy theorists and True Believers.  

The conspiracy theorists and True Believers also pointed to discrepancies on the log for flask RMR-1029, suggesting that the FBI must have doctored something.  But there are numerous interviews with Dr. Ivins where he is asked to explain why the logs have parts that are whited out or where different copies of the logs do not seem to agree with each other.  There doesn't seem to be anything sinister involved.  Ivins just had his own idea of how to do things.

The conspiracy theorists and True Believers (including some in the media) have also claimed that flask RMR-1029 was sometimes stored in Building 1412 because one version the log for flask RMR-1029 showed Building 1412 as its location.  Someone even suggested that it was always stored in Building 1412 until 2004 when Ivins requested it be moved to Building 1425.  But page 98 of pdf file #847443 reports on a phone call from Dr. Ivins to the FBI where Ivins explains that flask RMR-1029 was never taken to building 1412, they only took aliquots to 1412.  And page 10 in pdf file #847444 contains statements that flask RMR-1029 was NEVER stored in building 1412, but was ALWAYS stored in building 1425.  It appears that when the shipments of spores from Dugway arrived, there was some thought of keeping them in Building 1412, but that never happened even though the form temporarily said it did.


The conspiracy theorists and True Believers point out that, on page 32 of the FBI/DOJ summary report, it says that j
ust before the times of the mailings, Dr. Ivins used the USAMRIID library where a copy machine was located.  (The letters in the envelopes were copies, not originals.)  Visiting the library was not a common thing for Dr. Ivins.  But on page 17 of the summary report it says that the anthrax letters were not produced on the copy machine in the library. 

To me, that could mean that Ft. Detrick bought a new copy machine between September 2001 and the time in 2005 or 2007 when the FBI examined the copy machine in the library to see if it produced the attack letters.  OR the machine could have been cleaned and overhauled a half dozen times during the intervening years, making any match impossible to determine.   So far, I haven't seen any details about that.  But the conspiracy theorists and True Believers have plenty of explanations, all of which involve massive FBI conspiracies to mislead the investigation.

On page 11 of pdf file #847444 there is Dr. Ivins' explanation for the 100ml math error on the log for flask RMR-1029.  It was just that: a math error.  Nothing sinister going on. 

On page 107-108 of pdf file #847443 there's this information about the log for RMR-1029:

IVINS' record of the dissemination of Reference Material Receipt (RMR) 1029, the Ames spores which were a combination of Dugway-produced spores and spores made by IVINS, was kept only for the purpose of allowing the researchers to estimate how much of the material was left so they would not run out of spores for aerosol challenges.  The record was not kept as any kind of precise inventory for security reasons.  The amounts of remaining material were only estimates and were not accurately measured for each entry.

One problem with the 2,728 pages of supplementary information is that a lot of material is not in order by date.  So far, I've got about 25 pages of notes on what I've read that could be of further interest.  And I've only gone through 1,358 of the 2,728 pages (50%).   

March 21, 2010 - In a black briefcase seized from Dr. Ivins' home during the search performed on the night of November 1-2, 2007, the FBI found a stack of articles and other materials downloaded and printed off the Internet on May 5 and May 10, 2005.  (See FBI pdf file #847447, pages 117 - 186.)  The articles printed on the 5th were mostly about the use of forensic evidence in court.  The articles printed on May 10 mostly related to the validity of handwriting analysis in court.  Any mention of handwriting analysis makes me curious, and I wondered what had prompted Dr. Ivins to research that particular subject.  The articles seemed to be about how the analysis of handwriting is not a science, little can be scientifically proven.  Handwriting analysis is really all about the opinions of experts.  And, to combat the opinions of the prosecution's "experts," Dr. Ivins lawyer would just need to find a certified "expert" whose opinion would disagree with the prosecution's and thereby help create reasonable doubt.  Ivins also printed out several lists of experts with sufficient credentials to testify in court.

Dr. Ivins was the type of suspect cops call "slippery."  He always had answers for everything, sometimes a multiple choice of answers.  And if all those answers weren't enough, he would just claim he couldn't remember.    

Early May 2005 seems to have been a slow time in the Amerithrax investigation.  A check of my archives showed no news articles about the case between April 27 and May 14 of 2005.  Checking my comments for that period, I found that New Scientist magazine had just reviewed my book, and I wrote a comment about it on May 1.  Wondering if that review or something related to it might have caused Dr. Ivins to visit my web site, I decided to check my web site logs for that time period.

Starting with the log for May, 10, I found several IP (Internet Protocol) visitor addresses which appeared to be Maryland addresses, and one was actually Ft. Detrick.  It was an IP address I have identified as a "regular" visitor to my site.  But I don't know if that IP address was also considered to be a "regular" back in 2005.  (In March of 2010, that same IP address is still shows up in my log files a couple times a week or more.)

At 2:26 p.m. on May 10th, 2005, the Ft. Detrick visitor simply accessed a
Science magazine article titled "Building Microbial Forensics as a Response to Bioterrorism."  The article wasn't included in the stack of articles in Dr. Ivins briefcase that related to forensics.  But I doubted it was just a coincidence.  The visitor was very likely Dr. Ivins.  

Since the visitor went directly to that article without doing a search for it, I checked the log for the 9th and, sure enough, at 4:32 a.m. that morning, the same IP address was used to perform a search for "
Scientific Working Group on Microbial Genetics and Forensics."  That search led to the Science magazine article on my site.  So, he found the article at 4:32 in the morning on the 9th and looked at it again on the afternoon of the 10th.

But, disappointingly, there were no other Ft. Detrick accesses to anything else on those two days.  And nothing related to handwriting.  The 9th was a Monday, and the 10th was a Tuesday.   There were no visits on the weekend just passed, nor on the previous Friday.  But on at 7:35 a.m. on Thursday the 5th, someone at Ft. Detrick performed a Google search for 
"anthrax burial sites afghanistan."  And at 9:07 a.m., someone did a search for "anthrax incidents washington post."  That's the date Ivins downloaded and printed several articles related to forensics. 

There were no Ft. Detrick visits to my site on the 1st through 4th of May.  Working in the other direction, I found a visit from Ft. Detrick on May 12th.   The search was for
"pfpa cbrn."  It took some research of my own to figure that one out.  The Washington Post article the search found didn't contain "pfpa cbrn" but it mentioned the Pentagon Force Protection Agency (PFPA) Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear Directorate (PFPA-CBRN).  Then I noticed that, according to my log file, the person at Ft. Detrick who performed that search used a Mac.  The other visits were via a PC.   So, the one IP address seems to cover Internet accesses from Ft. Detrick by multiple computers.

That made me wonder if Dr. Ivins may have used his computer at home to look for the articles on handwriting.  So, I looked at some of the other IP addresses from Maryland.  The only one of interest on May 10 was a Google search for "
work sheet on leave requested jeanne bussard center."  Thinking it might be a mental health facility where Ivins had gone for treatment, I did a Google search for "Ivins + Jeanne Bussard Center."  I found two news articles which mentioned both.  But, this time it seems there was a slight coincidence involved.

The first article was from USA Today dated October 14, 2004 and titled "Anthrax Escape at Ft. Detrick."  Dr. Ivins is mentioned near the beginning of the article:

Bruce Ivins was troubled by the dust, dirt and clutter on his officemate's desk, and not just because it looked messy. He suspected the dust was laced with anthrax.

And he was in a position to know. Ivins, a biodefense expert, and his officemate were deeply involved in Operation Noble Eagle - the government's response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that killed almost 3,000 Americans and the anthrax attacks that killed five more less than a month later.

It was December 2001. Ivins, an authority on anthrax, was one of the handful of researchers at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) at Fort Detrick, Md., who prepared spores of the deadly bacteria to test anthrax vaccines in animals. He knew enough to grow alarmed when his officemate complained, as she had frequently of late, about sloppy handling of samples coming into the lab that could be tainted with anthrax.

The female "officemate" isn't identified.  It seems her complaints to him gave the "slippery" Dr. Ivins the opportunity to swab down and sterilize a lot of areas where he might have left spores from the mailing.  Around the mid-point in the lengthy USA Today article is the mention of the Jeanne Bussard Center.  

Fear that spores had escaped into the community in USAMRIID's dirty laundry prompted officials to dispatch technicians to the base's laundry at the Jeanne Bussard Center, a rehabilitation center for the developmentally disabled in Frederick.     

So, the Jeanne Bussard Center does USAMRIID's laundry.   It had nothing to do with Dr. Ivins' mental problems.

The second article was from The Frederick News-Post and said the same thing about the Jeanne Bussard Center, except that it's an undated article (possibly from 2006) that is mostly about the April 2002 incident where Dr. Ivins again felt the need to do a lot of cleaning in the Ft. Detrick building without first notifying anyone.  But, the article also mentions Dr. Ivins and the December 2001 incident:

Concern about anthrax spores in supposedly clean areas began months before the April 2002 breach, during late 2001. That fall, anthrax-laced letters were mailed to Sens. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), as well as media outlets in New York and Florida.

In December 2001, a USAMRIID technician told Dr. Bruce Ivins, a microbiologist in USAMRIID’s Division of Bacteriology, that she was concerned she was exposed to anthrax spores when handling an anthrax-contaminated letter.


So, as we know, Ivins swabbed about 20 different areas down with bleach.  The article later says:

Dr. Ivins, who still works in the bacteriology division but declined to comment for this story, tested the technician’s desk area that December and found growth that had the earmarks of anthrax.

He decontaminated her desk, computer, keypad and monitor, but didn’t notify his superiors.

In the USAMRMC report, Dr. Ivins told Army investigators he did the unauthorized testing because he was concerned the powder in the anthrax letters and other samples might not be adequately contained.

He again became suspicious of contamination April 8, 2002, when two researchers reported potential exposures to anthrax after noticing flasks they were working with had leaked anthrax, crusting the outside of the glass tubes.

USAMRIID officials found anthrax spores in several rooms within a containment suite near the potential exposure.

Nasal swabs from one scientist involved in the incident tested positive. The scientist had been previously vaccinated and did not contract the disease.

When the contamination was discovered, Dr. Ivins performed an unauthorized sampling of areas outside containment April 15, according to the USAMRMC report.

He found anthrax spores in his office area; a passbox, which uses UV radiation to allow personnel to safely transfer materials from labs to outside areas such as hallways; and an area where scientists and technicians change from civilian clothing into laboratory garb.

Dr. Ivins found heavy growth of Ames-strain anthrax, a pathogenic or disease-causing form of the agent, on rubber molding surrounding the noncontainment side of a passbox.

His office area tested positive for Ames anthrax spores. The men’s change room tested positive for Ames spores and a few colonies of Vollum 1B, another pathogenic form.

The anthrax found in these areas was a different strain from that in the potential anthrax exposure April 8, suggesting at least two incidents of contamination. USAMRIID works with three anthrax strains: pathogenic strains Ames and Vollum 1B and Sterne, a nonpathogenic vaccine strain.


It appears that last paragraph is saying that the April 8, 2002, incident where two researchers noticed leaking flasks did not involve the Ames strain, but the testing that found spores around Ivins' office and passbox did involve the Ames strain.  The "slippery" Dr. Ivins used the accident by the "two researchers" as an excuse to do more unauthorized swabbing and cleaning.

There's more in the News-Post article about contamination around Dr. Ivins work areas and the mention of the Jeanne Bussard Center:

On April 16, 2002, Dr. Ivins notified the USAMRIID Bacteriology Division chief of the preliminary results from his April 15 sampling. USAMRIID confirmed the contamination April 16.

On April 18, official testing found anthrax spores in areas outside containment, including Dr. Ivins’ office and near a passbox.

A sample taken near the passbox tested positive for more than 200 spores of Ames-strain anthrax.

The testing also revealed spores in a men’s change room, posing a risk of contamination to the Jeanne Bussard center on South Market Street, where USAMRIID’s laundry is routinely processed after being sterilized at Fort Detrick.

The Army’s Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine found no anthrax contamination when it tested the center in the days after the breach.

USAMRIID sterilizes all laundry leaving change rooms, using high temperatures and pressure in machines called autoclaves.

USAMRIID Safety Officer Maj. Chris Ansell recently said all laundry has been autoclaved for years, before April 2002, and tests of the Jeanne Bussard center were an extra step in protecting its workers.


So, what did I learn with all this research?  I didn't find a single thing related to the stack of articles about handwriting analysis which Dr. Ivins downloaded and printed off the Internet on March 10, 2005, but I learned that on April 18, 2002, official testing found Ames anthrax spores "outside containment, including Dr. Ivins' office and near a passbox."  Also "in a men's change room."

Dr. Ivins' concerned officemate was female, yet spores were found in a men's change room.  There's no mention on any spores found in the women's change room.  The article suggests the unauthorized cleanups were all related to some mishandling of the anthrax letters after the mailings and after they were brought to Ft. Detrick to be examined.  But, was it?  There would be no way to know for certain, since - before or after - they are still spores from the mailing.

It wasn't what I was looking for, but it's still very interesting.   There's been a lot written about how the culprit couldn't have prepared the anthrax letters without contaminating himself and areas where he worked.  It appears that Dr. Ivins did exactly that.  But no one put 2 and 2 together in December of 2001 or April of 2002.  The investigation was focused upon Central New Jersey during that time.

Ivins undoubtedly knew enough to use a biosafety cabinet to put the powdered anthrax into the letters and to seal the letters.  The completed anthrax letters would then have been placed in some kind of container, like a Baggie, and the outside of the Baggie would have been thoroughly cleaned with bleach before taking it out of the biosafety cabinet.   But, taking the powder to the biosafety cabinet and opening the biosafety cabinet after completing the loading and sealing of the letters were still periods of potential contamination - even with negative air pressure in the cabinet.  And, then there's damp object used to wet the flap on the envelope and the roll of tape used to seal the backs of the letters.  Was there time to thoroughly sterilize them before taking them out of the biosafety cabinet?

It appears that Dr. Ivins not only failed to realize that spores could escape and aerosolize from a sealed envelope, they could also escape from lab equipment that wasn't designed to handle aerosolized dry spores.

Changing clothes and showering might not have eliminated all the Ames spores on or around him, but it would be enough to make the few remaining spores extremely hard to find.  The next time the attack anthrax would have the potential to cause detectable contamination wouldn't be in his home or car.  It would be when he opened the Baggie to dump the letters into the mailbox across from Princeton University in New Jersey (and near the KKG sorority facility).  And that mailbox was thoroughly contaminated with anthrax spores.

No matter where you look, the evidence always leads to Dr. Ivins, never away from Dr. Ivins.

And, by the way, there's something else they found in that black briefcase belonging to Dr. Ivins:

Item 21: A bag with fake hair pieces such as sideburns, and a mustache; glue, puddy wax, bruise kit, fake blood, makeup, powder and a brush.


It probably doesn't mean that Ivins used a disguise when he drove to Princeton to mail the letters.  But, it seems to be more evidence that points to Dr. Ivins and not away from Dr. Ivins.


Updates & Changes: Sunday, March 14, 2010, thru Saturday, March 20, 2010

March 20, 2010 - Keeping up its practice of distorting the facts related to the Amerithrax investigation, the Frederick News-Post today has an article titled "Administration rejects call to further probe Amerithrax."   The article begins with this:

President Barack Obama's administration is threatening to veto Congress' intelligence spending bill for this fiscal year, and further investigation of the anthrax mailings could be halted as a result.

Just like Bloomberg/Businessweek, they try to make it seem like the potential veto is all about preventing congressional hearings on the Amerithrax investigation.  You have to read carefully to find out that it is NOT:

On March 15, Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag sent a letter to four congressional leaders, saying their versions of the budget bill "still contain several provisions of serious concern to the intelligence community."

Orszag said three of the issues -- the anthrax investigation was not one of them -- are so serious they would advise Obama to veto the entire bill if Congress does not fix them.

I don't mind the media calling for a congressional probe into the Amerithrax investigation, I just wish they wouldn't be so sleazy and deceptive in the way they do it.

March 19, 2010 - There's a new article in Science Magazine titled "Silicon Mystery Endures in Solved Anthrax Case."  I've managed to scrounge up a copy.  It begins this way:

          What about the silicon?
          That question has confounded investigators throughout the probe into the 2001 anthrax letter attacks, which the U.S. government formally concluded in February. Scientists inside and outside the government say there is clear evidence that the high levels of silicon found in the anthrax came not from anything added to “weaponize” the anthrax spores—as researchers had suggested early in the probe—but from the culture in which the spores were grown. That evidence may have settled the issue of whether the anthrax was weaponized, at least for scientists familiar with the case. But it raises a different question: Why did the mailed anthrax have such a high proportion of spores with a silicon signature in comparison to most other anthrax samples?
          The answer, according to academic scientists who helped with the case, probably would not change the FBI’s conclusion that the attacks were the sole handiwork of now-deceased U.S. Army researcher Bruce Ivins.  But it could help illuminate exactly how the attack material was prepared.  Resolving the mystery might also pave the way for new techniques using trace elements in a bioterrorism agent to link it to its source.

In the article, Science Magazine finally acknowledges the key fact that only a percentage of the attack spores contained silicon in their spore coats.  That percentage may relate to how much silicon is in the growth medium.  The article concludes with a suggestion from a Japanese scientist that every brand of growth medium be tested to see how it affects the amount of silicon that will show up inside the spore coats.  It could lead to a good forensic finding.

The Japanese scientist and the author of the Science article seem to be unaware of the fact that Lawrence Livermore Laboratories did some tests where only the amount of silicon in the growth medium was altered, and the results didn't show any change in the amount of silicon in the spore coats.  That suggests to me that there may be one or more other factors involved - such as temperature, viscosity, timing, the sporulation medium or some ingredient that might be contrary to standard lab procedures, but which an expert might use when creating spores in secret and in a hurry.

As one would expect, because the various conspiracy theory web sites cannot find any support in the Science article for their bizarre beliefs, they either ridicule the article or simply ignore it.

March 18, 2010 (B) - Hmmm.  I don't know what it means, but in the FBI's pdf document #847447 there is a list of papers found in a black briefcase which FBI agents took from Dr. Ivins' home during the November 1-2, 2007 search.  And there are copies of some of the papers.   Included (starting on page 132 of that pdf file) is a stack of computer printouts from the Internet which Ivins made on May 10, 2005, all related to the validity of handwriting analysis in court.

Checking back through my files to see what was happening in the anthrax investigation around that time frame, the only thing of significance I can find is that, on May 1, 2005, Debora MacKenzie of New Scientist Magazine wrote the first review of my book.  That makes me wonder if Dr. Ivins read the review and bought a copy.   Or the review may have prompted him to look at my main web page from that time.  From there, he could have clicked on the image of my book and looked Amazon.com's information about my book.  Then as now, he would have found a customer review that said:

Ed's suggestion that a child wrote the letters (because block letters were used) has always been especially silly. It is not difficult for an adult to disguise his writing (using block letters). There would be no reason to involve a child.

But, I realize this is probably just a good example of looking at everything from my own personal point of view.

On the other hand, I still have my web site logs for that period.  I wonder what they show for the period May 1 - 10, 2005.  I'll take a look-see and let you know.  It'll probably take a few days to go through the logs.

March 18, 2010 (A) - One of the conspiracy theory web sites located the letter from Peter R. Orszag at the Office of Management and Budget which Bloomberg/Businessweek claimed indicated that "President Barak Obama would probably veto legislation authorizing the next budget for U.S. intelligence agencies if it calls for a new investigation into the 2010 anthrax attacks."  The cover letter lists the three areas which could result in a veto by from the President, and any new investigation of the anthrax attacks would clearly not be in any of those three areas.  Here's what the attachment to the letter actually says about the proposed bill to reinvestigate the anthrax attacks of 2001:

INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY INSPECTOR GENERAL REVIEW OF INTELLIGENCE TO DETERMINE IF FOREIGN CONNECTIONS TO ANTHRAX EXISTS (Section 505 of the House bill):

This provision, which authorizes the IC IG to conduct an investigation to determine if there was a foreign connection to the anthrax attacks of 2001, is duplicative, and the Administration is greatly concerned about the appearance and precedent involved when Congress commissions an agency Inspector General to replicate a criminal investigation.  The anthrax investigation was one of the most thorough ever undertaken by the FBI. The case involved more than 10,000 witness interviews, more than 5,000 grand jury subpoenas, and collection of more than 5,000 samples from 60 site locations. The FBI vigorously examined the potential for a foreign connection with the attacks. It coordinated its investigation with various members of the United States Intelligence Community, as well as with various foreign governments. The investigation was conducted both within the United States as well as overseas. The FBI conducted searches, gathered potential evidence, and conducted interviews, the results of which did not support the existence of a foreign connection with the attacks. On February 19, 2010, the investigation was closed. As a result of these efforts, the FBI is confident that the attacks were planned and committed by Dr. Bruce Ivins, acting alone. The commencement of a fresh investigation would undermine public confidence in the criminal investigation and unfairly cast doubt on its conclusions.

So, the letter had nothing to do with Rep. Rush Holt's bill calling for a congressional hearing into the investigation of the anthrax attacks.  It is ONLY about Holt's other bill to ask the Intelligence Community Inspector General to "determine if there was a foreign connection to the anthrax attacks of 2001."  Such an investigation would be "duplicative," since the FBI already investigated that possibility in every conceivable way and found that there was no foreign connection.

I find it interesting that Bloomberg/Businessweek's totally misleading article is still available, and the correction is also available.  Evidently, Bloomberg wants the conspiracy theorists to continue to have nonsense to support their beliefs while at the same time providing the people interested in actual facts with what they need.

March 17, 2010 - There's an extremely interesting 55 minute interview with Dr. Meryl Nass in .mp3 format available by clicking HERE.  She spends a lot of time in the first half hour talking about Dr. Steven Hatfill.  When asked about Dr. Ivins, she responds at the 30 minute mark, "I don't know why they started to focus more on Ivins."  That should have been the title of the show.  Dr. Nass's ignorance of the case against Ivins was astounding.  But that didn't stop her from ridiculing the case.  

The interview took place yesterday on the "Expert Witness" radio program in New York City.  The questioners were Michael Levine and Mark Marshall.   Toward the end of the program, it seemed clear that Levine and Marshall weren't buying all of Dr. Nass's conspiracy theories, but she helped them to argue their own theory: Government employees are generally incompetent and totally incapable of such convoluted and intricate conspiracies.

If you want to know why they started to focus on Ivins, read my supplemental pages "The Errors That Snared Dr. Bruce Ivins" and "Dr. Ivins Takes The Fifth."

March 16, 2010 (B) - Here's a totally new question that seems worthy of discussion: Why did Dr. Ivins take the Fifth when an FBI agent mentioned a specific name to him on November 1, 2007?   I've created a new supplemental page titled "Dr. Ivins Takes The Fifth" which provides all  the details I've been able to find so far on the subject.

March 16, 2010 (A) - Yesterday, Bloomberg/Businessweek published an article titled "Obama Veto Is Threatened On 2010 Intelligence Budget Measure."  The title doesn't suggest that it has anything to do with the anthrax attacks of 2001, but the two opening paragraphs show that it does:

President Barack Obama probably would veto legislation authorizing the next budget for U.S. intelligence agencies if it calls for a new investigation into the 2001 anthrax attacks, an administration official said.

A proposed probe by the intelligence agencies’ inspector general “would undermine public confidence” in an FBI probe of the attacks “and unfairly cast doubt on its conclusions,” Peter Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget, wrote in a letter to leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence committees.

The conspiracy theory web sites are jumping all over this, and it's easy to understand why.  To them, it's proof of a cover-up or a massive conspiracy of some kind.  I suspect, however, that the Obama administration isn't concerned about the conspiracy theorists, they're concerned about turning the Amerithrax investigation into some kind of political football which will provide the world with lessons on how to easily make biological weapons in any microbiology lab.  

It will be interesting to see how this plays out.   It also wouldn't surprise me if the Bloomberg/Businessweek story doesn't turn out to be a major distortion of the facts in some way.   Bloomberg seems t
o be the only news organization that even mentions the anthrax attacks as part of this story.  The Washington Post doesn't mention it.   Salon.com didn't until they added an update.   All the blog articles I see seem to use the Bloomberg/BusinessWeek article as their starting point.

UPDATE NOTE: Sometime later, Bloomberg/Businessweek totally revised the article, removing the absurd first two paragraphs and only mentioning the anthrax attacks near the end of the revision.  Here's what is now reported about the anthrax attack investigation:

While not prompting a veto, a provision calling for a new investigation into the 2001 anthrax attacks also is objectionable, Orszag said.

Undermine Confidence

A proposed probe by the intelligence agencies’ inspector general “would undermine public confidence” in a Federal Bureau of Investigation probe of the attacks “and unfairly cast doubt on its conclusions,” Orszag wrote.

On Feb. 19, the Obama administration released a 92-page summary of the FBI probe that said the late Bruce Ivins, a government scientist, was behind the attacks. Lawmakers including Representative Rush Holt, a New Jersey Democrat, have questioned the thoroughness of the investigation.

Anthrax-laced letters sent to lawmakers and news outlets nine years ago infected 22 people, killing five.

That's a big difference from what was first reported.  But, I seriously doubt that it will change much of anything on the various conspiracy theorist's blogs.  However, it's interesting that Bloomberg has both versions on its site.

March 15, 2010 - Once in awhile, conspiracy theorists actually come up with some good information.  The information never proves any kind of government conspiracy, of course, but it sometimes it answers other questions.    This morning on Lew Weinstein's web site, "Anonymous Scientist" seems to have answered the question of why the FBI/DOJ removed pages 70-77 from
pdf file #847551 in their list of supplementary materials. 

Pages 70-77 of 847551.pdf reproduce an Interview with Dr. Bruce Ivins. The interview begins with the following statements:

BRUCE EDWARDS IVINS, W/M. DOB: 04/22/46, SSAN 280-44-544-, [REDACTED] was advised of the identities of the interviewing agents and the purpose of the interview. Also present for the interview were Ivins’ attorneys, [REDACTED] and [REDACTED], and AUSAs [REDACTED] and [REDACTED] AUSA [REDACTED] provoded a letter to Ivins and his attorneys detailing the nature of the “off the record” interview…

Footnote 1, Page 5 of The Amerithrax Investigative Summary states:

Information derived from sources such as the federal grand jury investigation, sealed court orders, and an “off-the-record” interview of Dr. Bruce E. Ivins, while contributing to the overall investigation, is omitted from this Investigative Summary.

Oops.  It was an "off the record" interview that was somehow made part of the record.

March 14, 2010 (B) - This morning I uploaded a new supplemental page titled "The Errors That Snared Dr. Ivins."  The new page describes in detail two errors Dr. Ivins made which turned an impossible case into a solid case for the FBI.  The first error was believing what was commonly believed, instead of checking things out.   The second error was an elementary error in microbiology: Ivins believed his methods eliminated mutations that weren't really eliminated at all.

Some of the material on this new page was written as part of my comment on March 8.  By converting that comment into a supplemental page, I created an improved ability to link to the information when the need arises.   Also, comments tend to get buried by new comments and then forgotten.  Supplemental pages remain as key places for information.

March 14, 2010 (A) - I keep getting the impression that Dr. Ivins was thinking about sending out the media letters before 9/11.   The horrific events of 9/11 apparently just convinced him to actually do it. 

Here are the reasons I've developed that impression:

1.  The date on the media letters seems to be an after-thought.  It doesn't appear to have been written by the same person or with the same pen.  The writer of the date used a lighter touch than the writer of the rest of the letter.

2.  During the time between the writing of the letter and the addressing of the envelopes, t
he writer of the letter learned how to properly draw the letter R.   Learning can take moments, but the situation indicates there was a bigger time gap involved.

3.  The "hidden message" in the letters doesn't seem to be something someone would conjure up quickly.  It seems to be something that the anthrax mailer thought about for a long time before actually preparing the media letters.

4.  Dr. Ivins unusual weekend and nighttime hours alone in lab B-3 began in August, weeks before 9/11.

5.  The Bacillus subtilis contamination found in the media letters suggests that it was some kind of test sample that could not be used for normal work because of the contamination.  Dr. Ivins may have kept it for weeks instead of destroying it, as he contemplated the idea of sending a crude form of anthrax in the threat letters to the media.

6.  The anthrax mailings were a premeditated act.   Premeditation of any major crime isn't something that typically happens in a few hours or even a few days.  Reasons have to accumulate.  The act has to be justified by many hours of intense thought.  All the possible ways of getting caught have to be thought through and eliminated.

7.  Dr. Ivins was very methodical.  He planned things that others would do without thinking.  He did trial runs on trips.  He wrote procedures for things that others would just do spontaneously.

8.  The records of samples taken from flask RMR-1029 do not show any samples being extracted immediately following 9/11.  While it cannot be expected that someone committing a crime would log taking the spores during that time frame and leave evidence of his crime, it would be interesting to know more about the samples taken on July 9th and August 27th.  Did any growths show contamination and have to be destroyed? 

I'd certainly be interesting in anything that disproves or helps prove this "impression," which now seems more like a "working hypothesis."

Updates & Changes: Sunday, March 7, 2010, thru Saturday, March 13, 2010

March 13, 2010 - Uh oh.  I was hunting for documents to use in a new supplemental page when I happened to notice that one of the FBI's .pdf files containing the 2,700 pages of supporting data has been modifiedPdf file #847551 previously consisted of 180 pages.  Now it consists of 172 pages.  And the missing 8 pages are some of the pages I was using for my new supplemental page.   Pages 70 - 77 of the copy I downloaded and saved on February 19, 2010, are not in the current version.  They contain a description of an FBI interview with Dr. Ivins on June 13, 2008.

I wonder why the pages were removed.  They probably contain something that should have been redacted.      


March 12, 2010 - Today, arguments on Lew Weinstein's and Dr. Meryl Nass's web sites brought to light some very interesting questions:  If it requires the work of multiple people and weeks of intense labor and lab time to make anthrax powders like those found in the Leahy and Daschle anthrax letters, as conspiracy theorists claim, why didn't Dr. Ivins ever use that argument in his own defense?  Why, instead, did he claim in multiple emails that others at Ft. Detrick - who had less knowledge about making spores than he - could easily have done it?

March 10, 2010 - This morning, AOLnews.com has an article titled "Lawyer Doubts Case Against Anthrax Suspect."  The article begins with these two paragraphs:

Just weeks before government scientist Bruce Ivins' suicide, a grand jury was convening on the third floor of the federal courthouse, near the U.S. Capitol, looking into the 2001 anthrax murders. Things weren't looking good for Ivins, the only suspect in the case.

It was July 2008. His attorney, Paul F. Kemp, according to court documents reviewed by AOL News, had just filed court papers to become a death-penalty-certified attorney in the case -- a little-known fact. And the chief U.S. District judge in Washington, Royce C. Lamberth, had approved the request.

So, Dr. Ivins' lawyer not only believed that Dr. Ivins would be indicted, but he also believed it would be a death penalty case

In response to the assertions that the case against Ivins was entirely circumstantial, the AOL article contains a few words about the other side of that argument:

"Suggestions that this is an entirely circumstantial case are not accurate," said Dean Boyd, a Justice Department spokesman. "We are confident Dr. Ivins acted alone in carrying out this attack. There is the direct physical evidence. The murder weapon was created by Dr. Ivins and solely maintained by Dr. Ivins."

The article also mentions that "the government" contacted Mr. Kemp in the weeks before Ivins' suicide to advise him that they were concerned about Dr. Ivins' state of mind and well-being.  In other words, they were worried that Dr. Ivins might commit suicide.

Mr. Kemp still worries about this.  The AOL article says he wonders if he couldn't have "
conveyed the prospect of a death-penalty case to Ivins more gently."

"I question myself. Maybe I was too strong," he said. "I second-guess a lot the wording I used."

According to the conspiracy theorists and True Believers, however, Dr. Ivins' suicide was entirely the fault of "the government."  In fact, many of them seem to believe it wasn't a suicide at all.  They believe "the government" murdered Dr. Ivins.  Ooo.   And the fact that they had warned his lawyer was just part of the government's evil plot.  Ooo.  Somehow, it was the responsibility of "the government" to prevent Dr. Ivins from committing suicide.  But, they didn't do it.  Tsk tsk tsk.

To be fair, there are a few True Believers who do not believe that "the government" murdered Dr. Ivins.  They believe that Dr. Ivins did actually commit suicide.  They just think he committed suicide because he was afraid the trial would expose him as a "cross-dresser," not because he was guilty of murdering five people.  Somehow, they believe that makes more sense.  


March 8, 2010 - One thing I find very fascinating in discussions of the Amerithrax investigation is that it's very difficult for some people to separate what is known now from what was known in October of 2001.   The answer to a key question requires understanding the difference.  Here's the question and the answer:

Question: Why would Dr. Ivins use an anthrax strain that could be traced directly back to his lab?

Answer:  He didn't.  He used an anthrax strain that he believed could never be traced to his lab.


In a discussion on Dr. Meryl Nass's web site, Dr. Nass stated:

Ivins would never have chosen his most famous anthrax, from which many people had received samples (i.e., there was plenty of evidence linking him to the flask) if he were a perpetrator who liked to fool people.

I tried to explain that at the time he sent the anthrax letters, Dr. Ivins believed that he had obtained the Ames strain from the USDA in Ames, Iowa, and he believed it was a common strain used by labs all over the world.  Dr. Nass didn't believe it, then tried to change the argument, but, when I persisted, Dr. Nass stopped allowing my posts to be placed on her web site.

Meanwhile, someone posting to her site suggested that I claimed to
"have acquired the supernatural ability of channeling the late Dr. Ivin's thoughts" because I knew what he believed in the latter half of 2001.  I knew it because Dr. Ivins stated his beliefs in an email, not because I could channel his thoughts.  A few days ago, on March 3, I wrote about how, when asked about the Ames strain on October 18, 2001, Ivins responded via an email:

I’ve read that the strain was originally isolated in the 1950s at Iowa State University, but we were not given that information when we got the strain. I have also read that the strain is very common in veterinary labs, clinical labs, university bacteriology labs and research institutes all over the country, and that doesn't surprise me. From the literature, it seems that many places have the “Ames” strain or its derivatives. The proper place to find out the details of the strain is the USDA, not us. They sent it to us. It’s their strain, and it's their responsibility to know the details about it. Thanks!

Later, again on Dr. Nass's site, someone else made the same argument as Dr. Nass, just phrasing it differently:

4) And if you were trying to cast suspicions on another research facility you would certainly use anthrax CRIMINALLY from that very institution, not your own institution, your own lab.

I tried to respond, but Dr. Nass would not allow my response to be posted.  Since, I consider the thinking of the time of the anthrax mailings to be an extremely important point, I'm going to describe the situation here.  It requires no channeling of anyone's thoughts.  It's just what the facts clearly say.

When it was learned that Bob Stevens had been infected by the Ames strain, investigators immediately began search for the sources of the Ames strain.  It was known that Ft. Detrick used it, but everyone at Ft. Detrick and everywhere else believed that the strain was a common strain that Ft. Detrick had obtained from the USDA in Iowa. 

Five days after Bob Stevens died, The Florida Sun-Sentinel reported on October 10, 2001,

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.

Paul Keim at Northern Arizona State University had determined that Bob Stevens was killed by the Ames Strain.  The information got to the media, and investigators of all kinds were sent to Ames, Iowa, to find whatever records might be available to show how the strain was distributed from there. 

According to the February 1, 2002, issue of The Iowa State Daily which is published by Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa,

The dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine was thrown into a frenzy.

"It was a crazy day," said Norman Cheville, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine office. "In that two-day period, we had over 140 interviews and over nine television interviews."

At first, it was unknown whether Iowa State still had anthrax, said James Roth, distinguished professor of veterinary microbiology and preventative medicine.

"This building has over 1,000 rooms in it and probably a dozen microbiology labs," he said. "It took a bit to find out if we had some [anthrax]."

Eventually, the professor in charge of the lab area where the anthrax was stored affirmed that Iowa State did, indeed, possess anthrax.
But they couldn't find anything about any "Ames stain" anywhere at ISU:

"We didn't know what the Ames Strain was, either," [James Roth, distinguished professor of veterinary microbiology and preventative medicine] said. "We didn't name it the Ames Strain."

When the questions began, the collection was taken out of the drawer where it had been stored.

It was examined in a biological safety cabinet by two members of the ISU environmental health and safety unit. Although some labels were incomplete or cryptic, none of the more than 100 tubes were labeled "Ames Strain."

In a 1985 publication, U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases referred to the strain, now known to be from Texas, as the Ames Strain. The report also referred to the strain as being isolated in 1980, another reason Roth had doubts about the Iowa connection.

"It says it came from a cow in 1980. No one here remembers a case of anthrax in 1980, but we do remember a case in 1979," he said.

The Washington Post made more details public on October 26, 2001:

Microbe Is of Type Commonly Used in Research

And

Office of Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said yesterday that the bacterial spores that caused anthrax outbreaks in Florida, New York and Washington belong to the so-called Ames strain -- a subtype of the anthrax bacterium that is commonly used in universities around the world and was a focus of studies by the U.S. military.

And

That strain was first isolated in Ames, Iowa, and sent in 1980 to Army researchers, who have since distributed it to various academic laboratories.

The strain has spread by other routes to countless research labs around the world, making its identification relatively useless as a tool for tracking the perpetrators, experts have said.

But, as with so much of the information that was reported in the media in the early days of the Amerithrax case, this information was totally wrong.

It wasn't until three months later that the real facts became known.   On January 29, 2002, The Washington Post reported "One Anthrax Answer: Ames Strain Not From Iowa."
  And The New York Times reported on January 30, 2002, "Geographic Gaffe Misguides Anthrax Inquiry."   The Times reported:

Federal investigators have found in recent weeks that the so-called Ames strain was first identified not in Ames, Iowa, its reputed home, but a thousand miles south, in Texas. The strain of the bacteria was found on a dead cow near the Mexican border in 1981, and the geographic gaffe was the result of a clerical error by a scientific researcher.

In late 1980, Gregory B. Knudson, a biologist working at the Army's biodefense laboratory at Fort Detrick, Md., was searching for new anthrax strains to use in tests of the military's vaccine.  In December 1980, he wrote Texas A&M to see if they had any new anthrax strains.  They didn't have anything at the time, but in early 1981, they received a sample of anthrax that had been extracted from a cow that had recently died, so Texas A&M forwarded a portion of that sample to Ft. Detrick

However, because Texas A&M frequently sent such samples to the USDA in Iowa, they had postage-paid labels from the USDA and they used one of the USDA labels, simply pasting the Ft. Detrick address over the USDA addressIt was a way of saving a few dollars for Texas A&M.  And, when the sample arrived at Ft. Detrick, Dr. Knudson called it "The Ames Strain" because the mailing label indicated the sample had come from Ames, Iowa.  Click HERE to view the label.

It was a simple mistake that misled Dr. Ivins and everyone else into thinking that the Ames strain came from Iowa.

Dr. Ivins believed what the news media and everyone else believed: The Ames strain was a common strain used by "countless labs around the world, making its identification relatively useless as a tool for tracking the perpetrators."

That's why he used the Ames strain in the anthrax letters.  What other strain available to him would have been better?  He believed no other strain was as widely distributed.  And other strains might somehow be tracked back to Dr. Ivins.  But the Ames strain wouldn't be tracked back to him because Dr. Ivins believed that his samples were virtually identical to what was stored at the USDA in Iowa and distributed by the USDA to labs all over the world.

It wasn't true.  But Dr. Ivins didn't know that.  And there's no need for me to have any ability to read Dr. Ivins' mind.  The facts say it's what everyone thought at that time.

Most of this has been known for a long time, but the conspiracy theorists and True Believers use beliefs instead of facts, so it may be new to them.  That's why I've laid it all out in detail.

There are solid facts available which can totally demolish all of the conspiracy theories and all the beliefs of True Believers, but it can be extremely difficult to get them to look at the facts when they just close their eyes, ears and minds to the facts and endlessly insist on using their own beliefs instead.  Plus, they always seem to disappear into the woodwork when you try to pin them down on anything.

March 7, 2010 - I sincerely hope that Rush Holt gets his way and there's a congressional hearing into the Amerithrax investigation.  Maybe it will show the world how conspiracy theorists - and people in the media who believe the conspiracy theorists - can mislead large numbers of people into believing things that are beyond preposterous.

In one discussion last week, I argued for awhile with someone who believed that there was no Florida anthrax letter!  He explained to me:   


There was no anthrax letter in Florida. The 9/11 terrorists there paid their rent in cash...anthrax is easily transmitted in cash...and they rented an apartment from someone connected to the Florida building.

I recited fact after fact, giving him proof that one of the anthrax letters mailed to the media in September 2001 was indeed sent to the National Enquirer in Florida.  But he simply ignored the facts.

In another discussion, this time with Dr. Meryl Nass, she demonstrated a lack of knowledge and understanding of the details of the anthrax case, yet that doesn't stop her from arguing that the FBI is wrong and there must be some kind of vast government conspiracy to point the blame at poor Dr. Ivins.

That's one reason I'd like to see congressional hearings.  They might ask some conspiracy theorists and True Believers to testify.  It would be very interesting to have them state their bizarre beliefs on live TV for all the world to see.  And it would be doubly interesting to show the world how each one of them has his or her own set of beliefs.   They claim to know many who feel as they do, and they crow every time they manage to find another conspiracy theorist with a published opinion, but in reality the only thing they all agree about is that the government must be wrong.

Moreover, just like those who believe the moon landings were a big government hoax, the conspiracy theorists and True Believers distort and ignore facts about the anthrax attacks of 2001, and they believe things which are totally and demonstrably false.

The continuing preposterous arguments about the attack spores being "weaponized" in some supersophisticated way would be just the beginning.

There's also other basic information that needs to be made clear.  For example, Dr. Nass couldn't understand why Ivins would have used a strain that would be traced directly back to him and flask RMR-1029.  Others have made the same comment.  They all appear to have been totally unaware that at the time of the attacks, Dr. Ivins believed that he had created the spores in flask RMR-1029 from a sample obtained from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Ames, Iowa, and that the Ames strain was a common strain that the USDA had distributed for many years to laboratories all around the globe.  He believed it came from a cow that had died in Iowa in the 1950's.  He stated so in an email dated October 18, 2001.

Dr. Ivins was mistaken.  The Ames strain didn't come from Iowa.  It wasn't a common strain.  It had never been at the USDA in Ames, Iowa.  It had been shipped directly from Texas to Ft. Detrick.   The strain was simply misnamed because of the way a mailing label was used.

He also believed that the processes he and Dugway used to create the spores in flask RMR-1029 virtually prevented any mutations from appearing in the results. 

Dr. Ivins was mistaken.   Creating massive quantities of bacteria virtually guaranteed that there would be numerous mutations in the bacteria. 

He used seed bacteria from the sample he believed came from the USDA, and he grew the bacteria in quick batches, believing that quick batches would prevent any mutations from having time to occur and reproduce.  But, in reality, if the odds of a mutation are one in a billion, it doesn't make much difference to the number of mutations if you produce 100 quick batches of a trillion spores or 1 long-running batch of 100 trillion spores.  It just makes a difference to the quantity of each specific mutation.  You'll get a larger quantity of a specific mutation if it is allowed to grow and reproduce for 100 days than if it is allowed to grow and reproduce for only 1 day in one batch out of 100 batches.  (Dr. Alibek patented a process that grew bacteria in countless tiny microcapsules of growth medium, thus limiting the quantity of a specific mutation to only that which could grow in a single microcapsule.)

This can be all very complicated to someone who hasn't been studying it for eight years or more.  And it's even complicated to those like me who have been studying it for eight years or more.

There's evidence, however, that only a very tiny fraction of the American people continue to regularly wonder about the anthrax attacks of 2001.  Perhaps a few thousand out of three hundred and eight million. The number of conspiracy theorists and True Believers who actually make their opinions known is probably less than a fifty.  They try to include among their numbers the people (particularly politicians and journalists) who just want more information in order to make a decision, but there's a BIG difference between those people and the conspiracy theorists and True Believers who feel they have all the information they need to make their decision that the government is wrong.

There's a definite need for a congressional hearing that would be shown on TV for weeks , where the details of the Amerithrax investigation would be laid out and examined, and where all the nonsense and distorted facts from the conspiracy theorists and True Believers would be debunked point by point.

The conspiracy theorists and True Believers only have confusion on their side.  There is a cure for confusion.

Updates & Changes: Sunday, February 28, 2010, thru Saturday, March 6, 2010

March 6, 2010 (B) - Dr. Meryl Nass has also chosen to personally attack Jean Duley, presumably in order to justify ignoring what Duley said on "Anderson Cooper 360."  And, of course, Jean Duley is also part of the Great Conspiracy:

Whether the FBI used the carrot or the stick to elicit a litany of Ivins' alleged confessed crimes from the mouth of Duley, and to variously put her in front of the TV cameras or hide her from the press, the fact remains she has been the only person to publicly allege Ivins tried to murder people previously. None of Ivins' psychiatrists, nor any of Duley's supervising mental health professionals, have said anything public about the case or supported any of Duley's allegations.
...
She is merely a puppet in a complex operation, who will no doubt fade into obscurity now that she's "clinched" the FBI's case.

Evidently, everyone who disagrees with the conspiracy theorists is a "puppet" being controlled by the FBI.

March 6, 2010 (A) - The website for "Anderson Cooper 360" now has an article about their Jean Duley interview, and it contains a few details not seen in the TV version.  However, it also mentions this:

Many questions CNN asked, Duley said she could not answer because of confidentiality, and offered her insight only on what was made public in the case.
 
Confirming what I wrote yesterday, the article gives the reason why Ivins would often attempt to manipulate people:

He was also fascinated with codes and puzzles. "Just secrets, period. Anything to do with codes and, you know, tricking people and figuring it out and trying to baffle people and that kind of thing. You know, he really felt he was morally superior to everyone else. And he had a God complex. He did have a God complex."

The article also mentions Dr. Ivins' menacing phone calls after he checked himself out of the mental hospital, and a few other details.
 
Jean Duley said what she knows from his behavior, from the things he said to her and his mental character, leaves her without a doubt that her client, Bruce Ivins, was the man who plotted and mailed the anthrax that threw a nation into panic. The FBI's case is closed; the suspect committed suicide before any charges could be filed. We will never know Ivins' whole story, because it died with him.

We may never know the "whole story," but we certainly know enough to be certain beyond any reasonable doubt that Dr. Ivins was the anthrax mailer.  The conspiracy theorists and True Believers are simply resorting to the last-ditch argument:  Unless it can be proven that is totally impossible for Dr. Ivins to be innocent, then he was innocent. 

Any doubt at all, no matter how preposterous, is "reasonable doubt" to conspiracy theorists and True Believers.

March 5, 2010 - Last night's interview of Dr. Ivins' addiction counselor, Jean Duley, on "Anderson Cooper 360" was much shorter than I expected, barely over 5 minutes.  But it contained enough to send the conspiracy theorists and True Believers into a rage against her, attacking her personally in order to justify ignoring what she said.

She talked of Ivins' fascination with codes and the pleasure he got from tricking people.  She also talked of his plans to murder his co-workers, his fascinations with bondage, blindfolding and other matters. When asked about the anthrax murders by interviewer Joe Johns, "You believe this is the guy?", her reponse was, "I know it's the guy.  I know it is."

If my own experiences are any gauge, she was probably interviewed for 2 hours to get the 2 minutes of what she said that they chose to air.  It may just be the result of the heavy editing, but she seemed to suggest that Ivins sent the anthrax letters due to some desire to manipulate people.  My impression is that his attempts to manipulate people were the result of feeling superior to them.  He felt he knew better than they did.  He sent the anthrax letters because he felt the American people and the media were too stupid to protect themselves from a bioweapons attack by Muslim terrorists.  So, he felt justified in taking action to manipulate them into taking protective measures.  His general feeling of superiority caused him to attempt to manipulate people.

They also mentioned that Jean Duley first met Dr. Ivins about six months before his suicide.  That means that the mental health care professional who wanted Ivins locked up years earlier, before the anthrax mailings, was someone else.


March 4, 2010 (B) - Tonight on "Anderson Cooper 360," Jean Duley - Ivins' addiction counselor - will discuss Dr. Ivins' mental condition.  Click HERE for a sneak preview.

March 4, 2010 (A) - Surprise!  Surprise!  Today's Frederick News-Post actually contains an article that does not try to argue that Dr. Ivins was or may have been innocent.  The article is titled "Police: Ivins not linked to other unsolved cases."  It includes this:

Testifying at a July 24, 2008, hearing to request a peace order, Ivins' therapist, Jean Duley, said Ivins had tried to kill several people in the past.

"As far back as the year 2000, (Ivins) has actually attempted to murder several other people either through poisoning. ... When he feels ... that he has been slighted or has had ... especially towards women ... he plots and actually tries to carry out revenge killing ... ," Duley told the court.

It appears that after Ivins was named as the anthrax mailer, the Frederick police department received "several allegations" that Dr. Ivins might have been involved in other crimes in the Frederick area.  But none of the allegations could be verified.

Of course, The Frederick News-Post also contains an article titled "Holt seeks investigation into FBI's case against Ivins."  It reports on Representative Rush Holt's call for a congressional investigation of the Amerithrax case.  According to Holt's press release there are still too many unknowns about the FBI's investigation and conclusions:

We don’t know why the FBI jumped so quickly to the conclusion that the source of the material used in the attacks could only have come from a domestic lab, in this case, Ft. Dietrick. 
We don’t know why they focused for so long, so intently, and so mistakenly on Dr. Hatfill. 
We don’t know whether the FBI’s assertions about Dr. Ivins’ activities and behavior are accurate. 
We don’t know if the FBI’s explanation for the presence of silica in the anthrax spores is truly scientifically valid. 
We don’t know whether scientists at other government and private labs who assisted the FBI in the investigation actually concur with the FBI’s investigative findings and conclusions. 
We don’t know whether the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Postal Service have learned the right lessons from these attacks and have implemented measures to prevent or mitigate future such bioterror attacks. 

Holt appears to have the support of Congressman Jerrod Nadler of New York.  Although some of the questions above actually can be answered today, it would still be nice to see a congressional hearing to help make things clear and final.

March 3, 2010 - Today, I came across an interesting email sent by Bruce Ivins to a co-worker on October 18, 2001.  It's on page 76 of the FBI's summary report.  It says:

The “Ames” strain of Bacillus anthracis was sent to us in the late 1980-early 1981 time frame from the United States Department of Agriculture, Animal & Plant Health Inspection Services, National Veterinary Services Laboratories, Ames, Iowa. We were told it came from a dead cow. We were not told the specifics of the strain, specifically where it was isolated, or when it was isolated. Basically, we were told it was Bacillus anthracis that had been isolated from a clinical veterinary case. I’ve read that the strain was originally isolated in the 1950s at Iowa State University, but we were not given that information when we got the strain. I have also read that the strain is very common in veterinary labs, clinical labs, university bacteriology labs and research institutes all over the country, and that doesn't surprise me. From the literature, it seems that many places have the “Ames” strain or its derivatives. The proper place to find out the details of the strain is the USDA, not us. They sent it to us. It’s their strain, and it's their responsibility to know the details about it. Thanks!

This seems to answer all questions about why Dr. Ivins used the Ames strain in the letters, which people NOW know had a very limited distribution and was extremely rare.  At the time of the mailings, Dr. Ivins thought it was a common strain and that the USDA had distributed it widely, making it "common in veterinary labs, clinical labs, university microbiology labs and research institutes all over the world."  He thought there'd be no way it could be traced back to him.

It wasn't until late January of 2002 that it was realized that the Ames strain didn't come from the USDA in Ames, Iowa.  It came from Texas and was shipped directly from Texas to Ft. Detrick.   This has all been known for some time, but it's never been made so clear as Ivins' email makes it.

The best laid plans of mice and men  ....    


March 2, 2010 - The Register, a UK newspaper, today has an article titled "The anthrax scare: Case and flask closed.  But conspiracy theories still very much open."  It includes a mention of the direct evidence of Dr. Ivins' guilt which I yesterday implied wasn't making news anywhere.   The article says,

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 bureau had seized both items. The executive summary argues that while the discussion is tough sledding, it was germane to Ivins's guilt, yielding the idea that not only was there a hidden message in the anthrax letters, but that the methods were derived from Ivins's personal readings, a book and a paper he tried to dispose of when he believed the FBI was on to him.

The messages - and we leave it to you to read the detailed method of it in the FBI's summary - delivered in part of a 'genetic code' were an abbreviation of 'F--- New York' (one of the anthrax mailings went to the New York Post, another to Tom Brokaw at NBC) and 'PAT,' the name of a colleague Ivins was obsessed with. Whether a jury could follow this argument will never be answered.

Yes.  That seems to be the problem.   It's complex.  It requires careful reading to understand.  But, a jury would see it illustrated and carefully explained, which would help a great deal.  And, when understood, it's undeniable, concrete, solid proof connecting Dr. Ivins directly to the anthrax letters.  That's why I wrote my new supplemental page about it.  

The comments I'm getting in my emails about the new supplemental page suggest that most people do indeed understand the significance of this new information.  It's mind-boggling.  It's "WOW!" information.  It's the most important information released since they announced that Dr. Ivins was the anthrax mailer.  

But conspiracy theorists can still dismiss it as something that reads like fiction from some Dan Brown novel.   It may be like something Dan Brown would devise, but this is real, it's solid and it's direct evidence

I failed to mention that it was the main part of the report on NBC News on Friday, February 19, where Brian Williams showed the code and expressed amazement over that particular piece of solid, new information.  And it was mentioned in Scott Shane's New York Times article on February 20.

So, it has been mentioned - but only a few times.  Most news articles about the closing of the case seem to accept that Dr. Ivins was indeed the anthrax mailer, although many would like to see some kind of congressional hearing to review the case and all of its details.  I would like to see a congressional hearing, too, just to see some of the details explained on TV.  It's fascinating stuff.  But it can be confusing.  However, if it can be illustrated and explained to a bunch of politicians in some hearing, which I think it can, anyone should be able to understand it.


March 1, 2010 - You'd think that the solid and direct "smoking gun" evidence proving Dr. Ivins' guilt would make news somewhere, but, no, the only thing the media are interested in today are Ivins' sexual
peccadilloesOne document they're talking about, however, describes how Dr. Ivins became obsessed with the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority.

February 28, 2010 - Today's issue of The New York Times has an editorial titled "The F.B.I.'s Anthrax Case."  It contains absolutely no mention of the "hidden code" evidence that was in the media letters, and which was described in the FBI's summary report.  The "hidden code" evidence is a virtual "smoking gun" which conclusively proves Ivins' guilt.  Yet they either ignored it or they didn't read it.  Perhaps they didn't understand it.

The Times writes about "a lack of direct evidence tying Dr. Ivins to the letters."   The hidden code is direct evidence.   It ties Dr. Ivins and only Dr. Ivins directly to the anthrax letters.

I
have just added to this web site a new supplemental page describing in detail the new "smoking gun" evidence which seems to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that Dr. Bruce Ivins was the anthrax mailer.  In the new page, I try to explain the evidence in a more accessible way, stepping through the evidence point by point.  The page is titled "The Coded Message in the Media Letters."  I've also added a link to the Table of Contents for this site.  And I added Fact 1.1 to the list of facts in The Case Against Dr. Ivins instead of re-numbering everything after #1. 

When this "smoking gun" evidence connecting Ivins to the writing of the letters is combined with Dr. Ivins control of "the murder weapon" (i.e., flask RMR-1029) and the multiple times he attempted to mislead the investigation and destroy evidence, there really can be no reasonable doubt about who sent the anthrax letters.

There is one other thing I noticed in the summary that may be worth mentioning.  At the top of page 42 is this information:

The mental health information contained in this Investigative Summary derives from the following sources of information: (1) interviews of people close to Dr. Ivins; (2) interviews of Dr. Ivins himself; (3) a review of thousands of e-mail messages by Dr. Ivins and about Dr. Ivins; and (4) a review of his prescription records.  28 Of these, some of the most detailed information regarding his deteriorating mental health in the years leading up to the mailings came from the words of Dr. Ivins himself, either in e-mails or in interviews with investigators.

And at the bottom of page 42 is this footnote (#28):

28 Recently, pursuant to court order, Task Force agents obtained the mental health treatment records from a number of mental health providers who treated Dr. Ivins over the years, and interviewed a number of those providers. However, as that information remains under seal, nothing in this Investigative Summary is derived from those records.  

This poses the question: Who was the "witness" with whom Dr. Ivins was talking when he was recorded saying he couldn't remember sending the anthrax letters and didn't want to be hypnotized to help remember?  I previously stated that it appeared to be a psychologist or psychiatrist.  That may still be true, but the above quoted passages seem to clearly say that any discussions with he own personal "mental health care provider" would still be "under seal," possibly because of doctor-patient confidentiality.  Whether or not that would apply to the psychologists and psychiatrists who talked with Dr. Ivins after he had himself committed to a mental hospital shortly before his death is unknown.  They might be part of the "interviews of Dr. Ivins himself."  I think a meeting with a psychiatrist after committing oneself to a mental hospital would be considered "an interview," rather than any kind of treatment. 

Notice also that the first word of the footnote is "Recently."  That and the "under seal" mention seem to confirm that there is a lot of information about what Dr. Ivins said to his personal psychiatrist or psychologist that is still confidential but to which investigators gained access after Dr. Ivins death.

If Dr. Ivins talked to hospital doctors about not remembering sending the anthrax letters, it seems very likely he was a lot more clear and specific when he talked with his own personal psychiatrist or psychologist. 

There may still be a "confession" somewhere to add to the overwhelming evidence we already have.

Updates & Changes: Sunday, February 21, 2010, thru Saturday, February 27, 2010

February 27, 2010 - On Thursday, in an on-line discussion, I was asked how I could state with certainty that Dr. Ivins was the anthrax mailer when the subject is still under debateI responded,

There are also people who dispute that the earth is round, but that doesn’t mean intelligent people can’t state with absolute certainty that the evidence makes it clear that the earth is NOT FLAT.

And, shortly afterward, someone sent me a link to a article from Tuesday about The Flat Earth Society.   Here is a description of some of the views of Daniel Shenton, the new president of The Flat Earth Society:

"There is no unified flat Earth model," Shenton suggests, "but the most commonly accepted one is that it's more or less a disc, with a ring of something to hold in the water. The height and substance of that, no one is absolutely sure, but most people think it's mountains with snow and ice."

The Earth is flat, he argues, because it appears flat. The sun and moon are spherical, but much smaller than mainstream science says, and they rotate around a plane of the Earth, because they appear to do so.
...

In fact, Shenton turns out to have resolutely mainstream views on most issues. The 33-year-old American, ­originally from Virginia but now living and working in London, is happy with the work of Charles Darwin. He thinks the evidence for man-made global warming is strong, and he dismisses suggestions that his own government was involved with the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

He is mainstream on most issues, but not all. For when Shenton rides his motorbike, he says it is not gravity that pins him to the road, but the rapid upward motion of a disc-shaped planet. Countries, according to him, spread across this flat world as they appear to do on a map, with Antarctica as a ring of mountains strung around the edge. And, yes, you can fall off.

In sync with that kind of thinking, this morning The Frederick News-Post's web site has a long diatribe by Maryland lawyer and conspiracy theorist Barry Kissin titled "THE TRUTH ABOUT THE ANTHRAX ATTACKS AND ITS COVER-UP."  And on Dr. Meryl Nass's web site she comments on Mr. Kissin's comments.  Near the beginning of his message, Mr. Kissin writes:

That the FBI has engaged in cover-up in its Amerithrax investigation is readily apparent. This memorandum addresses the urgent matter of what it is that is being covered up.

He then begins citing totally incorrect information from newspaper and magazine articles (and some books) dating back to the early days of the anthrax investigation as proof that everything that was later learned is really just a coverup.  And he supports that with his interpretations of things said in FBI/DOJ briefings.

I would certainly like to see all the conspiracy theorists and True Believers get together and sing their theme song, "I don't care what the facts say, I'm going to believe what I want to believe."

February 26, 2010 - This morning, The Baltimore sun has a brief article titled, "Bill for more investigation of '01 anthrax case passes House."   But this doesn't appear to be the Bill to have a congressional hearing about the case.  Instead, it's an effort by a couple Representatives who still think - in spite of all the evidence - that foreigners somewhere were behind the attacks.  They
"want the director of National Intelligence to investigate potential foreign connections to the attacks."  The brains behind this bill are Maryland Republican Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, who represents Frederick, and Democratic Rep. Rush Holt, from the New Jersey district where the anthrax letters were mailed.

Holt said "many questions remain" about the FBI's handling of the case, including whether a foreign connection was "overlooked, ignored or not pursued."

Clearly, to these two politicians, no amount of evidence can be convincing unless it is evidence that proves what they and/or their constituents believe.  It looks like an issue that can be cleared up in a few hours, but the politicians could stretch it out for weeks before coming to some non-conclusion. 

February 25, 2010 - FWIW, I've had a copy of "Godel, Escher, Bach" in my library for many many years.  It's the book which contains the method Dr. Ivins used to put a secret message in the media letters.  I just found my copy in the section of my library related to computer crimes.  I'd been looking elsewhere for it - the science section, the psychology section, the reference section, etc.  A picture of my copy is HERE.   It doesn't mean anything.  The bookmarks aren't in the part that interested Ivins.  But I find it very interesting that I would have a copy of that particular book.   And since my edition has the coding method on page 404 just like what the FBI found, that probably means it's the same edition.

But it also poses an interesting question: If Ivins' copy of the book is evidence against him, why isn't my copy evidence against me?  The answer: Because having a copy of the book means nothing by itself.  It only means something when it is viewed together with all the other circumstantial evidence in the case.

February 24, 2010 (B) - The hidden message in the media letters seems to be a virtual "smoking gun" pointing to Dr. Ivins' guilt.  But describing it can get really complicated.  I'm going to try to put together a supplemental page explaining it in detail as best as I can, with lots of illustrations.  Until then, the FBI's description of the hidden message in the media letters begins on page 58 of their summary report.  You can read the details there.

February 24, 2010 (A) - This morning's New York Times contains a "Letter From America," which seems to be a letter from a NYT columnist, Richard Bernstein.  The letter is titled "Haste Leaves Anthrax Case Unconcluded."  Like the Edward Jay Epstein letter to The Wall Street Journal (which this letter also cites as evidence of some kind), Bernstein seems to be totally ignorant of what is known about the attack anthrax.  And he also uses the same prime source for his theory:

The point, as one scientist specializing in fine particle chemistry told me, blows a large hole through the 92-page summary of the investigation released last week by the F.B.I. and the Justice Department, the main conclusion of which is that Bruce E. Ivins, a scientist at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick in Maryland, was the anthrax mailer.

“Note that the proprietary azeotropic drying technique and the pneumatic mill are both superspecialized pieces of equipment, neither of which is at Detrick,” the specialist in fine particles, Stuart Jacobsen, said in an e-mail message.

The letter ends with this:

The point is not that Mr. Ivins wasn’t the anthrax mailer. Perhaps he was. But some of the F.B.I.’s arguments seem like conclusions in search of arguments, while other aspects of the report — notably its failure to deal with the silicon question — are conspicuously incomplete.  

The author of the letter appears to still believe that the spores in the anthrax letters were "weaponized" with silica.  It's another instance of how bad information just gets repeated again and again.  As USA Today recently said:

Whatever history's verdict on Ivins, one brouhaha at the center of the case has already outlived him — the story of "weaponized" anthrax.

And The New York Times is helping to keep the absurd myth alive.

Unfortunately, no one knows of any way that solid scientific facts can be distributed and read and understood by everyone in order to completely destroy some totally idiotic myth that seemingly malicious people want to keep alive.  There's always someone who doesn't get the message.

Conspiracy theorists, of course, jump on such uninformed opinions as proof of their beliefs.  Dr. Meryl Nass quotes from the article at length on her web site.  If there's any doubt as to whether or not Dr. Meryl Nass is a conspiracy theorist, just read this comment from another one of her posts:

JFK, RFK, George Wallace, Martin Luther King, all felled by lone nuts. Even Ronald Reagan's would-be assassin was a lone nut. Now Bruce Ivins. The American public is supposed to believe that all these crimes required no assistance and no funds.

Does the FBI stand for the Federal Bureau of Invention?
 
And it appears that people who write for the media around the world read what Dr. Nass write.

The totally irresponsible misinformation distributed about the anthrax case by the media never seems to end.

February 23, 2010 (B) - Someone just distributed a copy of the letter Dr. Ivins evidently sent to the CDC after he learned that Bob Stevens had contracted inhalation anthrax.  Only the name of the recipient is redacted:

From: Ivins, Bruce E Dr USAMRIID
To:
Subject: Florida case(?)
Date: Thursday, October 04, 2001 9:57:19 PM

Hi,

I just heard this evening (and read over internet news) that a case of pulmonary anthrax may have been identified in Florida. Is this true, or is this just hysteria? The only Florida strain of B. anthracis that I am familiar with is V770, which is the parent of V770-NP1-R, the strain used in production of the human anthrax vaccine. (I believe that V770 was originally isolated from a cow in Florida in the early 1950s.) The article said that this person was an “Outdoorsman,” and had drunk water from a creek in North Carolina. If he really does have anthrax, could he have gotten it this way, or did he get it by tromping around some dusty field area. (Has North Carolina been dry this summer?) I know that in the wild in Africa, animals are supposed to be able to get it from water holes by stirring up spores and presumably ingesting and possibly inhaling them as an aerosol. Could this have happened? What if an animal had died upstream and the stream was contaminated? (Drinking from a stream or creek without boiling or purifying the water first is an invitation to intestinal disease or parasites, but have any other human anthrax cases been documented from people drinking contaminated water?)

You called me several times in the recent past with regards to another anthrax issue. If there’s anything I can help with here (if you or coworkers are involved) please let me know. I don’t know if there’s anything I can do, but I’m certainly willing to provide whatever informational assistance I can. (I would have been less surprised if the Florida man had been hunting deer in Texas, where there is identifiable anthrax. I don’t recall North Carolina as having ideal soil for preservation of anthrax spores or for anthrax cycling of spore-vegetative cell-spore-vegetative cell etc., but I suppose there could be areas of higher soil calcium and alkalinity.)

Anyway, please don’t hesitate to give me a call if there’s anything I can do. We are currently testing the virulence (in immunized and unimmunized guinea pigs) of B. anthracis strains from all over the world, including China, and we’ve come up with some very interesting differences in virulence among the strains.

Take care of yourself,

- Bruce

This appears to be the email which the FBI summary views as evidence of Dr. Ivins' guilt, since he asks if a person could have gotten inhalation anthrax from drinking water out of a creek.  Dr. Ivins would know that you can't. 

From my point of view, the more important element in this letter is fact that Dr. Ivins is trying to confirm that there has been a victim of inhalation anthrax in Florida.  He's trying to get information without really saying why he wants it.

February 23, 2010 (A) - I've been waiting for The Frederick News-Post to write something that claims no one in their town could have been responsible for the anthrax attacks.  An article in today's issue titled "FBI report fails to end questions about Ivins' guilt" seems to be what I was waiting for.  It starts this way:

The FBI may have concluded Fort Detrick scientist Bruce Ivins was responsible for the 2001 anthrax attacks, but many others aren't convinced.

Scientists, Ivins' friends and others maintain the report is too flawed to have held up in court had Ivins been alive for a trial by jury.

Quotes from Ivins' friends and his supervisors at USAMRIID (officials who should have watched Ivins more carefully) make up nearly the entire article.   They don't believe the evidence.  The officials don't believe that Ivins could have made the attack powders while they were his supervisor or co-worker. 

Clearly they just aren't looking at the facts.  How can any microbiologist say that it would take "25 to 50 weeks to create the attack anthrax spores" if they've ever seen the actual amount of powder as pictured HERE

They don't even see anything incriminating in the fact that Ivins worked unusually long hours alone in his lab just before the anthrax mailings.  And they make preposterous claims:

"Bruce didn't have the skill to make spore preps of that concentration," which were two orders of magnitude more concentrated than the anthrax in Ivins' lab, Andrews said. "He never ever could make a spore prep like the ones found in the letters."

According to the FBI's summary report (page 37):

Dr. Ivins seemed to try to downplay his skill-set in ways that were wholly inconsistent with reality. He repeatedly and adamantly denied that he could make spores of this quality. [...]  However, Dr. Ivins unwittingly contradicted himself in his laboratory notebook, where he described the RMR-1029 that he had created as: “RMR-1029: :99% refractile spores; < 1% vegetative cells; < 1% non-refractile spores; : 1% debris.” (Laboratory notebook 1040, page 074, Attachment F.) This is evidence that he could, and did, create spores of the concentration and purity of the mailed spores, which he described as “99% refractile with no debris and some clumping” in a report dated March 12, 2002.

So, I guess it's just a matter of who you believe - people who were somewhat responsible for allowing a major crime to be committed by someone under their supervision or the FACTS which say that Ivins actually could and did create spores of the purity of those in the anthrax letters.


February 22, 2010 - This morning I noticed an article from Saturday's Frederick News-Post which ends with this tidbit of information (highlighted in red):

Richard Schuler, an attorney for the family of victim Robert Stevens, said the case looked convincing. He said it does not change the status of a lawsuit the Stevens family has filed in federal district court.

Stevens was a photo editor at a Florida tabloid owned by American Media. His widow is suing the federal government for damages.

Schuler said the family has had the [FBI's summary] report since October. He said the document bolsters their case showing a lack of security at Fort Detrick and the inability to identify an employee with severe mental health issues.

"Somebody should not have allowed him to be in a position to handle these ultra-dangerous organisms," Schuler said.

I suspect that they had an earlier version of the summary report, but it's still interesting that versions of the report have been circulating outside of the FBI & DOJ for that long.

The family of Robert Stevens should have a good case.  According to The Palm Beach Post, the Stevens case is expected to go to trial later this year or early next year.

February 21, 2010 (B) - I just noticed that Dr. Meryl Nass has several editorials from 2008 on her web site which called for an independent review of the Amerithrax investigation.  One editorial from The Washington Post is titled "Anthrax Suspicions - Why an independent look a the FBI probe is essential."  It can be summarized the same way I summarized the thoughts of conspiracy theorists and True Believers in my (A) comment this morning:
"We do not trust the FBI." 

The editorial says,

Even if the FBI got the science right, it still must explain how and why it eliminated from suspicion some 100 other people who had access to the vial.

Of course, the summary report released on Friday explains exactly that.  But, evidently, Dr. Nass wants witnesses to name names and wants politicians to dig deep into the personal lives of other people at Ft. Detrick and elsewhere who might possibly have commited the crime or helped Dr. Ivins.

While I don't like that reasoning, I certainly support a call for an independent review of the case.  I think it's a good idea to show how the media totally ignores their role in misleading the public about the case.  An independent review of the case would hopefully bring to light all of the conspiracy theorists' actions and all of the media's incorrect reporting and show the terrible damage they did.

If it weren't for the media - and the conspiracy theorists that fed the media with nonsense, the anthrax case might have been straight-forward and totally non-controversial -- although it probably still would have taken seven or eight years to get the evidence needed to nail the culprit.

Another thing I didn't mention in my (A) comment this morning but probably should have.  It's something else I noticed while browsing:  Near the top of page 70 in the FBI/DOJ's summary report it says:

On June 5, 2008, Dr. Ivins had a conversation with a witness, during which he made a series of statements about the anthrax mailings that could best be characterized as “non-denial denials”
 
Since pieces of the "conversation" are provided in word-for-word format, the conversation was obviously recorded.  And clearly the "witness" wasn't just a casual acquaintance who happened to be wearing a microphone connected to a recorder. 

In the middle of page 70, Dr. Ivins states, "I do not have any recollection of ever have doing anything like that."  But we do not know what the question was. 

Dr. Ivins also states that he's "not a killer at heart" and "I tell you I don't have it in my heart to kill anybody."  But it was just a month later that Dr. Ivins was telling his therapy group that he planned to kill his co-workers at Ft. Detrick.

At the top of page 71, there's this very important sentence from the writers of the summary:

The witness suggested that maybe Dr. Ivins should get hypnotized to help him remember, to which he replied that he would be terrified.

Note: Dr. Ivins does not want to be hypnotized to find out what he really remembers. 

The suggestion of hypnotism very strongly suggests that the "witness" is most likely a psychiatrist or psychologist who is able to perform the hypnotism and to find out what Dr. Ivins really remembers.  But we're missing the exact words spoken, so that cannot be clarified.  Moreover, there's this sentence on page 8:

In the months that followed the suicide of Dr. Ivins, investigators continued their review of thousands of e-mails going back ten years, and examined additional evidence that developed in the aftermath of his death. In addition, investigators sought and obtained court orders authorizing access to his mental health records, and interviews of various mental health providers who had treated Dr. Ivins in the past.4

And footnote 4 at the bottom of the page says:

4.  The results of that record collection and follow-up interviews remain under seal at this time.

This also indicates that the "witness" is a psychiatrist or psychologist and that the recording was done in a therapy session of some kind.  And some kind of "doctor/patient confidentiality" may still be in effect by court order.

I haven't yet had the opportunity to go through the 2,700 pages of supporting documents to see if more of this "discussion" with the unidentified "witness" is available for study.   I'll be very surprised if it is.

But, I think it's important to know that Dr. Ivins claimed he could not remember committing the anthrax attacks, but he didn't want to be hypnotized so that he could remember.  He repeatedly states that he's not a killer at heart, which seems to mean that the anthrax killings were not intentional.      
  
I don't know if any congressional hearings would bring out more details about this "discussion," but it might.  That's another reason why I would totally support a call for such hearings.


February 21, 2010 (A) - In my inbox this morning, I found a couple messages from people wanting to draw my attention to newspaper articles I hadn't yet seen or commented upon.  One article is in USA Today and it's titled, "Anthrax myth persists despite evidence."   It begins with these questions:

Can science ever do away with bad ideas? Or do they just limp along forever?

And this:

Whatever history's verdict on Ivins, one brouhaha at the center of the case has already outlived him — the story of "weaponized" anthrax.

"One of my biggest frustrations with this has been showing people the data, and it doesn't matter," says researcher Joseph Michael of Sandia National Laboratory in Albuquerque, N.M. Michael has presented electron microscope results that show the 2001 attack anthrax wasn't weaponized for two years, "but still the idea refuses to go away."

As proof of that, we have this comment by Dr. Meryl Nass made just yesterday:

But even more important, the letter spores contained a Bacillus subtilis contaminant, and silicon to enhance dispersal. FBI has never found the Bacillus subtilis strain at USAMRIID, and it has never acknowledged finding silicon there, either. If the letters anthrax was made at USAMRIID, at least small amounts of both would be there.

Nearly everything in Dr. Nass's bizarre diatribe has been thoroughly debunked in one way or another, yet she persists.   But at some point the idea that the attacks spores were "weaponized" with silica or silicon has to be declared to be just plain stupid.  I think that point is now passed.  It's stupid, stupid, stupid.

And some on the Lunatic Fringe continue to believe that the attack spores came directly from flask RMR-1029, even though that is totally untrue and has been disproven in many ways.  It doesn't even make any sense.  I tried to explain the facts about that to one scientist again and again, but she just continued to believe what she wanted to believe.

The other newspaper article people wanted to draw to my attention this morning is an opinion piece from November 10, 2001, which The New York Times has reprinted because it hopes it "sheds light on current news or provides a window on the past."  While it begins with rehashing the thoroughly debunked idea that the anthrax samples destroyed at Iowa State University had some connection to the anthrax mailings, it then goes into an interesting discussion of how cases are solved by plodding along and collecting and examining the evidence until there's a break.  Sometimes it's luck, but often it's pure persistence that does it.  The Amerithrax case is a very good example of that.

I think all people who have arguments against accepting the FBI's findings in the Amerithrax case can have their arguments summarized into one 6-word sentence: "We do not trust the FBI."

The evidence against Dr. Ivins is overwhelming.  The 96-page case summary is well written and leaves almost no room for doubt -- unless you doubt everything because you do not trust the FBI nor anyone who works with the FBI nor anyone who somehow even agrees with the FBI.

Ignorance of the facts is another factor that causes people to believe Dr. Ivins was innocent.  But when that ignorance of the facts is pointed out, the response will always be that "We do not trust the FBI" and therefore no facts supplied by the FBI or anyone working with the FBI can be trusted.  So, why even bother studying the facts?

Conspiracy theorists and True Believers endlessly fantasize about ways that a sample from flask RMR-1029 could have been stolen by some individual -- but why would they pick flask RMR-1029?  In hind-sight we all know that flask RMR-1029 was the source for the "murder weapon."  But no one knew that before the attacks.  RMR-1029 was just another flask.  The Ames strain was never used for a biological weapon.  It was only used for testing vaccines.  If someone wanted a sample of the Ames strain, there were other places to get it.  Flask RMR-1029 was a container of Ames, but there were hundreds of other such containers.  If you recall, 1,070 samples of Ames were tested.  They came from 15 different labs.  Only 8 of the 1,070 samples directly related to flask RMR-1029.  Why would anyone focus on RMR-1029 before the FBI determined it was the source of the attacks?

Even Dr. Ivins' lab assistants didn't know what flask RMR-1029 contained or looked like.  And there were hundreds of other flasks in the same walk-in cold-room.   Ivins' referred to it as the "Dugway spores," and so did everyone else who knew about that particular batch.  But it didn't say "Dugway spores" on the flask.

The process of eliminating suspects began as soon as they determined that Bob Stevens died from exposure to the Ames strain.  That immediately set the FBI and the Postal Inspection Service to work on checking out everyone with access to the Ames strain.  Narrowing the search down to those with access to flask RMR-1029 or the other samples grown from spores taken from flask RMR-1029 greatly reduced the number of possible suspects. 

There's no mystery about how suspects are eliminated.   If you live and work in Utah and worked regular hours around the time of the mailings, it would be next to impossible to travel unnoticed to New Jersey to mail the letters.  If you're just an animal handler with no knowledge of refining anthrax, you can be eliminated - particularly if you never entered a lab alone.  If you work on contract projects where every minute of your time is billed to some customer, it's very difficult to access a lab without billing someone and showing proof of what you were doing.  Many labs do not allow people to work alone with pathogens, and many of those that do didn't have any occasion where anyone worked alone for periods long enough to create the attack anthrax.  Records are kept.  Work times are recorded.  Entry to key places is logged.

The conspiracy theorists and True Believers have fantasies about how it can be done, but they have absolutely no solid evidence to support their fantasies.  And they do not believe the mountain of solid evidence pointing to Dr. Bruce Ivins.  They do not trust that the FBI did a thorough investigation because "a thorough investigation" can only result in findings that agree with the beliefs of the conspiracy theorists and/or True Believers.  If the findings do not agree, then the investigation cannot have been "thorough."

At the top of this web site I list all the facts I knew about which point to Dr. Bruce Ivins as being the lone culprit.  The newly released documents include some additional facts I did not know about before Friday.  The page numbers given below are the page numbers from the summary, not from the .pdf file which starts the numbering with the cover:

On page 32:  Just before the times of the mailings, Dr. Ivins used the USAMRIID library where a copy machine was located.  (The letters in the envelopes were copies, not originals.)  Visiting the library was not a common thing for him.

From page 31:  "Numerous microbiologists have concurred that two hours and 15 minutes would be enough time to dry Ba spores, depending on factors such as the quantity of starting material, the volume of liquid in which it was suspended, and whether a centrifuge was used to eliminate most of the water, leaving behind a pellet, or paste, capable of being dried in well under two hours.

Also from page 31: "Dr. Ivins’s own statements to investigators precluded any possibility that his wife could have provided him an alibi. For example, on February 18, 2008, Dr. Ivins stated that his wife never knew where he was, nor did she ever question him about his nocturnal wanderings."

On page 37: Dr. Ivins could refine anthrax better than the experts at Dugway.  He criticised Dugway for their work in creating the contents of RMR-1029 and even rejected one batch entirely because it didn't meet his standards.

Dr. Ivins repeatedly and adamantly denied that he could make spores of the quality found in the Senate letters, yet he did exactly that when he created 15% of the refined spores in flask RMR-1029.  He could do it better than almost anyone else in the world.

From page 34:  "There were only 14 people who had access to the hot suites where flask RMR-1029 was located in September and October of 2001."

On page 38:  Dr. Ivins denied having any knowledge of how to dry spores.  Yet, he was the custodian of the only freeze-dryer in his building, he trained others on how to use it, and he was the researcher who actually placed the purchase order for the machine in the first place.  And, around the time it was purchased, he took a two-day course on how to use it.  In his review of the course, he stated that it provided a lot of practical knowledge.

As of this morning, I've only managed to get to page 40 in my first read-through of the case summary, but I did skip around in my first browse of the summary, and there's one section that demands special attention:

On page 58:  Ivins used a secret code in the first anthrax letters.

The secret code in the first anthrax letters was done by drawing over A's and T's.  That is something I would never have believed before seeing the evidence.  I thought it was just "doodling."  I also thought it could have been someone's initials.  Many people thought it had something to do with Atta, one of the 9/11 hijackers.  There was discussion of how A's and T's were letters used in identifying sections of DNA, but no one could make any solid sense of it. 

My initial impression was that the FBI's deciphering of the code seemed like numerology -- manufacturing sense in something that really makes no sense.   But the solid facts began to nag at me.  It was the fact that Ivins attempted to secretly throw away the book which contained a description of the coding method that was the clincher for me.  The FBI's supporting documents include a page from "Godel, Escher, Bach" which describes the coding method.

And, for me, on top of that "clincher" is a likely reason why Dr. Ivins probably put a secret message into the media anthrax letters in the first place: He expected to be a hero as a result of sending the letters.  He didn't think anyone would be killed.  Like many other scientists, he expected a real biological weapons attack from Muslim extremists to follow the 9/11 attacks.  By alerting the media and the nation to that possibility with his letters, he probably imagined that he would be saving tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of American lives.  And knowing the hidden code would allow him to prove that he sent the letters, even though he'd taken every other precaution he could think of to prevent the letters from being traced back to him.  (In early 2001, I advised the FBI that I thought that keeping the originals of the letters would help the culprit prove that he was the author, if there was a need to prove himself to be "the hero who saved America."  I suggested he might keep them in his safe-deposit box.  However, I now see that a secret message in the media letter would be safer than using a safe-deposit box.)

If you accept that the facts clearly say that Ivins used a secret code when writing the media letters, that is solid proof of Ivins' guilt.  And the facts seem to demand acceptance.  Plus, there's new evidence that Ivins didn't intend to kill anyone, and he hoped or expected to become a hero because of what he'd done:

From page 12: "All envelopes were sealed with moisture activation of the manufacturer adhesive and reinforced with strips of transparent tape, both along the closure strip and the folds of the envelopes. Five to nine pieces of tape were affixed to each of the four envelopes."

On page 33:  The day after the first letters were postmarked, Dr. Ivins stated in an email that he exercised for the first time in months and that he "felt good." 

On page 9:  After the anthrax attacks had killed their first victim, Dr. Ivins sent the CDC a "nonsensical" explanation of how Bob Stevens could have contracted anthrax from a natural source - by drinking contaminated water.  You can't get inhalation anthrax from drinking contaminated water.  The spores must be inhaled.  Dr. Ivins knew that better than almost anyone else in the world.  He was evidently in a state of denial when he mailed the second batch of letters.

There's still a lot to read and study and think about in the summary before even getting into the supporting documents.  I'll comment further as I come up with things worth commenting about.

Updates & Changes: Sunday, February 14, 2010, thru Saturday, February 20, 2010

February 20, 2010 - This morning, there isn't as much in the news about the closing of the Amerithrax investigation as I expected.  The Washington Post has an excellent review of the FBI's summary of the case.  Here are a few paragraphs:

The records offer substantial support for the FBI's contention that biologist Bruce E. Ivins single-handedly prepared and mailed deadly anthrax spores that killed five people and terrorized a nation still reeling from the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.

Drawing from the suspect's e-mails and recorded conversations, the FBI documents show an increasingly agitated Ivins seeking to implicate colleagues while misleading investigators about his ability to make the deadly powder used in the attacks.

In a new disclosure, Justice officials released a transcript of a secretly taped conversation in which Ivins suggests that he might have committed acts that he could no longer recall.

At the bottom of page 8 in the case summary, it says that the information about those taped conversations "remain under seal at this time."  Those conversations are something I would like to have seen a lot more information about.  I know some of the details, but I'm not the right person to disclose them.  I suspect many others also know the details, and I hope one or more of them will reveal those details before very long.  The FBI and DOJ may have closed the case, but there are a lot of people who are not in the DOJ or FBI who have additional information about Ivins.

The Post article also includes this:

"Arbitrarily closing the case on a Friday afternoon should not mean the end of this investigation," said Rep. Rush D. Holt (D-N.J.), whose district contained the mailbox from which the anthrax letters were sent. "The evidence the FBI produced would not, I think, stand up in court."

And then, The Los Angeles Times has an article by Richard A. Serrano which includes these comments:

Ivins' lawyer, Paul Kemp, ridiculed the government findings.

"There's absolutely no evidence he did anything," Kemp said. Rep. Rush D. Holt, a Democrat from central New Jersey where the anthrax letters were mailed, also was not satisfied.

"This has been a closed-minded, closed process from the beginning," he said. "The evidence the FBI produced would not, I think, stand up in court." 

Another version of the same article by Richard Serrano in The Baltimore Sun expands upon Paul Kemp's comment:

Kemp scoffed at the FBI's assertion that their investigation was "extraordinarily complex" and turned on new "groundbreaking'' scientific evidence. "It was a big screw-up," the lawyer said of the federal probe. "If they don't admit that, then they are not facing reality."

Digging around, I see the Lunatic Fringe is also dismissing the evidence, since it doesn't fit their beliefs.   And Dr. Meryl Nass's web site has a totally bizarre, lengthy analysis of the situation that begins with this:

FBI: CASE CLOSED (and Ivins did it)

But FBI's report was released on Friday afternoon... which means the FBI anticipated doubt and ridicule. And the National Academy of Science (NAS) is several months away from issuing its report on the microbial forensics, suggesting a) asking NAS to investigate the FBI's science was just a charade to placate Congress, and/or b) NAS' investigation might be uncovering things the FBI would prefer to bury, so FBI decided to preempt the NAS panel's report.

That's a totally bizarre interpretation of what's happening.  Dr. Nass totally ignores the "c" option:  c) the science of the case was done by the top people in the critical scientific fields, and the experts contracted by the NAS are merely reviewing it make certain the science is totally sound.  It has nothing to do with the closing of the case, which would only be affected by the NAS review if the NAS happened to find some glaring error that all the top scientists failed to see.

Now, I'm going to take out my printed copy of the 96-page case summary, a yellow highlighter, a red pen for making notes in the margins, and I'm going to sit down and read it thoroughly.   I'll have more comments tomorrow.  


February 19, 2010 (C) - After paging through a tiny fraction of the documents that were released today, and after reading various parts of the summary report, it's clear that it's all going to take considerable time to digest. 

The "confession" I'd hoped to see from Ivins turned out to be a "non-denial."  The recorded statements by Ivins begin on page 70 of the summary.   Scott Shane in The New York Times writes about it this way:

The report describes the evidence against Dr. Ivins in far greater detail than before, revealing his equivocal answers when a friend asked him in a recorded conversation whether he was the anthrax mailer.

If I found out I was involved in some way.” Dr. Ivins said. “I do not have any recollection of ever doing anything like that,” he said, adding: “I can tell you, I am not a killer at heart.”

Another recorded statement by Dr. Ivins contains the same kind of "I don't remember" non-denial:

Bruce: “And I, and I do not have any recollection of ever have doing anything like that. As a matter of fact, I don’t have no clue how to, how to make a bio-weapon and I don’t want to know.”

There are details about Dr. Ivins' expertise which seem to prove conclusively that he knew how to make the attack anthrax, even though he repeatedly tried to deny it.  He brags about the purity of the spores in flask RMR-1029, which he created and which were the same or more pure than the powder in the Senate letters.  He was also the expert on the lyophizer freeze-dryer.  It's as his machine.  He placed the order for it and trained people how to use it.

There are also repeated comments which seem to indicate that he didn't intend to hurt anyone.

There are new details about Dr. Ivins' practice of driving long distances in the middle of the night and how he lied to his wife about what he was doing. 

There are details about his "obsession" with the college sorority which seem to make it perfectly clear that the proximity of the mailbox in Princeton to the sorority office was not just a coincidence.

There are details about his attempts to shift the blame to a pair of co-workers.

And there are countless details about Dr. Ivins' mental problems. 

There's a section on how the FBI investigators eliminated other suspects, but I haven't yet read it. 
Beginning on page 19 of the summary, there's also a section specifically about Dr. Hatfill, which contains nothing new except for the number of people who pointing him out to the FBI:

One individual who became widely known in August 2002 as a person of investigative interest was Dr. Steven Hatfill, a former researcher at USAMRIID. In the first four months of the investigation, eight individuals brought Dr. Hatfill’s name to the attention of the FBI as someone suspected of being involved in the attacks.

Previously, it was thought the number was five.   There are details about how Dr. Hatfill was eliminated as a suspect.

There's a large section about the letters and how there could be secret codes in the letters, but it doesn't really say anything about who actually did the writing.   It states that the "doodling" was really a code related to DNA.  At first reading, the logic seems very convoluted, but after studying it, it become very incriminating for Dr. Ivins.

The 2,700 pages of supporting documents seem to contain a lot of interesting material, too.  But I've only looked at the first page or two of each section.

Hopefully, a lot of people in the media will read through it and find interesting things to write about.  I certainly wouldn't want to be the only person commenting on it all.

I'll spend some more time on it tomorrow.

February 19, 2010 (B) - As promised, the DOJ's web site now includes an official announcement about the closing of the Amerithrax case.  There are many many documents being released, including a 96-page summary which I'm about to study as my first task for this afternoon.  Here's the offical press release:

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, February 19, 2010
Justice Department and FBI Announce Formal Conclusion of Investigation into 2001 Anthrax Attacks

The Justice Department, FBI and U.S. Postal Inspection Service today announced that the investigation into the 2001 anthrax attacks, which killed five individuals and sickened 17 others, has formally concluded.

Earlier today, representatives of the FBI and Justice Department provided a 92-page investigative summary along with attachments to victims of the attacks, relatives of the victims and appropriate committees of Congress. This document sets forth a summary of the evidence developed in the "Amerithrax" investigation, the largest investigation into a bio-weapons attack in U.S. history. As disclosed previously, the Amerithrax investigation found that the late Dr. Bruce Ivins acted alone in planning and executing these attacks.

The investigative summary and the attachments are now accessible to the public and have been posted to the Justice Department Web site at www.usdoj.gov/amerithrax under the Freedom of Information Act. In addition, roughly 2,700 pages of FBI documents related to the Amerithrax case are now accessible to the public and have been posted to the FBI website at http://foia.fbi.gov/foiaindex/amerithrax.htm under the Freedom of Information Act.

The Amerithrax Task Force, which was comprised of roughly 25 to 30 full-time investigators from the FBI, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and other law enforcement agencies, as well as federal prosecutors from the District of Columbia and the Justice Department’s Counterterrorism Section, expended hundreds of thousands of investigator work hours on this case. Their investigative efforts involved more than 10,000 witness interviews on six different continents, the execution of 80 searches and the recovery of more than 6,000 items of potential evidence during the course of the investigation. The case involved the issuance of more than 5,750 grand jury subpoenas and the collection of 5,730 environmental samples from 60 site locations.

Looks like a lot of heavy reading for this weekend.

February 19, 2010 (A) - According to The Frederick News Post, the Amerithrax case will be officially closed later today.  The Associated Press, Time magazine and NPR are saying the same thing.   According to the AP:

Investigators had been on the verge of closing the case last year but government lawyers decided to conduct a further review of what evidence could be shared with the public, according to several people familiar with the case.

Officials were hesitant about releasing some information because of concerns about violating privacy rights and grand jury secrecy, said those familiar with the case, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss internal deliberations.

The article also contains a lot of the incorrect information we've seen over the past eight years.

February 14-15, 2010 - I don't really know what I know until I see what I write.  When I write things down, my brain sorts everything out and decides what I really know and what is actually unknown, just possible, probable or very likely.

In a discussion last week, I wrote a few thoughts about what might be delaying the closing of the Amerithrax case.  The virtual shutting down of the government because of "Snowmegeddon" or "Snowpocolypse" or the "Snowtastrophe" is a likely explanation, but I don't know it for certain.  I couldn't envision the FBI and DOJ holding a press conference when no one can get to the press conference due to the weather, not even the FBI and DOJ people holding the conference.   But the idea that they might hold such a conference as soon as the weather breaks doesn't look hopeful.  Things are probably going to be in turmoil for awhile.  The rest of the world didn't stop while the people in Washington were focused on digging out of the snow to get groceries.  Closing the Amerithrax investigation may not be a top priority.

I don't even know for certain that there were plans to hold a press conference.  All I had was "vibes."  Nothing concrete.  The plans to close the case at the end of January appeared solid.  But those plans didn't turn into real events.

I'm going to try to avoid discussing when the case will be closed until I get some solid information about it.

But that doesn't mean there aren't other things to think and write about today. 

Last week, someone suggested that I considered myself to be "an amateur scientist."  I doubt that I ever even implied that I was an amateur scientist.  I consider myself to be a "science buff."  I like science.  I read science magazines and articles for enjoyment, particularly things to do with physics or astronomy, and I love science fiction.  I'm also an analyst, and, of course, as an analyst I also use the scientific method:
  • Ask a Question
  • Do Background Research
  • Construct a Hypothesis
  • Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment
  • Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion
  • Communicate Your Results
I simply use research and logic experiments instead of test tube experiments.   And, when I communicate my results on this web site I'm also asking a new question: Is my analysis correct?  If someone supplies new facts which say I am not correct, the hypothesis is revised and the method is repeated using the additional new facts. 

I'm also a technical writer.  A technical writer translates technical jargon into layman's language.  I spent decades describing in layman's language the workings of computers and computer systems.  And for the past eight years or so, I've been doing a lot of technical writing about anthrax spores
on this web site.

That background came in handy last week when I got into a brief discussion about evolution.   I was discussing the anthrax case with someone who appeared to be getting unreasonably upset at any mention of the word evolution.   The Japanese paper discussed in recent weeks suggested that Bacillus bacteria evolved to utilize silicon in their spore coats in order to protect them from acid in an animal's stomach.  Then Peter Setlow's article suggested that Bacillus bacteria may have also evolved to utilize silicon in their spore coats to provide structural rigidity.  The person with whom I was discussing these papers was seemingly taking a Creationist stance by declaring the Japanese article to be "crap" and the Setlow article to be "myopic" and "ignorant."  Period.  She was just making statements of beliefs.  No justification or explanations.

So, I asked questions.  When pressed for some explanation of her point of view, she declared that in the environment where a Bacillus bacterium would normally grow, there is
"VIRTUALLY NO DAMN SILICON AVAILABLE!"  And sand doesn't count, since it would have to be bioavailable silicon.

I did some research and quickly found source after source after source which indicated that silicon was bioavailable from many plants and even essential for human and animal growth.  It was even bioavailable in beerOne source stated:

“Until the seventies silicon was not considered to be essential for the metabolism of humans; only ‘low’ concentrations of silicon were found in human tissue. Today we know that silicon is important for a good health; silicon is an essential trace element for humans! The human body contains 7 grams of Silicon, far more than other essential trace elements like Manganese (Mn), Iron (Fe), Copper (Cu) or Zink (Zn). Silicon is found in high concentrations in connective tissues like cartilage and bone and also in hair and nails.

And, of course, grazing animals would likely have even more silicon in their systems due to the high silicon content of grasses and grains.

The person who argued that there was "no damn silicon available" ignored the facts I had found and simply moved on to a different argument.  She told a "story" often used to get layman listeners to laugh at all scientists and their ridiculous methods.   It was the jumping frog story.   It's a popular story frequently told by Creationists.

An idea occurred to me.  I asked the question: Do you believe that evolution is junk science?  No answer.  Hmm.

Interestingly, microbiology is the area where evolution is almost visible.  You read almost every day about how bacteria are evolving to become antibiotics resistant.  It's evolution in action.  It's evolution in real time.   It's natural selection at work.  We can observe the evolution of bacteria because bacteria reproduce so much faster than plants or animals.     

The discussion left me revved up on the subject of evolution.

I awoke on Wednesday morning with my brain going about 90 miles per hour on a question related to the silicon found in spore coats.  My subconscious had evidently been comparing a spore coat to a human skull.  The human skull bone is there to protect the brain inside, just as the spore coat is there to protect the DNA core inside.  Strangely enough, the human skull also has a flexible "exosporium" which we call "skin," and the Ames spore exosporium also has "hairs."

I envisioned a tiny primative "DNA brain" of the Bacillus anthracis bacterium.  When the bacterium kills its host and spills out onto the ground via the animal's excretions, it detects that it cannot survive very long due to lack of food.  So, it forms a hard "skull" around its "DNA brain" to protect it, and it goes into stasis to await better living conditions.

I liked the idea of imagining each spore as a little skull with a DNA-brain hidden inside waiting for what it needs to get back into living-and-growing mode once again.  Could there be a biological evolution-based connection?

That question was quickly answered by doing some research.  The answer was: NO.  I examined the images from the 1980 Stewart, et al article, and I found that they don't show any connection between calcium and silicon as one would expect if both are related to bones and structural rigidity.  (Peter Setlow's suggestion was still bouncing around in my head.)  Calcium appeared to be distributed fairly evenly throughout the spore's interior.  It was as if the spore coat was a container, and the calcium was one of the materials inside the container.  The same thing with phosphorus, the other principal element found in bones.  So, my hypothesis was totally shot down.  Back to the drawing board.

If the anthrax spore coat can't be compared to bone because it isn't mostly calcium and phosphorus, to what can it be biologically compared?  It seemed clear that comparing creatures at the opposite ends of the evolutionary process was not the way to go in developing an hypothesis.  Bacillus bacteria is a very simple form of life.  One cell, asexual.  That's about as simple as life gets.   Human beings have evolved into as complicated a creature as one can imagine.

Is there a single cell creature that routinely uses silicon as a coat of some kind?  Yes, of course.  Diatoms.

Diatoms???  I'm not a microbiologist.  How do I even know about diatoms?  I know about diatoms because eight years ago I was in an argument where someone thought that crushed diatom shells might have been used to coat the attack spores.  It was a way of getting tiny silica particles of the right size.  During that argument I did a lot of research into diatoms.

So, I have single celled Bacillus anthracis which sometimes incorporates silicon into their spore coats.  And I have single celled diatoms which routinely build coats of silica. 
Another name for diatoms is Bacillariophyta, because some species of diatoms reproduce the same way Bacillus anthracis reproduces, by growing lengthwise and then dividing in two, creating strings of cells which look very much like strings of Bacillus anthracis:

anthrax strings
Anthrax
diatom strings
Diatoms

Wikipedia says this about the dividing cell process of reproduction and the use of silica in building cell walls:

Diatom cells are contained within a unique silicate (silicic acid) cell wall comprising two separate valves (or shells). The biogenic silica that the cell wall is composed of is synthesised intracellularly by the polymerisation of silicic acid monomers. This material is then extruded to the cell exterior and added to the wall. Diatom cell walls are also called frustules or tests, and their two valves typically overlap one over the other like the two halves of a petri dish. In most species, when a diatom divides to produce two daughter cells, each cell keeps one of the two halves and grows a smaller half within it. As a result, after each division cycle the average size of diatom cells in the population gets smaller. Once such cells reach a certain minimum size, rather than simply divide vegetatively, they reverse this decline by forming an auxospore. This expands in size to give rise to a much larger cell, which then returns to size-diminishing divisions.

If I'm reading that correctly, it says there's a time when the repeated use of silicon to build cell walls causes problems for the diatom and an auxoSPORE must be created.  Like most spores, auxospores seem to involve going into a period of "dormancy."  But what's really important is that there's a "program" in the diatom DNA for turning the utilization of silica on and off.  And the program's trigger has to do with spore formation.  And it's an on-off switch, it's not something that causes gradual changes.  Could that help explain why a percentage of Bacillus bacteria in a given batch utilize silicon in their spore coats and the rest contain no silicon at all?

But, Bacillus bacteria are a less complex type of cell than diatoms.  It's prokaryotic cells versus eukaryotic cells.  Bacillus bacteria are prokaryotic.  Simple prokaryotic bacteria were the first forms of life.  They were the ONLY forms of life for billions of years.  Complex diatoms are eukaryotic.  The more complex diatoms MUST have evolved from the less complex prokaryotic bacteria.

That means I'm probably talking about a common ancestor, rather than existing bacteria evolving from existing diatoms. 

Diatoms are found in water, and Bacillus bacteria are found on land.  And we know that land creatures evolved from sea creatures.  Land slime could have evolved from sea slime.  Hmm.  That logic "test" works, too. 

This diatom hypotheis says a Bacillus bacteria's ability to absorb silicon into its spore coat isn't a recent ability developed from the natural selection process of going through the acids in an animal's stomach, it's an ancient ability that is still programmed in its DNA from the time when its distant ancestors lived in the sea.

The Japanese paper says, "As far as we know, diatoms, plants, and animals accumulate silicate as silica."  And their experiments seem to confirm that.  But if there is an evolutionary connection between diatoms and Bacillus bacteria, the idea that silica in the bacteria is the result of an evolutionary process involving the acid in the stomach of animals would be disproven.  Peter Setlow's article which suggests that the silica provides structural rigidity would be supported.

The diatom hypothesis is not something I can test.  A DNA expert might be able to confirm or disprove it.  I'll mention it to such an expert, someone whose area of expertise is both DNA and anthrax ancestry.  He might find it interesting, or it might give him a good laugh.

Since I'm just an analyst and a science buff and cannot do any scientific experiments, I've taken the diatom hypothesis about as far as I can take it.  It's so far outside of my areas of expertise that, even though the reasoning seems solid, I only have a confidence level of about 10 percent.  For all I know, there could be dozens of scientific articles that are decades old which totally disprove any such connection, but I don't know the required key words to find them. 
(Or there could be a hundred articles on evolution which say exactly the same thing I'm saying.)

Meanwhile, however, I can use the diatom hypothesis to test a second hypothesis.

If the probable Creationist goes into a fuming fury as a result of reading this communication of my diatom hypothesis, then I'm probably on the right track with my second hypothesis - that she's a Creationist.  If she calmly points out my errors with solid scientific facts and reasoning, then I'm definitely on the wrong track.

When I write something that is totally wrong, people usually point out my errors very quickly. 

Updates & Changes: Sunday, February 7, 2010, thru Saturday, February 13, 2010

February 13, 2010 - This morning I found an email from The Baltimore Sun in my inbox, requesting that I either remove copies of all Baltimore Sun articles from this web site or pay a license fee to use them.  Since this is a free site with no advertising, and even though I believe I was within "Fair Use" guidelines when using the articles, I had no choice but to delete my copies of all Baltimore Sun articles.  

February 9, 2010 - If you click HERE, you'll see a beautiful view of the final NASA shuttle night launch.

February 8, 2010 - Someone just brought to my attention an article by Professor Peter Setlow who teaches Molecular, Microbial and Structural Biology at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington, CT.  The article is on The American Society for Microbiology's web site, and it's about "Silicate in Bacterial Spores." 
It's a review of the Japanese study which showed that silica accumulates in spore coats to counter the effects of acid in an animal's stomach.  Professor Setlow suggests an additional explanation:

Indeed, whereas the spores’ silicate plays no role in spore resistance to heat, hydrogen peroxide, UV radiation or NaOH, it significantly increases spore resistance to killing by 0.1-0.4 N mineral acids. This increased acid resistance might be particularly important in spores of pathogens such as B. cereus and B. anthracis that may pass through an acidic mammalian digestive tract. On the other hand, this would not be important in the alkaline digestive tract of the insect forms for which B. thuringiensis is pathogenic. Therefore, it seems likely that the spores’ silicate layer may serve an additional function. Since silicate accumulation in other organisms can impart structural rigidity, perhaps silicate plays such a role for spores as well. This leaves us with yet more interesting questions to address to these spores.

Either or both explanations could be valid.  They're certainly far more reasonable than any "weaponization" theory.

February 7, 2010 - Hmm.  Again I was thinking of writing just one word as my comment for today: Waiting.

But, yesterday, "Anonymous Scientist" changed my mind.  He thoughtfully wrote a comment for me and posted it on Lew Weinstein's web site

anonymous scientist said

To save Ed some time this week-end I have thoughtfully penned his Sunday comment in this handy cut-and-paste:

February 7, 2010 – So, we’re at “the end of the first week of February” and the Amerithrax case has not yet been officially closed. While I haven’t heard anything at all from any of my anonymous sources, I have to assume that the official closing of the Amerithrax investigation, which I said was planned for “the end of January or at the very latest the end of the first week of February,” was delayed by the sudden scheduling of the Winter Olympics next week.

The President wouldn’t want the impact of the Winter Olympics to be diluted or sidetracked by some unrelated announcement from the DOJ, a department in his Executive Branch of the government. After all, the Winter Olympics isn’t just a game. It’s a worldwide event, an announcement of togetherness, a call to action. It’s followed by meetings with members of congress, by discussions pundits on the weekend talk shows and by reviews and comments in the Sunday editions and in national magazines like Time and Newsweek, which go to press on the weekend for delivery on Monday. Closing the Amerithrax case in the middle of all that would be unthinkable. The idea is to get as many people as possible focused on helping to advance and improve the art of downhill ski-ing. Discussions of other matters don’t help.

But I do know one thing. The slight delay to proving that Bruce Ivins acted alone in creating the engineered powder sent to Congress, and the 99% certainty that he coerced a young 6 year old boy from his wife’s day-care center into writing the envelopes, had NOTHING to do with the true believer junk science nonsense written by the conspiracy theorist Ed Epstein in the Wall Street Journal. After all, the FBI lab director responded to this on the official FBI website – and we all know that FBI lab directors always respond to junk science preposterous nonsense written by conspiracy theorists and true believers on the internet. If what was written by Epstein wasn’t junk science nonsense the FBI would have completely ignored the junk science nonsense posted by the conspiracy theorist Epstein.

I’m keeping my ear to the ground, with my fingers crossed while I wait for something to happen – hopefully very soon. My anonymous source may email me any day now with a new date for closing the case which I suspect will contain a full confession from Dr Ivins that has been suppressed by the FBI for the last 2 years.

Actually, I have no solid information about what is delaying the closing of the case.   But I don't think it has anything to do with the Olympics.

And, I have some thoughts about the junk science used by "Anonymous Scientist" and others like him.  It's a subject I've mentioned before, but I might as well mention it again, since the conspiracy theorists continue to totally ignore it even though it's the most significant thing we've learned about the attack anthrax spores in the past eight years. 

Only some of the attack spores contained silicon in their spore coats.

124 spores from the Leahy letter were analyzed and only 97 spores (76%) contained silicon.
111 spores from the Daschle letter were analyzed and only 73 spores (66%) contained silicon.
141 spores from the NY Post letter were analyzed and only 91 spores (65%) contained silicon.

Some other samples contained silicon in their spore coats, too.  And some did not.

304 spores from three flask RMR-1029 samples were analyzed and no spores (0%) contained silicon.
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.

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.

NEVER 100%!  The goal of any military "weaponization" process using silica would be to affect 100% of the spores.  Any process where Silicon is deliberately added would presumably also want 100% of the spores to be affected.

Another key fact:  An Ames strain spore from the attack anthrax that contains silicon in the spore coat cannot be distinguished from an Ames strain spore containing silicon in flask RMR-1030, which we know that Dr. Ivins created. 

Therefore, if a spore in the attack anthrax is to be considered "weaponized" because it contains silicon in its spore coat, then all the spores that Dr. Ivins created in flask RMR-1030 which contained silicon in their spore coats must also be considered "weaponized."  And Dr. Ivins "weaponized" them.  The only difference would be that the attack spores were dried and the RMR-1030 spores were still suspended in a liquid.  But drying is NOT a complex or secret process.  Wet spores will dry out all by themselves if placed in a dry area.  Any microbiologist would know that.

In December of 2001, Dr. Ivins swabbed down more than 20 areas in his lab which he claimed were contaminated by a sloppy lab technician.  Did he really do it to remove any trace of evidence of his crime?  Or did he do it because he knew that spilled spores would dry out and might aerosolize?  Both explanations would be incriminating.

In recent months we've also learned more about the "naturally occurring" silicon found in many spores, which the conspriracy theorists dispute.  We learned why Bacillus bacteria incorporate silicon into their spore coats
It's a result of evolution, giving the spores protection against the acids that would be found in an animal's stomach. 

We also learned from work done at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories that simply using a growth medium that contains silicon (or deliberately adding silicon to a growth medium) does not by itself determine what percentage of the spores will form with silicon in their spore coats.   In other words, putting more silicon in the growth medium does not automatically produce a higher percentage of spores containing silicon.

So, there's really only one unanswered question.  The question is unimportant to the Amerithrax investigation, since the answer tells us nothing about the culprit.  But it would answer all remaining microbiology questions about the silicon found in the attack spores.  The question is: What causes Bacterium A in a batch to incorporate silicon into the spore coat it is creating while Bacterium B in the same batch does not incorporate silicon into its spore coat?  Scientists at Dugway working on the Amerithrax investigation produced spores with silicon in their spore coats just like those in the attack anthrax, but not the same percentage.  29% of the spores created at Dugway contained silicon just like the attack spores, but 29% is less than half the percentage of spores in the attack powders that contained silicon.

The work done in Japan which answered the question of why Bacillus bacteria utilize silicon also seems to suggest that the temperature at a specific point in the spore forming process might be one factor which determines how many bacteria utilize silicon, but there seem to be other factors, too. 


The answer cannot have anything to do with "weaponization" since the silicon in the spore coat has no "weaponization" benefit toward aerosolization.  It seems to have something to do with not following standard lab procedures.  And someone producing anthrax spores in secret cannot be expected to follow standard lab procedures. 

So, why did the FBI respond to
"the true believer junk science nonsense written by the conspiracy theorist Ed Epstein in the Wall Street Journal?"  That's easy to answer.  It was nonsense printed in The Wall Street Journal and repeated by others who were foolish enough to believe what Dr. Epstein wrote.  It wasn't just routine conspiracy theory nonsense on the Internet.   Dr. Hassell didn't respond to the nonsense point by point because that would get into the findings of the Amerithrax investigation, which is still officially open and the evidence is therefore still mostly confidential.  Instead, Dr. Hassell merely pointed out that the FBI scientists did not work on the scientific aspects of the case all by themselves.  The FBI scientists worked in "consultation with numerous subject matter experts in technical panels," and they worked in "collaboration with partner laboratories in government, academia and the private sector throughout the course of the investigation."  Furthermore, the science that was utilized in the Amerithrax investigation is being thoroughly reviewed by the National Acadamies of Science to verify that it was solid, reliable and accepted science.

Therefore, when conspiracy theorists attack the science used in the Amerithrax case, they are also attacking everyone in the partner laboratories in the government, in the laboratories run by academia and the laboratories run by the private sector who assisted in the scientific investigation.  The conspiracy theorists are saying that all of the hundreds of non-FBI scientists who worked on the case must either be incompetent or part of some vast conspiracy because their findings do not support what the conspiracy theorists believe as a result of their own junk science fantasies.

Updates & Changes: Sunday, January 31, 2010, thru Saturday, February 6, 2010

February 1, 2010 (B) -
I just received a copyrights-related threat regarding the information about the Hatfill v Ashcroft deposition material that I posted yesterday.  The demand (which is not from Lew Weinstein) is that I remove the detailed information.  I've done so.  The link to the exact same material on Lew Weinstein's web site remains intact.  I looked through some of the deposition material, and I couldn't find anything that is any longer of any significance, anyway. 

February 1, 2010 (A) - In this morning's Wall Street Journal, Dr. Chris Hassell from FBI's labs in Quantico, VA, responds to Edward Jay Epstein's opinion piece with a brief letter to the editor titled "Anthrax Case: FBI Used Good Science."  Here's the letter in its entirety:

Regarding Edward Jay Epstein's "The Anthrax Attacks Remain Unsolved" (op-ed, Jan. 25): From the outset, the FBI's scientific work in the anthrax case has had a foundation in validation and verification of its approach and conclusions. This process began within weeks of the initial events of 2001 and has included: consultation with numerous subject matter experts in technical panels; collaboration with partner laboratories in government, academia and the private sector throughout the course of the investigation; ongoing efforts to publish our work and that of our partner labs in peer-reviewed technical journals; analytical data and reports provided to the National Academy of Sciences, so it can evaluate the scientific analysis applied to the evidence in the anthrax investigation.

The FBI is confident in the scientific findings that were reached in this investigation. We utilized established biological and chemical analysis techniques and applied them in an innovative manner to reach these findings.

D. Christian Hassell, Ph.D.
Quantico, Va.

Unfortunately, facts won't override any of the beliefs of the conspiracy theorists and True Believers.  But, if enough facts are made public, at least it will make it more difficult for them to find followers.

January 31, 2010 - So, we're at "the end of January" and the Amerithrax case has not yet been officially closed.  While I haven't heard anything at all from any sources, I have to assume that the official closing of the Amerithrax investigation, which I said was planned for "the end of January," was delayed by the sudden scheduling of the President's State of the Union address for Wednesday in the last week of January.

The President wouldn't want the impact of his State of the Union address to be diluted or sidetracked by some unrelated announcement from the DOJ, a department in his Executive Branch of the government.  After all, the State of the Union Address isn't just a speech.  It's a plan, an announcement of goals, a call to action.  It's followed by meetings with members of congress, by discussions pundits on the weekend talk shows and by reviews and comments in the Sunday editions and in national magazines like Time and Newsweek, which go to press on the weekend for delivery on Monday.  Closing the Amerithrax case in the middle of all that would be unthinkable.  The idea is to get as many people as possible focused on helping to advance and improve The State of The Union.  Discussions of other matters don't help.

I don't know if The National Geographic Channel had any inside information when they rescheduled a rerun of "Hunting the Anthrax Killer" from this the last weekend in January to next weekend, the first weekend in February, but there are certainly a lot of "vibes" indicating that could be the case.  

I'm keeping my ear to the ground, with my fingers crossed while I wait for something to happen - hopefully very soon.

Updates & Changes: Sunday, January 24, 2010, thru Saturday, January 30, 2010

January 30, 2010 (C)  (UPDATED) - Lew Weinstein's web site contains links to 12 volumes of deposition materials from the Hatfill v Ashcroft civil lawsuit. 
It's going to take time to find out if there's anything of significance or importance in them.   Here are the links from the site and brief descriptions of the contents:

Amerithrax depositions … Vol 1

testimony of Dwight Adams, John Ashcroft, Timothy Beres, Gary Boyd (SAIC), Tom Carey

Amerithrax depositions … Vol 2

testimony of Edward Cogswell, Barbara Comstock, Mark Corallo, Deborah Daniels, Darrell Darnell, Arthur Eberhart, James Fitzgerald

Amerithrax depositions … Vol 3

testimony of Bradley Garrett, Stephen Guillot, Van Harp, Steven Hatfill

Amerithrax depositions … Vol 4

testimony of Tracy Henke, Roscoe Howard, Michael Isikoff, Daniel Klaidman, Kenneth Kohl

Amerithrax depositions … Vol 5

testimony of Michael Kortan, Nicholas Kristof, Richard Lambert, Allan Lengel

Amerithrax depositions … Vol 6

testimony of Tony Loci, Robert Mueller, Peter Mueller, Virginia Patrick, Channing Phillips, James Reynolds

Amerithrax depositions … Vol 7

testimony of Brian Ross, Robert Roth, Daniel Seikaly

Amerithrax depositions … Vol 8

testimony of Bryan Sierra, James Stewart, Rex Stockham, Vic Walter, Debra Weierman

Amerithrax depositions … Vol 9

newspaper articles

Amerithrax depositions … Vol 10

discovery responses

Amerithrax depositions … Vol 11

miscellaneous exhibits, including but not limited to internal FBI documents

Amerithrax depositions … Vol 12

miscellaneous materials

January 30, 2010 (B) - According to BusinessWeek, there have now been 10 deaths from anthrax contaminated heroin in Europe.  The article doesn't give any details about the two additional cases that weren't in  previous reports except to suggest that one was a case in Scotland which occurred before the first correctly diagnosed case.   So, they could both be old cases which were previously mis-diagnosed.

January 30, 2010 (A) - Another opinion about the Amerithrax case appeared in The Washington Examiner's blog today.  It's from the Examiner's "senior political analyst" Michael Barone, and it's another rehash of the Edward Jay Epstein WSJ opinion piece, except that Barone suggests that it could mean that he's been right all along:

It seemed to me in September 2001 and it seems to me today, eight years and four months later, that there is a high likelihood that a state actor was behind the anthrax attacks.

January 28, 2010 - I don't know why we're suddenly getting this new flood of conspiracy theory material arguing that Dr. Ivins' was innocent and that the anthrax attack spores were "weaponized" in some secret way that only a government -run bioweapons program could accomplish.  This morning I was advised that a new feature documentary called "The Killer Strain" is currently in production.  It's supposedly based upon Marilyn Thompson's book from 2003.  There's a YouTube video about it.  It seems to be nothing but opinions from friends and conspiracy theorists who believe Ivins was innocent because he was incapable of making such a supersophisticated weapon.  And it seems clear that no amount of proof that the spores were NOT "weaponized" in any military way will change their minds.

More examples of the blind leading the blind can be found HERE and HERE.

January 27, 2010 - The opinion piece by Edward Jay Epstein in the Wall Street Journal seems to be catching on in the blogs, first on Right Wing blogs then on others: PrisonPlanet.com, antiwar.com, FreeRepublic.com, lewrockwell.com, armchairgeneral.com and even ProMedMail.org.  It was even on radio.  You can listen to it on the John Batchelor Show, where another badly misinformed expert, Henry Miller of the Hoover Institution, gives his opinion.  Nothing spreads faster than incorrect information - particularly if it confirms some belief.

January 25, 2010 - If you had any illusions that junk science has been quelled by the real science of the Amerithrax investigation, I suggest you read this morning's edition of The Wall Street Journal.  It contains an opinion piece by Edward J. Epstein titled "The Anthrax Attacks Remain Unsolved - The FBI disproved its main theory about how the spores were weaponized."  It repeats a lot of the junk science used by conspiracy theorists, plus total inaccuracies and various other nonsense to argue that the presence of silicon in the attack spores proves that the attack spores were "weaponized" and Dr. Ivins could not be the culprit.  Example:  

The FBI's six-year investigation was the largest inquest in its history, involving 9,000 interviews, 6,000 subpoenas, and the examination of tens of thousands of photocopiers, typewriters, computers and mailboxes. Yet it failed to find a shred of evidence that identified the anthrax killer—or even a witness to the mailings. With the help of a task force of scientists, it found a flask of anthrax that closely matched—through its genetic markers—the anthrax used in the attack.

A witness to the mailings?  If you mail letters in the middle of the night, how many witnesses can there be?  And who in their right mind thinks that witnesses are always right and always present? 

Another example:


Eventually, the FBI zeroed in on Ivins. Not only did he have access to the anthrax, but FBI agents suspected he had subtly misled them into their Hatfill fiasco.

Whaaaa??!!  Dr. Ivins misled the FBI into "their Hatfill fiasco"!!??  What evidence does Dr. Epstein have of that?  He doesn't say.   Any examination of the facts would clearly show who was to blame for that "fiasco."

More nonsense from the opinion piece:

Silicon was used in the 1960s to weaponize anthrax. Through an elaborate process, anthrax spores were coated with the substance to prevent them from clinging together so as to create a lethal aerosol. But since weaponization was banned by international treaties, research anthrax no longer contains silicon, and the flask at Fort Detrick contained none.

Yet the anthrax grown from it had silicon, according to the U.S. Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. This silicon explained why, when the letters to Sens. Leahy and Daschle were opened, the anthrax vaporized into an aerosol. If so, then somehow silicon was added to the anthrax.  But Ivins, no matter how weird he may have been, had neither the set of skills nor the means to attach silicon to anthrax spores.

At a minimum, such a process would require highly specialized equipment that did not exist in Ivins's lab—or, for that matter, anywhere at the Fort Detrick facility.

The attack anthrax did NOT vaporize into an aerosol.  No one was injured by opening the Daschle letter, and most of the spores inside the letter remained inside the letter.  All of the Leahy powder that hadn't sifted out was recovered.  Click HERE to view a picture of the Leahy powder.  The Leahy letter may have been opened in a biosafety cabinet, but that wouldn't prevent "vaporization."   Stephanie Dailey opened the AMI letter and suffered no ill effects.

There was nothing special about the attack anthrax other than it was dried in a way that allowed it to crumble easily.  The repeated claim that Dr. Ivins couldn't have created it is absolute junk science nonsense.

More nonsense from the opinion piece:

Natural contamination was an elegant theory that ran into problems after Congressman Jerry Nadler pressed FBI Director Robert Mueller in September 2008 to provide the House Judiciary Committee with a missing piece of data: the precise percentage of silicon contained in the anthrax used in the attacks.

The answer came seven months later on April 17, 2009. According to the FBI lab, 1.4% of the powder in the Leahy letter was silicon. "This is a shockingly high proportion," explained Stuart Jacobson, an expert in small particle chemistry. "It is a number one would expect from the deliberate weaponization of anthrax, but not from any conceivable accidental contamination."

Nevertheless, in an attempt to back up its theory, the FBI contracted scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Labs in California to conduct experiments in which anthrax is accidently absorbed from a media heavily laced with silicon. When the results were revealed to the National Academy Of Science in September 2009, they effectively blew the FBI's theory out of the water.

Dr. Jacobsen was also the authority cited in the infamous 2003 Science magazine article.

The scientists at Lawrence Livermore did
NOT do their work as a result of any request by the FBI.  The work was funded by a Department of Homeland Security program to study microbial forensics. The work that was done was very limited in scope and proved very little regarding the anthrax attacks.

The Livermore scientists had tried 56 times to replicate the high silicon content without any success. Even though they added increasingly high amounts of silicon to the media, they never even came close to the 1.4% in the attack anthrax. Most results were an order of magnitude lower, with some as low as .001%.

What these tests inadvertently demonstrated is that the anthrax spores could not have been accidently contaminated by the nutrients in the media.

Just plain nonsense.  The tests at Lawrence Livermore demonstrated no such thing.  They just demonstrated that there were likely other factors involved in getting Bacillus bacteria to take in silicon for incorporation into spore coats.

I could go on and on, but I'd have to quote nearly the entire article, and The Wall Street Journal doesn't like me doing that. 

Suffice to say: The Wall Street Journal opinion piece is the opinion of a VERY misinformed person.  Most of what he wrote is just rephrasing of what he wrote on his own blog.  I commented on that a month ago, on December 22.

And to make matters worse, Right Wing organizations are picking up on this nonsense and reporting it as news from The Wall Street Journal.  Click HERE or HERE or HERE.  Maybe it's time to quote from the Bible - Matthew 15:14:

“Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.“

January 24, 2010 - When the Amerithrax case is officially closed and everyone gets the opportunity to read the reports and supporting documentation that the FBI and DOJ will be releasing to the public, I wonder how many new books will be written about the case.  I might contact some agents and publishers to see if I can get them interested in a revised version of my book.  (I definitely won't self-publish any kind of new edition.  It's just too expensive.)

At the moment, however, I'm somewhat at a loss as to what "approach" to take when writing a new version.  It would have to be my unique perspective, a book that no one else could write.  I doubt that any publisher would want a history of the anthrax attacks written by me.  A half dozen newspaper reporters will probably doing that sort of thing.  Even if I could do a better job, selling books is about marketing.  It's simply easier to sell a history book written by a respected, well-known reporter, even if that reporter got virtually everything wrong for the past 8 years.  

Besides, the best history books are those written by insiders.  There'll probably be a half dozen books written by people who were actually part of the investigation.

The current edition of my book is essentially a "working hypothesis."  I laid out all the known facts as of December 2004 and analyzed them to see what the facts had to say about the case.  


The facts said that Dr. Steven Hatfill was innocent.  
The facts said that al Qaeda had nothing to do with the attacks.
The facts said that Saddam Hussein and Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks.
The facts said that the attack spores were not coated with silica.
The facts said that the attack spores were not "weaponized" in any military sense of the term.
The facts said the attack spores could have been created by a lone knowledgeable individual.
The facts said the culprit was an American scientist.
The facts said the culprit was motivated by fears of Muslim terrorists using biological weapons.
The facts said the the J-Lo letter was unrelated to the anthrax attacks.  
The facts said that Kathy Nguyen was killed by spores from the first mailing, not the second.
The facts said things about the handwriting that haven't yet been confirmed or disproved.

The facts also said that the media and countless scientists were misled by simple human errors made by scientists during the first days of the examination of the attack spores.  Those errors are still having an effect.  We have no way of knowing how many scientists read the incorrect information printed in the media (including Science magazine) and never read any of the reports which clearly showed that the initial information was totally incorrect.  The bad information was reported for just a few weeks before it was realized it was bad information.  But no amount of solid good information for the next eight years seems to have been able to wipe out those first statements.  First impressions are definitely lasting impressions.
 
The facts also showed that aggresive conspiracy theorists and True Believers can greatly complicate an investigation if the conspiracy theorists and/or True Believers have credentials which impress people - particularly people in the media. People in the media tend to believe sources, not facts.  But sources can have personal motives.  Sources can have political agendas.  Sources can be mistaken.  Sources can lie.  Facts do not lie.  But, facts can be misleading if you do not have all the facts.

For years the publicly known facts seemed to indicate that the anthrax mailer most likely lived and worked in Central New Jersey.  It was where the FBI's Amerithrax investigation seemed to be focused.  It didn't make much sense that a person would drive great distances to mail the letters, since he might have to explain his absence from his home turf during the time spent traveling.  On the other hand, the "typical" criminal doesn't commit crimes on his home turf.  He wants to throw suspicion elsewhere.  Plus, there were unconfirmed reports that the copy machine used to produce the letters was found in New Jersey.  But, unconfirmed reports aren't facts.  And there was absolutely nothing to suggest that the culprit was a diagnosed sociopath who made a practice of driving long distances to mail letters and packages so they cannot be traced back to their actual source.  New facts can quickly turn seemingly unbelievable deeds into something very believable.   In my book, I stated that in Chapter 22 - "A Working Hypothesis" which ended with this:

     All the pieces fit. But, I also know that I probably do not have all the relevant information. Some solid piece of evidence that I’ve failed to find or properly evaluate could easily change things. That’s what a “working hypothesis” is all about: to present it for others to tear apart with new facts which the hypothesis cannot explain.
     But, after three long years of fielding challenges, this working hypothesis has remained virtually unchanged. Furthermore, the theories of the challengers have mostly proven to be largely based upon bad science or no science at all.

Very little of my book is about who did it - for good reason: I didn't know who did it.  Somewhere I think I stated that I had no more than a 20% confidence level in who the known facts indicated most likely did it.   The problem was: No other potential suspect generated even a 1% confidence level.  Yes, I had read Dr. Ivins' name in various papers, but he was just a name - like dozens of other names.  I had absolutely no evidence pointing to Dr. Ivins.

Interestingly, that appears to have been the FBI's situation for a long time, too.  It was years before the science of the case truly started to point to flask RMR-1029 and the man who controlled it. 

I'm not the best person to write a biography of Dr. Ivins, either.  That's another kind of book best left to reporters and historians.  I don't really have any interest in writing that kind of book.

The biggest mistake I made with my current book was to call it " Analyzing The Anthrax Attacks - The First 3 Years."  I should have omitted "The First 3 Years."  It automatically dated the book, even though almost nothing changed between the time I published it in March of 2005 and Dr. Ivins' death, over three years later.

My "unique perspective" seems to be primarily one of standing between scientists who had solid facts and scientists and others who had only beliefs and theories.  I doubt that there's another person on this planet who's spent more time talking with scientists who argue only beliefs and who totally ignore facts which do not support their beliefs.  The scientists on the other side - the ones with the solid facts - do not seem to have the patience or interest to argue with scientists who rely almost totally on beliefs based upon junk science.

Most of my current book could still be used if I revised it to be primarily about the battles between real scientists and junk scientists.  I might even call it:  "Analyzing the Anthrax Attacks - Real Science vs Junk Science."

That's something I'll have to think about.  A more marketable title might be: "Analyzing the Anthrax Attacks - Facts vs Beliefs."  I wish I'd used that title on the current edition!  The first words in the current Introduction are:

Arguing About Anthrax

This book didn’t come about in any of the normal ways. There was

no assignment from an editor. There was no sudden inspiration. I had
no passion about any “cause”. There wasn’t even a mission or goal –
unless wasting time can be considered a “goal”.
It came about as the result of three years of arguing.

To revise and update that, all I need to do is to change "three years" to "eight years."

But first I want to see how the junk scientists react to the closing of the Amerithrax investigation and to the releasing of all the new information that was previously confidential and accessable only to the FBI and DOJ, the information which will presumably confirm what the FBI and DOJ have previously stated: Dr. Bruce was the culprit and he acted alone.

Updates & Changes: Sunday, January 17, 2010, thru Saturday, January 23, 2010

January 24, 2010 (B) - <{(%@#%$*&$^%^!!!!  If it's not one thing it's another!  I just spent 3 hours analyzing why I got 711 visitors yesterday, about 200 more than normal.  There's some kind of new spider called "80legs" which crawled through my web site yesterday for 16 hours.  Unlike Google, Cuil, Yahoo and all the other search engines which send "spiders" through web sites in order to build up their indexes, 80legs uses a different IP address for every file it accesses on my site.  So, instead of just logging as one visit, as I'd get from Google or Yahoo, my statistics show I got about 200 visits from
all sorts of hosts and countries! -- and they're all seemingly from IP addresses which have never visited me before!   How can that not violate some Internet rule!!  &@#((#!@^*%%^&!!!!!    Here's a sample of the IP addresses and what they mean:

12.187.135.130 -
12-187-135-130.att-inc.com
12.187.246.2 -    
12-187-246-2.att-inc.com
24.7.33.102 -      
c-24-7-33-102.hsd1.ca.comcast.net (California)
24.14.105.168 -  
c-24-14-105-168.hsd1.il.comcast.net  (Illinois)
24.34.82.62 -      
c-24-34-82-62.hsd1.ma.comcast.net (Massachusetts)
24.42.203.135 - 
dynamic-24-42-203-135.knology.net
24.58.229.13 -   
cpe-24-58-229-13.twcny.res.rr.com (New York State)
41.27.25.12 -     
vc-41-27-25-12.umts.vodacom.co.za (South Africa!)
41.220.127.142 -
41.220.127.142.accesskenya.com (Kenya)
58.6.92.60 -       
dsl-58-6-92-60.act.westnet.com.au (Australia)
60.52.148.150 - 
52.60.in-addr.arpa.tm.net.my (Malaysia)
62.127.216.2 -   
62-127-216-2.telenor.se (Sweden)
64.22.37.204 -    dsl-64-22-37-204.bbr0.crpnny.cptelco.net (New York State)
64.125.222.16 - 
64.125.222.16.available.above.net
70.181.38.158 - 
ip70-181-38-158.ri.ri.cox.net
74.128.37.203 -
  74-128-37-203.dhcp.insightbb.com
80.13.222.250 - 
LRouen-152-81-31-250.w80-13.abo.wanadoo.fr (France)
94.23.18.153 -   
mirror.bitshit.org (France) (bitshit.org???!!)
96.227.188.188 -
pool-96-227-188-188.phlapa.fios.verizon.net (Philadelphia)
149.150.237.60 -
Seton Hall University, 400 South Orange Ave., South Orange, NJ
216.206.165.132- E.E. Bedding, Inc., Chelsea, MA
218.186.11.11 - 
cm11.omega11.maxonline.com.sg (Singapore)

I'll have to wait and see if this was just a one-time thing or if they're going to visit that way frequently.  Checking back on the past week, I find that they've visited on other days, but only 2 to 4 accesses per day.  They provide an address for questions and complaints.   *%^##@%&&*%!!!   I planned to waste my time on other things today!

Ah!  With help, and after spending another couple hours on it, I've learned that 80legs contracts with the owners of all those IP addresses to use the addresses and their computers during idle hours.  "80Legs partner Plura Processing, which aggregates the cycles, pays affiliates to sign up users to volunteer their idle processing time in exchange for services like virtual gifts."  (*(*$%$#^#^%$)#@!!!   The world is getting too complicated!!  Interesting, though.

Groan!  After spending another couple hours on the problem, with the help of others I learned that I can just block 80legs with a robots.txt file.  And, while I'm at it, I'll also block Google's image search.  From what I can tell, 99% of the visitors who come to my site via Google's image search aren't really looking for information about the anthrax attacks of 2001.  They're just looking at pictures.  So, it may have been a productive day after all. 

January 23, 2010 (A) - I don't know if it means anything, but the repeat showings of the National Geographic program "Hunting The Anthrax Killer" have been rescheduled for Saturday February 6.

January 19, 2010 - I don't know if it would have any effect on closing the Amerithrax case "at the end of January" or not, but President Obama's first State Of The Union Address is now scheduled for Wednesday, January 27.

January 18, 2010 (B) - According to one report, the number of deaths in Scotland from anthrax contaminated heroin is now seven, up one from the last report.  Plus there's just been a death from anthrax contaminated heroin in Germany.

January 18, 2010 (A) - I know it's probably just a coincidence, but someone just advised me that the National Geographic Channel program "Hunting The Anthrax Killer," which first aired on July 26, 2009, might air again "at the end of January."  One source source says it will air three times: on Saturday January 30, 2010 at 10:00 PM ET, on Sunday January 31, 2010 at 1:00 AM ET and on Monday February 1, 2010 at 1:00 PM ET.  However, another source just mentions the February 1 date.  And a third source doesn't currently show the program airing on any of those dates.  Could it be that they haven't yet had time to change everything on their web site?

January 17, 2010 - For awhile, I was very tempted to write just one word as my comment for today: "Waiting."

T
he past week started out very quiet.  I had to wonder if everyone might be waiting to see if I was right or wrong when I mentioned that the Amerithrax case may be officially closed "at the end of January."   I was certainly wrong when I thought the case might be closed before the end of December, but that date was based more on hope and "signs" than on facts.  The "end of January" time frame is based upon actual statements made by people who would know.  But, it's still just a planned time frame.   And, as we all know, real life is what happens while we're making plans.   The best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray.  Etc.

As an example, the President's State of the Union address, which is normally planned for "late January" was delayed until February 2, but then delayed again.   It's apparently being delayed a second time to allow the Health Care Bill to get farther along, but February 2 is also the day that the final season premiere of "Lost" is scheduled to air.  There are dozens of news stories asking if the schedule change was made to avoid preempting the premiere of "Lost."  Could be.  One of the most difficult tasks in the world can be to try to figure out what's going on in someone else's mind.

I pondered long and hard before even mentioning the "end of January" time frame for closing the Amerithrax case.  It would certainly just have been safer to just wait for it to happen or to wait for some regular news outlet to mention the planned time frame.  They probably know a lot more of the details than I do.  They're waiting.  Maybe they're waiting because they've been so totally wrong about so many other things related to the anthrax attacks of 2001.  The anthrax attacks could go down in history as one of the most inaccurately reported events in history.   But, most likely they're just taking an "I'll believe it when I see it" position.

My saying the Amerithrax case could be closed at the end of January isn't quite the same as The New York Times or The Washington Post saying it.  Many intelligent people consider them to be "the final word" on the Amerithrax case.  If I say something that is wrong or that does not fit the facts, some expert will usually tell me about it so I can make the necessary correction as soon as possible.  The fact that no one has corrected me about the "end of January" date might/could/should mean something, but some kind of confirmation would mean a lot more.

I received an email from a well-known scientist who will have a book about the case published later this year.  The email contained a nice complement for keeping everyone informed about the case for the past eight years or so.  It was the first time I'd been contacted by that particular scientist.  It was someone who might have inside information about closing the case.  I tried to read between the lines, but there wasn't anything there that I could reasonably discern.

On Friday, another scientist sent me an article which very vaguely relates to the anthrax attacks of 2001.   It says on the cover page of the article that I'm supposed to refer to it as: G. Chen, et al., Bacillus anthracis and Bacillus subtilis spore surface properties and transport, Colloids Surf. B: Biointerfaces (2010), doi:10.1016/j.colsurfb.2009.12.012   The article is even more complex than that description suggests.  Complicated mathematical formulae tend to give me brain-lock.  But, fortunately, one of the authors graciously helped me get through it.  The article is about how and why wet Bacillus anthracis spores stick to surfaces.  The attack spores were dry, of course, but there was a time when a conspiracy theorist was bombarding me with scientific articles about how wet Bacillus spores stick to surfaces.  The conspiracy theorist argued that those articles were proof that dry Bacillus spores would also stick to surfaces and to each other due to van der Waals forces if they weren't coated with silica particles as described in that infamous 2003 Science magazine article that I've probably mentioned a thousand times.  His arguments were pure junk science, and I told him so.  And I wrote about it.

I don't know if any of the authors of this new article read those comments, but the article actually sorts through and analyzes the three components which could potentially cause spores in a wet solution to stick to surfaces.  Those three components are: (1) Electrostatic forces, (2) Chemical forces (i.e., acid or base chemistry related) and (3) van der Waals forces (a specialized, short range electrostatic charge).  The report suggests that only #2 (chemical force) is significant when talking about wet spores clinging to the walls of a hospital or a person's lungs or to each other in a solution.   Here are the opening sentences of the abstract for the article:

Effective decontamination of environments contaminated by Bacillus spores remains a significant challenge since Bacillus spores are highly resistant to killing and could plausibly adhere to many non-biological as well as biological surfaces. Decontamination of Bacillus spores can be significantly improved if the chemical basis of spore adherence is understood.  In this research, we investigated the surface adhesive properties of Bacillus subtilis and Bacillus anthracis spores.

The hope behind the research is that, after having determined that chemical forces are the significant binding forces utilized by spores, further work can be done to develop new methods of decontamination and, perhaps, new medicines.  Here's part of the "conclusion":

A major conclusion from our work was that, under our conditions, both B. subtilis and B. anthracis spores were monopolar and negatively charged, in spite of their divergent surface composition and architecture and, apparently, natural ecology. We speculate that significant evolutionary pressures direct these spore surfaces towards similar chemical properties because, despite their differences in lifestyle, B. subtilis and B. anthracis spores benefit from relatively similar adhesive characteristics. This may point towards important similarities in the survival in the otherwise differing niches inhabited by these organisms.

That's deep.  My head hurts.
 

I certainly appreciate all the help that knowledgeable, well-known and respected scientists from many different fields have provided to me over the years.   It's been an intense eight year course in chemistry, physics, biology, microbiology, psychology and probably a half-dozen other ologies.  The lessons have given me the confidence to act as an unofficial referee in arguments between scientists with solid facts and scientists with opinions and conspiracy theories.  But I'll be very happy when the NAS publishes the results of their review.  It should mean that the scientific arguments are formally resolved.  The conspiracy theorists and True Believers will continue to argue forever, of course, but only in the far distant background.  From the Lunatic Fringe. 

If the eight year Amerithrax investigation is actually officially closed at the end of January as planned, we should also learn a lot more about how the non-scientific aspects of the mystery were solved and what kind of actual proof of Dr. Ivins' guilt was assembled and evaluated.  And, at around the same time, but in a totally unrelated area, the answers to a very different six year scientific mystery might also be provided - one in which a lot more people seem to be interested.  Although I don't see it being quite as important as the Amerithrax mystery.   Like so many others, I, too,  really want to know how time travel explains the presence of the "smoke monster" in the TV series "Lost."

All things come to he who can wait.  

Updates & Changes: Sunday, January 10, 2010, thru Saturday, January 16, 2010

January 11, 2010 - These days I tend to look for hidden meanings in every bit of news directly or indirectly related to the anthrax attacks of 2001.  The Associated Press is reporting today that a federal panel is recommending that researchers who work with the world's deadliest pathogens undergo more frequent security screening.  Makes sense to me.  And there may be no hidden extra significance to the issuing of the report at this particular time. 

January 10, 2010 (B) - The big discussions last week were about the publication of a new scientific article related to (but not about) the anthrax attacks of 2001.  The article in the January issue of the Journal of Bacteriology is titled "The Silicon Layer Supports Acid Resistance of Bacillus cereus Spores."  It was written by a group of Japanese scientists from Hiroshima University, and it is about natural occurring silicon in spores.  The article begins with this overview:

Silicon (Si) is considered to be a “quasiessential” element for most living organisms. However, silicate uptake in bacteria and its physiological functions have remained obscure. We observed that Si is deposited in a spore coat layer of nanometer-sized particles in Bacillus cereus and that the Si layer enhances acid resistance.  The novel acid resistance of the spore mediated by Si encapsulation was also observed in other Bacillus strains, representing a general adaptation enhancing survival under acidic conditions.

The scientists did a large number of tests to determine why silicon accumulates in the spore coats of Bacillus spores.  Among their findings and conclusions:

1. Silicate uptake is related to spore formation.

2. Silicate uptake occurs after the spores acquire heat resistance in their maturing process.

3. Silicate is first incorporated in the mother cell and then accumulated in the spore during maturation.

4. The Si layer supports acid resistance of the spores.

5. The acid resistance increased with increasing amounts of Si uptake.

6. One strain took up 15 times as much silicate (0.49 pg Si/spore) as its closest relative B. cereus, corresponding to approximately 6.3% dry weight.

7. The acid resistance conferred by Si encapsulation may occur in nature. Spores may encounter strong acids in
environments such as the digestive conditions in animal stomachs (around 0.1 N HCl), indicating that a physiological function of Si in bacteria may be to aid survival under these conditions.

8. The spore coat is related to the impermeability to the spore’s inner membrane; thus, the spore coat is thought to confer resistance to toxic chemicals.

They did some experiments to see if spores would take in Silicon after they were fully formed, and the scientists found that they would not, further debunking theories about s
ome kind of a "siliconizing monomer agent" being used as part of some "weaponization" process.   The Silicon would only accumulate in the spore coats if it was incorporated there by the mother germ during the spore forming process.

They also did some experiments to determine what form of Silicon is taken in by the bacteria.  They wrote, "As far as we know, diatoms, plants, and animals accumulate silicate as silica."  And their experiments seem to confirm that.

Unfortunately, while the science in the article seems very solid, the references to the anthrax attacks of 2001 are mostly references to a thoroughly debunked,  well-known 2003 conspiracy theory article from Science Magazine.  Even though they cite the article six times (it's their reference item #17), the authors seem to realize that at least some of that article was just plain nonsense, since their r
eference #3 is a 2008 article from Science Magazine titled "FBI Discusses Microbial Forensics - But Key Questions Remain Unanswered."  The 2008 Science article explains:

An analysis by materials researcher Joseph Michael at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, convinced the FBI that no silica or other chemicals had been added to the anthrax in the letters, as an earlier analysis by the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP) had indicated.  Transmission electron microscopy by Michael and colleagues revealed that the silicon AFIP researchers had detected in the samples was contained inside the spores -- a natural occurrence documented in previous research -- and not in a coating intended to make the anthrax disperse more easily.

Everything in the article by the Japanese scientists seems to confirm that Silicon is taken up naturally by Bacillus bacteria which incorporate the Silicon into the spore coat when they form spores.  The news is that it is evidently incorporated to provide acid resistance so the spores can pass through an animal's stomach and get into the bloodstream.  One might note that that ability might be of particular value to Bacillus anthracis.

The Japanese scientists also attempted to confirm that Silicon absorption has nothing to do with any ability to aerosolize.  Unfortunately, the wording of their final statements confuse the issue a bit:

When the anthrax powder sent to the U.S. Senate in 2001 was found to be coated with unusual silica, it was discussed whether the silica was related to spore dispersion. We concluded that Si encapsulation is not sufficient to make spores dispersible but does contribute to survival under acidic conditions.  Our findings also strongly indicate that the anthrax spores were harvested from culture on a silicate-containing medium.

I would have written the first sentence of that section this way:

When the anthrax powder sent to the U.S. Senate in 2001 was mistakenly assumed to be coated with unusual silica, it was discussed whether the silica was related to spore dispersion.

The Japanese scientists did some tests to see how well the spores containing Silicon in their spore coats aerosolized.  Here again, they may have been somewhat misled by the nonsense in the 2003 Science article.  All they determined from their experiments was that the Silicon in the spore coats played no role in aerosolization:

Comparison of low- and high-Si spores. To investigate the role of Si in spore dispersion, we prepared spore powder by grinding freeze-dried spores in a mortar. Then, we placed 10-mg samples of spore powder into clear 30-ml glass vials and shook them for a few seconds. However, unlike the Senate anthrax spores that floated freely (17), both low- and high-Si spores fell quickly to the bottom of the vials and stayed there (data not shown). This result indicated that Si accumulation alone did not make spores dispersible. The electrostatic charge of spores could make them repel one another and thus create self-dispersing spores (17).

They do not appear to have determined the particle sizes after grinding freeze-dried spores in a mortar.  Particle size would be the key to aerosolization, not a static charge.  A static charge could cause the spores to cling to the glass of the vials.  The attack spores were almost certainly not freeze-dried nor ground in a mortar nor shaken in a glass vial.  The bulk of the attack spores almost certainly had NO static charge when placed in the envelopes, but jostling in the envelopes or later handling by scientists could easily have added a static charge to a few of the spores, thus causing the famous observation by Peter Jahrling that the spores were flying around like "jumping beans" when he first tried examining them under an SEM.  That observation led to a lot of misleading discussion about the imagined static charge in the 2003 Science article.

Summing up: After initial false assumptions, when it was finally determined that the Silicon was inside the spore coats and not on the outside of the attack spores, it was concluded that the Silicon was accumulated there through some natural process.  The Japanese study explains the process and its biological purpose.   Their findings "strongly indicate" that the attack anthrax spores were harvested from a culture grown on or in "a silicate-containing medium."   They also seem to suggest that temperature may play a key role in determining whether a bacterium will take in Silicon or not.

They don't help explain why it appears that some bacteria in the same batch will take in Silicon while others will not.  In fact, they don't even seem to have noticed that recently revealed detail.

It is a very good and very informative article, but, as one would expect, when it was mentioned to conspiracy theorists and True Believers, their reactions ranged from declaring it was all "
Bullsh*t, Ed, total bullsh*t!" to bizarre claims that it actually supports the conspiracy theories.

It's very distressing however, to see once again how some scientists were misled by that 2003 article in Science and by all the false assumptions and total nonsense contained in initial media reports about the anthrax attacks of 2001.

January 10, 2009 (A) - From the realm of "And I thought I'd heard everything," it appears that a scientist, Dr. Judy Wood, whose PhD is in Materials Engineering Science,  is trying to get the U.S. Supreme Court to hear her argument that that World Trade Center Twin Towers weren't brought down by the aircraft that hit them on 9/11, nor by explosives planted by the CIA, but by some kind of "directed energy weapon."  Her case has been thrown out by lower courts, but she is filing a Writ of Certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court in an attempt to get around the fact that she has no right to an appeal to the Supreme Court in the case.  Evidently, she truly believes a directed energy weapon was used and no finding from The National Institute of Standards and Technology or anyone else can persuade her otherwise.

pdates & Changes: Friday, January 1, 2010, thru Saturday, January 9, 2010

January 7, 2010 (B) - Someone just sent me a copy of a January 2010 article from the Journal of Bacteriology titled "The Silicon Layer Supports Acid Resistance of Bacillus cereus Spores" which I'll need to study for a few days and perhaps discuss with some microbiologists.  It seems to add a lot of information about natural silicon presence in spores that further shoots down all the nonsensical claims that the silicon in the 2001 attack spores must have come from some kind of  "weaponization" process.  The article appears to explain why the silicon is taken in by some bacteria forming spores and seem to go into detail about why some spore-forming bacteria do it and others don't. 

January 7, 2010 (A) - According to The Guardian, the number of anthrax deaths from  contaminated heroin in Scotland has now risen to six.  They seem to be expecting it to go higher.

January 6, 2010 - According to The Times of London, there have now been five deaths from anthrax and six others are in hospital as a result of contaminated heroin in Scotland.   That's the same number of deaths as occurred in the anthrax attacks of 2001 in the U.S.  But the Scotland cases could produce still more deaths.

January 3, 2010 - The start of a new year is a good time to take a look at the old year.

Although I logged only 65 news articles about anthrax during all of 2009, there was still plenty to write about.  During the year, there were numerous scientific presentations providing new and fascinating details about the science used in the Amerithrax investigation (although we still haven't seen exactly how the science was used to finger Dr. Ivins).   So, a big part of my comments during 2009 were about the science.  Another big part was spent on looking at the known evidence pointing to Dr. Ivins' guilt.  When you consider that a typical book consists of 60,000 words, I wrote the word equivalent of 1.7 books last year.  Here are the word counts for my comments for the past 9 years:

2009 -     104,798 words   
2008 -     116,941 words   
2007 -      68,612 words   
2006 -      87,264 words   
2005 -      66,330 words   
2004 -      54,244 words   
2001-2003 - 78,615 words
Total      576,804 words or nearly 10 books


And that's just comments.  It doesn't include what I wrote in supplementary pages.

I also wondered why my comments for 2009 took up so much disk space (I had to break the comments into two sections to make the files manageable for people who still only have dial-up Internet connections).  If I wrote more words in 2008 than in 2009, 2008 should have occupied more disk space, but it didn't.  It turned out the increase was the result of changing web site coding software.  The new software I started using in January of 2009 generates more html code.

Because I was in an analytical mood, I also took a look at November to try to figure out if there was any pattern that might explain why this web site got more visitors during that month than during any other month in 2009.  I confirmed that it was definitely the result of getting 3,111 visitors from StumbleUpon.com.  I had a total of 14,850 visitors during November.  So, StumbleUpon.com made up 21 percent of that - a huge percentage compared to anything else. 
I looked through the search arguments people used to get to my site, but there was nothing unusual in November.  I then looked for some pattern to the surge in visitors from StumbleUpon, but found nothing significant.  There was a smaller surge in May, but no explanation for it.  I wondered if there might be some annual pattern, so I checked all StumbleUpon visitors for 2008.   This is what the activity for 2008 & 2009 looks like:

stumbleupon.com statistics
If the StumbleUpon numbers had been driven by news about the Amerithrax investigation, August 2008 should have been a BIG month, but it wasn't.  So, the pattern is governed by something I cannot see, possibly by the way StumbleUpon.com chooses sites.  It certainly looks like they changed something in October of 2008 that affected the number of visitors they send me. That may be when they started sending people interested in "terrorism" to my site instead of sending people on a purely random basis.  That could explain why August 2008 had low numbers and October 2008 had big numbers.  Or it could be that every five or six months I go to the top of some kind of list they maintain.

That's the way it is when you analyze data.  At some point in time, further analysis may not be worthwhile.  I could try to contact StumbleUpon.com to see if they can explain things, but that would be like asking directions when lost.  Men don't do that.  (Just a joke.)  Actually, I don't care.  There's no reason to be concerned about it.  Years ago, I tried contacting them to get them to stop sending me visitors, since random visitors just screwed up my statistics.  But I couldn't get a response.  Now that they're primarily sending people interested in "terrorism," it doesn't really concern me anymore.

I'm also becoming less interested in what the conspiracy theorists and True Believers say.  They're just repeating old arguments, proving that it's pointless to argue with them.  When they aren't citing each other as proof of their beliefs, they're going through the same list of arguments over and over, ignoring all the facts which prove them wrong.

If the Amerithrax case is officially closed late this month or early this year, there'll definitely be a lot to write about during 2010.  Will the conspiracy theorists and True Believers find some new arguments?  Probably not.  It will more likely be the same old arguments about how they believe that old, inaccurate news reports from 2001 and 2002 totally disprove solid new data released in 2010.  Or they may just chant versions of their primary slogan over and over: "I don't care what the facts say, I'm going to believe what I want to believe!"


January 2, 2010 - Yesterday, in a good example of the blind leading the blind, The Washington Examiner published a brief opinion piece titled "Who was behind the September 2001 anthrax attacks?"  That opinion piece merely repeats the badly misinformed December 21, 2009 opinion of Edward Jay Epstein.  And AmericanThinker.com picked up what the Examiner columnist wrote as if it was a significant piece of news. 

And it's all about nonsense that was shown to be nonsense eight years ago: the mistaken belief that the attack anthrax was in some super-sophisticated form that could only be produced by some state-sponsored bioweapons lab.

News-wise, 2010 isn't starting out very well at all.

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