& Changes: Sunday, August 28, 2011, thru Wednesday, August 31, 2011
August 31, 2011 - A well-known scientist just pointed something out to me that he found on the CD of FBI documents that the National Academy of Sciences released back in March. Pages 32 through 44 in Batch 1, module 9 on the CD, are a February 22, 2004 report titled "Stable Isotope Characteristics of Anthrax Sample SPS 02.266." (SPS 02.266 is the Leahy spores.) The report is by Drs. James Ehleringer and Helen Kreuzer-Martin of the University of Utah. The section that was brought to my attention is on page 34 and reads as follows:
With these important limitations, the isotope ratio data from sample 02.266 are
* inconsistent with the spores having been produced with water from Dugway Proving Ground
* inconsistent with the spores having been grown in liquid medium made with any known meteoric water source
* consistent with the spores having been grown on solid medium, perhaps for an extended period of time.
So, the findings by Ehleringer and Kreuzer-Martin show the Leahy spores probably weren't from Dugway, and appear to have been grown on agar plates over an "extended period of time." There's a lot of scientific data in the report explaining this, but to me (and to the scientist who contacted me) it seemingly confirms very nicely what I've been saying for a long time: The attack spores most likely came from agar plates inoculated with spores from flask RMR-1029 that were allowed to grow until all the media was consumed and the plates were entirely covered with growth. And, the only place where that was routinely done at USAMRIID was in autoclave bags that were allowed to lay around for weeks in Bruce Ivins' lab before they were put into the autoclave, plus other bags that Ivins allowed to remain in the autoclave for long periods of time before the autoclave was turned on to sterilize the materials inside.
I just love it when new pieces fall neatly into place to confirm a well-developed hypothesis.
August 30, 2011 (B) - I couldn't find any way to write a worthwhile comment about the anthrax threat received by late-nite TV talk show host Craig Ferguson earlier this month, but a column by Benjamin Radford on LiveScience.com titled "American Anthrax Terrorists Return" mentions the Ferguson indicident among others. The point of the column seems to be a warning that American nut cases may use the 10th anniversary of the anthrax attacks to send out other wave of hoax anthrax letters, just the way they did following World Trade Center bombing in 1993 and the anthrax attacks in 2001. A couple paragraphs from Radford's column are particularly interesting:
Historically, however, it is not foreign Muslim extremists but instead Americans — often Christians — who have been responsible for the vast majority of anthrax terrorism. For example, Clayton Waagner, an anti-abortion activist, reportedly admitted sending nearly 300 anthrax hoax letters in the months after Sept. 11, 2001. Last year a Connecticut man, Roland Prejean, was charged with sending more than 50 anthrax hoax threats to government officials and buildings, and in April a Seattle woman sent a package of white powder and a note referencing anthrax to the White House ; it was addressed to President Obama's wife and daughters.And
Many of these anthrax hoaxers are in professions we have come to see as heroes: Chicago county prosecutor James Vasselli resigned after admitting that he put an envelope of sugar in a coworker's desk; a Kentucky sheriff planted unmarked envelopes of crushed aspirin on desks; a Chicago postal worker wrote "antrax enclosed" on a package as a prank; an unnamed Washington, D.C.-Capitol Police officer was suspended for leaving a note and powdery substance in an office building; two Philadelphia police officers were charged with sending an anthrax hoax from their patrol car computer; and so on.
And, of course, there was an "American Anthrax Terrorist" named Bruce Edwards Ivins, a respected scientist whom many people still cannot believe would do such a thing as sending out real threat letters filled with real anthrax.
August 30, 2011 (A) - The person in Minnesota who contracted inhalation anthrax close to a month ago has been identified, and he's doing well. According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, a pair of tourists from Florida, Dan Anders and his wife of 36 years, Anne, had been on a vacation visiting the national parks in Wyoming, Montana and the Dakotas. While they were visiting friends in Pelican Rapids, MN, Dan started feeling "punky." Two days later, he was in the hospital fighting for his life. Dan is 61 years old, which probably supports the observation that elderly people do not need to be exposed to many spores to become infected.
The couple, who live in St. Petersburg, had never been to the Upper Midwest before July, when they flew to Fargo to begin their long-awaited trip. They rented a car and drove west -- to Yellowstone and to Wind Cave National Park and Custer State Park in South Dakota. "All the dirt roads and ponds, we saw it all," Anne said.
Dan, who is retired from the irrigation business, occasionally picked up garnets and other rocks to use in making jewelry. The couple drove through a herd of bison, but got no closer than any other tourists did, he says.There's nothing in the article about the previous incident where it was said that their family had bad experiences with the media, and that's why their names had not been released to the media until now. And, Dan Anders' case seems to be more "mysterious" than "suspicious," so the suggestions from conspiracy theorists that there might be some kind of cover-up were clearly unwarranted and just examples of Anthrax Truther paranoia.
Unlike the case of Bob Stevens, who was initially thought to have contracted inhalation anthrax from "natural sources," but who later turned out to have been killed by an anthrax letter, this seems to be a true case of getting anthrax from "natural sources." Unfortunately, they still haven't figured out where or how Dan encountered the spores.
August 28, 2011 - Hmm. I had a dramatic drop in visitors yesterday, no doubt the result of power outages from Hurricane Irene, which also gave people on the East Coast who have power something else to check out via the Net.
I can also tell that kids are going back to school. The average number of visitors to my web site has jumped by about 100 per day. In the seven days prior to yesterday, I had three days with over 600 visitors and no days with less than 500 visitors. And I had an unusual number of visits from people linking in via Stumbleupon.com, which seems to be a site new students use when they first get a computer of their own and want to see what the Web has to offer.
Of course, some of that activity may be a prelude to the upcoming tenth anniversaries of 9/11 and the anthrax attacks of 2001. There's no way to tell for certain.
Last week, I managed to finish Chapter 24 of my book, which had me bogged down for a long time. I'm still not sure I got everything from that period in time that I need to get. Ivins second cleaning of his office in April of 2002 has a lot of unexplained aspects to it. He did it in direct conflict with his boss Patricia Worsham's instructions. Why? He was obviously trying to destroy evidence, but what else was he trying to accomplish? He seems to have done it for some additional reason, but I can't get a handle on what that reason was. I've been trying to get inside Ivins' head when he did things, but what was on his mind in that instance is still unclear. I'll just have to do revisions if something occurs to me. I also finished Chapter 25, and I'm currently on Chapter 26, at about page 200. And I came up with a good title for the book. Unfortunately, I can't mention it in this comment or on the Internet. If I did, someone else might use it first.
Last week, I spent at lot of time writing complex comments for the discussions on Dr. Meryl Nass's web site. Some of the discussions are really thought-provoking.
In one part of the discussion, we got into the basics of communication. Here are some quotable thoughts from well-known people on the subject of communication:
But communication is two-sided - vital and profound communication makes demands also on those who are to receive it... demands in the sense of concentration, of genuine effort to receive what is being communicated.
Extremists think "communication" means agreeing with them.
Good communication is just as stimulating as black coffee, and just as hard to sleep after.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Communication is classically defined as someone speaking and someone else listening and understanding. It can be very difficult because others interpret and misinterpret what you say and write. In my comments on Nass's site, I specifically wrote about "interpretation" and how what I write is interpreted by the other person, and what the other person writes is interpreted by me. I'm awaiting a response to see if what I wrote was interpreted correctly.
In another part of the discussion, one of the people posting as "Anonymous" wrote about the excellent 1957 movie "Twelve Angry Men," which is about 12 jurors debating the fate of a young man on trial for murdering his father. It shows how people bring their own personal history, fears, habits and biases into a jury room. Some are leaders, some are followers, some are filled with hate, some are just there because the were picked for jury duty and don't really care about the case, they just want to get back home. Here's how "Anonymous" interpreted that movie as it pertains to me:
I see Mister Lake as a composite of the Lee J Cobb, EG Marshall, and Ed Begley characters. And like Cobb and Begley, Mister Lake is too vehement by half.
The jurors "Anonymous" mentions are all angry, aggressive and biased. I, of course, see myself as the Henry Fonda character, the lone, calm and cool person who sets aside all prejudices and biases and looks only at the evidence. In the movie, Henry Fonda starts out as the only person who thinks the evidence does not show the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Fonda has reasonable doubts. But, the others all vote guilty. So, they have to communicate or they'll never get out of the jury room and back home. By the time the movie ends, Fonda has persuaded everyone else that there is reasonable doubt about the young man's guilt. And, that's how they vote: Not guilty.
That's my roll in Nass's forum; I'm the calm, cool loner who has to convince a bunch of angry people to look at what the evidence says. But, in the Ivins case, the evidence says that Bruce Ivins was guilty. And, I'm arguing with biased people who personally knew Ivins and can never accept that they didn't notice he was a mass murderer. And I'm arguing with people who are mindlessly biased against the government and do not trust anything the government says. And I'm arguing with people who have theories of their own about who did it, and although they have absolutely no credible evidence to support their theories, they still want to let Ivins go.
In the fictional "Twelve Angry Men," Henry Fonda introduces evidence he found on his own, evidence which was not presented in the trial, and Fonda uses that evidence to change the minds of a few jurors. I live in a world where Henry Fonda's character would get thrown in jail for doing that, and the trial would be declared a mistrial.
In Henry Fonda's fictional movie world, he was able to change everyone's mind in 93 minutes (the length of the movie). In the real world, I've been arguing for three years that the evidence says Ivins was guilty, and I don't know if I've changed a single mind.
But, it's interesting how an Anthrax Truther interprets "Twelve Angry Men" to fit his beliefs about Ivins, while I interpret "Twelve Angry Men" to fit my belief: that it is just a very good fictional movie.
& Changes: Sunday, August 21, 2011, thru Saturday, August 27, 2011
August 27, 2011 - Proving that anger and logical thinking are nearly always incompatible, Pulitzer Prize winning science writer Laurie Garrett was interviewed on NPR yesterday. She admits to being "indignant" about 9/11 and the anthrax attacks, but the interviewer says it's "controlled anger." Maybe. But it's still anger and her thinking about the anthrax attacks appears to be mostly illogical and somewhat irrational. Garrett proclaims,
more than three years ago, I decided that the entire FBI investigation was not only, you know, Three Stooges writ large but that they - that they had been steered onto a targeting that was 100 percent incorrect.
Who steered the FBI? She didn't say. Why did it take years to find Ivins among the massive list of possible suspects. She doesn't say. But, she suggests that the only reason they picked Ivins was because he committed suicide and could not defend himself. Garrett also claims that, before Ivins there were "10 others" whose lives were "completely destroyed" by being named in the investigation. Hmm. Really? I can think of a two or three names, but ten? She says,
They were deported and have never been allowed back in America, or they were driven to suicide, or they were publicly humiliated, lost their careers, lost marriages, everything imaginable because the FBI never had a way of doing an investigation that would end up in a courtroom.
Hmm. She appears to be talking about people who had absolutely nothing to do with the anthrax investigation, but who were caught up in the post-9/11 hunt for al Qaeda sympathizers. Garrett declares:
I get outraged because the FBI completely botched the investigation on the anthrax. I get outraged because there's so much evidence that al-Qaida was behind the anthrax mailings and that at least as strong a circumstantial case as was made against Bruce Ivins can be made against al-Qaida even stronger.
To support her beliefs, she dredges back up all the dismissed nonsense about the gash on Al Haznawi's leg he got from bumping into a suitcase (which she mistakenly recalls as being a spider bite), and about the false positive tests for anthrax in caves in Afghanistan which she mistakenly believes were actual positives. She says,
I think the greatest mistakes were all made at the federal level.
Possibly, but she should have provided solid facts and evidence instead of just her own personal, vague, distorted and often mistaken recollections about what the facts were.
The interview suggests that Garrett was totally outraged by 9/11 and that event distorted her thinking about everything the federal government has done since then. She demonstrates that anger and logical thinking are usually incompatible.
August 24, 2011 - Arguing with Anthrax Truthers can be very tedious, since they'll make firm claims about things that are really matters of interpretation or opinion. For example, yesterday, an Anthrax Truther suggested that Jonathan Tucker did a "180" in his opinions about Ivins' guilt when writing the article for WMD Junction. What is the basis for that suggestion? It's the fact that what Tucker wrote doesn't jibe with what someone else believed to be Tucker's opinion.
And, on Dr. Nass's site, I'm in an argument about "material evidence" versus "circumstantial evidence." This Anthrax Truther argues: "Circumstantial ya got. Material ya ain't got!" I made the mistake of arguing that "material evidence" is the same as relevant circumstantial evidence. But, after reading some legal dictionaries more carefully, and after thinking about it a bit, "material evidence" is supposedly circumstantial evidence that is both relevant and significant. And what is "significant" can be entirely a matter of opinion. "Material evidence" is supposed to be something that would hurt the prosecution's (or defense's) case if it couldn't be entered as evidence. A "material witness" is the best example, where the entire case for the prosecution (or defense) might depend upon the testimony of that witness.
In the Amerithrax case, as another example, in the return address on the senate letters, Ivins used the ZIP code for the area where his father's ancestors lived for over a hundred years. It might not hurt the prosecution's case if that evidence was left out, in order to save time and court costs. That could make it seem "immaterial." But, it could be argued by the prosecution that it is "material," because it helps establish a pattern and Ivins' interest in hiding coded messages in things he wrote, thus linking Ivins to "coded messages" in the senate letters as well as in the media letters.
The "tedious" part of responding to arguments from Anthrax Truthers about such matters is that, if I'm not extremely careful in every word I write, they'll find something to generate a dozen new arguments. But, then again, even if I am extremely careful about every word I write, they'll probably still find something to generate new arguments.
The reason I let myself get into such "tedious" arguments is because they sometimes produce terrific ideas. When everyone is in agreement, there are almost never any new ideas. When people are in total disagreement, the debate can make you look at things from a totally different angle you never considered before. In arguments with Anthrax Truthers, there is no chance of anyone changing sides, but there's always the chance of finding a sharp new point to make. Plus, the writing of arguments teaches one to write more concisely and precisely.
August 23, 2011 (B) - An outfit called The Nonproliferation Review has a web site called WMD Junction, and on that site is an article dated August 22 by Jonathan Tucker, a biologist who was also an arms control expert who specialized in chemical and biological weapons. In the article, Tucker states what I've been stating for many months (and again two days ago), that Ivins could easily have air-dried the attack spores and didn't need a lyophilizer. The article was prompted by the depositions of Ivins scientist friends from USAMRIID in the Stevens vs USA lawsuit. Tucker wrote:
While the scientists' depositions appear compelling at first glance, many of the statements are misleading. First, much has been made of the specialized knowledge needed to prepare dry powders of B. anthracis spores, yet this factor may have been exaggerated. Early reports that the spores contained a high level of silicon suggested that they could have been deliberately "weaponized" by coating them with silica to reduce static clumping and facilitate their delivery as a fine-particle aerosol. FBI scientists later determined, however, that the silicon was not on the surface of the spores but had been incorporated into an inner layer called the endosporium when the anthrax bacteria were grown and induced to sporulate. Thus, Ivins would not have needed weapons-related expertise to process the spores.
Tucker then steps through all the information showing that the spores were very likely air-dried, and he writes:
Based on this information, it appears that Ivins could have dried the spores without the need for a lyophilizer by using a low-tech method, such as heat-drying the concentrated slurry on glass plates and then harvesting the dried material inside a sealed glove box. Indeed, the brownish discoloration and coarse texture of the first spore preparation suggest the use of a crude production method.
And Tucker's view on Ivins' guilt is summarized this way:
Although the FBI's circumstantial case against Bruce Ivins will never satisfy hard-core skeptics and conspiracy theorists, the mosaic of evidence is fairly convincing when viewed as a whole.
The depositions by Ivins friends seem to claim that, if Ivins wasn't officially trained to do something, then he couldn't possibly know how to do it -- even something as simple as air drying spores. It's like saying he couldn't possibly know how to put a Band-Aid on a cut if he didn't have a medical degree.
When Tucker wrote the article, he was waiting for a security clearance to go to work for the Department of Homeland Security. So, to conspiracy theorists that would mean he wanted to be part of "the government," and he was willing to go along with "the government's" findings on everything. Presumably, the conspiracy theorists believe that Tucker must have taken some kind of "Oath of Evil" declaring that he would dispute the beliefs of conspiracy theorists and True Believers at every opportunity, and that's why he wrote what he wrote.
August 23, 2011 (A) - I've been studying the 361 page containment report about Ivins' April 2002 unauthorized swabbing that was recently brought to my attention, hoping that it would help me figure out where things were located in Bacteriology Suite 3 (Suite B3). But, the report only confused things further. I had thought Ivins' BSL-3 lab was in room B303, but page 252 of the report says that room B303 was an "administrative office" where supplies were also stored. (It was one of the rooms mentioned in a search warrant.)
So, the passbox for getting dangerous materials into Suite B3 went from a lounge into an office? Does that make any sense?
And when Ivins used a keypad to get into his BSL-3 lab, the log showed "B301 KEYPAD" when he was entering room B313? Does that make any sense? Ivins was able to spend many hours inside Suite B3 without ever using the keypad. I thought that meant there were also BioSafety Level-2 areas inside Suite B3, but the keypad may just have been the equivalent of a lock for his personal BSL-3 lab. I dunno.
And, on page 149 and 150 the containment reports says the airlock was supposed to be used to transport supplies in and out of Suite B3. People bringing in supplies were not supposed to go any further than the floor-drain in the center of the airlock, and people outside Suite B3 were not supposed to meet people from inside Suite B3 in the airlock. Yet, when Ivins went out the "back door" of Suite B3 into the Animal Resources (AR) hallway, he always went through the regular door, not through the airlock. Why did the regular door exist if the airlock was supposed to be the way in and out? It's like a comedy routine where there's a huge vault door that people are supposed to use even though there are no walls around the area behind the vault door.
I'b being told that I need to contact some people who have actual knowledge of Suite B3. Evidently so.
August 21, 2011 - Last week, I finished chapters 22 and 23 of my book fairly quickly, and then I wrote most of Chapter 24 before I ran into a problem. The "problem" is the massive amount of information that is available about Ivins' second swabbing and cleaning of areas in Building 1425 on Monday and Tuesday, April 15 & 16, 2002. There's a lot to sift through in order to write just a page or so about that particular attempt by Bruce Ivins to destroy evidence. Among other documents, there's the 361 page contamination report from USAMRIID.
And there is also the almost hour by hour timeline the Frederick News-Post published of all the related the events from April 8 to April 26. Plus, there are the things that are NOT specifically mentioned but which can be clearly deduced. Some of those things are VERY interesting. Examples:
First, Ivins evidently did the unauthorized cleanup and swabbings during the day, on a Monday and a Tuesday in strict violation of regulations. And, yet, apparently no one noticed or questioned what he was doing. It wasn't until Ivins told his boss about what he'd done that people started waking up. So, one could deduce that the "rule" at USAMRIID was that you could do just about whatever you wanted as long as you didn't involve a boss and put the boss on the spot.
Second, the excuse Ivins used for doing the cleanup was a spill that had occurred in one of Pat Worsham's labs (B306) while a flask containing "liquid anthrax" was in a rotary shaker. The dried material on the outside of the flask was noticed at around 9 a.m. on April 8. After the spill, the water had evaporated and the spores had become air-dried and able to aerosolize. Swabs of the nostrils of two scientists in the lab seemed to indicate that had indeed happened. One scientist tested positive. The flask was taken to a bio-safety cabinet where the material on the outside was cleaned off using bleach.
Whoa!!!! The implications of that are fascinating! Here is the entire section about April 8 from the News-Post:
Monday, April 8, 2002:
9 a.m.: Potential exposure occurs
In a sworn statement, a USAMRIID principal investigator said he was working in a laboratory with flasks containing anthrax and noticed they were leaking. The investigator reports the potential exposure to personnel in the suite.
One worker suggests he visit the health ward. He and another investigator visit the medical division, which swabs both individuals' noses and prescribed Ciprofloxacin, an antibiotic used to prevent bacterial infections.
One person's nasal swab tests positive for anthrax, but both individuals had been previously vaccinated against anthrax.Look at the implications (which I'll show as headlines to make them more dramatic):
Headline: USAMRIID MAKES LETHAL DRIED ANTHRAX SPORES
A USAMRIID scientist noticed a spill from flasks of live "liquid anthrax." Some of the liquid had been allowed to air dry.
Headline: AEROSOLIZED SPORES AT USAMRIID CONTAMINATE SCIENTIST
Some of the air-dried anthrax spores aerosolized and were found in a scientist's nostrils.
Headline: NEARLY ALL USAMRIID SCIENTISTS KNOW HOW TO DRY SPORES
Allowing "liquid anthrax" to dry is a known concern to all USAMRIID scientist working with anthrax.
Headline: USAMRIID SCIENTISTS KNOW HOW TO DRY ANTHRAX SAFELY
The scientists would not have been as concerned if the spores had been spilled inside a bio-safety cabinet where there is negative air pressure and filters catch the spores before the air is released back into the room. That is demonstrated by the fact that they took the flask to a bio-safety cabinet to wipe it off and to disinfect its exterior surface.
Headline: CLAIMS ABOUT IVINS NOT KNOWING HOW TO DRY SPORES ARE LIES
Since Ivins worked with "liquid anthrax" nearly every day, he was undoubtedly more aware of the dangers of allowing the spores to air dry than many others at USAMRIID. And, he certainly knew it could be done relatively safely in a biosafety cabinet, since that was one reason USAMRIID had biosafety cabinets.
And, too, quantity is not a problem. Pouring a whole flask of "liquid anthrax" on the floor is NOT less dangerous than spilling a few drops, just because a few drops will dry faster than a whole flask. Drying time is not the issue. The issue is the number of spores that aerosolize. The bigger the spill, the more spores that can aerosolize. And, if you want to air dry a large volume of spores faster, you just need to remove most of the water before starting, and, perhaps, apply dry heat to help the process along. But, Ivins' friends and co-workers (and conspiracy theorists) can argue that Ivins didn't know that dry air will dry things faster than normal air. And, if it can be proved that he did, they'll find some other argument to show that Ivins' decades of scientific work left him totally unprepared to do even the simplest of tasks.
Of course, there is no proof that the attack spores were air dried. So, Ivins' supporters will argue that, since the government mentioned a lyophilizer (because Ivins lied about his knowledge of lyophilizers), that must be the way "the government" believes Ivins dried the spores, and it can be shown that the lyophilizer was almost certainly NOT used.
I could go on and on about the implications of the April cleanup without even mentioning the fact that Ivins cleaned up and tested some areas that were not associated with the leaking flasks in Patricia Worsham's lab, but which Ivins evidently associated with his secret preparation and handling of the anthrax in the letters. Those aspects of the cleanup are what everyone else writes about: Consciousness of guilt, not implications about knowing how to dry spores
But, I'm an analyst and implications are my bread and butter. The problem is: When I sit and thoughtfully munch on my "bread and butter," I'm not writing my book, and I can get sidetracked into arguments about things that won't even be mentioned in my book, like how Mother Nature moves concentrations of anthax spores around from pasture to pasture. I spent a lot of time last week on that subject. Since it gave me a reason to confirm my understandings by talking with a scientist I hadn't talked with in years, it wasn't a total waste of time, but it wasn't particularly productive, either. The True Believer with whom I was arguing continues to argue the same nonsense and believes what he wants to believe.
And, I still need to figure out how much of all this I'll include in Chapter 24. Groan.
& Changes: Sunday, August 14, 2011, thru Saturday, August 20, 2011
August 20, 2011 - Another event that might keep me from working on my book for awhile next month is the release on September 13th of Jeanne Guillemin's new book "American Anthrax."
One True Believer writes:
Professor Guillemin’s overall conclusion is that we may never know the perpetrator of the anthrax mailings.
It's another statement about what people know versus what they can deduce or conclude to be true. Guillemin's writes this on page xxiii in the Author's Note part of her book:
Although the FBI officially closed the anthrax letters case after Ivins died, the controversy about the crime's implications continues and will for years, if propelled only by conspiracy theories.
I did a search for the word "Ivins" in the book, and all the findings suggest that there is nothing in the book to even remotely suggest that Jeanne Guillemin believes that someone other than Ivins sent the anthrax letters. But, because there can never be a trial, and because there are some unanswered questions (handwriting, methods used, etc.), there will always be arguments from the True Believers and conspiracy theorists who think someone else did it.
I look forward to reading the actual book when it comes out. But, from what I can see by doing on-line searches for words that appear in the book, I don't think there will be many "stunning revelations." That seems to be confirmed by the fact that the True Believer's comments about the book are mostly complaints that Guillemin didn't examine areas he wants examined or view things the way he wants them viewed. If Guillemin had any "stunning revelations," the True Believer would be attacking Guillemin the same way he endlessly attacked David Willman.
Since I was doing on-line word searches through books available for sale on Amazon.com, I also looked for the name "Ivins" in Laurie Garrett's book "I Heard The Sirens Scream." I found this:
Back in 1981 the Ames strain had been isolated from infected cattle in Texas, and then stored at a lab in Ames, Iowa. The Ames strain subsequently became a key form of anthrax used all over the world for vaccine and pathology research. Ivins grew up a batch of Ames anthrax in his lab at Building 1425 back in 1997, and since then nearly every vaccine test performed on anthrax at USAMRIID has used his carefully maintained Ames samples.
Wow! How many factual errors are there in those few sentences? Ames came from a single cow, not from "infected cattle." The Ames strain was never stored at any lab in Ames, Iowa. The Ames strain was used only in 18 out of many thousands of labs all over the world, and only in 4 countries. Most of the Ames spores made in 1997 were made at Dugway. And the ancestor Ames stock (and derivatives) were still being used for many - if not most - tests.
And then there's this:
Because the Amerithrax investigation was closed with the suicide of Bruce Ivins, and doubts remain concerning the veracity of the FBI's conclusions, we may never know how the the anthrax culprit(s) reflected after 2001 on their actions, and the impact that they had on the collective psyche. It remains a distinct possibility, however, that the same force responsible for the attacks of September 11th also ordered the mailings of Bacillus anthracis, no doubt snickering at the response through the same Saudi beard.
Obviously, a lack of fact-checking helped Garrett believe in the "distinct possibility" of bin Laden's involvement. She also ignores or is unaware of the fact that bin Laden denied involvement in the anthrax attacks, attacks bin Laden would have ranted about if they were what Ivins tried to make them appear to be: warnings of future anthrax attacks.
August 19, 2011 - Uh oh. If I'm not careful, I'm going to get dragged into nonsensical arguments with a True Believer once again. The argument is now that the statement by Paul Keim in Wired Magazine, "I don't know if Ivins sent the letters" is from a later date than the Paul Keim quote in David Willman's book: "I think he did it." So, the True Believer argument is that Paul Keim "obviously" changed his mind. One thing I'm NOT going to do is try to grill Paul Keim about his latest thoughts on the subject as a True Believer would (and probably has). So, I'm just going leave things the way they are and move on. As I stated yesterday, the quotes are not contradictory, and they both could be current.
A second argument is raging over the idea that major river floods spread anthrax, and people can get anthrax from sniffing sandbags while building levees. Groan. Contracting anthrax from sandbags is just plain ridiculous. How spores move from place to place, however, is a subject I've discussed at length over the years with top experts. It's a matter of some dispute among veterinarians and ecology scientists. The general conclusion is: "Flooding" will definitely cause spores to move from place to place, but it's generally rain water coming down from the sides of hills or high pastures - where an animal died of anthrax - to lower spots where pools of rain water temporarily "flood" good pasture land. When the pools dry up, they leave behind concentrations of spores mixed with the salt from the dead animal's blood. Cattle love salt, so they'll gobble up the grass in the infected area and the anthrax spores are consumed along with the salt.
Generally speaking, big river floods disperse spores and should prevent enough spores from accumulating in any given spot to kill cattle. (If big rivers carried spores and concentrated them, the Mississippi delta should be the most contaminated area on the planet.) Moreover, if a spot in Kansas along side the Missouri River suddenly has cases of anthrax after a flood, that does not mean the spores came from the Dakotas. The spores could have come from some nearby place in the same Kansas field. The moving water could simply have uncovered a grave where some diseased animal was buried many decades ago. An excellent article titled "The Ecology of Bacillus anthracis" contains a lot of information on this subject. Here are a few key paragraphs:
It has been proposed that water may collect and concentrate spores in ‘storage areas’ (Dragon and Renie, 1995). Spores have a high surface hydrophobicity and so could be carried during a rain runoff in clumps of humus and organic matter to collect and concentrate in standing pools or puddles. As they have a high buoyant density this would result in them and their organic matter clumps remaining suspended in the standing water to be further concentrated as the water evaporated. Thus theoretically ‘storage areas’ may collect more spores from extended areas to reach increasing spore concentrations over time and be lethally available to incidental grazing potential hosts.
At the same time there are probably inverse distance factors that could as well disperse spore-humus clumps in many diverse directions over extended distances, just as others probably converge and concentrate after a few metres. The former final dilution could well be far beyond any possible acquisition of an LD50; the latter might do the reverse and allow a secondary storage (concentration) site, albeit smaller than its sources, to be dangerous longer. However there have been cattle outbreaks in animals grazing water meadows subject to spring flooding, e.g., Turner et al., 1999. It will depend on the specific soil topology and character.
Just as rain will move spores down into the dry soil as it drains and away from sunlight and U/V light, standing water will have the capacity to move hydrophobic buoyant spores upwards into the grazed vegetation.
How far moving water can carry concentrations of anthrax spores is being disputed by experts. There's no reason for me to get involved in the arguments. So, I'm just going to leave things the way they are and move on from this, too.
August 18, 2011 - An interesting example of how different people view the same facts has come up on Dr. Meryl Nass's forum. Two days ago, I mentioned on this site that Paul Keim was one of the people who believed Ivins to be guilty. (I was using page 337 of David Willman's book "The Mirage Man," where Willman ask Dr. Keim how he would vote "if he were a juror weighing Ivins's guilt or innocence." Dr. Keim's response was, "I think he did it.") To challenge my comment, an Anthrax Truther dug up a quote from a Wire Magazine article in which Dr. Keim is quoted as saying, "I don't know if Ivins sent the letters," and he posted it to Nass's site.
Are those two comments contradictory or incompatible? No. Put together, they have Dr. Keim saying, "I don't know if Ivins sent the letters," but "I think he did it," and that's the way Keim would vote if he was a juror. In other words, there is no "smoking gun" evidence, but there is enough circumstantial evidence to convince Keim that Ivins did it beyond any reasonable doubt. The Wired magazine article also has a top FBI agent in the investigation, Edward Montooth, saying that he wished every question about the case could be answered, but he is "still convinced Ivins was the mailer."
Everyone would like to have every question answered before finding someone guilty of murder, but that is not always possible. And it's almost never the situation in jury trials. That's why we have jury trials, to let 12 citizens decide guilt or innocence based upon the collected evidence when there is no "smoking gun" conclusively proving guilt.
August 16, 2011 - I'd hoped to get an Anthrax Truther on Dr. Meryl Nass's forum to answer some questions (see my comment for August 13), but another Anthrax Truther jumped in to attack me and to start a different discussion. The fact that they both disagree with me made me think of a way to describe their reasoning:
Anthrax Truther #1 believes that Steven Hatfill sent the anthrax letters.
Anthrax Truther #2 seemingly believes a Muslim who once visited USAMRIID sent the anthrax letters.
Anthrax Truther #3 believes that the 9/11 hijackers sent the anthrax letters.
Anthrax Truther #4 believes that Dick Cheney and the CIA were behind the anthrax letters.
Anthrax Truther #5 believes that Jews were behind the anthrax letters.
Anthrax Truther #6 believes that Philip Zack sent the anthrax letters.
Anthrax Truther #7 believes that a guy he knew in prison sent the anthrax letters.
Anthrax Truther #8 believes that a college professor in Pennsylvania sent the anthrax letters.
Anthrax Truther #9 believes that Ayaad Assaad sent the anthrax letters.
Anthrax Truther #10 believes that a music producer in California sent the anthrax letters.
Anthrax Truther #11 believes that a Battelle scientist sent the anthrax letters.
Anthrax Truther #12 believes a college student in New Jersey sent the anthrax letters.
Anthrax Truther #13 believes that Saddam Hussein was behind the anthrax letters.
Anthrax Truther #14 believes the mayor of Galveston, Texas, was behind the anthrax letters.
Anthrax Truthers #15 through #25 each believe their next door neighbor sent the anthrax letters.
So, as they see it, it's 25 against 1. Therefore, I must be wrong if so many people disagree with me.
In reality, though, none of them agree with any other about who sent the anthrax letters. So, it's not 25 against 1, it's 1 against 25, twenty-six times.
But, unlike the twenty-five others, I am not alone in my conclusion that Bruce Ivins sent the anthrax letters. There are presumably large numbers of people at the FBI and DOJ who also believe that Ivins sent the anthrax letters. Plus the Expert Behavioral Analysis Panel. Plus Paul Keim (per page 337 of David Willman's book), Nancy Haigwood (who identified him as a possible suspect to the FBI), probably John Ezzell and Patricia Fellows (who wore a microphone to tape Ivins), and many many others. On the other hand, when you find people (like Ivins' friends, Henry Heine, Gerard Andrews and Russell Byrne) who do not believe the FBI's evidence, each of those people will almost certainly have their own unique theory about who did do it. So it will be 1 against the world over and over and over and over and over again.
And the only people with solid evidence to support their conclusions are me and people at the FBI and DOJ.
August 14, 2011 - I made very good progress on my new book last week. For nearly three weeks, because of all the distractions from "yellow journalism" news stories and arguments with Anthrax Truthers, I hadn't written more than a few sentences for the book. But, last week I finished chapters 18, 19, 20 and 21. So, now I've got 168 pages of the first draft printed out. I think that's going to turn out to be more than half the book (not including notes and indexes).
But, there are big distractions in the forecast. The GAO report is due out next month. And in September and October there will undoubtedly be a many TV specials and news articles commemorating the 10th anniversary of the anthrax attacks of 2001. Plus, Judge Hurley will probably rule on the motion to dismiss the Stevens vs USA lawsuit next week or the week after. That ruling will generate news whichever way it goes.
When I finish the first draft, the second draft will primarily involve polishing the writing. Then, if the second draft turns out to be the "final draft," I'll have to finish the Notes and Indexes. And, I'll have to decide on a title. Then I'll have to send copies to the Copyrights office. Somewhere along the line, I'll have to determine if there's any chance of getting a regular publisher interested. That means I'll have to send out queries. Assuming that no publisher will be interested (if Laurie Garrett couldn't get a publisher interested in her book, my chances are even more slim, since I'm just some guy on the Internet, not a famous reporter), I'll go the route that Laurie Garrett went with her book, and I'll self-publish. That means buying software to create the .pdf files and working with a printer to get the book in the right format. (The biggest differences between the Kindle version and the print version are hyphenating long words that need to be broken between lines - you do it for printing but not for Kindle - and the locations of illustrations. In the paperback version, I can't have an illustration that's half on one page and half on the next, but on Kindle there are no actual pages, so illustrations go where they best help illustrate the text.) I'll probably print only 200 or 300 copies of the paperback, and I'll release the book on Kindle at the same time as the paperback goes on sale at Amazon.com.
So far, the book is looking very good to me, but I'm not exactly an impartial reviewer. Unlike David Willman's recent book - and unlike any other book on the subject - my book will examine and explain the case largely in chronological order. In some ways, that makes it read very much like a thriller. Although the ending is known, it's still a cat and mouse game as Ivins tries to mislead the investigation and tries to keep from getting caught. There are tense periods, then quiet periods as it appears that he's gotten away with it, then things get tense again.
The writing process has required that I read through nearly every news story again, looking for forgotten details and what people were thinking at each moment in time, day by day, week by week, month by month. Chapter 21, which I finished on Friday, is about the discovery that the Ames strain came from Texas and not from the USDA in Iowa, which Ivins absolutely refused to believe, since his plan depended upon the Ames strain being a common and untraceable strain. And, during that same time period, on January 10, 2002, Terry Abshire sent Bruce Ivins two photographs she'd taken, one showing a normal growth from the "Ames ancestor" sample obtained by USAMRIID in 1981, and a second photograph of morphs that formed as colony materials were transferred from plate to plate and allowed to grow for 42 hours. She wanted Ivins' thoughts on the morphs, since Ivins was a top expert on growing anthrax.
Significantly, Ivins didn't seem to find anything of interest in the morphs. He mistakenly believed his techniques virtually prevented morphs from forming. But he clearly thought Abshire's photos could be useful in his on-going attempts to mislead the investigation. On January 23, Ivins took the two photos to an FBI agent/scientist who was then working at USAMRIID, and he told the agent that the first picture looked just like what he'd seen in growths made from the attack spores. And, he pointed the finger at former USAMRIID scientist Gregory Knudson as being a likely suspect in the case. Plus, since Terry Abshire had a sample of the "ancestor Ames," Ivins also pointed the finger at Abshire's boss, John Ezzell, as a possible suspect. According to Ivins, both Knudson and Ezzell had the necessary knowledge and the type of character to be the anthrax mailer.
While Ivins was clearly trying to mislead the investigation by pointing at people he knew weren't responsible for the anthrax mailings, he was almost certainly also fishing for information. But, the FBI agent/scientist wasn't of much help. The agent wouldn't even accept the photos from Ivins, telling him instead to hold onto the photos until he was officially asked for them by an investigating agent. The significance of the morphs appears to have been totally missed by Ivins at that time, but within the next month he'd start to pick up clues as to what the morphs seemed to mean to investigators. And that would require Ivins to take some drastic actions that would later be used as evidence against him.
And, while all this was going on, Barbara Hatch Rosenberg and her fellow conspiracy theorists were campaigning to get the FBI to arrest Steven Hatfill for the crime - or to at least publicly investigate him. That effort must have provided some comfort to Ivins, since it meant others were also pointing the FBI away from the real killer.
I hope the book will turn out to be as interesting to read as it is interesting to write.
& Changes: Sunday, August 7, 2011, thru Saturday, August 13, 2011
August 13, 2011 - For the past week or so, I've been exploring the beliefs of an Anthrax Truther who calls himself "AnthraxSleuth." He doesn't trust the government, of course, but he recently advised me that he also feels that the media is controlled by the government, and that's why they won't pay any attention to his "evidence." And, no one else seems to believe him, either, not even other Anthrax Truthers. So, I've asked him,
In all the years you've been posting to forums, have you made any progress at all in converting people to accept your theory?
If he feels he has made progress, I'll ask him to describe what progress he's made. If he says he hasn't made any progress, I'll try to get him to speculate on why he hasn't made any progress.
Somewhere I recall reading about a term that can be applied to a person who does the same thing over and over and over, expecting different results each time, but always getting the same result. I'm sure the term isn't "Anthrax Truther." It's something else. If I can't remember, I'll have to do some research to find the term.
August 12, 2011 - Dina Temple-Raston reviewed David Willman's book "The Mirage Man" in yesterday's Washington Post. But, it's not really a review. It's more about Temple-Raston's view of the case, and it opens with her talking with members of Ivins' family. Although Temple-Raston doesn't seem to dispute in any way that Ivins was the culprit, she feels the FBI's "circumstantial evidence and innuendo" showing that Bruce Ivins was the anthrax mailer was "ultimately unsatisfying." Of course, she spends a lot of time writing about "evidence" in the Hatfill "investigation"without ever mentioning the conspiracy theorist lynch mob campaign that made Hatfill a suspect in the minds of the American public. When discussing Ivins, she focuses mostly on his mental problems and how his friends and family don't believe he did it. And she concludes with two paragraphs about the Stevens vs USA lawsuit, where a single sentence mistake in a legal filing caused idiotic headlines. I found Dina Temple-Raston's review to be "ultimately unsatisfying."
A True Believer who appears to believe that Muslims were behind the anthrax attacks, however, found Temple-Raston's review to contain "lies" about "imagined" events:
The Post’s critically important article dealt with an imagined earlier poisoning plot by Dr. Ivins — based on the anonymous witness who then in 2009 book described her psychotic delusions.
Today we are now hearing the lies repeated in a review in the Washington Post review of a book by David Willman, MIRAGE MAN.The True Believer evidently merely believes the statements were imagined lies. In reality, they were confirmed by three psychiatrists who questioned Ivins about his plan to poison a "young woman" in July of 2000, over a year before the anthrax attacks: Dr. Orrin Palmer, Dr. David Irwin and Dr. Allen Levy. (The psychiatrists' confirming discussions with Ivins are mentioned on pages 65 and 66 of Willman's book.) The only difference is that the psychiatrists didn't take Ivins' plans quite as seriously as the experienced therapist to whom Ivins originally stated those plans. However, they voiced no objection when the therapist called the police to tell them about Ivins. (According to one source, Ivins' counselor was an ordained interfaith minister, she earned her master’s degree in pastoral counseling from Loyola College and a doctorate in religious studies from Stratford University. She spent 25 years as a pastor and mental health counselor.)
The True Believer also reminds us that the General Accountability Office (GAO) is scheduled to release a review of the FBI's Amerithrax investigation next month. Plus, he appears to be really hyped up about wanting to make certain that the "imagined lies" get corrected:
The Washington Post should correct its reporting on such a critical issue.and
This is not merely a journalistic issue — Amerithrax is a national security issue and missteps in analysis need to be corrected.
The report filed in the United States District Court by Dr. Saathoff should be corrected and all reliance on the first counselor should be removed.
Washington Post should correct its reporting on such a critical issue.One wonders what this True Believer believes will happen if these items are not "corrected" to suit his beliefs. After all, the chances of The Washington Post or the Expert Behavioral Analysis Panel changing what they wrote are about zero, and the chances that the GAO's report will agree with the True Believer are probably around zero as well.
August 11, 2011 (B) - I checked the Stevens vs USA lawsuit docket this morning and found two new entries were made yesterday. But, they were only an "unopposed" motion for an extension of time to depose witnesses, filed by Stevens, and a motion by the government opposing the "unopposed" motion. Yawn. Stevens' lawyers need additional time to depose the government's expert witnesses Dr. Shaw and Dr. Chefetz, plus they haven't yet deposed Dr. Stephens, Dr. Colwell or Dr. Hawley. I can't be certain who any of these "expert witnesses" are, nor in which fields they are "experts," but research on the names indicates Shaw and Chefetz are probably psychiatrists and psychoanalysts, the others are probably microbiologists. The government's response is a complaint that they didn't agree to an extention to September 30, only to September 23. Yawn. I'd hoped that the Judge had ruled on the motion to dismiss and the motion for a Summary Judgment, but that hasn't happened yet.
August 11, 2011 (A) - This morning, there are couple new - but minor - tidbits of information about the inhalation anthrax case in Minnesota. CIDRAP reports:
[Minnesota State Epidemiologist Dr. Ruth] Lynfield declined to describe the patient's condition today. "There was a rumor that the patient had died—that's just a rumor," she said. She noted that the patient's family has had bad experiences with the news media in the past and has asked the MDH to protect its privacy.
Hmm. "Bad experiences with the media in the past." There's a name that comes to mind, but I have no desire to invade anyone's privacy, either. And the pieces don't quite fit.
August 9-10, 2011 - According to the Alexandria, Minnesota Echo Press, an apparently "natural" case of inhalation anthrax is being investigated by the Minnesota Department of Health consulting with the CDC.
"All evidence points to this case of anthrax being caused by exposure to naturally occurring anthrax in the environment," said Minnesota State Epidemiologist Ruth Lynfield. The individual had exposure to soil and animal remains. Cases of anthrax in hooved animals occur yearly in parts of the country including the Midwest and West as far south as Texas, and up to the Canadian border.
The FBI was also briefly involved. The Minneapolis Star-Telegram says,
investigators found "no evidence suggesting it was a criminal or terrorist act," the Health Department said, adding that the FBI is no longer actively investigating the incident.
According to the Chicago Examiner:
The individual is not a Minnesota resident according to MPH officials, and has recently traveled to several Western states including North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, and South Dakota. No information has been disclosed regarding the patient's name, age, gender, or medical condition.
A source at CIDRAP [Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy] who asked to remain anonymous, confirmed that the patient is male.
One Minnesota source has this headline: "MDH: Woman hospitalized in rare anthrax case." But, the headline is the web site's. It's not the headline on the Minnesota Department of Heath's press release they cite.
As could be expected, conspiracy theorists are also busy analyzing the case:
This Minnesota case seems rather bizarre. What did this woman actually do to be in “exposed to soil” – walk across the ground? What about “exposed to animal remains” – buy some ground beef at the grocery store?
Any case of inhalational anthrax will trigger a major security alert – this one seems to being downplayed – much like Bob Stevens “the avid outdoorsman who drank from a stream”.After all, if this man caught inhalation anthrax from natural sources, that means:
1. You don't need to weaponize spores with silicon to make them float in the air.
2. You don't need a Speed-Vac or lyophilizer to dry anthrax spores.
3. Nature can create particles small enough to cause inhalation anthrax.
4. Spores are not firmly and naturally bound together by van der Waals forces.
5. You do not need a supersophisticated lab to make floatable anthrax spores.
And, if Nature can make enough spores to give someone inhalation anthrax without any specialized equipment, then an experienced microbiologist like Bruce Ivins should be able to do at least as well with an entire lab at his disposal.
August 7, 2011 - Last week was a very busy week, mostly because I let myself get dragged into arguments with a True Believer. That's always frustrating and usually a waste of time. He's finally stopped filling my inbox with complaints and opinions, and he's back to endlessly posting to Lew Weinstein's site.
The problem with arguing with True Believers is, of course, that they work with beliefs, not facts. So, they show you obscure and irrelevant things that they believe somehow support their beliefs, and they get upset that you cannot see what they see. And, they get doubly upset because they cannot explain things. Explanations would require that they describe their own beliefs and interpretations in detail, and why they believe what they believe, which would make those beliefs and interpretations open to examination and discussion. Their beliefs are not open to discussion.
When they're not posting endless quotes and articles that they believe are somehow related to their beliefs, mostly what they do is point out things they cannot accept or believe in other people's theories and hypotheses about the anthrax attacks of 2001. They don't want to leave the door open for similar criticisms of their theories or beliefs, so, they have absolutely nothing constructive to say.
The arguments weren't a total waste of time, however. Sometimes True Believers and conspiracy theorists do bring up new items of information and new topics for discussion. Last week, I did learn a few things about Speed-Vacs and lyophilization (from my research, not from the True Believer). Amusingly, I also learned that some people consider my Camaro to be a truck because I can fold down the back seat and transport things in it like with a truck. And I learned that the word "lyonnaise" means to "prepare with onions." Any day you learn something isn't a totally wasted day.
Evidently, I'm an eternal optimist. I keep thinking that if I could just get an intelligent conversation going with a True Believer or a conspiracy theorist, we might both benefit from it. But, it's becoming very clear that there is absolutely no way to have an intelligent conversation with either a True Believer or a conspiracy theorist. They just won't allow it to happen. Their mindset won't let them think rationally. They are too impatient to work things out logically. And they are just too angry and upset over the fact that the entire world isn't accepting their beliefs.
On that same vein, while I was doing my regular work out at the health club on Friday, an elderly Tea Party member was on a tread mill about 15 feet away. I can't say I've never seen anyone so angry, since I've seen some pretty angry people recently, but he was ranting at the news on TV about the way he'd handle racial problems and what he thought of people who compare Tea Party members to terrorists, as was done several times recently. Tea Party members seem to be driven by anger and hatred. I've never seen one who wasn't furiously angry over something. Someone needs to tell them that anger and logical thinking are almost opposite functions. They need to understand that, if you elect someone who is furiously angry, you are electing someone who cannot be reasonable and who will not think intelligently or logically. Unfortunately, that seems to be what "Teabaggers" want.
I could discuss the Tottingham riots, or the fact that the #1 movie in the country today is about the downfall of the human race and their replacement with angry apes as the dominant species on planet Earth. "Apes alone weak. Apes together strong." -- Caesar (Andy Serkis). But, I think I'd better move on.
Last week, someone sent me an email about a fire at a waste treatment plant in Harlem, where steel beams were twisted and softened, even though they were somewhat fire-protected. The emailer thought I might be able to use it to argue with 9/11 conspiracy theorists who do not believe that the fires in the World Trade Center could have softened or twisted steel beams. However, I very rarely debate with 9/11 Truthers. I try to limit my debates to Anthrax Truthers.
Someone who read an earlier version of this comment advised me that Rosie O'Donnell is a 9/11 Truther. That figures. One O'Donnell belief: “I do believe that it’s the first time in history that fire has ever melted steel."
This morning, someone sent me an email about codes that were apparently found in the Norway killer's manifesto. Back in April, I got involved in trying to decipher "The Mysterious Rick McCormick Code." I don't want to get side-tracked into that sort of thing again. I want to stay focused on the anthrax attacks of 2001. Besides, the Norway killer's codes seem to be related to European matters, so it's best for me to leave the decoding to Europeans.
Lately, I've been thinking about setting up a new web site at www.ed-lake.com where I can discuss things that do not relate to the anthrax attacks of 2001. (I've owned the domain name for years.) For example, I saw "Captain America" in 3D the other day, and kept wanting to comment on it somewhere. It was the first 3D movie I'd seen in over 50 years, and I couldn't detect any visible advances in the technology. But, I need to finish my book first. I'm wasting too much time already.
Yesterday, I checked the Docket for the Stevens vs USA lawsuit, and there haven't been any new entries since August 2. That would seem to confirm that the next entry will very likely be Judge Hurley's ruling on the government's motions to dismiss.
Also, the Russians are back. They apparently found an IP address to use that I wasn't blocking, and yesterday they started accessing my site endlessly in groups of 15 accesses about a second apart, with the groups being about a half hour apart. They hadn't been doing that for over a month.
As soon as I block an IP address, they stop using it. I've got about 2,883,584 IP addresses blocked. And they found one I hadn't blocked. Who has access to so many IP addresses? The only pattern I see in the numerous web sites they use is that it could have something to do with on-line gaming. But, why are they so persistent with my anthrax site? They don't do it to my other site (knock wood!). And, I'm unaware of any other site having the same "problem." (I think the first time I mentioned this problem was in my November 18, 2010 comment.)
Yesterday, probably because I had Russians on my mind, I rented a movie titled "Exporting Raymond," which is a funny documentary about reworking the hit American TV series "Everybody Loves Raymond" into a Russian TV series. The DVD also contains two episodes of "Everybody Loves Raymond" and the same episodes of "Everybody Loves Kostya," which is the #1 TV show in Russia. The documentary is mostly about how difficult it is to communicate humor to another person, and particularly to someone in another country who speaks another language and has a different view of life in general. Explaining humor can be hilariously frustrating.
I guess the point of all this is that it sometimes seems to be a miracle that people are able to communicate at all, given all the individual perspectives involved, the individual interpretations and beliefs. And cooperation between humans can seem to be a double miracle. It seems so rare that, whenever an example is found, it should be worth writing about.
But, convincing a True Believer that he's wrong? Eric Hoffer said it isn't even possible. He said the best you can do is try to convert the True Believer to a different belief. But, I've got far too many other things I need to do first.
& Changes: Sunday, July 31, 2011, thru Saturday, August 6, 2011
August 5, 2011 (C) -There were four more emails from the Anthrax Truther in my inbox when I came back from my regular workout at the health club this afternoon. That's a total of eleven emails for today - so far. And he's now also posting things to Lew Weinstein's web site about the discussion. He posted:
Ed doesn’t know what happened to the large amount of spores made by Dr. Ivins’ assistants Pat and Mara that is missing.
Ed has no answer to the question: where is the large amount of Ames made by Dr. Ivins assistants that is missing? He simply is not acquainted with the most basic facts of the case such as this large amount of missing virulent Ames.
Notice that he doesn't have any answers to these questions, either. They're just mysteries. And mysteries obviously imply something to him, but he won't say what they imply. In one of his afternoon emails, he asked:
Ed, where is the large amount of Ames made by Dr. Ivins assistants that is missing? They report it was made for the purpose of putting into RMR 1029.This morning's claim: On some unspecified date, Ivins supplied "virulent Ames" to a former Zawahiri associate.
This afternoon's claim: A large amount of "Ames" made by Ivins' assistants went missing.
So what? He won't say. I recall some record somewhere which has Ivins saying that nothing was ever added to flask RMR-1029 after it was created in 1997. Ivins' assistants thought they were making spores to add to the flask, but they didn't know what actually happened to the spores. Does this point to anyone other than Ivins? It doesn't appear so. I also recall making some comment on some forum to the effect that Ivins could have just been giving his associates some "make work" to keep them busy or give them practice, so he wouldn't risk losing them because they had nothing to do.
But that was just speculation on my part. What is the Anthrax Truther speculating? He won't say. Because, if he does, we'll learn what he actually believes -- and he known the facts won't support him. What happened to the spores Ivins' associates made? I don't know. And neither does the Anthrax Truther. The facts say those spores could not have gone into the anthrax letters, because they weren't likely grown from spores taken from flask RMR-1029, and if they were made with normal lab processes, they wouldn't have had the "silicon signature" found in the attack anthrax.
Another email implies that this statement from a press conference on August 6, 2008, says that the government claimed that Ivins made the attack spores using a lyophilizer:
The affidavits allege that, not only did Dr. Ivins create and maintain the spore batch used in the mailings, but he also had access to and experience using a lyophilizer. A lyophilizer is a sophisticated machine that is used to dry pathogens, and can be used to dry anthrax. We know others in Dr. Ivins’ lab consulted him when they needed to use this machine.
It doesn't say that Ivins used a lyophilizer to create the spores. It just says Ivins knew how to use one. But, no Anthrax Truther will ever agree that that's what was said. Nor would any Anthrax Truther ever agree that it was a misstatement if that was what was said or meant.
This is becoming as tedious for me as it probably is for the readers of this web site. I'm going to really really try to avoid any more discussions about the emails I'm getting from this particular Anthrax Truther.
August 5, 2011 (B) - Hmm. The Anthrax Truther didn't like my version of his theory. He says his "claim" or theory is:
The claim is that Dr. Bruce Ivins, in the course of his formally assigned duties, supplied virulent Ames to a former Zawahiri associate, [redacted].
[Redacted] was not a citizen and Dr. Ivins did not know that when he arrived to work alongside Bruce, Pat and Mara at the B3.
There was no USAMRIID employee who was an "al Qaeda agent." The former Zawahiri associate was not a USAMRIID employee.
Nor was he an "al Qaeda agent." He is a former Zawahiri associate.
So, the Anthrax Truther's claim/theory is apparently that Bruce Ivins gave "virulent Ames" to "a former Zawahiri associate." It's a meaningless claim, of course, because "virulent Ames" is not the same as Ames from flask RMR-1029, and the facts say that the attack anthrax originated with flask RMR-1029. So, the fact that Ivins supplied "virulent Ames" to a former Zawahiri associate at some point in time is just more irrelevant information. The Anthrax Truther is evidently assuming some kind of connection where there is no proven connection of any kind.
And, he just called me a "moron" for my interpretation of his theory/claim. And, he's filling my inbox with a stream of emails telling me how I should do things the way he does things, because his way gets the results that confirm his beliefs. My methods do not confirm his beliefs. My methods just help me to understand things and (hopefully) provide enjoyable and informative reading for people who visit this site. (To Anthrax Truthers, of course, anything that does NOT confirm their beliefs is also NOT informative. It's simply wrong.)
August 5, 2011 (A) - The same Anthrax Truther I mentioned yesterday sent me an email overnight that is probably worth mentioning. It could be informative. The email discusses two subjects. First, he found this information in an email he received from a well-known scientist with whom we have both communicated from time to time:
(1) A SpeedVac, when coupled to a dry ice trap or condenser (the
configuration most frequently encountered in biomedical research labs),
functions as a lyophilizer. (In many, if not most, cases in which
post-1980s biomedical research papers state that a sample was “lyophilized,”
the papers refer to use of a SpeedVac.)
(1) SpeedVac = lyophilizer.The Anthrax Truther evidently consulted with the scientist in order to contradict what Melanie Ulrich said in the August 8, 2008 article the Anthrax Truther used to start his discussion/argument about SpeedVacs. As you can see, the scientist stated that a SpeedVac can be made to function like a lyophilizer, ergo: a SpeedVac is a lyophilizer.
So, by their logic, my Camaro is a truck because I can fold down the back seat and use it like a truck to haul things.
The Anthrax Truther's point is that I should do as he does. He believes a SpeedVac is a lyophilizer, so he consulted with scientists until he found one who would say something that seemingly confirms the Truther's belief. The Truther feels I am wrong in trying to understand things, in trying think for myself, and in trying figure things out for myself.
What he got was an opinion from one scientist which seemingly contradicts a statement from another scientist (Ulrich), and the fact that the Anthrax Truther got an opinion he likes puts an end to all controversy, as far as he's concerned.
To me, it's all just babble. Does the fact that a SpeedVac can be made to function like a lyophilizer mean that it is a lyophilizer? No! A SpeedVac does not ordinarily freeze dry (lyophilize). But, so what??? Who cares??? What does it have to do with the anthrax attacks of 2001 or Bruce Ivins or anything else?
The second part of the Anthrax Truther's email contains the same scientist's thoughts on how much material can be dried in a SpeedVac and how long it takes.
(2) 1-4 g of wet bacterial cells or spores occupies a volume less than 5
(A 1 liter culture presumably would be required to produce 1-4 g of dried
bacterial cells or spores...but more than 99.5% of the 1 liter starting
volume first would be removed, in seconds to minutes, by decanting,
centrifugation, or filtration, leaving less than 0.5% of the 1 liter
starting volume to be dried.)
(2) If it would take 1 h to process a 1 ml sample, then it would take 1 h to
five 1 ml samples (since a SpeedVac, as most frequently configured, holds,
and simultaneously processes, up to 1 ml samples), and thus it would take 1
h to dry sufficient spore paste to yield 1-4 g of dried spores.
Okay, here we have a well-known scientist stating that a 1-liter culture can produce enough spores for all the letters. In my August 3 (C) comment I cited the DOJ as stating:
21. The anthrax attacker would have cultivated at least “2.8 to 53 liters of liquid
medium to produce the spores required for the letters."
And, if you recall from my May 23, 2010 comment, Bruce Ivins' friend Henry Heine said 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." So, it would have taken him a year and countless cultures to create the spores in the letters. And, Bruce Ivins himself stated in numerous documents that he and his staff were routinely making 433 billion spores per run.
So, we have 4 sets of figures from 4 sources, and none seem agree. But other scientists I've talked with agree that the 1 and 2.8 liter figures are very reasonable. And, all these other scientists agree that there is no scientific reason to claim that Ivins could not have made the spores in the letters.
But, I'm getting off the subject. The subject - like it or not - is SpeedVacs vs. lyophilizers.
The Anthrax Truther doesn't seem to be trying to argue that Bruce Ivins used a SpeedVac/lyophilizer to make the anthrax powders in the letters. He believes that al Qaeda sent the anthrax letters, or possibly al Qaeda undercover agents (other than Ivins) working at USAMRIID. He seems to believe that any USAMRIID employee who ever talked with a Muslim could be an undercover al Qaeda agent or under the spell of some al Qaeda agent.
The point I endlessly tried to make with him years ago when we were actually debating on forums is that his arguments appear to be about irrelevant matters. What does any of this discussion about SpeedVacs and lyophilizers have to do proving anything about the anthrax attacks of 2001?
The facts still say that Bruce Ivins most likely air dried the anthrax spores in the letters. The powder in media letters provides the best evidence. It was a non-homogenous powder that appeared to have been centrifuged to get rid of excess water, and then the moist pellet was allowed to air dry inside a biosafety cabinet, possibly with heat applied to speed up drying. The dry pellet was then crushed or chopped up with a razor blade and the results were put into a letter. The process was likely repeated five times for the five letters.
Could Ivins have done it in a SpeedVac? Ulrich says no. Another scientist seems to be saying yes. I don't think Ivins would have made the media powders using a SpeedVac because he was trying to make a powder that would look like it was made by Muslim terrorists in a garage or a cave. It was supposed to look crude. You do not use a sophisticated piece of equipment like a SpeedVac to make a crude powder if there are unsophisticated ways to do the same thing.
And, while the powder in the senate letters was more sophisticated, it still seems unlikely that Ivins would have used a SpeedVac if he didn't have to use a SpeedVac. The fewer pieces of equipment he used, the less likely he'd leave some kind of "signature" that could be traced back to his lab.
I'm not saying that the Anthrax Truther's scientist is wrong. I'm saying that his scientist friend was just looking at the science and not at other factors, like what Ivins was trying to do when he produced the powder -- and why.
And, arguing that Ivins could have used a SpeedVac to create the anthrax powders doesn't mean that was the most likely way he would have done it. The most likely way is the way that takes into account everything known about Ivins: his motivation, his scientific abilities, his experience, his psychology, his penchant for taking risks, and everything else.
August 4, 2011 (B) - I just received an email from an Anthrax Truther which he seems to think explains something about Speed-Vacs and lyophilizers. The email says only this:
Ed, this expert provides direct authority for your general argument, based on personal knowledge of the particular Speed Vac at issue - she was Bruce's lab assistant
And, he provided a link to an article from August 8, 2008, which quotes Melanie Ulrich:
Ivins' alleged use of a lyophilizer to make powdered anthrax. Ulrich said Ivins signed out a SpeedVac, but not a lyophilizer, which is too large to fit in a containment hood, or secure protective area.
She said it would take about an hour to dry one milliliter of wet anthrax spores in one vial in a SpeedVac. It would have been impossible for Ivins to have dried more than a liter, which would have been required for the amount of anthrax sent in the letters, in the time frame they were mailed, Ulrich said.What does this explain? That in 2008 some people believed Ivins might have used a lyophilizer or a Speed-Vac to dry the spores and some people didn't? So what?
The reason I'm posting the Anthrax Truther's emails here is because a long time ago I swore off responding to him directly. If I do, he'll just send me dozens more emails. (I once had to set up software to block his emails because he'll send me hundreds if he's in the mood.) Plus, posting a few of his emails here can be informative and helpful. I think it's informative to show the reasoning (or lack of reasoning) of an Anthrax Truther who is also a True Believer.
While I was writing the above comment, he sent me another email:
now that you've persuasively demolished the suggestion he used a Speed-Vac (supported by expert Melanie Ulrich), you may want to explain he how he air dried the anthrax (what's involved etc.)
Answer: We don't know exactly how he dried the anthrax. Ivins knew several ways of drying spores. But, as I stated in my July 20 comment, he most likely air dried the powders inside one or more biosafety cabinets while he was in his lab alone in the evenings. Air drying spores is about as complicated as turning mud into dust. Doing it in biosafety cabinets eliminates most dangers. Adding heat speeds up the process. And, Ivins had very likely been air drying spores so for a long time, perhaps as long as a year. There are indications that he first conceived of the idea of an anthrax letter as far back as early 2000. But, I've explained all this here before, so I won't bother going into further details. The Anthrax Truther can just do a search back through my comments to find all the details he wants. I'm going to try to stop responding to him via these comments, too. They might be informative and helpful to readers of this site, but I don't want to encourage him to start arguing this way. The only logical (if only mildy effective) way to deal with aggressive Anthrax Truthers and True Believers is to ignore them.
August 4, 2011 (A) - I must have been tired and worn out yesterday afternoon when I commented on this sentence from Bruce Ivins' patent #6387665:
The concentrated sample was desalted again using the same buffer, frozen and finally lyophilized using a Speed-Vac.
I failed to notice the word "frozen" was used in the sentence. Now I see that the sample was apparently already frozen when it went into the Speed-Vac. So, that's further evidence that the sample was NOT freeze-dried (a.k.a. lyophilized) using a Speed-Vac. The Speed-Vac applied heat and created a vacuum to thaw and dry the sample.
It's difficult to decipher the incoherent emails I received overnight. They seem to be insisting that a lyophilizer is the same as a Speed-Vac and that the government stated that Ivins used a lyophilizer/Speed-Vac to dry the attack spores. It's total nonsense, of course, but the problem with dealing with Anthrax Truthers is that they never explain their beliefs, they just declare their beliefs. And they get really upset if you do not accept their declared beliefs.
August 3, 2011 (E) - At this rate, I'm never going to get back to work on my book! An Anthrax Truther who doesn't like being called an "Anthrax Truther" or a "True Believer" just brought to my attention a patent filed in 2000 which included Bruce Ivins as a co-inventor. It's a "method of making a vaccine for anthrax." The Anthrax Truther brought it to my attention because in the patent it says,
The concentrated sample was desalted again using the same buffer, frozen and finally lyophilized using a Speed-Vac.
The Anthrax Truther complained that I didn't know that "a speed vac is used for lyophilization."
He was confused and assumed I was also confused. In reality, the Anthrax Truther was the only person confused by the term "lyophization" in that patent. He gets upset when I try to explain things, but he's now apparently asking me to explain things to him so that he can complain that I looked things up instead of asking busy experts.
My big Webster's Encyclopedic Dictionary contains only three words that begin with "lyo." The first is "lyonnaise," which in French cooking means to prepare with onions. The two other definitions are:
lyophilic; Chem., denoting a colloid which cannot be readily precipatated because of a strong affinity for the dispersion medium.
lyophilization; Biochem., the process of drying by freezing biological materials in a vacuum.
Here's what it says about lyophilizers and Speed-Vacs on page 30 of the FBI Summary Report on the Amerithrax Case:
Drying anthrax spores requires either a sophisticated drying machine called a lyophilizer, a speed-vac, or a great deal of time and space to let the spores air-dry – that is, to allow the water to evaporate – in the lab.
As I understand it, the primary difference between a Speed-Vac and a lyophilizer is that one applies heat and the other is cold during the drying process. According to one source, "Speedvacs concentrate and dry samples by applying vacuum, heat, and centrifugal force to the samples." I can't find any source which mentions freezing in a Speed Vac (although there may be attachments to apply cold to samples). Every source I see says that heat is applied to help dry the material. That is a BIG difference between a Speed Vac and a lyophilizer. Other major differences are the size of the device and the size of the material sample you can dry in the machine.
A Speed Vac is typically a machine small enough to fit on a desk. It is used to dry very tiny amounts of material via a vacuum and applied heat. (Water evaporates away with the air as the device applies heat and creates a vacuum.) Here's a picture of one type of Speed Vac:
The device seems to be used mainly for drying very tiny amounts of DNA or RNA material. It probably wasn't used by Ivins to make the attack anthrax, because it would take too many drying runs to create the amount of material in the senate letters, and it probably couldn't have produced the dried material in the media letters because the clumps were too big to get from such a machine.
The lyophilizer at USAMRIID was described as being the size of a refrigerator, so it probably looked something like this one:
Just like a Speed Vac, a lyophilizer also dries materials by creating a vacuum. But, it is often called a "freeze dryer" because the cold of a vacuum is part of the drying process. It can obviously dry much larger quantities of material.
"Lyophilizer" and "freeze dryer" are synonymous. No one calls a Speed Vac a freeze dryer.
In summary, the patent document filed by Bruce Ivins and others seems to use the term "lyophilized" to mean drying by application of a vacuum. It may be bad terminology to say lyophilized using a Speed-Vac because a Speed-Vac doesn't freeze dry, but I'm no expert. So, if anyone has any further information, I'd like to see it. (I enjoy and appreciate getting information from experts, I just don't like bugging them for information I can usually look up for myself.)
August 3, 2011 (D) - I just received an email from an Anthrax Truther who had this to say about my (B) comment today regarding the Stevens v USA lawsuit:
Ed, you shouldn't be commenting on legal matters because you are embarrassing yourself
He was referring to the fact that I didn't know if Judge Hurley could rule without hearing from the Stevens' side of the case. He wouldn't provide any information to answer that question, of course. He just felt I shouldn't be trying to explain the law when I'm not a lawyer. But, as I wrote on July 24, I'm "learning law by arguing law." I state that I'm not a lawyer, but I try to decipher the legal documents in layman's language for my comments. And, as it says at the top of this site, if you see any errors on this site, please let me know.
As I mentioned in my (B) comment today, "Unlike the Anthrax Truther blogs where it seems that they only ask meaningless questions and never really look for any answers, this web site attempts to clarify issues."
It appears that Anthrax Truthers do not want anyone to even try to clarify anything, because the more confusion they can create, the more likely they'll be able to trick someone into believing as they believe.
August 3, 2011 (C) - Hmm. I don't want to cause any more delays in getting a ruling from Judge Hurley, and this will not likely create such a delay, but I think I see another error in the revised filing in the Stevens v USA lawsuit. This item is at the bottom of page 5 in the Government's Statement of Facts:
22. By way of comparison, the smallest possible estimate of liquid solution used to
prepare the anthrax letters was at least three to seven times larger than the liquid contents of
RMR-1029, which never contained more than one liter of liquid, and contained less than 400
milliliters on October 4, 2011.
Flask RMR-1029 contained highly-concentrated anthrax spores at 30 billion spores per milliliter. If there were 400 milliliters left on October 4, 2001, there would have been 400x30 billion spores left, or 12 trillion spores, about 4 times the amount used in all the anthrax letters combined. The goverment lawyers clearly aren't scientists, and in an attempt to be illustrative, they compared the highly concentrated spores in flask RMR-1029 to the non-concentrated spores in a typical flask of growth material. Oops.
Hmmm again. I just noticed that the Statement of Facts says "less than 400 milliliters on October 4, 2011." Technically, that part of the statement is not exactly incorrect, since October 4, 2011 hasn't yet come to pass, and there were 21 milliliters left on November 28, 2003. So, when October 4, 2011 rolls around, if the 21 milliliters are still in Flask RMR-1029, that will still be less than 400 milliliters. But, they almost certainly meant October 4, 2001, not 2011. Another error.
On October 4, 2001, there were 359 milliliters left in flask RMR-1029, which is less than 400 milliliters, and that would be 10 trillion 770 billion spores, or about three times the amount of spores used in all the letters combined.
I probably erred in showing item #22 from the Statement of Facts without also showing #21. The two together are:
21. The anthrax attacker would have cultivated at least “2.8 to 53 liters of liquid
medium to produce the spores required for the letters.” Id., p. 77. If the attacker used Petri
dishes instead, he would have needed 463 to 1250 plates to grow enough anthrax.
22. By way of comparison, the smallest possible estimate of liquid solution used to
prepare the anthrax letters was at least three to seven times larger than the liquid contents of
RMR-1029, which never contained more than one liter of liquid, and contained less than 400
milliliters on October 4, 2011.
2.8 liters is 7 times 400 milliliters. That's where they got the "seven times" figure from. I don't know where the "three" times figure comes from, but it probably comes from calculating the number of plates, even though plates don't involve "liquid contents." I'm just going to ignore the plates data -- to avoid getting a headache.
According to the Roundtable Discussion of August 18, 2008, the contents of Flask RMR-1029 were concentrated down from "164 liters of spore production." So, applying all the corrections and leaving out the plates data, item #22 in the Government's Statement of Facts would read (with the changes in red):
22. By way of comparison, the smallest possible estimate of liquid solution used to
prepare the anthrax letters was 1.7 percent of the liquid solution that was concentrated
down to create the liquid contents of RMR-1029, which never contained more than one liter
of liquid, and contained less than 400 milliliters on October 4, 2001.
Or better yet, they should never have made the comparison.
August 3, 2011 (B) - Unlike the Anthrax Truther blogs where it seems that they only ask meaningless questions and never really look for any answers, this web site attempts to clarify issues. The issues that might need clarification at the moment are the revised US government motions in the Stevens vs USA lawsuit. The revisions don't have anything to do with the legal issues, and it's the legal issues that will be ruled upon by Judge Hurley.
The first motion was for a "Summary Judgment based on the absence of proximate cause."
My "Plain Language Law Dictionary" defines "proximate cause" as "The immediate cause of an injury or accident; the legal cause; the real cause; a direct cause."
The same dictionary defines "Summary Judgment" as "a means of obtaining the court's decision without resorting to a formal Trial by Jury. Such judgments are sought when the opposing parties are in agreement on the facts in dispute but wish to obtain a ruling as to the question of law that is involved."
The question of law is whether Maureen Stevens has a legal case or not. Can she prove negligence on the part of the government? The government says she cannot because:
The unprecedented 2001 anthrax attack that tragically resulted in Mr. Stevens’ death
from inhalation anthrax is not a reasonably foreseeable consequence of Defendant’s alleged
negligence under Florida law governing proximate cause. Florida courts generally hold that such
extraordinary events fail to establish proximate cause.
Prior to Mr. Stevens’ death, there was no historical basis for a person to reasonably expect that,
even if the government negligently secured its anthrax, biological material would be used by a third
person as part of a bioterrorism attack on American soil against innocent victims like Mr. Stevens.
If the Court finds the anthrax attack that killed Mr. Stevens “highly unusual, extraordinary”
or “bizarre,” it should be “most reluctant to attach tort liability” by finding proximate cause.
Because Plaintiffs could never present facts to show that decedent’s inhalation anthrax
and the intervening acts that gave rise to it was “a foreseeable and probable consequence of the
wrongful actions of the defendant,” the government is entitled to summary judgment on
The second motion re-filed on Friday was for a "Motion to Dismiss for lack of Subject-Matter Jurisdiction (based on the FTCA's Assault and Battery Exception)." This motion is harder to explain.
As I understand it, the government is saying that Judge Hurley has no jurisdiction in this case, because the The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), a federal staute enacted by the United States Congress in 1948, has an Assault and Battery Exception that is applicable in this case. As I understand it, the exception says that the government had no way of predicting that one of its employees would commit such a crime, and, therefore, the Stevens claim is barred (as invalid) by the Assault and Battery Exception and it cannot be tried by Judge Hurley or in any court.
And, that means that
Plaintiffs cannot pursue their theory that government negligence allowed Dr. Ivins (or any
other government employee) to perpetrate the attacks because all such claims lack subjectmatter
jurisdiction and must be dismissed pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1).
If Plaintiffs argue that government negligence allowed Dr. Ivins, a government employee at the
time of the attacks, to murder Mr. Stevens, their claims must be dismissed for lack subject-matter
jurisdiction based on the FTCA’s assault and battery exception. Alternatively, if Plaintiffs reject
the government’s concession that Dr. Ivins was the assailant and attempt to argue that government
negligence allowed an unknown assailant to murder Mr. Stevens, they cannot satisfy their summary
judgment burden to come forward with evidence that establishes how government negligence
actually led to the crime.
That last bit seems to put Stevens' lawyers between the rock and the hard place. If Stevens accepts that Ivins was the anthrax killer, then their case must be dismissed because of the Assault and Battery Exception. If Stevens argues that Ivins was not the anthrax killer, then their case must be dismissed because they have no way of showing the government was negligent if they have no idea who committed the crime or how the goverment let him do it.
Stevens lawyers might have a counter-argument. But, I think it's also very possible that Judge Hurley could rule without seeing any counter argument, since it's a matter of his interpretation of the law. Opposing interpretations are irrelevant, unless they are interpretations from a higher court.
August 3, 2011 (A) - Hmm. I've never gotten into the habit of routinely tracking the Stevens vs USA lawsuit. So, I failed to notice that on Friday the 29th, the same day Judge Hurley agreed to allow the government to file its amended motions, the government did so. When I checked the Docket on the 29th, the Judge's "endorsement" was the last entry. The government's filings must have taken place later in the day.
So the next step appears to be for Judge Hurley to either (1) dismiss the lawsuit, (2) issue a Summary Judgment ending the lawsuit by ruling that Maureen Stevens has not proved negligence by the government, or (3) rule against the government on both motions and allow the trial to go ahead in December. If so, he could make his decision at any time. Or, the next step may be for Maureen Stevens' lawyers to present their counter-arguments. Since they've been fully aware of the issues for a long time, their counter-arguments could be filed at any time.
Meanwhile, yesterday, another one of those sealed "system entries" appeared on the docket. There's still no clue as to what they are about. But the fact that it's sealed will undoubtedly convince conspiracy theorists and True Believers that it can only be something devious and sinister.
August 2, 2011 (B) - I've been doing some research to try to find where I got some data about the amount of "matrix" material in the New York Post powder. I usually provide the link or identify the source in some other way, but in a comment I wrote on March 20, 2011, I failed to do so, although I left some hints for where to look. I still haven't found the source, but while hunting I found an interesting report on page 4 and 5 of Batch 2, Module 2 of the National Academies of Science disk of 9,600 pages of documents. The author of the report is redacted, but his title is given as "Senior Research Scientist, USAMRIID", so it is almost certainly from Peter Jahrling. It's titled:
Report of Electron Microscope Examination of Powder
Obtained from the Daschle Letter (Sample # 02 57.07)
21 October 2001
At the bottom of page 4 and into page 5 it says about the Daschle powder:
Occasional aggregates appeared to have flocculent material associated on the periphery (Figure 11). At higher power, this flocculent material had a jagged appearance (Figure 12) which resembled, in some respects, the appearance of Bentonite (Figure 13).
And, the first paragraph in the "Interpretation and conclusions" section on page 5, the last sentence is:
A flocculent material is occasionally observed in association with the aggregates; at high power, this material resembles bentonite.
Flocculent means "woolly or fluffy." Figures 11, 12 and 13 attached to the document are too grainy to figure out what he was actually seeing. David Willman's book "The Mirage Man" identified Peter Jahrling as the source of the misinformation about bentonite being in the Daschle powder. This report is almost certainly confirmation of that. I'm mentioning it here because it will help me to remember where to find this information if I need it again.
And, of course, the bentonite fiasco is a good example of a USAMRIID scientist (and someone who knew Bruce Ivins) making scientific statements about something he knew nothing about. The "journalists" at McClatchy, ProPublica and PBS Frontline should remember that when it comes to reporting opinions on lyophilizers and how to dry anthrax..
August 2, 2011 (A) - I'm not sure what they're trying to do, but PBS Frontline has evidently filed a bunch of FOIA requests for materials related to the case against Bruce Ivins. One request dated April 22, 2011 asks for:
Any and all photographs or videos of: Steven Hatfill, RMR-1029, Bruce Ivins's laboratory - "B-313" or "B-3" in building 1425 of USAMRIID, and any equipment that may have been used in the 2001 anthrax attacks - the fermentor and/or lyophilizer.
Why Steven Hatfill was mentioned in the request is the biggest question. And, one would think that Frontline would know that neither a fermentor nor a lyophilizer were used in making the attack anthrax. But, maybe they don't know that.
Another request dated July 27, 2011 asks for a mountain of materials, including these:
Any and all notebooks or written documentation maintained by Ms Pat Worsham that reference any Bacillus anthracis submissions made by Bruce Ivins in connection with the FBI's Amerithrax Investigation.
Any and all notebooks or written documentation maintained by Ms Terry Abshire that reference any Bacillus anthracis submissions made by Bruce Ivins in connection with the FBI's Amerithrax Investigation.
They are apparently trying to track down exactly why the first FBIR submission by Ivins was rejected. Or, more accurately, they are apparently trying to track down what was written down about the first FBIR submission by Ivins.
Yet another request dated July 28, 2011 asks for
Keycard access records for all persons to Suite 5 for entry to the BSL-2 labs from August 2001 through November 2001.
Keycard access records for Bruce Ivins to Suite 5 for entry to the BLS-2 labs from August 2001 through November 2001.
Suite 5? Presumably, they mean Bacteriology Suite 5, which is where the lyophilizer was stored in the hallway outside of Stephen Little's lab. What do they think they will learn about a machine that Ivins did not use when making the attack powders? And the floorplan for Bacteriology Suite 5 seems to indicate that it had a different kind of entrance than the other four Bacteriology suites. It seems to have double swinging doors opening directly into the suite's central corridor, instead of single doors entering into male and female locker rooms. It has two large areas/rooms which have no walls separating them from the central corridor. Plus it appears to have no airlock. It wouldn't surprise me if one could walk in one end of Suite 5 and out the other end without ever swiping a keycard. The facts seem to indicate that keycards were used only to access specific rooms in Suite 5, but I could be wrong. The only time Suite 5 came up in the investigation was when a search warrant was issued for Room B505 in Suite 5. B505 appears to be a storage room.
I don't know what PBS Frontline will be saying in October when they air their program about the anthrax attacks. But, based upon the above information and their error-filled discussion on PBS Newshour on July 20, 2011, things aren't looking good. It's kind of late to be digging into basic facts in an attempt to re-investigate the anthrax attacks of 2001 in time for a show to air in October - particularly when they don't seem to know what the basic facts are.
August 1, 2011 - "BugMaster" posted a message on Lew Weinstein's site which clearly refers to the comment I wrote yesterday. Here is what BugMaster wrote:
Pretty pathetic when the New York Times attacks Propublica using Ed Lake as their mouthpiece!
I suppose I should be flattered that anyone would think that The New York Times would use me as their "mouthpiece." However, I didn't mean to suggest that The New York Times had anything to do with anything. My source feels that a person who formerly worked at The New York Times was the "mastermind" behind the "yellow journalism" articles about the Stevens vs USA lawsuit from both ProPublica and McClatchy. That person now works for ProPublica.org.
The comment I wrote on Sunday morning was very convoluted. I can see how it could have been misunderstood. I was trying to sort out all the information I'd received on Saturday as I was writing the comment. And, I ran out of time. So, I posted what I had at about 10:45 a.m., and then modified it about fifteen times during the rest of the day, as I tried to make it more understandable. The end result was that I couldn't accept that the ex-NY Times employee was the "mastermind" behind everything, because it seemed that McClatchy reporters were also writing their own nonsense.
For what it's worth, during the month of July I happened to be tracking the number of daily visitors to Lew Weinstein's site (in green) versus visitors to my site (in red). Here is the end result:
Interestingly, while Lew's site gets only about a third of the visitors I get on average, a controversial news event like the McClatchy/ProPublica manufactured story about DOJ lawyers claiming that Ivins couldn't have made the attack anthrax will generate a clear spike in the number of visitors to Lew's site. That news broke on the 18th and 19th. I tend to get big spikes only when there is some real news.
July 31, 2011 - I've been advised by a highly reliable source that the McClatchy newpaper chain isn't the "mastermind" or driving force behind the blatant sensationalizing and distortion of minor details in the Stevens v USA lawsuit. I'm told that the "mastermind" behind this latest example of "yellow journalism" works at ProPublica.com. McClatchy is allegedly just going along for the ride as a way to sell more newspapers (aided by a reporter who can't tell fact from fiction). And PBS Frontline has its sleeve caught on the door handle of this runaway car wreck in progress.
While I agree that PBS Frontline seems to be getting dragged along on this obvious piece of "yellow journalism," there seem to be definite indications that McClatchy is taking the lead - at least on some of the bogus news stories. When publishing the same story, McClatchy will sometimes contain inflammatory details omitted from the ProPublica version. And, McClatchy clearly took the lead in the April 21, 2011 video story titled "Did FBI Target Wrong Man as Anthrax Killer?" which wildly distorted the facts about the relevancy of the Bacillus subtilis spores found in the media letters. In my comment on April 21, I described that news story as "a crazy and illogical piece of reporting."
But, it could also be that I focused on articles from McClatchy and not the articles from ProPublica.org because I use Google to do a lot of my research, and Google tends to show the McClatchy articles but very few of ProPublica's articles. Google evidently doesn't always use ProPublica as a key news source.
I was somewhat surprised to be informed that Gary Matsumoto was writing for ProPublica at one time. I had never seen Matsumoto's April 23, 2010 ProPublica article on Henry Heine's opinions regarding Bruce Ivins' abilities (or inabilities) to make anthrax spores. It was titled "Colleague Says Anthrax Numbers Add Up to Unsolved Case." I'd written at length in my May 23, 2010 comment about the total nonsense and misinformation Dr. Heine provided on a radio show, and I provided emails from Bruce Ivins himself showing that what Dr. Heine stated was totally untrue. Of course, the fact that Gary Matsumoto was on the side of the people claiming that Bruce Ivins couldn't have made the attack anthrax was no surprise to me. It was just a surprise that he had written for ProPublica. His article quoted Henry Heine:
"If Bruce did it, we would've turned him in for a million dollars in a heartbeat," said Heine, referring to the government reward for information leading to the capture of the anthrax mailer. "Seriously, though, reward or no reward, we would've stopped him because that would've been the right thing to do."
Before you can turn in a killer to collect the reward, you have to realize he is a killer and not just some goofy guy you work with. The mistake wasn't that Heine and others at USAMRIID failed to turn in Ivins, the mistake was that they failed to realize that Ivins was making powdered anthrax right under their noses in his lab at night and on weekends. They didn't see anything strange or alarming about Ivins working alone and unsupervised in a lab filled with dangerous pathogens. If they cared at all, they just assumed that whatever Ivins was doing alone in his lab was just "Bruce being Bruce."
I don't know if Gary Matsumoto still has any connection to ProPublica. My source said he probably doesn't. But, hearing Matsumoto's name again made me wonder if Dr. Stuart Jacobsen wasn't also around somewhere. And, sure enough, I was reminded that Dr. Jacobsen was interviewed by a McClatchy reporter for an article printed on May 19, 2011. I already had the article in my archives, and I'd commented on it the day after it was published:
May 20, 2011 - Yesterday's McClatchy Newspapers (Miami Herald, Kansas City Star, The Fresno Bee, etc.) contain an article titled "FBI lab reports on anthrax attacks suggest another miscue." Evidently, someone was reading the 9,600 pages of FBI documents the FBI sent to the National Academy of Sciences and discovered that the element Silicon was found in the attack anthrax. And, then they heard that some scientists believe the Silicon was put there deliberately as part of a sophisticated process for weaponization. Ohmygod! That must have been a real shock to the McClatchy reporter. For the rest of us, of course, it's been discussed and thoroughly debunked for almost 10 years.
But I wasn't seeing the BIG picture that my source was seeing. I thought the McClatchy article about silica was just another careless reporter getting an "expert opinion" from someone who isn't really an expert on the subject under discussion (Dr. Jacobsen works with microchips, not with spores). Now, it seems to be part of the pattern. McClatchy and ProPublica are both getting opinions from "experts" who tell them what they want to hear in order to generate "yellow journalism" headlines. And the Stevens vs USA lawsuit is their latest cause. They are wildly distorting the facts about the lawsuit simply to create a sensation where there is only minor news. Sensations sell newspapers and advertising space, while minor news just bores people. And, meanwhile, PBS has been working for a year and a half on a major story to air in October that will - apparently - heavily rely on all this distorted nonsense.
I had planned to write about the Stevens lawsuit for this morning's comment, but the information about the "mastermind" at ProPublica.org seemed far more interesting. Unfortunately, it's also highly problematic in that it connects to something that I haven't studied in detail, something that has absolutely nothing to do with the anthrax attacks of 2001: the Wen Ho Lee fiasco.
I wasn't paying that much attention in 1999 and 2000 when the New York Times was allegedly campaigning to find who was at fault in the theft of secrets from Los Alamos. According to The American Journalism Review:
The New York Times uncritically embraced the outlook of investigators in its breathless coverage of the Wen Ho Lee case. As a result, the nation's premier news organization tarnished not only the scientist but also its own reputation.
It appears to be very reminiscent of Nicholas Kristoff's campaign to get Steven Hatfill investigated and/or arrested in the anthrax case. And eventually, the New York Times apologized, sort of, in a September 26, 2000 article titled "The Times and Wen Ho Lee," which said:
The Times's coverage of this case, especially the articles published in the first few months, attracted criticism from competing journalists and media critics and from defenders of Dr. Lee, who contended that our reporting had stimulated a political frenzy amounting to a witch hunt. After Dr. Lee's release, the White House, too, blamed the pressure of coverage in the media, and specifically The Times, for having propelled an overzealous prosecution by the administration's own Justice Department.
Nevertheless, far from stimulating a witch hunt, The Times had clearly shown before Dr. Lee was even charged that the case against him was circumstantial and therefore weak, and that there were numerous other potential sources for the design of the warhead.
are articles we should have
assigned but did not. We never prepared a full-scale profile of Dr.
Lee, which might have humanized him and provided some balance.
In those instances where we fell short of our standards in our coverage of this story, the blame lies principally with those who directed the coverage, for not raising questions that occurred to us only later. Nothing in this experience undermines our faith in any of our reporters, who remained persistent and fair-minded in their newsgathering in the face of some fierce attacks.
The article says "the blame
principally with those who directed the coverage," but those people are
not identified. I'm told that one of them is the current
behind the Stevens vs USA lawsuit coverage.
But, it's all too vague and
me to confirm or dispute. And, I have no desire to dig into the
Lee matter for further details. It's too far afield from my
interest: the anthrax attacks of 2001. Even the direct
connection between the "mastermind" and all the conspiracy
theories about the "weaponized" spores
supposedly used in the anthrax attacks is a
New York Times article from before
All the information I was
given yesterday was highly interesting, but it's from a very different
perspective than mine. We totally agree that the Stevens lawsuit
reporting by ProPublica and McClatchy is "yellow journalism," but we
came to that conclusion via very different paths. Because we
arrived at the same conclusion via different paths, we can be very
certain that our mutual conclusion is correct. But, the different
we took make it difficult to discuss details such as who is the
"mastermind." Any such discussions would
be opinions about paths and
methods. Opinion vs opinion discussions rarely get anywhere and
could create disagreement where there really isn't any disagreement.
& Changes: Sunday, July 24, 2011, thru Saturday, July 30, 2011
July 30, 2011 - As expected, McClatchy newspapers has reacted to yesterday's ruling by Judge Hurley. The Miami Herald has published an article titled "Judge allows feds to revise filing in anthrax case." The article calls the revision by the DOJ "an embarrassing flip-flop" and says,
Justice Department lawyers, defending a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of the first victim of the 2001 anthrax letter attacks, won a judge's approval Friday to withdraw a court filing that seemed to undermine the FBI's assertion that an Army researcher was the killer.
The initial filing asserted flatly that Army researcher Bruce Ivins, whom the FBI accused of manufacturing the anthrax, lacked the "specialized equipment" needed to produce the deadly powder at a U.S. bio-weapons research facility in Frederick, Md.
The revised filing said that Ivins had access to a refrigerator-sized machine known as a lyophilizer, which can be used to dry solutions such as anthrax, at the facility in a less secure lab. In addition, it said that Ivins also had a smaller "speed-vac" that could be used for drying substances in his containment lab.
July 29, 2011 (C) - In the Stevens vs USA lawsuit case today, as expected by everyone except McClatchy et al, Judge Hurley "endorsed" (authorized) the government's motion to correct the wording in their July 15 motion to dismiss and their motion for a Summary Judgment.
July 29, 2011 (B) - ProPublica has released a transcript of a July 26 podcast where ProPublica's managing editor Stephen Engelberg gave his very puzzling thoughts on the FBI's Amerithrax investigation and the Maureen Stevens vs USA lawsuit. Engelberg is billed as "a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and the former investigations editor of The New York Times and the managing editor of The Oregonian." What is so puzzling about Engelberg's talk is that he seems to be claiming that the DOJ said a lot of things about Ivins' guilt that are not in the public record. So, there's no way of knowing if it just comes from Engelberg's imagination, from bullshit fed to him by a McClatchy reporter or by Maureen Stevens' lawyers, or if it actually happened. For example, Engelberg claims that the DOJ's attorneys in the Stevens lawsuit actually accepted and believed what Ivins' friends and associates stated in depositions, and:
It was from that point forward that the civil division said, "OK. Well, Ivins couldn't have done it. We'll accept that. We'll accept what the government witnesses are saying here. But therefore, if he couldn't have done it, was that foreseeable? Would these supervisors know this? If he couldn't have done it and it wasn't foreseeable that he did it, then we can't be held liable for it.”
Then, Stephen Engleberg says:
What happened next, just to continue chronologically here Mike, is that the government filed a statement that Ivins couldn't have done it based on these interviews. The civil division apparently had not spoken with the criminal division about what they intended to say.
And so when this appeared, criminal division lawyers were quite irritated, quite angry, and about 24 hours later they filed an amended set of things in which they corrected the statements. They said, "Well, Bruce Ivins is the guy who did it. And while he couldn't have done it in this specific place where there was special equipment to contain the germs, he might have done it somewhere else."The statements by Engleberg appear to be all totally bogus and made up. The facts say, the DOJ never believed or suggested that Ivins made the attack anthrax anywhere except in his own lab during the evenings and on weekends when he worked alone and unsupervised without any verifiable explanation for what he was doing. The "special equipment" wasn't equipment to contain the germs, it was equipment to dry spores, but there were other ways to dry spores. This appears to be an example of someone talking about the case who really doesn't understand very much about the case. ("A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.")
And, it also appears that all this bogus information will be part of a PBS "Frontline" program to air in October.
July 29, 2011 (A) - I'm going to try to summarize the situation with the Stevens vs USA lawsuit as I understand it:
1. On July 15, 2011, the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed motions to have the Stevens lawsuit dismissed or ruled in their favor because:
A. Maureen Steven's lawyers cannot prove negligence by the government.
B. The lawsuit was filed using Florida law and Federal law overrides State law in this case.
2. McClatchy newspapers and others found an error in a single sentence in the filing and falsely promoted it as a change in the government's case and the government's position on Ivins' guilt. It was no such thing.
3. On July 19, the DOJ filed a "Motion of Errata" to correct that error and others.
4. That same day, July 19, McClatchy et al jumped on the "Motion of Errata" and proclaimed it to be a retraction of something that undercut the the DOJ's own case. They claimed it could help Maureen Stevens' lawsuit. In reality, it had absolutely nothing to do with the two legal issues in the July 15 filing (1A and 1B above).
5. Judge Hurley evidently saw that the errors had nothing to do with the issues, but he also noted that the corrections were not done in the proper legal way. So, on July 25 he "struck" as "unauthorized" the changes in the "Motion of Errata." However, he did so "without prejudice," which meant the DOJ could make the corrections again in the proper way if they felt they had "good cause."
6. McClatchy et al jumped on Judge Hurley's order as a way to futher distort the situation and again turn it into something about Ivins' guilt or innocence, instead of it being about a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
7. The DOJ evidently felt that, because the error in their filing was being distorted in the media, they had "good cause" to correct it. On July 27 the DOJ filed a "Motion for Leave" asking Judge Hurley's authorization to correct the errors in their July 15 filing before he gives his ruling on the issues in the filing.
8. On July 29, Judge Hurley authorized the corrections by "endorsing" the "Motion for Leave."
9. The DOJ will then file corrected versions of their July 15 motions to dismiss.
10. I assume that Maureen Stevens' lawyers will then file motions to try to prevent a dismissal or a ruling against them.
11. Then it will be up to Judge Hurley to decide if he will dismiss the case or rule that the DOJ won the case.
12. If Judge Hurley rules in the DOJ's favor, McClatchy will almost certainly go nuts and declare it to be a miscarriage of justice, and they'll cite their own false claims about that single erroneous sentence as showing deviousness on the part of the government and how "the little guy" cannot receive a break in this country. Or, as Stevens' lawyers put it, "how far the government will go to obstruct justice in the Stevens case, to try and win the day by misleading the court."
13. If Judge Hurley rules against the motions to dismiss, the case will forward with a trial scheduled to begin in December.
14. As I see it, the way the facts have been distorted by McClatchy et al, and the anger shown by Stevens' lawyers, seem to indicate that the chances of Judge Hurley allowing the case to continue are extremely slim.
July 28, 2011 - McClatchy is at it again! I can't be sure if it's out of malice, avarice, just plain ignorance, or an attempt to protect the "little guy" against the "big guy" even when the "little guy" doesn't have the law on his side, but McClatchy continues to distort the facts about the Stevens vs USA lawsuit, apparently in order to sell more newspapers.
Yesterday's Kansas City Star had an article titled "Judge says US must show 'good cause' to revise anthrax filing." The opening paragraph:
A federal judge has blocked, at least temporarily, a Justice Department attempt to back away from court admissions that appeared to undercut previous FBI assertions that an Army researcher was responsible for the 2001 anthrax attacks.
July 27, 2011 (B) - The government has filed for a "Motion For Leave" to re-do the corrections the judge "struck" as "unauthorized" couple days ago in the Stevens vs USA lawsuit. All it means is that, this time, the government is asking for authorization (or leave) to make the corrections. There's no disagreement from Maureen Stevens' lawyers, and the judge said it would be okay, so Judge Hurley will almost certainly authorize the changes to eliminate some misstatements that sent McClatchy and PBS into Looney Toon territory.
July 27, 2011 (A) - Yesterday's New York Times contains a short but very interesting article by William Broad about Anders Breivik's planned use of anthrax to take over Europe. I particularly enjoyed reading this paragraph:
“He was probably no more capable than an Islamic terrorist group looking at anthrax,” said Edward G. Lake, a retired computer analyst in Racine, Wis., who has written extensively on anthrax since the American attacks in late 2001, which killed five people and sickened at least 17 others.
NTI: Global Security Newswire modified what the New York Times wrote to say this:
"He was probably no more capable than an Islamic terrorist group looking at anthrax," anthrax expert Edward Lake said
I guess that now means I can refer to myself as an "anthrax expert." It was in the media, so it must be true!
Someone also mentioned this morning that I'm quoted in a self-published book by Laurie Garrett titled "I Heard The Sirens Scream." The book appears to be only available on Kindle. One Anthrax Truther has been raving about the book for about a week. A part of the blurb for the book gives an idea of the source of his ravings:
Part two, NEW WORLD ORDER, details the repercussions of these events, transformations of critical government institutions, public health disasters, and what, in particular, the specter of terrorism meant for the American people. Revelations abound in this book, including:
• The bizarre chemistry of The Plume that rose from the burning crushed World Trade Center for four months, endangering the health of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers.
• Evidence that al-Qaeda may have been behind the anthrax mailings.
Other Anthrax Truthers, however, are unimpressed by the book because it doesn't mention their particular theories.
I received a Kindle for Christmas, because I had mentioned that I had put my WWII novel on Kindle even though I didn't have a Kindle. I've yet to turn it on. Is it really worth $5.99 to see what Laurie Garrett said about me? Hmm. I dunno. She couldn't have said anything bad, because the Anthrax Truthers haven't posted her comments all over the Internet. I doubt that it would be praise, if she thinks al Qaeda sent the letters. A neutral mention? Ho hum.
July 26, 2011 - Yesterday, in the Stevens vs USA lawsuit, Judge Hurley "struck" as "unauthorized" the government's "Motion of Errata" where they corrected the document which erroneously stated that a lyophilizer was "required" to dry spores. The judge's reasoning:
While deposition transcripts are occasionally accompanied by “errata” sheets intended for
the correction of stenographic errors in interpretation, there is no authority under the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure or local rules of this court allowing for unsolicited submission of “errata”
sheets purporting to correct editorial errors in legal briefing. The court is thus not inclined to accept
the defendant’s invitation to red-line its earlier submitted papers in the manner suggested.
If there are substantive errors of material fact in the earlier filed papers that the government
wishes to withdraw or correct at this juncture, the appropriate mechanism for bringing this to the
attention of the court is by motion seeking permission to file an amended motion or supporting
statement, supported by good cause shown. While this order is without prejudice for the defendant
to file such a motion, counsel is advised that merely finding a different, better or more detailed way
to express a thought does not constitute “good cause” shown for the submission of amended
pleadings or motions before this court.
So, in their rush to correct the error after the media made such a big noise about it, the government committed another error and didn't follow the proper procedures to make such a correction. Furthermore, the judge saw the error as simply stating something in a less than perfect way, and probably not worth correcting in the first place. The judge's ruling is "without prejudice," meaning that the government can correct the error in a different way if they want to.
The fact that McClatchy and others in the media jumped on the error and turned it into headlines doesn't concern the court. It's just the media doing what it does best, making mountains out of mole hills.
July 25, 2011 (B) - Holy crap!!! Someone just suggested I do a search for the word "anthrax" in Anders Behring Breivik' manifesto. I had never even occurred to me that Breivik might mention the subject, but he definitely did. Starting on page 961, Breivik writes about how easily anthrax can be obtained (he was a farmer) and how to use it.
On page 962, Breivik wrote:
Concentrated anthrax spores were used for bio-terrorism in the 2001 anthrax attacks in the United States, delivered by mailing postal letters containing the spores. Only a few grams of material were used in these attacks and in August 2008 the US Department of Justice announced they believed that Dr. Bruce Ivins, a senior bio-defence researcher, was responsible.
Bruce Ivins was a right wing, Christian, cultural conservative who allegedly sent several anonymous letters to members of the US Congress and the media causing five fatalities and injuring dozens of others.
On page 966, Breivik wrote:
Effect and employment of WMD’s against cultural Marxist/ multiculturalist targets
A briefcase full of high grade anthrax has the potential to kill as many as 200 000 people if dispersed effectively. However, this is not our objective. Our aim is to execute surgically precise attacks with a medium to low amount of casualties (concentrations of category A and B cultural Marxists/ multiculturalists).
The number of civilian loses will be acceptable for certain targets. Certain target building complexes can contain as many as 30-50 category A traitors, 200-300 category B traitors and 2000-3000 category C traitors with an acceptable amount of civilians.And, it goes on and on about plans to obtain anthrax, etc. On page 970, there is a sample letter to send with anthrax if you are planning an attack in the name of Breivik's cause. On Page 972 there is this:
It should be noted that even if the letters (mailing campaigns) doesn’t contain real anthrax but instead a hoax powder, it will still have very beneficial results. Many cultural Marxist/multiculturalist elites will defect, quit politics, their media, university, artist position as a result. Some may even realise what they are doing/have done and may join our struggle.
On page 973 there is this:
“Decisive-blow” campaigns – high grade anthrax mailing campaigns
Provided we have established a laboratory in Europe and the necessary equipment, we would be able to launch a “decisive-blow-campaign”.
This operation will involve at least 21 individuals (depending if we already have the necessary amount of high grade anthrax) and will require a complete database of all category A and B traitor names, addresses etc. Personnel needed: 1 administrator, 20 for distribution.
Would require 818(409) kilograms of anthrax (2(1) grams of anthrax per targeted individual):
France – 65 650 category A and B traitors
Germany – 82 820
United Kingdom – 62 216
Netherlands – 16 665
Belgium – 10 807
Sweden – 9393
Norway – 4848
Luxembourg – 498
Switzerland – 7777
Spain – 47 167
Italy – 60 600
Portugal – 10 807
Denmark – 5555
Ireland – 6060
Greece – 11 312
Finland – 5353
Iceland – 322
Cyprus – 800
Malta – 417
Denmark, Greece, Finland, Iceland and perhaps Italy should be excluded from the list.
There are a total of 409 067 category A and B traitors in Western Europe according to the current classification system (1010 per million).So, it looks like Breivik wasn't just looking to save Norway from outsiders, he was looking to save all of Europe, and he was planning to use a massive anthrax attack to do it. And he had everyone classified into groups.
Be creative; create a letterhead which is likely to be forwarded directly to the target individual.
I'm not sure what to think about all this. In a way, it means nothing to the Amerithrax case. On the other hand, it says the Amerithrax case taught at least one Hitler-wannabe that using anthrax to create havoc is a great idea.
July 25, 2011 (A) - We seem to have a new front runner in the race to see which newspaper or media outlet can make the most presposterous statement about the Amerithrax investigation. In an opinion piece in today's Frederick News-Post titled "Another Ivins twist," some unnamed person opened with this:
Even the feds can't seem to agree on whether or not Bruce Ivins was responsible for the creation and deadly distribution of anthrax in 2001.
Then, he or she wrote (in part):
The equipment necessary to adequately dry the anthrax spores wasn't in the contained lab in 2001. "If someone had used that to dry down that preparation, I would have expected that area to be very, very contaminated, and I would have expected some of them to become ill," said Patricia Worsham, USAMRIID bacteriology division chief.
In short, a number of experts concede it is highly unlikely that Ivins would have gone unnoticed in his Detrick lab manufacturing the amount of anthrax at the toxicity level contained in the deadly, disease-laden letters.
Of course, in the tortuous logic of the legal system, a Justice Department spokesman argued that this doesn't mean Ivins didn't do it, only that he didn't have the ability to do it at USAMRIID, "and thus the United States should not be held liable for his actions."No one in the Justice Department ever said any such thing. The DOJ merely said that that the fact that it would have been difficult for Ivins to use the lyophilizer just meant he didn't necessarily use the lyophilizer, he could have dried the spores some other way. Ivins still did dried the spores at USAMRIID.
Interestingly, of the five comments made in response to that "opinion" piece, three point out that the News-Post is totally wrong. One says, "Ivins is guilty. Get over it." And the fifth believes the ridiculous statement from the News-Post.
July 24, 2011 - I get a haircut about once every four months, whether I need one or not. While getting my hair cut last week (I really needed one), the barber asked me some friendly questions about my day, which led to me explaining that I spend a lot of time on the Internet learning science by arguing science. Although I didn't mention it to the barber, I'm also learning law by arguing law. And, I'm learning psychology by arguing psychology.
Generally speaking, arguments about science lead me into doing research to make certain that I understand the science and that my scientific arguments are valid. The people on the other side of the argument don't generally argue the science, they do research to find "experts" who seem to agree with them. For example in the argument over whether or not the attack spores were weaponized with silicon, I researched every detail, and I created a web page about how different forces affect spores. And, I asked everyone to point out errors if they could find any.
The people on the other side of the argument found scientists at USAMRIID who think Ivins was innocent because they believe the spores were weaponized and Ivins didn't have the equipment or capability to weaponize spores. The facts say the spores were not weaponized, but the other side found "experts" who believe the spores were weaponized.
The argument will probably never get resolved because we're not using the same rules for resolution. But, I truly enjoy the process because it's extremely interesting and educational. Learning and research are two of my most enjoyable pasttimes.
Arguments about the law are interesting, too. Yesterday, I got into an argument about Ivins' alibi. An anonymous acquaintance of Bruce Ivins' argued:
But the "time" of the October mailing was never nailed down by the investigators! It could have been October 9th, October 8th, October 7th, even October 6th.
How then can you expect ANYONE to "prove" (and this is the investigation's burden, not the suspect/defendant's)what he was doing on the night of X, if you don't tell him when the night of X was?!?!?!?
That's a very interesting argument for a non-lawyer who is interested in learning more about the law. "Anonymous" is arguing that the government has to show exactly when Ivins drove to Princeton so that Ivins' could show what he was doing during that exact time. It's a totally invalid argument, of course, but what is the best way to explain why it is invalid? That's where the learning comes in.
I spent at least an hour writing my response. First I worked on one argument, then I revised it a bit, then a bit more, then I changed to a different argument. I finally wrote a response that I knew wasn't the best response I could come up with, but I'd run out of time. Arguing about the Amerithrax case is a hobby, not an obsession. I do it for fun. And, I shut down operations at 5 p.m., almost regardless of how interesting things are at that moment. They'll still be interesting when I return at 8 a.m. the next day. And, I often do my best thinking when I'm away from the computer.
The argument that it's the government's job to determine exactly when Ivins drove to Princeton is a false argument. It's an argument from someone who doesn't understand evidence or the legal process. The argument would never even come up in court. The government just has to show the time frame when the letters were mailed (October 6, 7, 8 or 9) and that Ivins couldn't account for his whereabouts during that period of time. So, he had the ability to drive to Princeton to mail the letters.
The rest of the evidence in the case says that Ivins was the anthrax mailer. Ivins claimed he wasn't the anthrax mailer, and that he never drove to New Jersey to mail the letters. The evidence is presented to a jury along with Ivins' claims. The jury determines whether they believe Ivins' story or not. It's not a matter of proof. It's a matter of weighing evidence. Ivins said he didn't mail the letters. The evidence says he did. Therefore, if the jury believes the evidence, Ivins must have driven to Princeton to mail the letters. If he cannot prove that he was somewhere else, then the jury will consider his claims to be lies, and they'll find him guilty.
I'm probably still not explaining things as clearly as they can be explained. Some lawyer or judge out there could probably quote something that fully clarifies the situation clearly in ten words or so. Maybe, if I do enough research I'll find those words, and the next time the argument about alibis comes up, I'll be able to use them.
While arguing about Ivins lack of an alibi, I'm arguing with a person who knew Ivins and who simply cannot believe that someone she knew was a mass murderer. So, in a way, I'm also learning psychology by arguing psychology. I have to search for the right words to convince the other person that it is common for people to not accept the facts if the facts show they failed to realize something they think they would definitely have realized. Unfortunately, unlike a session with a psychologist, I don't have them alone inside a room for 50 minutes of probative questioning and answering. It's more like one question every couple days in a crowded forum. So, the chances are very slim of convincing anyone that they were wrong in their trust of Bruce Ivins.
I've been a science buff all my life. I've been a psychology buff for much of my life. I'm not much of a law buff, but I'm getting into it because a court room would have been where the science and psychology would have been argued in the Amerithrax case. It's even more fascinating to me today than it was ten years ago, because I now know more science, I now know more psychology and I now know more law. Thus, I can usually find better arguments that the other side cannot dispute - except to say that they simply do not believe the facts, and therefore the government must be wrong about the facts.
When I get someone to argue that they do not believe the facts, then I feel that I've won the argument - even though the other side totally disagrees. When they argue that they have found an "expert" who also doesn't believe the facts, I just chuckle to myself and shake my head over the complex psychology involved. When they argue that they believe the facts, they just have different facts and can prove their facts, I would sit up and pay attention. But they never do that.
This morning, I came across a rough psychoanalysis of the Oslo mass-murderer, Anders Breivik. I found this paragraph particularly interesting:
[In Breivik's 1,500 page manifesto, he] dismisses concepts such as political correctness, feminism and major religions and philosophies including Islam and Marxism and defends his views by quoting people he views as authoritative.
So, even Anders Breivik can quote "experts" who he feels support his beliefs.
& Changes: Sunday, July 17, 2011, thru Saturday, July 23, 2011
July 23, 2011 - I feel like I should write something about the Norway tragedies. When the news first broke about the Oslo bomb explosion, everyone's first assumption was that it was the work of Muslim terrorists like al Qaeda. But, then it was learned that there were killings at a "youth camp" on an island not far from Oslo, about a thirty minute trip away. And, almost as soon as the news broke about the killings on the island, the reports also said they had captured the killer, a six-foot-tall, 32-year-old, blonde, blue eyed Norwegian named Anders Behring Breivik.
And now we know he's a Right Wing, anti-Muslim Christian fundamentalist, and he appears to have been responsible for both incidents. It may turn out that there were others involved, but it wouldn't surprise me if it turned out to be the work of just one hate-filled person.
My initial interest was grabbed by the fact that no one seemed to know what kind of bomb had exploded in Oslo, or even where the bomb went off. Most news articles were saying the bomb went off in a building. But, I kept seeing a black car laying on its side in pictures and videos, and from some angles it looked like the car had been blown open. That kind of damage couldn't have come from an explosion in a nearby building. The damage to the buildings was wide-spread, going on for blocks. If the explosion had occurred inside a building, there wouldn't have been any doubt about the source of the exposion. It would have occurred in the building where the only thing left on the floor where the explosion took place would be the iron and steel frame of the building. There was no such damage to any building.
To me, the black car seemed to be the source of the explosion. It seemed to come from a bomb in the back of the car that produced almost no shrapnel, just a huge pressure wave that bounced off the heavy concrete of the nearby buildings and later caused confusion about the actual source. (My total knowledge of the subject of "pressure wave damage" comes from a movie "Blown Away.") It may have been a fertilizer bomb hidden under a blanket. Breivik worked on a farm, and he could have had easy access to large amounts of ammonium nitrate fertilizer. And, the bomb seems to have been detonated by a timer set to go off at 3:30 p.m., giving Breivik the time he needed to get to the island where he would start the more horrible part of his complex plan - the killing of over 80 people (presumably mostly teenagers) at a youth camp connected to Norway's ruling political party.
The anti-government aspect is somewhat reminiscent of Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing. Breivik used a much smaller bomb, but the bomb went off at the bottom of a canyon of buildings, causing the pressure wave to bounce around in the canyon for blocks. And, in this case the culprit didn't try to escape after setting the timer, he sped to another location to kill more innocent victims and then to give himself up when finally confronted by the police. And, he's now explaining to the police his reasons for his actions.
He has apparently already explained his hatreds in postings on the Internet, and he was the member of some radical Right Wing organizations. I'm not sure how much explaining is required in a situation where we've heard it all before. I don't really want to listen to why he deliberately and cold-bloodedly killed over 80 people associated with the political party that he hated so much. I've already seen too many people trying to explain their mindless hatreds.
July 22, 2011 - Oh, great! Just what we need! A new mystery! Yesterday, five sealed docket entries were added to the Stevens vs USA lawsuit docket. The docket just says:
Is it something done as a result of the brouhaha generated by McClatchy newspapers and PBS over a single sentence? Maybe. But, why would it require five entries? Is it the sealed information about Ivins' mental condition from his health care providers? I doubt it, but it could be. There were six sealed depositions attached to docket entry #155, but they weren't "System Entries." Each entry from yesterday is described as a "SYSTEM ENTRY." That could mean it only affects the docket recording system. There have been no such previous entries in the Stevens vs USA docket. And, looking through the other dockets I've tracked over the years, Stevens vs Battelle, Hatfill vs Aschcroft, Hatfill vs Foster and Hatfill vs New York Times, none of them ever had a "System Entry."
Conspiracy theorists and True Believers feed on mysteries. The only guess I have is that it could be something the judge demanded in order to prevent the lawyers in the case from making any more inflamatory statements like this one:
"It just shows how far the government will go to obstruct justice in the Stevens case, to try and win the day by misleading the court with facts that ... only days later, they now claim to be inaccurate."
The fact that that statement is missing from some versions of the McClatchy article could indicate that Stevens' lawyers regretted making such a statement, and/or the judge repremanded them for making it. But how could they get the media to change it? Wouldn't the media just create a "news" story about how they were asked to change it?
The furor the media created over a simple mistatement was stupid, ridiculous and incredible. Stevens' lawyers, like scientists in the Iowa State fiasco, could have just been swept up in the media's mindless feeding frenzy.
July 21, 2011 - Groan. It's beginning to look like I'm not going to get anything done on my book this week at all. This morning I see another McClatchy "news" article on the same subject as yesterday. This one is in The Miami Herald and is titled "Justice Department waffling in anthrax case could be costly, experts say." The "experts" are (1) Ivins' lawyer, Paul Kemp, and (2) an ACLU lawyer in Miami, John De Leon. Richard Schuler, the lead lawyer for the Stevens family isn't included, but he has claims of his own. According to the Miami Herald:
Now, he [Schuler] said, the [DOJ's] civil lawyers are trying "to walk a tightrope of facts in this case in order to attempt to prevent the Stevens family from getting justice. It just shows how far the government will go to obstruct justice in the Stevens case, to try and win the day by misleading the court with facts that ... only days later, they now claim to be inaccurate."
Interestingly, ProPublica.org's version of the story (they're one of the "authors" of both version's of the article) doesn't include the inflamatory sentence highlighted in red above. Obstructing justice? Really? Misleading the court? Really?
McClatchy reporters evidently found an "expert" who would tell them what they wanted to hear.
John De Leon, a Miami lawyer who's the president of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the legal flip-flop "undermines the government's credibility" in the civil suit,
I'd be very interested in hearing the opinion of some neutral lawyers who have studied all the documents in the case as to the significance of the government's mistatement.
The filing on Friday was NOT the start of the case. The lawsuit was filed in 2003. And Ivins was declared to have been the culprit in 2008. What was the government saying in 2008? Unfortunately, I wasn't tracking the case back then. I suppose I could spend the money and download the Docket and some documents from that time, but what would they tell me? It's clear that the government has been arguing all along that it was not negligent.
In fact, after the revelation that Ivins was the killer, the government was putting up such a strong defense that they couldn't have predicted what was in the mind of a mentally ill person like Ivins, that Maureen Stevens' lawyers had to change the premise of their lawsuit. Instead of arguing that the government was negligent in allowing Ivins to do what he did, Stevens' lawyers change their premise to arguing that the government failed to find the actual killer, and therefore the government was negligent in that they didn't even know who stole or misused anthrax from their labs.
The only thing that happened on Friday was that the government filed a motion to ask for a Summary Judgment in the case, i.e., a motion to have the case dismissed because, after Maureen Stevens' lawyers changed their premise to claim that Ivins was not the anthrax mailer, Stevens' lawyers no longer had any valid legal arguments.
But, instead of focusing on the real story - whether or not Maureen Stevens still has a legal case - the media focused on a one sentence misstatement in one of the many documents in the filing.
Here's the original statement from Friday's court filings:
28. USAMRIID did not have the specialized equipment in a containment laboratory that
would be required to prepare the dried spore preparations that were used in the letters.
Here's the correction from the Notice of Errata filed on Tuesday:
1. Defendant’s Statement of Facts [DE# 154-1], paragraph 28, should contain the words “a lyophilizer” instead of “specialized equipment,” along with clarifying phrases “[a]lthough USAMRIID had equipment that could be used to dry liquid anthrax in the same building where anthrax research was conducted” and “in the specific containment laboratory where RMR-1029 was housed.” For clarity, paragraph 28 should also omit the phrase “would be required.”
As corrected, the pertinent statement provides as follows:
Although USAMRIID had equipment that could be used to dry liquid anthrax in the same building where anthrax research was conducted, USAMRIID did not have a lyophilizer in the specific containment laboratory where RMR-1029 was housed to prepare the dried spore preparations that were used in the letters.1
And footnote 1 says:
1 Defendant United States does not seek to imply that a lyophilizer provides the only means to dry liquid anthrax.
The government's defense in the Stevens' lawsuit says that what Ivins did was unpredictable. And, the government can't be held responsible for something that can't be predicted.
The original misstatement was that Ivins didn't have the required equipment in his lab to dry the spores. The correction says that he didn't have a lyophilizer in his lab to dry spores, but there were other ways he could have dried the spores. Both versions claim Ivins did something that was unpredictable.
The claims in the media that the government tried to argue that Ivins wasn't the culprit are total nonsense, since the motion for a Summary Judgment was based upon the government's claim that they couldn't have predicted what Ivins would do because he was mentally ill and did things that were totally unpredictable. Here's the legal claim that concludes the motion for a Summary Judgment:
Because Plaintiffs [Stevens] could never present facts to show that decedent’s inhalation anthrax
and the intervening acts that gave rise to it was “a foreseeable and probable consequence of the
wrongful actions of the defendant,” the government is entitled to summary judgment on
It's Stevens' lawyers who are now arguing that Ivins wasn't the killer. The government argued that he was the killer, and his actions were unpredictable. Friday's misstatment was just a misstatement. It wasn't an attempt to "obstruct justice."
This whole mess appears to be a manufactured mess by the media and by people who support the Stevens' lawsuit in an attempt to obscure the real legal issues in the case. If they can do that, then maybe the case won't be dismissed.
July 20, 2011 (D) - Hmm. Wired Magazine has jumped on the band wagon with an article titled "Justice Department Trips in Anthrax Case. Again." It's more of the same.
July 20, 2011 (C) - There's a hint about what the PBS program "Front Line" is going to be saying when they air their new "film" about the anthrax attacks in about 3 months, around the 10th anniversary of the anthrax attacks. In a video interview on PBS NewsHour, producer Michael Kirk stated the government claimed in the Stevens' civil lawsuit that Ivins did not make the attack anthrax in his lab at USAMRIID. I very seriously doubt that was ever claimed. Since I've seen no support for it, the statement appears to be total nonsense. If it had been claimed by the government, it would be repeated in all of the McClatchy "news" reports, the conspiracy theorists and True Believers would have been trumpeting it everywhere, and there would have been a lot more than just a corrected misstatement about the lyophilizer in yesterday's "Notice of Errata." The PBS interview contains several misstatements by Kirk and by the interviewer Hari Sreenivasan. However, it looks like nothing more than taking a very simple misstatement in a court document filed on Friday and blowing it totally out of proportion. It seems to be the result of simple carelessness in their reporting by people who haven't been following the case very closely. I could be wrong, but I don't see any deliberate distortions. Nevertheless, my opinion of "Front Line" has been dramatically lowered.
July 20 & 22, 2011 (B) - I think it's pretty clear how Ivins dried the spores, but I can say that because I am not preparing a legal case to take into court. The DOJ lawyers, on the other hand, cannot state how Ivins "most likely" dried the attack anthrax, because the defense would label it as "speculation," and they'd try to create "reasonable doubt" by showing how the DOJ's "speculation" cannot be conclusively proved. On this site (and in my book), however, I see no problem with showing what the evidence says about how Ivins most likely dried the attack powders:
1. Ivins probably did not use the lyophilizer because it was too big to move into his own BSL-3 lab, and would have contaminated the entire building if use where it was located - outside Bacteriology Suite 5.
2. Ivins probably did not use the speed-vac, since it is capable of drying only very tiny amounts at a time, and it would have taken too many runs to produce the material in the anthrax letters.
3. Ivins probably did not use chemicals to dry the spores, because the chemicals reportedly leave behind traces, and no such chemical traces were found in the attack powders.
4. Ivins definitely did not use a spray dryer to dry the spores, because USAMRIID had no spray dryer, and because the media spores were definitely not dried with a spray dryer.
5. Ivins probably did not use desiccants to dry the spores, although it's known that he knew how to do it. If he mixed the spores with a desiccant, there would likely have been some trace left behind.
6. Ivins probably air dried the spores, very likely with added heat to make them dry faster. The attack spores were a light tan color, as opposed to almost pure white as spores would appear when dried with other methods. One explanation for the light tan color would be the use of heat when drying.
There might be other methods that I haven't considered because I'm unaware of them, but air drying seems the simplest way and the way that best fits the known facts. It could be highly dangerous, but Ivins routinely did things that other scientists at USAMRIID considered to be highly dangerous, like leaving bags of hazardous waste laying around in his lab for weeks and weeks. Other scientists find that unbelievably dangerous, but there are witnesses who say it was routine for Ivins. Ivins' lab was notorious for being cluttered and unclean, something else others would consider to be extremely dangerous. Ivins would juggle knives for the amusement of others. He burglarized sorority houses. Clearly, he didn't view risks the same way others view risks, probably because he felt he had the specialized expertise they didn't have.
Ivins also knew he could work alone in his lab at night and on weekends, and no one would ask what he was doing, because he was accepted as being "eccentric." He was "Bruce being Bruce." Air drying the amount of spores in a letter could have taken as little as a couple hours - a tiny fraction of his unexplained lab time, particularly if a desiccant was used to help dry the air. There's nothing secret or mysterious about air drying spores. Anyone who has observed a blob of mud turn into a crusty spot of dust knows how it works. And depending upon the plates or other surface used, the amount of moisture left in the spores, desiccant or no desiccant, the temperature of the air, whether the air is flowing or still, there is a large variety of ways it can be done. Ivins had plenty of time to find the right method. There are facts suggesting he may have been practicing for over a year before the mailings.
Discussing specific techniques for making dry spores is something else that government lawyers would be reluctant to do. Someone is just liable to take the method they describe and use it to create spores for a new attack. At one time, I thought that the entire subject would be forbidden for anyone to discuss out of fear of giving some terrorist information he did not have. But now all the information is provided in detail all over the Internet.
NOTE: I added information about drying with desiccants to the above comment on July 22, 2011.
July 20, 2011 (A) - This morning, The New York Times has an article about the Steven vs USA lawsuit and revisions made by the government to some of their court filings. The government changed the wording in the filings to make the facts less likely to be incorrectly interpreted. According to Scott Shane of The Times:
Lawyers for the department’s civil division wrote in the July 15 filing that the Army’s biodefense center at Fort Detrick, Md., “did not have the specialized equipment in a containment laboratory that would be required to prepare the dried spore preparations that were used in the letters.”
What the filing should have said, the department wrote, was that while the Army lab did not have a lyophilizer, a freeze-drying machine, in the space where Dr. Ivins usually worked, there was a lyophilizer and other equipment in the building that he could have used to dry the anthrax into powder.
The department said the inaccurate initial filing resulted from a failure of communication between civil division lawyers handling the lawsuit and the criminal division prosecutors and F.B.I. agents who spent years investigating the case.
So, it can be viewed that the government misstated their position regarding the lyophilizer, or that they just didn't use the best wording. Either way, it changes nothing about the evidence against Bruce Ivins. And the wording in the filing has been corrected. The Notice of Errata correcting the errors is HERE.
The Associated Press's article on the subject has the most accurate headline to date: "Justice Dept corrects court filing in anthrax suit." Yawn.
MSNBC, meanwhile, has an article titled "Government lawyers backtrack on anthrax case," undoubtedly intended to make the story seem like it's about the goverment changing its mind about the Amerithrax case and not just about the wording on some court records in the Stevens case. You have to read the article to see what it really says:
"We are confident that we would have proven his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at a criminal trial, and maintain in the civil suit that the evidence of his guilt meets the lesser civil standard that it is "more likely than not" that Dr. Ivins mailed the anthrax attack letters," Boyd said.
Nonetheless, the court documents were seized by skeptics who have consistently doubted the FBI's conclusions about Ivins.Yes, indeed. McClatchy newspaper The Macon Telegraph calls the incorrect wording in the court documents a "major gaffe." And, of course, the correction was a "retraction" and the simple correcting of bad wording:
Tuesday's retraction came a day after a collaborative report by McClatchy Newspapers, the Public Broadcasting System's "Frontline" news magazine and ProPublica, an investigative newsroom, disclosing what appeared to be an explosive Justice Department revelation.People with other theories about the case see it as "More evidence Bruce Ivins was a scapegoat."
July 19, 2011 (E) - The Fredrick News-Post has an article today about McClatchy "discovering" the motions filed by the government on Friday. The article contains a good explanation how the change in tactics by Maureen Stevens' lawyers changed the tactics of the government's lawyers and led to them filing for a Summary Judgment or dismissal:
Dismissing the notion that Ivins was the killer also negates the lawsuit, the Justice Department argues, because not being able to prove who the killer was and what his or her methods were means the plaintiffs [Stevens] cannot prove where the government showed negligence.
The other motion to dismiss the case revolved around the argument that, regardless of whether Ivins was the real killer, the plaintiffs cannot prove that USAMRIID policy or procedure, or the breach thereof, led to anthrax attacks.There are others who are also picking up on the "discovery" by McClatchy, which isn't really much a discovery, unless you've been spending a lot of time looking for something to twist and distort to make a point. The NTI:Global Security web site has an article. So do "The Daily Beast," MainJustice.com, UPI, and The Wall Street Journal. They all seem to be in a competition to create the most sensational headline for the most trivial of news stories. It's really a story about how these "news organizations" just feed off of one another, even when all they have is twisted, distorted nonsense.
July 19, 2011 (D) - I just updated my version of the Docket report in the Stevens v USA lawsuit. What I found was that a blizzard of docments were filed on Friday July 15, including a motion by the government for a Summary Judgment based upon the government's claim that Maureen Stevens has no valid legal argument. The many other documents filed by the government on Friday relate to a claim by the government that Florida no longer has any legal jurisdiction in the case.
It's strange that the McClatchy reports do not mention anything about these motions to dismiss. I looked around for the exact quote that set them off into their claims about the case against Ivins being hurt because he couldn't have used the lyophilzer to make the attack anthrax, but there are just too many documents to go through. However, on page 11 and 12 of the motion for a Summary Judgment, I found this information on the same subject:
Alteration of the form of the anthrax required technical equipment that was
not routinely used for that purpose, and the equipment used to prepare the
dried spore preparations that were used in the letters has never been
identified. .... Even if the source material had been acquired via government
negligence, the transformation into a dry powder suitable for letter attacks
is the sort of intervening act which dispels proximate cause.
No one, prior to 2001, could reasonably expect that the interception or loss
of a liquid solution containing anthrax spores could lead to someone using
highly specialized equipment and techniques to profoundly modify the spores
in preparation for their use in the nation’s first deadly attack with a
pathogen. ... The record is devoid of facts suggesting that a person could
have reasonably foreseen that government negligence or, for that matter,
anyone’s negligence, could ever lead to an assailant taking wet anthrax
spores, manipulating them, and using dried and pulverized spores as a
weapon to be sent to specified targets through the mail.
“It is incumbent upon the courts to place limits on foreseeability, lest all
remote possibilities be interpreted as foreseeable in the legal sense.”
There's also a new ORDER from Judge Hurley added yesterday that terminates as "moot" the Stevens' motion to compell testimony from Dr. Saathoff, who headed the Expert Behavioral Analysis Panel, which showed that Ivins was mentally ill for most of his life, but the Army officials at USAMRIID were totally unaware of it because the psychiatrists' documents were not available to his employers due to doctor/patient confidentiality reasons. Stevens' lawyers withdrew their request. That wasn't mentioned in the McClatchy "news" report, either.
July 19, 2011 (C) - Although I may be repeating some of what I wrote in earlier comments today, I'm going to try to summarize the latest McClatchy "news story" in as few words as possible:
A few months ago, Maureen Stevens' lawyers found that they could not win their negligence case against the government if Ivins was accepted as being the anthrax mailer. Ivins' employer (the government) didn't know Ivins was mentally ill, and Ivins did things that were totally unforeseeable by his employer. That is a solid defense for the government.
So, because Maureen Stevens' lawyers saw they could not win with their initial claims, they changed the premise of their lawsuit to claim that Bruce Ivins was NOT the anthrax mailer, and that some other unidentified person working for the government sent the anthrax letters, someone who could be presumed to mentally sound, who could be presumed to have used standard government materials and methods in ways that were totally foreseeable to create the attack anthrax. It's a difficult legal argument, but it's the only somewhat winnable argument Stevens' lawyers had left.
McClatchy is using the Stevens' argument to suggest that Ivins was actually innocent and that the anthrax mailer is still out there somewhere. It's a good story for selling newspapers. They just have to ignore all the other evidence which clearly says Ivins was the anthrax mailer.
The latest McClatchy "finding" is that USAMRIID's Bacteriology Division's lyophilizer could not have been used to dry the attack spores, and therefore Ivins couldn't be the anthrax killer.
The FBI and DOJ never said that the lyophilizer must have been used. They only said it was one of the methods that could have been used to dry the spores, and Ivins lied about his ability to use the lyophilizer - in an attempt to keep all suspicion away from himself.
What I don't understand about all this is: How could PBS's Frontline be part of it? Are they still arguing the antiquated conspiracy theory that the attack anthrax must have come from a secret and illegal U.S. government bioweapons lab?
July 19, 2011 (B) - Hmm. Salon.com's columnist, Glenn Greenwald, has just jumped on the McClatchy band wagon with a column titled "DOJ casts serious doubt on its own claims about the attack anthrax." Greenwald adds nothing, but he thinks the McClatchy finding is "amazing." Some journalists are evidently very easily amazed.
July 19, 2011 (A) - Uh oh! Looks like I'm not going to get much work done on my book today. My email inbox this morning is full of messages about the Amerithax investigation. Yesterday's Boston Herald contained what seems to be the most complete version of an article titled "Justice Department lawyers contradict FBI findings in anthrax case." They seem to have picked up the article from the McClatchy newspaper chain and PBS's Frontline. McClatchy seems to be on a mission to find something wrong with the FBI's case against Bruce Ivins. The article says:
Justice Department lawyers have acknowledged in court papers that the sealed area in Ivins’ lab — the so-called hot suite — didn’t contain the equipment needed to turn liquid anthrax into the refined powder that floated through congressional buildings and post offices in the fall of 2001.
So, it's all about the lyophilizer, which I just happened to discuss in detail in my (B) comment on Sunday. Only now it's about the wording of a Justice Department document, specifically this phrase about Ivins' BSL-3 lab:
"did not have the specialized equipment ... that would be required to prepare the dried spore preparations that were used in the letters."
The point I made on Sunday still holds true: "The ... defenders of Ivins merely bring up the lyophilizer because it's an argument that supports their beliefs, and it's a subject they feel they can argue about to justify their beliefs. The FBI doesn't say that Ivins [or anyone else must have] used a lyophilizer to dry the attack spores."
It's similar to the McClatchy argument about how the FBI didn't track down the the Bacillus subtilis contamination in the media anthrax letters. It proves nothing, but unexplained findings make for profitable newspaper headlines.
To be fair, the McClatchy article also contains the response from the government:
Dean Boyd, a Justice Department spokesman, said Monday that the court filing didn’t contradict the government’s conclusion that Ivins sent the letters. Rather, he said, the lawyers merely argued that "Ivins’ actions were not foreseeable to his supervisors at USAMRIID," because he didn’t have the equipment to dry the spores in his containment laboratory, "and thus the United States should not be held liable for his actions."
"To clarify, this statement was intended to relate to the specific containment laboratory" where Ivins kept a flask of liquid anthrax with genetic markers similar to those found in the letters, Boyd said.So, it is something taken out of context. It's what passes for "investigative journalism" these days. In the Steven vs USA lawsuit, the government argued that Ivins' actions weren't foreseeable because he didn't have standard equipment for drying spores in his BSL-3 lab. Therefore, the government isn't liable. They can't be held responsible for a non-standard and unforeseeable act committed by an employee.
A few months ago, Maureen Stevens' lawyers, seeing that they had no case if a mentally ill person like Ivins was the anthrax mailer, changed their lawsuit to claim that Dr. Bruce Ivins was not the anthrax mailer, therefore it was not a mentally ill person working at USAMRIID (or Battelle) who sent the anthrax letters. Their new argument is that it was some still unknown person, and, thus, the government should have foreseen the possibility of such a crime. And Stevens' lawyers are using the fact that the lyophilizer couldn't have been used by Ivins to make the attack anthrax as evidence to try to persuade a jury that Ivins didn't commit the anthrax mailings. Someone else must have done it.
McClatchy and Frontline are using Stevens' arguments about the lyophilizer to suggest that it means that Ivins couldn't have dried the spores, and therefore Ivins was innocent. In reality, it means no such thing. As I stated on Sunday, the FBI and the DOJ have been arguing all along that Ivins had other ways of drying spores. And the evidence says he very likely used one of those other ways. It doesn't change the case proving that Bruce Ivins was the anthrax mailer.
McClatchy and Frontline are arguing Maureen Stevens' side of the Stevens vs USA lawsuit that Ivins wasn't the anthrax mailer and downplaying the government's side of the case. It would certainly help sell more newspapers if or when the lawsuit gets to court. It suggests that the anthrax killer is still out there somewhere. Scaring people sells newspapers.
July 18, 2011 (B) - Hmm. I just re-read what was probably the first interview that Ivins did with the FBI during the Amerithrax investigation. The interview took place on November 19, 2001, and it's on page 2 of FBI pdf file # 847443. In the interview, Ivins is asked about someone else who works at USAMRIID, and Ivins seems to suggest that person had the knowhow to send the letters. Using the same techniques I mentioned in my June 22, 2011 (A) comment, I can see that the person is male, and he has a last name that consists of 8 letters:
Ivins said XXXXXXXX had access to B. anthracis, the
knowledge about how to disseminate it, and had unrestricted access
to B. anthracis. Ivins said the labs works with the bacteria,
bacillus anthracis, suspended in liquid because the powder form
is too dangerous.
Jahrling and Geisbert come immediately to mind, since they were responsible for all the false information about silicon and bentonite additives at that time, but they didn't work with anthrax, and the details Ivins provides to the FBI are about someone who did work with anthrax. People were beginning to point at Hatfill around that time, but his last name doesn't have 8 letters, and he didn't work with anthrax, either. Hmm.
July 18, 2011 (A) - This morning, while continuing my research into the happenings at USAMRIID during November of 2001 (for Chapter 18 of the new book I'm writing), I came across an interesting email (in batch #38, page 19) dated Wednesday, November 28, 2001, from Bruce Ivins that I probably should have included in my Sunday comment. But, it should work equally well as a separate comment today. Here's the email (complete with typos):
From: Ivins, Bruce E Dr USAMRIID
Subject: Ames strain
Date: Wednesday, November 28, 2001 9:24:57 AM
In view of recent comments by [Redacted] and [Redacted] to the press about the supposed ease
of getting anthrax strains (especially the Ames strain) from [Redacted] 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
[Redacted] who, in turn sent it to [Redacted]. 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)
The assertion that we basically just provided that strain and other strains willy-nilly to whoever
asked for them is incorrect.
Perhaps it should also be pointed out that the biosecurity here at USAMRIID (keycard access to specific
biocontainment suiets by specific individuals) has historically been very stringent. In contrast, the
biosecurity at the labs of [Redacted] and [Redacted] have only recenly been tightened.
It's an interesting and seemingly very angry email from Ivins. He not only continued to insist that the Ames strain came from the USDA's NVSL division in Ames, but that Iowa State University (ISU) "conveniently" destroyed their strains, presumably in a conspiracy to avoid having their strains checked for a match to the attack strain. And Ivins suggests that both the NSVL and ISU refuse to provide a list of who received the Ames strain from them. The fact that they never had the Ames strain, therefore could not possibly have such a list, didn't fit into Ivins' "Believing Brain." His crime depended upon the Ames strain being commonly used and untraceable, and he truly believed that the Ames strain came from the USDA. If the USDA wouldn't provide the list that Ivins so thoroughly believed they must have, then they must be withholding the list to protect themselves. The concept of being wrong about such a key part to his plan just wasn't comprehensible, so there must be a conspiracy to hide the truth. He was beginning to imagine that the NSVL and ISU were conspiring in some way to lead the investigation away from themselves. And Ivins wasn't going to let that happen, since, if the investigation couldn't be pointed toward the NSVL and ISU, it would have to point back at USAMRIID.
The fact that Ivins stated that USAMRIID kept very exact records undoubtedly came back to haunt him later.
July 17, 2011 (B) - These days, you can often go on-line and scan through a book for a subject of interest before actually buying the book. Using that technology, I scanned Michael Shermer's book "The Believing Brain" for the word "anthrax," and found no mention of the subject. So, the book doesn't fit my immediate interest, it only fits with my general interest in psychology - specifically the psychology of conspiracy theorists and True Believers. On those subjects, the book's introduction includes a few worthwhile passages. Here's one:
Once beliefs are formed, the brain begins to look for and find confirmatory evidence in support of those beliefs, which adds an emotional boost of further confidence in the beliefs and thereby accelerates the process of reinforcing them, and round and round the process goes in a positive feedback loop of belief confirmation.
Belief reversals happen more often in science, but not at all as frequently as we might expect from the idealized visage of the exalted "scientific method" where only the facts count. The reason for this is that scientists are people, too, no less subject to the whims of emotion and the pull of cognitive biases to shape and reinforce beliefs.
Thus, when we hear about the beliefs of others that differ from our own, we are naturally inclined to dismiss or dismantle their beliefs as nonsense, evil or both.
One example of scientists showing bias is the way USAMRIID friends of Bruce Ivins argue that Ivins couldn't have been the anthrax killer because he couldn't have dried the spores using the lyophilizer. That example showed up again in the June 7 deposition of Stephen Little, a USAMRIID scientist who was deposed in the Stevens v USA case:
The piece of equipment that the FBI identified initially as a lyophilizer sits outside my laboratory in B5 [Bacteriology Suite #5]. There's no way that he could by himself pushed that thing down to BSL3, put it in an airlock, take it out of the airlock, push it down to a laboratory. The thing is as big as a refrigerator. He would have had to pick it up, that part, to prevent contamination of the entire suite. He could not have done than and put that part in a biological safety cabinet. It's too big.
And, he goes on and on about how Ivins couldn't have used a lyophilizer to dry the attack spores, with the implication that that somehow proves Ivins' innocence.
It doesn't, of course. It just argues that Ivins probably didn't dry the spores by using a lyophilizer. That was established the first time someone argued that drying anthrax spores in the lyophilizer it was next to impossible without contaminating large parts of Building 1425.
Plus, the light tan color of the Daschle and Leahy spores tends to indicate that the spores were air dried by applying heat. A lyophilizer works by applying a near vacuum to freeze-dry materials.
The FBI's main point about the lyophilizer was that Ivins lied about his knowledge of it. He repeatedly claimed he was no expert on the subject, but facts showed that he was the official custodian of the lyophilizer, and he taught others how to use it. It was one of several ways Ivins knew how to dry spores. So, any argument that Bruce Ivins didn't know how to dry spores is totally false. The USAMRIID defenders of Ivins merely bring up the lyophilizer because it's an argument that supports their beliefs, and it's a subject they feel they can argue about to justify their beliefs. The FBI doesn't say that Ivins used a lyophilizer to dry the attack spores. The FBI Summary Report says on page 15:
Even if the perpetrator stole a quantity of liquid Ames anthrax slurry, it would still have been necessary to dry the anthrax in order to produce a product like the one recovered from the envelopes. This drying procedure would have required either the type of laboratory equipment, such as a lyophilizer or speed-vac system, that was present in each of the 15 labs, or considerable time and space to air-dry.
and on page 30:
Drying anthrax spores requires either a sophisticated drying machine called a lyophilizer, a speed-vac, or a great deal of time and space to let the spores air-dry – that is, to allow the water to evaporate – in the lab.
When I read Stephen Little's deposition, I also had to wonder why he believed that Ivins would have had to take the lyophilizer through the B3 airlock to get it into his BSL-3 lab. The B3 airlock was located next to the Animal Resources corridor. Why couldn't Ivins have simply rolled the lyophilizer in through the regular door? Did the airlock have oval-shaped pressure doors with sealing levers like those on typical airlocks and in submarines? Was Mr. Little using that kind of pressure door to construct an impossiblity to support his beliefs, or is there something about the "regular" doors that I'm not aware of that prevents a lyophilizer from being brought in that way? (In the Building 1425 floorplan HERE, I put a red question mark on the B3 airlock.)
I've been very curious about the physical location of doors, key-card readers and rooms since I tried to figure out what the in-out logs showed about the locations of doors, which resulted in me being provided with the floorplan to Building 1425. (But I still can't figure out where the card-readers were.)
Last week, I unexpectedly confirmed that the Building 1425 suite where John Ezzell was accumulating evidence in the case, and where the FBI repository was apparently located, was Animal Assessment Suite 3. I'd previously made a tentative conclusion to that effect when I noticed that one of the eight Ames samples that had the same four mutations as the attack anthrax was found in the "AA3 Cold Room." Last week, I noticed that on page 180 of Richard Preston's book " The Demon In the Freezer," it says:
The FBI began delivering about two hundred forensic samples a day to USAMRIID, frequently in Hueys. Choppers were coming in day and night on a pad near the building. MHRU agents and other FBI Laboratory people began to work inside suite AA3, which ended up being dedicated entirely to forensic analysis and processing samples.
I came across that passage as I was assembling information in chronological order in an attempt to understand what the thinking was at specific times during the early days of the Amerithrax investigation. Last week, I was trying to figure out exactly how the thinking went from believing that the Ames strain was a common strain used thousands of labs all around the world to knowing that the Ames strain was a rare strain used in only about 15 labs. The change in thinking appears to have taken place during November of 2001. During that November, the tracking down of the source of the attack anthrax changed from being "impossible" to being "very probable".
At the beginning of that November in 2001, Bruce Ivins and others at USAMRIID were a reporter's sources for an article printed in the November 12 issue of the New Yorker titled "How a sick cow in Iowa may have helped to create a lethal bioweapon," by Peter J. Boyer. The issue was available for sale a week earlier, on November 5, and the article was also distributed around USAMRIID on November 5 via emails. The article described how the academics at Iowa State University had decided to destroy their collection of anthrax samples after the media began hounding them, even though they had nothing called "The Ames Strain" and there was no chance that anything in the collection was connected to the anthrax attacks. The article then went into a string of conjectures about the finding of the sick cow, the collecting of a specimen, disposing of the cow, and how, in 1980 or 1981, USAMRIID requested interesting anthrax samples from the USDA, and the USDA's National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL) in Ames sent to USAMRIID the cultures that would become the center of the current investigation.
The fact that the article claimed the NVSL did something they did not do undoubtedly rankled people at the USDA and its NVSL division. The article also ridiculed the chief of the Department of Health and Human Services, Tommy Thompson, for thinking that the Bob Stevens in Florida case was not an act of terrorism. But, the article probably got the most attention because of what it said about the attack spores being 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.
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."
But, most of all:
In a sense, Army scientists at USAMRIID have, in recent years, "weaponized" the Ames strain whenever they have tested anthrax vaccines on monkeys. They make an aerosol of the Ames strain, spray it into the monkeys' containment area, and await the results.
The New Yorker article acknowledge that USAMRIID scientists claimed they destroyed all leftovers after completing their tests, so they didn't leave any "weaponized" anthrax laying around for someone to steal. But the article didn't distinguish between the wet spray that was injected directly into the mouth of test animals at USAMRIID, versus the dry spores floating in the air that are the true characteristics of militarized, "weaponized" anthrax on a battlefield.
I've been going through the emails Ivins sent and received during this period (mostly from Batch #37) to get a sense of the reaction to the New Yorker article and whether or not it led to the change of thinking about how common the Ames strain was. I started writing about it for this comment, but it became so long and complicated that I had to put it aside for further research, study and condensation. The point I'm trying to make here and now is that it was still believed at the time of the New Yorker article that the Ames strain was widely distributed and virtually impossible to trace to any specific lab, since thousands of labs were believed to have samples.
Just three weeks later, however, a November 25, 2001 article in The Washington Post titled "Deadly Anthrax Strain Leaves a Muddy Trail" described a very different understanding:
Once thought to be accessible to thousands of researchers, the strain now appears to have circulated in only a small universe of laboratories. One of its main distributors, according to scientists, was the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) at Fort Detrick, Md., which used Ames to test vaccines that could protect U.S. troops in case of a biological attack.
When the attacks began, there was speculation that thousands of labs might have had access to Ames, but that number has been knocked down by anthrax experts. Philip C. Hanna, a microbiologist at the University of Michigan, said: "I'd put it . . . between 10 and 24."
Paul Keim, who has done genetic mapping of anthrax strains at Northern Arizona University and is reportedly assisting the FBI with the investigation, said he was uncertain of the number of labs with Ames but described it as "a pretty small list" that he thought was "very discoverable."
Paul Keim's collection of over 2,000 anthrax samples was undoubtedly key to the realization that the Ames strain was NOT widely distributed and that USAMRIID did most or all of the distribution of the Ames strain. All the samples of the Ames strain in Keim's collection came directly or indirectly from USAMRIID. So, scientists at USAMRIID seemed to be in a position to know everyone - or almost everyone - who had the Ames strain.
Martin Hugh-Jones, an anthrax expert at Louisiana State University who maintains a global database of anthrax outbreaks for the World Health Organization, concurred that it was relatively simple in the past to obtain anthrax cultures from USAMRIID.
"They kept the stuff there, and if you needed a culture, you called up
Art" -- Col. Arthur Friedlander, USAMRIID's senior military research
scientist, Hugh-Jones said.
"Basically, if some guy's got this culture on his dirty clothes or on his bench top, he'll have some explaining to do," said Hugh-Jones. "It's like owning a pistol that was used in a homicide."
Only a few facts have been clearly established. The strain of Bacillus anthracis that became known as Ames was first isolated decades ago from a diseased cow near Ames. A natural or "wild" strain, Ames was recognized relatively early for its virulence and for its ability to resist vaccines.
They didn't know what they didn't know. They didn't know the source of the Ames strain. They only believed they knew. And Bruce Ivins was still arguing in January of 2002 that it "most certainly did" come from Iowa, even after The Washington Post reported that it came from Texas:
From: Ivins, Bruce E Dr USAMRIID
Sent: Tuesday, January 29, 2002 7:23 AM
Subject: RE: Message on Ames Strain
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. Also, to our good fortune, we ([Redacted] actually) [Redacted] We can supply you with the actual strain number (put on it by the NVSL labs) if desired. I have tried repeatedly, without success, to talk to [probably Gregory R. Knudson] about this. He is at AFRRI and has failed to return my calls. He can be reached at [Redacted].
Again, if you would like the specific number on the strain that is on the slant, please let me know. I remember it coming from Iowa, however. About the same time that we received the Ames strain, we received the "Texas" strain from [Redacted] at Texas A&M.
Let me know if there's more info that we can provide.
And a couple hours later, Ivins sent this:
From: Ivins, Bruce E Dr USAMRIID
To: Ivins, Bruce E Dr USAMRIID; [Redacted - a long list]
Subject: RE: Message on Ames Strain
Date: Tuesday, January 29, 2002 9:09:52 AM
I just spoke on the phone with [probably Gregory Knudson] at AFRRI. 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 [probably Knudson]. 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 [probably Knudson].
Since the only signature on the letter that was sent along with the sample from Texas was "TVMDL" and not "NVSL," one has to wonder if Knudson was simply assuming that TVMDL was just some division of NVSL, and he never bothered to figure out what the acronym really meant. (The strain number ("Ames 255414B") Ivins mentioned in the first email above doesn't get any hits via Google, and it doesn't appear in the letter from Texas A&M. But, in later emails Ivins used it when describing the "ancestor" Ames samples USAMRIID received from Texas A&M in 1981. The number was evidently assigned by Knudson at the same time that he gave the strain the name "Ames strain.")
For Ivins, his reaction is another example of him trying to create facts to fit his beliefs or his wishes. It was an example of "Consciousness of Guilt." If Bruce Ivins had been innocent of the crimes, it shouldn't have mattered one bit to him whether the Ames strain came from Iowa or Texas or Afghanistan, nor whether it was a rare strain or a common strain. But, because the facts were now saying that the common, untraceable strain he thought he had used in the anthrax letters was actually a rare, very traceable strain used primarily by USAMRIID, his "Believing Brain" was looking for ways to make the facts fit with what he wanted to be true.
In other emails, even after it was conclusively shown that the Ames strain came from a Texas cow and never went anywhere near Ames, Iowa, Ivins was still arguing that the Ames strain could be available in numerous labs under some different name which people just didn't realize it was the Ames strain. And one of those incorrectly named samples could have been used for the letters.
That kind of argument goes beyond what "The Believing Brain" does. It shows what a guilty person does when he tries to mislead investigators away from actual evidence that could lead to his arrest. (Paul Keim's testing eliminated the possibility of another strain also being called "the Ames strain.")
It appears that Ivins continued to argue relentlessly that the Ames strain could have been sent from Texas to other labs, even to the USDA in Iowa. And his continuing arguments evidently started to irk his superiors. In a February 6, 2002 email, Ivins stated in an email with the subject "A possible discussion":
happy to give you my
personal opinion, but it can't be posted because "we speak with one
voice" here, and I am not that voice.
By that time, the investigation was beginning to focus on collecting samples from every lab which possessed the Ames strain, something that had once seemed an impossible task. In February of 2002 it had become both straight-forward and the obvious thing to do. The FBI's collecting of Ames evidence samples was already in progress in Suite AA3. And, in a matter of days, Ivins would be asked to provide samples of Ames from his lab and from flask RMR-1029.
July 17, 2011 (A) - This morning's Philadelphia Inquirer contains a review of David Willman's book "The Mirage Man."
It's a relatively positive review, with only a few minor complaints. The reviewer (Paul Jablow) didn't like the title, and he doesn't think the anthrax attacks paid a very big role in setting America on a path to war with Iraq:
The thrust of the book's main argument is compelling, but Willman may get on thin ice by overstating the importance of the attacks in "America's rush to war." They may have contributed to the bellicose atmosphere and panic in Washington, but it is hard to believe that the Bush administration would have been less eager to invade Iraq had they not occurred.
As expected, this reviewer also spends a lot of time talking about the "investigation" of Steven Hatfill. But he has no difficulty accepting that the FBI finally identified the right man when they prepared to indict Bruce Ivins:
If Ivins is the perfect villain for a story like this (think Norman Bates with lab privileges), the only ones resembling heroes are the handful of FBI agents who slowly turned the bureau's attention away from Hatfill. It was like turning a bureaucratic ocean liner, and they never got any real recognition.
& Changes: Sunday, July 10, 2011, thru Saturday, July 16, 2011
July 13, 2011 - Hmm. I was just sent a link to what appears to be a review in Vanity Fair of a new book on the subject of whether or not any foreign government was involved in the 9/11 attacks.
But, I did a scan for the word "anthrax," and it didn't appear on any of the seven pages. Plus, the conspiracy theorists typically argue that the U.S. government was behind the attacks, not some foreign government. So, the article is going into a queue for things I need to look at when I get some free time - perhaps next year.
Far ahead in my reading queue is the book "The Believing Brain" by Michael Shermer, which was discussed on The Colbert Report on Monday night. Shermer described how our brains are more like lawyers than scientists. We look for facts to support our beliefs, not for facts about what is actually true. In other words, it explains why conspiracy theorists and True Believers believe what they believe, and why they ignore facts which show them to be wrong.
July 10, 2011 - Probably because there hasn't been any new Amerithrax-related information lately, discussions about the anthrax attacks seem to be dying out. Dr. Meryl Nass appears to have moved on to a new conspiracy theory that the United States Government was a "major participant" in some kind of plot to frame Dominique Strauss-Kahn for rape.
On May 7, Dr. Nass wrote:
Let me make clear, I do not condone rape. This case interests me simply because it was handled so differently from the usual case of diplomats gone wrong, such as in a vehicular homicide, or the aforementioned incident in Pakistan. Who denied Strauss-Kahn the niceties that normally accompany his position, and why? That is the interesting question here, and media have failed to ask it.
And, on July 1, Dr. Nass's added:
I hate to say "I told you so" but here it is, from the NY Times. Now one may ask, why was DSK presumed guilty and treated abominably at the onset of the case? Still think this was not a political frame-up in which the USG was a major participant?
And, when someone suggested yesterday that her comments made her look like a "conspiracy theorist," this morning Dr. Nass's response was:
My feeling is that the NYC police are well versed in maintaining confidentiality in other cases involving celebrities and diplomats. In the case of DSK, the police created a public circus, made it appear he was fleeing the country due to guilt, and cooperated with a major media blitz.
It seems most likely that the order for the police to act in this manner came from levels above those in NYC.
So, if I correctly understand Dr. Nass's reasoning, she believes that the NYC police are unfailingly courteous to foreign diplomats. And the media are unfailingly kept ignorant of crimes by foreign diplomats. Thus, because the media learned of the alleged rape and Strauss-Kahn's attempt to flee, it must have been a U.S. government plot. In Dr. Nass's world, the media never learns about such things unless the U.S. government allows it to happen.
Dr. Nass also wonders why the media failed to ask why they were allowed to learn of such things. She seems to believe that the media is incapable of uncovering such juicy stories for themselves. Yet, Dr. Nass believes the media should have no difficulty uncovering how and why the U.S. government gave the story to them without the media realizing where the story came from.
Things are always very clear and simple in the world of conspiracy theorists.
Meanwhile, on Lew Weinstein's web site, there seems to be some agreement among the Truthers that the FBI will never admit an error in the Amerithrax case, so they feel there's no reason to continue to call for a new investigation into who "really" sent the anthrax letters. One Truther says:
There has been an absence of investigative reporting in this matter. The occasional reporter would channel leaks from law enforcement but that was part of the problem, not the solution.
So enjoy the summer and give up any hope Amerithrax will be reopened.
Again the complaint is that the media failed to verify the beliefs of the conspiracy theorists.
Of course, I completely disagree that there "has been an absence of investigative reporting in this matter." I think the Amerithrax case will go down in history as an extreme example of bad "investigative reporting." "Investigative reporters" were responsible for distributing the total nonsense that the attack spores were weaponized with bentonite. "Investigative reporters" were responsible for distributing the total nonsense that Iowa State University was the source of Ames strain. "Investigative reporters" were largely responsible for distributing the total nonsense that Steven Hatfill was the anthrax mailer. "Investigative reporters" continue to be responsible for distributing the total nonsense that it was really the FBI who fingered Hatfill, not conspiracy theorists, politicians and "investigative reporters." "Investigative reporters" were responsible for the total nonsense reports that the Bacillus subtilis contamination somehow suggests Bruce Ivins wasn't behind the anthrax attacks. "Investigative reporters" are responsible for continuing to distribute the total nonsense that the attack spores were weaponized with silicon.
"Investigative reporters" were mostly obstructions to the truth in their reporting of the Amerithrax investigation. They fed the conspiracy theorists instead of separating solid facts from nonsensical conspiracy theories. I say "mostly," because there were a few investigative reporters who didn't jump on any of the passing band wagons, but those reporters didn't find many (if any) solid new facts about the case prior the the death of Bruce Ivins. And, in some ways, that's a good thing, because, if they had found out about Ivins' lies, his destruction of evidence, burglaries and other terrible acts, we probably would have had an attempted lynching of Bruce Ivins in addition to the attempted lynching of Steven Hatfill.
Because things were so slow last week, I found time to check into what was happening in the Stevens vs the United States lawsuit. Maureen Stevens' lawyers are now arguing that Ivins was not the anthrax mailer, and, therefore, Maureen Stevens still has a claim that there was negligence on the part of the government in allowing someone else to steal the anthrax. (Ivins' motives were his own and, according to the defense, there was nothing the government could have done to stop a lone, trusted, individual employee like Ivins from stealing and using government materials for his own purposes.) Stevens' lawyers are arguing that the government is asking them to prove that Ivins did not do it.
Maureen Stevens' lawyers are basing their claims on the fact that some people at USAMRIID do not believe that Ivins was the anthrax killer. It's the Truther argument - Beliefs overrule facts - on a different forum. If Ivins' boss doesn't believe that Ivins did it, then the facts don't matter, Ivins was innocent. And it's up to the government to show how it's impossible for anyone except Ivins to have done it. The government, of course, disagrees and both sides are looking for a ruling from the judge.
Meanwhile, they are deposing "witnesses." On June 7th, one deposed witness, Peter Jahrling of USAMRIID admitted that it appeared that others may have had access to the contents of flask RMR-1029. But, he also said:
Coincidentally, escaping justice by being found "not guilty" was a big part of the news last week, and I kept waiting for some Anthrax Truther to bring up verdict in the Casey Anthony murder trial. In the past several days, I've probably heard people on TV say a dozen times, "The fact that Casey Anthony was found "not guilty" does NOT mean she was actually innocent." Right-O.
I wasn't among the half of Americans who followed the case closely, but, it was hard to totally avoid. It was on the TV when I was at the health club, and parts of it were on every other news program. According to one source:
Jurors in the Casey Anthony trial were said to be “sick to their stomachs” after acquitting Anthony of killing her 2-year old daughter, Caylee.
Was their decision right? Or were they wrong? Or were they just doing their job?
"I did not say she was innocent," juror [#3] Jennifer Ford said to ABC News. "I said there was not enough evidence. If you cannot prove what the crime was, you cannot determine the punishment."
The prosecution didn't know how Caylee Anthony died or when the crime was committed. According to another source:
Jennifer Ford, who spoke exclusively to ABC News, believes that prosecutors could have won a guilty verdict if they had brought a lesser charge than first degree murder, which carried the possibility of the death penalty, for the death of 2-year-old Caylee Anthony.
"If they charged her with other things, we probably could have gotten a guilty verdict, absolutely," Ford said today on "Good Morning America." "But not for death, not for first-degree murder. That's a very substantial charge."and
During the trial, Judge Belvin Perry sealed the juror's names from public view and today he kept them sealed despite requests from four Florida media organizations and the Associated Press to make them public.
"I feel for individuals who simply wanted to do their civic duty," the judge said. "Our landscape in this country has changed. People have no reservation…about walking up to an individual, pulling a gun or knife….and because they disagree with them, hurt them or kill them."
Experts are saying that the jury didn't see a lot of "evidence" that TV audiences saw, because the "evidence" on TV was ruled inadmissible. But, the fact that Casey Anthony didn't tell anyone that her daughter was missing for over a month means she knew something she never told the police.
I keep trying to make some comparison between the Casey Anthony trial and the case against Bruce Ivins. But, the only comparison I can find is that, if there had been a trial and Ivins had been found to be "not guilty," it wouldn't mean that Ivins didn't commit the crime. It would just mean that the prosecution failed to convince the jury that he did it.
I don't expect humans to have perfect judgment every time all the time. And I don't expect every criminal to leave behind indisputable evidence of his or her guilt. I just know that in the vast majority of trials, the right thing happens. And very often the right thing happens even though mistakes of all kinds were made by everyone involved.
The one thing the Amerithrax investigation has most clearly proved is that everybody makes mistakes.
& Changes: Sunday, June 3, 2011, thru Saturday, July 9, 2011
July 3-4, 2011 - Last week was the quietest week I've had in a long time. For most of June, I'd almost become accustomed to writing multiple comments every day. But, last week there seemed to be nothing new or worthwhile to write about. One Anthrax Truther continues feverishly posting to Lew Weinstein's blog while also sending me occasional emails about his latest "findings," but his findings are all so far removed from any relevance to anything of interest to me that I saw nothing to comment upon. He might as well have been ranting about the price of apple cider in Argentina. The Truther, of course, must somehow see it all as relevant, but he cannot explain how or why it is relevant. Apparently, it's just relevant because it's something he has found. And, if it's relevant to him, then it obviously should be relevant to everyone else in the world.
So, I've had lots of time to do research and work on my book. Some of what I found may not be clearly relevant to the Amerithrax investigation, either, but I can explain why it's interesting and why it might be relevant.
For example, while looking for some information in David Willman's book "The Mirage Man," I found this very interesting paragraph on the bottom of page 64 and continuing into page 65:
Ivins's preoccupation with [Mara] Linscott had included his sending her packages under false names. Once he mailed her a soccer jersey in the name of Mia Hamm, the U.S. Olympic team star. Ivins on another occasion used the name of the shortstop Derek Jeter to send Linscott paraphernalia of the New York Yankees, which he knew was her favorite baseball team. He posed as "Laundry Boy" to send her detergent, postmarked from Virginia. He did these things in part to test whether Linscott could "decode" the identity of the sender.
That paragraph is interesting, of course, because it brings to mind the contents of the so-called J-Lo letter, which also included a small box of detergent sent to a woman.
I couldn't help but wonder: Is it just a "coincidence" that Ivins once sent a box of detergent to Mara Linscott and someone also sent a box of detergent to Jennifer Lopez in September of 2001? Is it really that common for men to send boxes of detergent to women they are attracted to? And how many make the detergent boxes a part of a puzzle?
The problem with the passage from Willman's book was: There was no date associated with the mailing of the detergent to Mara Linscott. So, it seemed very likely to have been done after the anthrax mailings and after Ivins had read in the National Enquirer that it was suspected that the anthrax spores that killed Bob Stevens had arrived at AMI in a letter addressed to Jennifer Lopez c/o The Sun. Then it wouldn't really be a "coincidence." It would be a reference.
I pondered the "clue" or message that Ivins wanted Linscott to decode. I came up with a possible interpretation:
Detergent sent with love letter to Jennifer Lopez,
+ Detergent sent to Linscott,
= Ivins sends love to Linscott?
Having concluded it was just another example of Bruce Ivins' creepy quirkiness, I decided to move on, and I dismissed the "coincidence" as just another weird but irrelevant action by Ivins.
Then, while doing some research for something else, I stumbled across more information about that "Laundry Boy" mailing. It's on page 61 of the FBI Summary Report. Here's what I found:
Dr. Ivins also liked to send “care packages” and other items in the mail, while disguising his identity in an effort to have the recipient – frequently [Mara Linscott] – “decode” who the sender was. For example, in an e-mail sent to [Linscott] on March 13, 2001, Dr. Ivins made the following reference to a series of packages he had sent her: “The detergent from Laundry Boy was mailed from Virginia during an IPT meeting. The gift certificate and birthday card were mailed from Gaithersburg. The jacket – when it finally came – was to be mailed from Gettysburg, but you had already figured out who sent you everything else, so I just went ahead and sent it from Frederick.”Wow! Ivins sent the box of detergent to Mara Linscott before the anthrax mailings and before the J-Lo package was mailed. And he sent Linscott other objects which he wanted her to decode.
Now I really had to wonder if the two different mailings of boxes of detergent to women were just a coincidence.
If it's not a coincidence, it could mean that Ivins sent the J-Lo letter. That would really set off the True Believers who are absolutely certain that the J-Lo letter contained anthrax, and that the love letter inside proposing to Jennifer Lopez contained secret codes indicating it was sent by al Qaeda.
That same page 61 in the FBI Summary Report continues with this:
Finally, Dr. Ivins’s own words demonstrated that he enjoyed playing detective and unlocking secrets. In an e-mail to [Linscott] on June 26, 2000, he wrote:
For me, it’s a real thrill to make a discovery, and know that I’ve just revealed something that no one else in the world ever knew before. I feel like a detective, and that which is unknown dares me to try to find out about it, to decipher its code, to understand it, to fit it into the puzzle or “Big Picture.”
The facts say that Ivins not only liked to play detective, he liked to create puzzles for other people to solve.
If Bruce Ivins did send the J-Lo letter - and I'm not saying he did - what did the other puzzling contents of the letter mean or represent? According to an article in The National Enquirer, the so-called "letter" was actually "a bulky manila envelope" which contained:
1. A metal cigar tube with a cheap cigar inside.
2. An empty can of chewing tobacco.
3. A small detergent carton.
4. A handwritten letter to Jennifer Lopez that was described this way:
So, there are at least three connections to Ivins in the J-Lo letter: (1) mailing a box of detergent, (2) folding the letter into three sections (the pharmaceutical fold), and (3) the fact that there appears to have been some kind of "hidden message" in the J-Lo letter, since there is no known explanation for the tobacco items, the detergent or the Star of David pendant. And, it's also known that Ivins was a regular reader of the National Enquirer, which is a sister publication of The Sun. Ivins sent an anthrax letter to the National Enquirer a week or so after the J-Lo letter was mailed to the Sun. And there are probably other - more tenuous - connections.
Could the J-Lo letter have been another letter written by Ivins containing another hidden message to another woman? Just how common is it for mentally disturbed men to send boxes of detergent to women they secretly love or admire? If it's common, what does the laundry detergent symbolize?
The brand of detergent could be an important part of the "code" (All? Biz? Cheer? Era? Fab? Gain? Tide?), or "Laundry Boy" might have some special meaning to either Ivins or Linscott or both. Did Ivins joke around about doing Linscott's laundry for her? Whatever Ivins was trying to do or say, the detergent letter was a coded message of some kind to Linscott, and he also put a hidden message in the anthrax letters sent to the media, plus he put information about himself in the return address on the senate anthrax letters.
Damn! It's like so many other things about the Amerithrax case: There's no way to figure out every detail, and while the unsolved mysteries aren't likely to show that anyone but Bruce Ivins sent the anthrax letters, it would still be nice to know exactly what everything meant.
It seems somewhat unlikely that Ivins sent the J-Lo letter. Not very unlikely. Just unlikely. Or maybe it's simply unbelievable. It's certainly not unbelievable that Ivins would do such a thing. It's just unbelievable that a piece of the Amerithax puzzle that has been argued about for so many years could have such an obvious and simple solution. I'd figure the certainty level that Ivins sent the J-Lo letter at maybe 20% or 25% (compared with a 99.9% certainty that Ivins sent the anthrax letters). As far as I can recall, Ivins never mentioned Jennifer Lopez anywhere else. But, in later years he had a bizarre fascination with a woman he saw on the TV show "The Mole" - Kathryn Price. What other women was he fascinated with? Was there an article about Lopez in The Sun in early 2001? Or maybe Ivins had just seen Jennifer Lopez as a U.S. Marshal in "Out of Sight," in which George Clooney kidnaps her and ties her up. That sort of thing would connect with Ivins' known fantasies. The movie came out in 1998, but he could have rented it or watched it on TV.
More research found another movie Lopez made that's closer to the right time frame, and the movie contains the right kind of story. It's the movie "The Cell," which came out in 2000. I don't remember much about "The Cell" (except that I didn't like it), but the Internet Movie Database says this about the plot (Jennifer Lopez plays "Catherine Deane"):
Catharine Deane is a psychotherapist who is part of a revolutionary new treatment which allows her mind to literally enter the mind of her patients.
Yes, indeed, it's very easy to see Ivins being fascinated with Jennifer Lopez after she played a psychotherapist who could literally enter the mind of a patient. Ivins had been searching for such a woman for decades.
That additional information probably raises the certainty level that Ivins sent the J-Lo letter to about 30%.
I find this all a lot more interesting than trying to figure out what some True Believer sees in Ivins' notebooks or in some totally unrelated cases that he's incapable of explaining - or unwilling to explain because he knows his explanations would seem totally ridiculous.
But, I don't know if it's worth my time to try to decode every one of Bruce Ivins' mysteries, either. If I keep trying, I'll never get anything else done. Yet, it can be fascinating.
& Changes: Sunday, June 26, 2011, thru Saturday, July 2, 2011
June 26, 2011 - For awhile now, I've been wondering: What was Bruce Ivins planning to blow up when he purchased "bomb making ingredients" early in 2000? According to page 50 of David Willman's book "The Mirage Man," Ivins had purchased ammonium nitrate to make a bomb sometime prior to his first session with Dr. David Irwin. It appears that Ivins called Dr. Naomi Heller when he began worrying about what he might do with the bomb. But, Dr. Heller had retired, and she referred him to Dr. Irwin. Page 238 of the EBAP report says that Dr. Irwin ("Dr. #2") treated Ivins from February 1, 2000 to July 24, 2000. So, Bruce Ivins told Dr. Irwin that he'd bought the ammonium nitrate to make a bomb, and Ivins had probably made the purchase in January. But, there's no hint of what Ivins planned to blow up.
All the problems with vaccine development were already in place in January of 2000, and in some ways they were more intense than a year later. Mara Linscott had left USAMRIID, and Ivins was anxious to find some way to lure her back. Creating a panic over a possible biological attack involving anthrax could solve all of Ivins' problems.
However, while Bruce Ivins was dangerous, devious and sociopathic, he wasn't a cold-blooded murderer. There is no reason to believe he was planning to kill a lot of innocent Americans. So, either he was planning to blow up something when there were no people around, or, more likely, he was planning create a very dangerous bomb that he would plant somewhere and leave the timer or detonator unconnected, or he would somehow make certain the bomb was found before it actually detonated. Clearly, that kind of bomb plot wouldn't serve any useful purpose unless there was something else involved -- such as a letter filled with anthrax left behind near the bomb. It would be the anthrax-filled letter that would provide the message Ivins wanted to send, not the supposed target of the bomb, nor any destruction from any bomb. The unexploded bomb would have been just "the attention getter."
It seems very likely that in January of 2000, Ivins had already constructed the TEXT of the letter that he would eventually send to media organizations over a year later. As I wrote in my comment on March 13 of this year:
The time needed to put together the coded message very strongly suggests that the hidden message and letter were developed long before 9/11.
So, in January of 2000, Bruce Ivins probably spent weeks putting together the right coded message in the right way. The end result may have been a computer printed version looking something like this:
However, that would pose a serious problem of making the hidden coded message in the letter seem far too obvious. Everyone seeing such a printed message would immediately begin wondering why certain printed characters were larger and darker. Obviously, it must be a code of some kind. If the entire country was trying to figure out what the highlighted A's and T's meant, someone was bound to put the pieces together and figure out that it was a code derived from the book Gödel, Escher, Bach, that each sentence consisted of 3 words, and that the coding almost certainly referred to three letter codons: TTT AAT TAT. And that in turn translated to PAT or FNY. And, he'd given a copy of Gödel, Escher, Bach to Patricia Fellows, so she might be among the first to put all the pieces together. If not her, then it would be Nancy Haigwood who had discussed the book with Ivins in great detail after its initial publication in 1979.
The computer printed message was obviously too easy to decode, particularly by the wrong people. He may also have tried writing a version using his left hand. But, that wouldn't have been much better if he deliberately traced over those nine A's and T's, plus it posed the additional risk that handwriting experts might be able to match his handwriting to the letters if he was somehow compelled to produce handwriting samples using his left hand. And then there'd be the problem of making certain he used paper and a pen that could never be traced back to him.
And there was a more serious problem: Planting an ammonium nitrate bomb in some public place was not as simple as breaking into a Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority house that he knew was empty and unguarded. If he were caught in the process of planting the bomb, the consequences would be a lot more severe than being caught inside a sorority house without a good explanation. No amount of explaining would ever convince people that he didn't actually intend to harm anyone with the bomb.
So, the plan was never carried out. And for a few months, Dr. Irwin tried to get Ivins to forget about making any kind of bomb for any purpose. Then Ivins was referred to Dr. Levy, whose Comprehensive Counseling Associates was closer to where Ivins lived, and cheaper, too. And the bomb and the letter remained just a bad, suppressed idea -- until Ivins devised a solution to the handwriting problem sometime within the next year.
By late August of 2001, Ivins had realized that the perfect way to write the letters without any risk that a handwriting expert would match his handwriting to the letter was to have someone else do the actual writing. It was a simple matter for Ivins to convince a six-year-old child in his wife's day care center to write the letter for him. The child was just beginning his first weeks of first grade and was only around while waiting for his parents to pick him up at the Ivins home after the school bus dropped him off. There would be no problem convincing the child to provide a sample of his handwriting skills for nice Mr. Ivins. Very likely, the child was proud of his writing skills since he seemed to write much better than the average child just starting first grade. And, best of all, most people would view the childlike handwriting to be that of a Muslim terrorist who was accustomed to writing in a totally different alphabet.
Of course, there was a risk that the child might tell his parents about writing the letter, but Ivins' skills with handling children could easily get around that problem. For example, he could attract the six-year-old child's attention by doing some funny juggling with coffee cups and/or glasses, pretending again and again to almost drop a cup or a glass but recovering just in the nick of time. It's a standard juggler attention-getting trick. It always gets gasps and a laugh.
Then he'd engage the child in a discussion:
Ivins: Do you know how to juggle?
Ivins: Would you like to learn?
Ivins: Well, I can't teach you how to juggle using cups and glasses, so I'll have to find something that doesn't break. I can go look for something that we can practice with, but I wonder if you'd do something for me while I'm gone ...
Child: Sure! Okay!
Ivins: Do you have a pen and paper from school?
Child: Sure. I have lots of pens and paper in my backpack.
Ivins: I need you to copy a letter I've written. Here it is. Can you copy this?
Child: Sure! It's easy!
Ivins: But, you see these A's and T's that are darker than all the other letters?
Ivins: You have to make sure all those letters are darker than the other stuff in the letter when you make a copy. Do you think you can do that?
Child: Sure! That's easy.
Ivins: Great. You make the copy. I'll be back in a few minutes, and then I'll teach you how to juggle.
And, when Ivins returned with three children's blocks or something similarly unbreakable, he would thank the child for writing the letter, he'd put immediately it aside, and he would begin showing the child how to juggle the blocks.
The child would be focused on the fun of learning to juggle. Even if he never actually mastered the art, it would be fun learning, and the chore of writing of the letter would be totally forgotten. It would be no more important than money spent to see a movie. You tell people about the movie you saw, not about the admission money spent to get in.
Later, when Ivins examined the letter, he would see that the child did far less than a perfect job.
Some of the A's and T's were not as thoroughly darkened as others, and some additional characters seemed slightly traced over. However, the letter would be perfect because the coding in the letter was not perfect. When necessary, he'd be able to explain things convincingly, but the risk of having someone else figure out the code prematurely was vastly reduced. There wouldn't be much thought of hidden codes, because the thought would be that anyone deliberately putting a code into a letter would make certain that everything was clearly done.
So, Bruce Ivins had the letter he needed. But the risks of planting the bomb still remained.
That all changed a couple weeks later when the horrendous events of 9/11 made the building and planting of the bomb totally unnecessary.
The revised plan required that the child do some more writing, but that wouldn't be a problem. It was simply a matter of providing another enjoyable juggling lesson in exchange for some easily forgotten help addressing some envelopes. Of course, Ivins needed to add the date at the top of the letter. So, he used the child's handwriting of address numbers on the envelopes to make certain that when he added the date, the handwriting seemed the same.
There was a lot more risk to the public in sending multiple envelopes filled with anthrax powder through the mails than just leaving a single envelope with anthrax near an unexploded bomb, but there didn't seem to be any better alternative. And Ivins would tape the seams shut on the envelopes to make certain no powder escaped.
It's all very simple. It's all very clear. The only thing I cannot understand about this scenario is why so few people find it impossible to believe - or impossible to even consider. All the facts fit. In nearly ten years, no one has ever found a single solid fact that disproves anything in this scenario. All that's happened during the past ten years is that more and more facts were found to support the scenario. The information about bomb making ingredients is the latest addition.
& Changes: Sunday, June 19, 2011, thru Saturday, June 25, 2011
June 24, 2011 - Ah! Just what we need, another opinionated voice of complaint about the Amerithrax case. Clinical Psychiatry News for June 21, 2011, contains an opinion piece titled "Use of Psychological Profile to Infer Ivins' Guilt is Problematic" by forensic psychiatrist Dr. Annette Hanson.
Dr. Hanson disapproves of the way the Expert Behavioral Analysis Panel (EBAP) seemingly confirmed Bruce Ivins' guilt in their report. Dr. Hanson writes:
This pronouncement of guilt is not consistent with the ethics and traditional practice of forensic psychiatry.
Specifically, the report found that Ivins had the “psychological disposition,” motive, means and the “behavioral history” to carry out the attacks. The use of a psychological profile to infer guilt is particularly problematic, since this evidence is not admissible in most jurisdictions.
And she doesn't like the fact that the report is for sale:
From an ethical standpoint, the sale of the panel report is particularly problematic. Forensic reports are generated at the request of the retaining agency or individual, and the information in the report is usually not distributed beyond the parties immediately involved in the proceedings. The forensic evaluator himself does not typically distribute a report to non-involved individuals, nor does the evaluator sell the report to the public.
And she infers that the EBAP may have been biased:
According to the website of the Research Strategies Network, which organized the panel, the RSN has previously collaborated with the F.B.I. and the Department of Defense. This creates an appearance of conflict of interest and bias, a common problem among mental health professionals who consult with law enforcement agencies.
The purpose of the EBAP report, of course, was to determine what lessons could be learned from the Bruce Ivins case in order to help prevent other mentally ill scientists from working with dangerous pathogens and perhaps committing similar acts, and to provide that information to all interested parties.
But, if I understand Dr. Hanson's complaints correctly, she feels the EBAP report should have been written to show that Ivins might have been innocent, the report shouldn't have been distributed to anyone outside of the courtroom where it was authorized, and it shouldn't have been written by anyone who ever collaborated with the FBI, since that infers bias.
In other words, the report either should have (1) been written in such a way as to make it totally useless, or (2) it should never have been written at all. And the Lunatic Fringe agrees. Click HERE and HERE.
June 23, 2011 - When I created the image I used yesterday to show how the X, IL, I and R in the media letter show evidence of a lack of writing experience, I began with a large .jpg image of the media letter. Jpg images are compressed to reduce file size, so, when enlarged, they show blurry elements that are artifacts (or the effects) of compression. This morning, I dug out the original .TIF photographs of the letters - which are not compressed - and recreated the X-IL-I-R image. In doing so, I used a different second I, which better illustrates the slight retracing as the writer moved to begin the next pen stroke but didn't fully lift the pen off the paper.
June 22, 2011 (B) - The Anthrax Truthers are having a hard time disputing the logic in my (A) comment for today, so now they are saying the logic somehow "destroys" the hidden message "theory," without explaining how it destroys it. Presumably, they feel that if Douglas Hofstadter (or just about anyone) doesn't accept the FBI's analysis, then the FBI must be wrong. It seems inconceivable to them that the FBI could have more data than Hofstadter does. (Hofstadter knows about the coding technique, but the FBI knows about the culprit and how his mental processes worked.)
In addition, the Anthrax Truthers are questioning some other tiny details about the handwriting in the media letter and whether or not those details show that other characters were traced over. Greatly enlarged examples:
Do those stray marks indicate the letters were traced over, or are they examples of poor hand-eye coordination? The X clearly isn't traced over. So, what's the explanation for that tiny horizontal line? The fact that it is a horizontal line says it cannot be part of a trace-over. It's more likely a "hiccup," i.e., something happened while drawing the X that caused the writer to twitch. The bump at the end of the horizontal line in the L seems to be something inadvertently drawn when the writer slowly lifted the pen from the paper. The bump on the side of the first I seems to be a pause mark where the writer paused to check something before completing the I. The bump at the bottom of the second I and the R leg are almost certainly the result of the writer not fully lifting the pen from the paper as he completed one stroke and moved to draw the next stroke. They're all further evidence that a child wrote the anthrax letters. They are not trace-overs as seen in the characters that are part of the hidden message. They are examples of a lack of experience when writing.
June 22, 2011 (A) - The Anthrax Truthers are still debating an FBI file which contains a 5-page interview from February 2008 with someone who was asked about the handwriting on the New York Post and Leahy letters. Previously, it was argued by Anthrax Truthers on Lew Weinstein's blog and elsewhere that the person being interviewed was a handwriting expert. There is plenty of evidence in the interview document to show that is false (the interviewee sees as unusal some very common ways of drawing R's and E's.) On July 4, 2010, I posted a comment about someone who tried to say the same thing on Wikipedia. Now, a new voice has offered an opinion about parts of an image of two paragraphs from that interview that are available for viewing by clicking HERE. Here's the opinion:
Based on the way the 2nd blank (redacted element) was very much shorter than the other blanks, AND based upon the fact that rival ideas were expressed and exchanged, I would ‘guesstimate’ that 2 to 6 analysts were expressing their opinions in the above 2 paragraphs.
In reality, it's a total certainty that only one person was interviewed, that person was a male, and his last name contains 10 characters. And, that is not a "guessitimate." It's the result of analyzing the actual FBI document, which is on pages 18 to 23 of FBI pdf File #847547.
Since that particular FBI interview keeps coming up in arguments from Anthrax Truthers, I decided it was time to do a thorough and careful analysis of the FBI interview. And what I found surprised even me. I'd previously argued that the interviewee was almost certainly a USAMRIID employee, possibly the person to whom Ivins was known to have given a copy of Gödel Escher Bach. Now, I can see that was not true, since, by careful analysis, it can be determined with about 98% certainty who was being interviewed.
Here is my analysis:
First, the opening paragraph of the document makes it clear that only one person was interviewed. (Even DXer can see that.) Although the information is all redacted, that first paragraph contains the person's name, date of birth, Social Security number and cellular phone number, and says the person was interviewed at his home.
Second, it can be seen that the Courier font was used when typing the document. The Courier font uses characters of equal size, so a small "i" takes as much space as a capital "W". Thus, the number of characters in a name can be reliably counted. And, for example, when counting the number of characters in the paragraph indentation, the indentation can be seen to be 10 characters.
So, the first paragraph of the interview in fixed-width format (like the Courier font) looks like this, with X's replacing the redacted portions:
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX date of birth: XXXXXXXXXXX social
security account number XXXXXXXXXXX, telephone number XXXXXXXXXX
XXXXX cellular telephone number: XXXXXXXXXXXXX was interviewed
at XXX residence located at XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
XXXX After being advised of the identity of the interviewing
agents and the purpose of the interview XXXXXXXXXX provided the
Thus, it is a certainty that only one person was interviewed.
Third, the second paragraph shows that the people doing the interview are two FBI agents and an Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA). Here's that paragraph:
In addition to the interviewing agents, Assistant
United States Attorney (AUSA), XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX was
present for the interview. Prior to the start of the interview
XXXXXXXXXX was presented a non-disclosure agreement and informed
of the sensitivity of the information and investigation to be
discussed. XXXXXXXXXX signed the non-disclosure which will be
placed in the 1A section of the file along with the interview
Fourth, in the above two paragraphs and in all others in the document, it is clear that the redacted areas contain exactly ten characters where only the interviewee's last name is used (as I highlighted in red).
Fifth, where pronouns are used instead of the full last name, it is clear that the pronoun is two characters - he - and not she. Thus the interviewee is male. There's an example in the paragraph in the image on Lew Weinstein's site (which is from page 4 of the FBI interview document):
XXXXXXXXXX suggested that the average person might not
think the 'T' in "NEXT" was highlighted. XX indicated that if
the mailer intended to have a message in the text of the letters
it would be clear which letters were part of the message.
The last paragraph on the first page of the document says:
XXXXXXXXXX briefly discussed the three parts of a
message: the frame message, the outer message, and the inner
message. The frame message is the information that a message
exists in some form; the outer message is the recognition of the
'language' in which the message is encoded; and the inner
message is the decoding and understanding of the message.
Sixth, the paragraph above again shows that the interviewee has a 10-character last name, and the paragraph has the interviewee explaining to the FBI agents and the AUSA the coding process described in the book Gödel, Escher Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid (GEB).
Seventh, the author of GEB is Douglas Hofstadter, who has a last name that is 10 characters long.
Eighth, in a February 19, 2010, comment by Douglas Hofstadter printed in USA Today, Hofstadter dismissed the connection between his book and the 2001 anthrax media letters as a "red herring." In the USA Today article, Hofstadter was quoted as writing in an email:
I was contacted by the FBI a couple of years ago about this case, and a couple of FBI people in fact came to my house and spent a few hours talking with me and then went through a bunch of correspondence (both electronic and postal) that I'd had for many years with hundreds if not thousands of people here, there, and everywhere, looking for possible connections with the person they suspected had done the mailings, but as far as I understood, they didn't come up with anything at all. I think they wondered if GEB had had some kind of influence on him, since he was apparently a fan of the book, but I don't see how it could have influenced him, and I don't think that they ever really found any link either. So I think it's basically a red herring, although for me it was interesting to meet the FBI people and to get a tiny glimpse into their way of investigating a complex and important case.
So, we know that Mr. Hofstadter was interviewed by the FBI a couple years before the USA article (2008 vs 2010), and we know that Mr. Hofstadter would be the one person on the planet prepared to explain the coding process described in GEB to FBI agents.
Ninth, the person being interviewed shows significant ignorance about handwriting when he states that the R's and E's were written in a way that appears "unusual" to him and may indicate that the writer is more accustomed to writing from left to right. In reality, what he sees as "unusual" may be far more common than his way of drawing R's and E's.
Tenth, there is nothing in the FBI interview document which would be inconsistent with the interviewee being Douglas Hofstadter.
Conclusion: The person interviewed by the FBI on February 8, 2008 was almost certainly Douglas R. Hofstadter.
Mr. Hofstadter is not a handwriting expert. Mr. Hofstadter's opinions about the handwriting are his own and are of no more value to the case than that of any other non-expert. The facts indicate that he had developed his own theory about the source of the letters, and that theory altered his view of what was actually in the letters. He was rationalizing to make the facts of the case fit his own personal theory.
June 20, 2011 (B) - I've been meaning to mention something about the mental health care professionals who treated Bruce Ivins: In 1978 or 1979, Ivins told a woman, Dr. Naomi Heller, about a plan he had to poison Nancy Haigwood. In July of 2000, Ivins told a woman, his counselor Judith McLean, about a plan he had to poison Mara Linscott. In 2008, Ivins told two women, counselors Jean Duley and Wendy Levy (Dr. Allen Levy's wife) about his plan to shoot his co-workers and go out in "a blaze of glory." I can't help but wonder if Ivins wasn't compelled to confide in these women just like he confided in Mara Linscott and Patricia Fellows, while avoiding discussing those kinds of intimate desires with his male psychiatrists, Dr. Allen Levy and Dr. David Irwin. Thus, Ivins could have given the men a somewhat different picture of himself. Dr. Levy prescribed anti-psychotic drugs for Ivins, and Dr. Irwin diagnosed Ivins as "sociopathic," so Ivins wasn't telling them a totally different story. But there may have been significant differences in what Ivins told the women versus what he told the men.
June 20, 2011 (A) - Since I pointed out in my Sunday comment that, in July of 2000, Ivins' former mental health counselor Judith McLean talked with three of Bruce Ivins' psychiatrists after Ivins told her of his plans to poison Mara Linscott, and those psychiatrists confirmed what Ivins had said to McLean, the argument has now shifted to the fact that the psychiatists didn't all agree with McLean on how dangerous Ivins was.
The fact that Ivins stated plans to poison Mara Linscott is no longer the issue in the on-line debates. The issue is now that the record shows that not everyone believed that Ivins might actually go through with such plans. And the current claim is, evidently, that anyone who believed that Ivins might actually go through with those plans is incompetent and their testimony should be removed from the Expert Behavioral Analysis Panel (EBAP) report, from David Willman's book, and from the public record.
It evidently doesn't matter to the Anthrax Truthers that a year later Ivins allegedly murdered five people by sending out the anthrax letters, proving that Ivins was indeed extremely dangerous.
The email addresses of all the EBAP members are being distributed (the addresses are not in the 30-page summary of the 299 page report), and so are email addresses used by Judith McLean. The motivation seems to be to get people to try to convince the EBAP members that they should recall their report, and to contact Judith McLean if people do not like her book or what she said about Bruce Ivins.
June 19, 2011 (B) - During the past week, I've been scratching my head over all the senseless attacks upon Bruce Ivins' therapist Judith McLean that have been raging on Lew Weinstein's blog HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE, on Dr. Meryl Nass's site HERE, and in a flood of screwball emails I've been getting directly and via my forum.
The mindless attacks truly show how Anthrax Truthers will do anything they can to discredit evidence which does not agree with their beliefs. However, attempting to discredit Judith McLean by attacking a totally unrelated book she wrote many years after the attacks doesn't change what Ivins told her in July of 2000. What Ivins told her about his plan that July to poison Mara Linscott was confirmed by three practicing psychiatrists. Some of the details are on page 73 of the Expert Behavioral Analysis Panel report, but there are more details and the psychiatrists are identified on pages 65 and 66 of David Willman's book "The Mirage Man."
When Bruce Ivins told McLean of his plans to poison Mara Linscott, McLean immediately advised Dr. Orrin Palmer, who was in charge at Comprehensive Counseling Associates while Ivins' primary psychiatrist Dr. Allen Levy was out of town. Dr. Palmer called Ivins to confirm what Ivins had told McLean.
Meanwhile, McLean persuaded Ivins to sign a pledge that he wouldn't harm anyone and that he'd contact McLean immediately if he had further "homicidal thoughts."
McLean then talked with Ivins' previous psychiatrist, Dr. David Irwin, who talked with Bruce Ivins at length on the following day. Dr. Irwin felt that Ivins was no longer exhibiting the homicidal thoughts, although he still had clear "sociopathic intentions." Dr. Irwin was uncertain if prescribing some new medicines would help.
Then, when Dr. Allen Levy returned to town, Dr. Levy talked with Ivins to further confirm what had been said, and Dr. Levy prescribed Zyprexa, an antipsychotic drug for treating schizophrenia and other mental problems.
So, all the mindless attacks upon Judith McLean are totally bogus. What McLean heard from Dr. Ivins was confirmed multiple times by psychiatrists and had nothing to do with the book she wrote. And the Lunatic Fringe prediction that Willman's book will be recalled because Judith McLean's testimony was used in it is just plain ridiculous and silly.
June 19, 2011 (A) - Lately, the arguments from one particular Anthrax Truther have not only become repetitious, some postings and emails are becoming virtually incoherent and irrational. For example, I received this message via email (addressed to a conspiracy theorist, with me being carbon copied):
Ed obviously has not read any of these pattern books - if he is not going to consult with experts, he should at least read the peer-reviewed literatureand then this:
In a dark dark room
Mr. Lake's error is that he fails to realize the perp could have used a pattern book such as "If You Give A Mouse A Cookie" (or alternatively just have been writing in block letters)
and then this:
page 12 of Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed by Eileen Christelow, without more, blows his theory out of the bathtub
and then this:
the trouble with Ed's theory was always his sloppy treatment of documentary evidence - he never took a scientific approach to the question - Judith [McLean?] could explain he needs to study scientific method
Then I received these messages addressed to me, with the conspiracy theorist carbon-copied:
I hope you don't feel intimidated, Ed - no one takes your First Grader theory seriously - not a single person - I certainly never called anyone about it, you moronand
you're not still sore because we blew your First Grader Theory out of the water, are you? I can't help that you didn't choose representative samples of First Grade writing in spewing your nonsense
The emailer appears to be suggesting that the person who wrote the anthrax letters could have been copying a child's handwriting from some children's book. However, one thing most of the experts seem to agree upon is that the handwriting was not done by copying someone else's handwriting style (although the writer was copying the text and addresses from some source). Copying someone else's handwriting style can usually be detected by the inconsistencies that will show up in the style.
Plus, of course, the key points about the handwriting are the changes that took place over the course of about a month, between the first writing sample (the Brokaw letter) and the last writing sample (the senate envelopes):
1. The writer started using punctuation.And, the writing was done in August, September and October when a six-year-old would be spending his first months in first grade - the time when the biggest changes from his kindergarten style of writing would be taking place.
2. The writer started writing smaller (about half the original size).
3. The writer learned the proper way to draw certain characters of the alphabet.
4. The writer developed better hand-eye coordination.
How can these changes be explained by copying from some children's book or some book about children's handwriting? If the "perp" did that, wouldn't the writing be the same all the way through? Are we supposed to believe that some expert forger knew that a child's handwriting goes through significant changes in the first months of first grade, and the forger deliberately tried to mimic those handwriting changes? Does that meet anyone's Occam's razor test? Can that be anything but a desperate rationalization to force the handwriting facts to fit some fixed belief.
Besides, the facts seem to show that the anthrax mailer thought that his first letters would accomplish what he intended to accomplish. He only sent out the second batch of letters because, after three weeks, there was absolutely nothing in the news about his first batch. So, we're supposed to believe that the "expert forger" realized that there would be changes in a six-year-old's handwriting during those three weeks, and he tried to mimic them?! Gimme a break!
& Changes: Sunday, June 12, 2011, thru Saturday, June 18, 2011
June 18, 2011 - I've been asked how Patricia Fellows fits into my hypothesis that the bloodhounds were used to try to find out where Steven Hatfill had gone when the FBI lost their tail on him while Hatfill was in Louisana on a job interview and preparing to return to Maryland.
The question results from this paragraph on page 200 of David Willman's book:
As of January 2003, Lambert and his investigators knew that the dogs had alerted on at least one other scientist, Patricia Fellows, who formerly worked at USAMRIID but was implicated by no credible evidence. A document that Lambert prepared for Director Mueller's personal briefing of Senators Daschle and Leahy in January 2003 said that the bloodhounds had reacted to Hatfill and Fellows only, adding, "however she assisted with the initial processing of the Daschle/Leahy evidence."
The answer: It doesn't fit with my hypothesis. It doesn't fit with any viable hypothesis. Therefore, until proven otherwise, it is just another piece of evidence showing that the bloodhound evidence is not very reliable.
We don't know the circumstances under which the bloodhounds sniffed Pat Fellows. So, there might be an explanation somewhere, but there isn't enough available information to find it. And it doesn't seem worthwhile to hunt for. (The Anthrax Truthers will, of course, disagree. For them, anything that might somehow show the FBI had made a mistake would be seen as very worthwhile hunting for -- until the end of time, if need be.)
June 17, 2011 - The Anthrax Truthers seem to have run out of arguments, since they are starting to repeat themselves. Now they are arguing once again that the T in NEXT in the media letters is not traced over. Here it is:
Clearly, the horizontal line on the T is traced over. It's certainly the darkest lettering stroke in the word. Plus, you can actually see the two strokes used in the horizontal line.
What the arguments from the Anthrax Truthers fail to consider is the difficulty of getting a six-year-old child to write things exactly the way you want them written. But, of course, the Anthrax Truthers cannot imagine that Ivins would ever have used a child that way, even though the facts say that a child wrote the anthrax letters.
June 15, 2011 (B) - Hmm. As I was downloading and saving this morning's access logs for my web site, I noticed a lot of visits from a site at http://www.hanknuwer.com/blog/. It turned out to be a blog operated by Hank Nuwer, the author of "Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing," the book which reprinted the fraudulent letter advocating hazing that Bruce Ivins wrote to the Frederick News-Post using Nancy Haigwood's name.
Nuwer's blog entry for today contains a long commentary about David Willman's new book. It begins with this:
The new book by David Willman called “The Mirage Man: Bruce Ivins, the Anthrax Attacks, and America’s Rush to War” (Bantam, $27) has verifiable information provided to me by an FBI researcher/investigator some years ago that the Frederick (VA) newspaper article purportedly written by Kappa Kappa Gamma alumnus Nancy Haigwood in defense of hazing was written actually by Ivins. That was an ethical breach by Ivins if true he signed her name to the letter, and it now appears to be so, according to Willman and others. I sure wish I had smelled a rat named Ivins (April 22, 1946 – July 29, 2008) back then and nailed him for the forgery instead of reprinting a couple sentences in my own book “Broken Pledges.”
Later in the blog entry, Nuwer writes:
Some 21 years after publication, my apologies go to Ms. Haigwood for the “Broken Pledges” reprinting of the editor to the letter that Ivins wrote. Clearly, she wasn’t an advocate of hazing. And wasn’t that nice of Ivins to forward his forged letter to a mother who had lost her son to hazing?
It's an interesting comment from one of Ivins' victims. Mr. Nuwer wasn't a victim of the anthrax attacks, of course. He was just another victim of Ivins' decades of lies and deceit.
June 15, 2011 (A) - This morning, The Boston Globe has another "opinion" article by David Willman publicizing his book. The article is titled "Revisiting Mueller and the anthrax case." The opinion piece is critical of FBI Director Mueller and his alleged role in keeping the investigation focused on Steven Hatfill for so long. Willman also revisits the role the bloodhounds played in the "investigation" of Hatfill:
The FBI’s commitment to the dog evidence served to misdirect the investigation for years — and it could have been averted, based on well-publicized murder and rape cases in which the dogs’ reliability had been discredited.
Some of the questions I have about the bloodhounds are: If the dogs were following a scent extracted from the anthrax letters, why did their sniffing begin at a Denny's restaurant in Louisiana? And why did the bloodhounds sniff around the driveway of Bill Patrick's home? And why did the bloodhounds sniff around Hatfill's storage locker in Florida? Why was all that sniffing done before the bloodhounds were allowed to sniff Hatfill himself? I think I know the answers. I just wonder why no one else ever seems to ask those questions.
June 13, 2011 (B) - The Lunatic Fringe seems to be working themselves into a frenzy over the personal beliefs of Judith McLean and the fact that David Willman interviewed her for his book.
Yesterday, "BugMaster" posted a message to Dr. Meryl Nass's site which says this about Willman's book:
Bantam should consider pulling his book.
And, today, "DXer" added his two bits:
Now he [Willman] is spreading what she [Judith McLean] said in a two month book tour. I predict that Bantam will be sued for millions of dollars if Mr. Willman does not add much needed balance on such a central issue of witness credibility. The fact Dr. Ivins was driven to commit suicide does not end the question in some states where he is promoting the book. It's a case lots of lawyers would take pro bono. Bantam's lawyers should brief him on the law before it is too late.
I was tempted to send a response to their posts to Dr. Nass's site, but the lunacy speaks for itself. Besides, as the saying goes, "Any publicity is good publicity." So, their rantings can only help the sales of Willman's book.
June 13, 2011 (A) - Now that he's finished his book about the anthrax case, David Willman, has been rehired by The Los Angeles Times and will return to work in their Washington DC bureau.
June 12, 2011 - Uh oh. I had expected to see a bunch of new book reviews of David Willman's "The Mirage Man" today. And I hoped to be able to use them as source material for this morning's comment. It didn't happen. I found a long article on MSNBC.com, but it's basically just passages from the book. No opinions.
So, I'll have to write something from scratch. Groan.
Early this morning, on Lew Weinstein's blog, "Anonymous" pointed out that Weinstein is mentioned in the book. That probably means "Anonymous" has read the book. "Anonymous" is mentioned by name in the book, too. So are many other people who have beliefs and theories that disagree with the FBI's conclusions. They are listed in the index:
Jeffery Adamovicz - pp. 72-73, 74, 111, 131, 139, 150, 159, 310-311
Gerard Andrews - pp. 46, 111, 152, 153, 154, 159, 339
Byrne, Russell - pp. 46, 47, 59, 304, 328
Henry Heine - pp. 183, 241-242, 314 & notes pages 381, 388, 407 and 426
Stuart Jacobsen - pp. 332
Barry Kissin - pp. 332
Gary Matsumoto - pp. 59-60, 328, 344, & notes pages 413, 420 and 424
Meryl Nass - pp. 331-332 & notes page 440
Richard Spertzel - pp. 107-108, 114, 122, 330, 339, 343-344
Barbara Hatch Rosenberg - pp. 166-170, 171, 331, 332 & notes page 394
Lew Weinstein - pp. 332
In the Appendix, which is subtitled "The Case Against Bruce Ivins," Willman addresses most of the questions these people use to justify disbelieving the evidence. On page 339: "Did Ivins have both the expertise and opportunity to prepare the anthrax?" On page 343: "Did the presence of silicon in the attack spores show that the material was weaponized, that is, treated with a chemical additive?" On page 345: "If the silicon-containing material was not added - how did it get inside the spores?" There are other questions and answers before the Appendix turns to the circumstantial evidence against Ivins, going through the evidence item by item.
I'm also mentioned in the book, but only in the Notes section. On page 316, Willman writes about Ivins leaving the mental hospital in July of 2008 and immediately going to drug stores to buy Tylenol tablets. Then,
That evening, he visited the county library branch on East Patrick Street, just two miles away in downtown Frederick. Ivins made his way to the second floor, where scores of computers were available to the public. Library policy limited to one hour a person's use of any single computer. [note] 33 From 7 P.M. to 8:30 P.M., FBI agents who were tailing him watched as Ivins logged on and off one, and then another, computer to check various e-mail accounts -- and to review a Web site dedicated entirely to developments in the anthrax investigation. [note] 34
Note #34 on page 417 gives the sources for the above information. It says:
34. Sworn affidavit from FBI agent Marlo Arredondo filed with a federal judge in support of obtaining a search warrant to search e-mail accounts established by Bruce Ivins, August 7, 2008; author's interviews in 2010 with Amerithrax investigators, who said the Web site Ivins checked from a computer in the Frederick library was anthraxinvestigation.com, maintained by Edward G. Lake.
I mentioned this visit by Ivins to my web site in my (A) comment on August 8, 2008. after the Associated Press wrote about the visit Ivins made to a web site while at that library. My logs showed that Ivins did a Google search for "Ed Lake," which brought him to my site. On my site on that day, July 24, 2008, I had a comment about CNN's Kelly Arena's interview with FBI Director Mueller in which Mueller said:
I’m confident that it [the anthrax case] will be resolved.I don't know how interesting that will be to readers of this blog, but here's something that may be of even less interest: I recently talked with a researcher/journalist who asked me how I became interested in the anthrax case. I told her what I've always told people: it was a result of a discussion I saw on Bill Maher's TV show "Politically Incorrect" back in October of 2001, just after I returned home from the Austin Film Festival. On previous occasions, I'd tried looking for the first message I ever posted on the subject, but could never find it. Last week, I decided to give it another try. And, I finally found the first message I ever posted about anthrax. Here it is:
From: Ed Lake
Time: Oct 15 2001, 12:17 pm
Topic: Atom Bombing bin Laden
I just got home from a trip, and I'm catching up on PI shows I taped
On one of them, Bill was
ranting like he seemed to want to
It seemed to me to be the
stupidest thing he's ever said on
He wants to drop an atom bomb
on some caves in mountain
Can anyone really be so
stupid as to want to drop atom bombs
It seemed like a reasonable comment to make back then, and it still seems reasonable today.
& Changes: Sunday, June 5, 2011, thru Saturday, June 11, 2011
June 11, 2011 (B) - Some Anthrax Truthers have questioned whether "Lunatic Fringe" is too strong a term to use for some people who believe Ivins was innocent. It might be too strong to apply to some Anthrax Truthers, but there is a Lunatic Fringe group among the Truthers where true lunacy really seems to be rampant.
Isn't it lunacy to argue that there is no proof that Ivins was innocent because the FBI is hiding all the proof? How do these people know such evidence exists? They know it because they believe it. No further proof is necessary.
Isn't it lunacy to claim to show "proof" that something the FBI has stated was false, yet the "proof" actually shows what the FBI stated was true? And the person making the claim cannot explain how something that is true is actually false.
A few days ago, I hinted that I may know the name of the mother of the child who wrote the anthrax letters. Who but a lunatic would make a wild, idiotic guess about who that mother might be, then call the woman to claim that I accused her child of participating in five murders?
True to form, the Lunatic Fringe has now launched a campaign to discredit the testimony by Judith McLean, who was Bruce Ivins' counselor in June and July of 2000, when Ivins talked about his plans to poison Mara Linscott. There are threads on Lew Weinstein's site HERE and HERE. And a posting on the same subject has been made to an email forum I run. The same kind of attack was previously made upon Jean Duley's credibility. Is it considered "normal" to hunt for things to use to personally attack anyone who disagrees with you? If it's not lunacy, what is it?
June 11, 2011 (A) - David Willman has written yet another article to publicize his book "The Mirage Man." This one is an opinion piece in the Washington Post. Title: "Inside our own labs, the threat of another anthrax attack." Here's a paragraph I like:
As Einstein warned, we can’t solve problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. Our system for securing biodefense facilities has already failed. Rather than fix it, we have multiplied opportunities for breaches.
One need not be convinced of Ivins’s guilt to realize he should not have been allowed anywhere near the Army’s anthrax, let alone given unrestricted, 24/7 access to live spores for nearly 28 years.
Colleagues of Ivins who believe he was the perpetrator of the anthrax attacks told me they have stayed silent for fear of professional repercussions, including loss of their jobs.
Willman draws a very grim picture of what has been done (or not done) in the past ten years to prevent another Bruce Ivins from getting his hands on lethal pathogens.
June 10, 2011 (B) - Ah! The first edition of "The Mirage Man" I ordered from Amazon.com just arrived by U.S. Mail.
June 10, 2011 (A) - I found another review of David Willman's book "The Mirage Man." This one is from RealClearPolitics, which describes itself as "an independent, non-partisan media company that is the trusted source for the best news, analysis and commentary. Founded in 2000." So, it's not just some guy's personal blog.
The review is titled "Anthrax Attacks and America's Rush to Judgment." Unlike the reviewer for the LA Times, this reviewer, Carl M. Cannon, found no problem with the "structure" of the book. He describes it as "meticulous and authoritative." And, he says:
"The Mirage Man" should be required reading in every journalism school, and law school, in this country. It should be the textbook of a case study at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va. -- and police academies everywhere. It should be taught in college government classes, and handed out to freshman members of Congress when they arrive in Washington, and to staffers assigned to the Capitol Hill committees and the White House National Security Council.
I can't disagree with that. And I certainly agree with the four paragraphs about Barbara Hatch Rosenberg and New York Times' columnist Nicholas Kristof on the 3rd page of the lengthy review, including this:
Kristof, who asserted openly in his column that he was trying to "prod" the FBI into following up on his hunch, was considered a ridiculous diversion by the agents assigned to the Amerithrax investigation. Inside the Washington field office, an FBI supervisor named Robert Roth began putting Kristof's more outlandish statements on the wall in large letters. To buck up his besieged agents, Roth added a statement of his own: "One of the best things that can happen to you is to have this type of person criticize you."
And on the 4th page, there's more:
In June of 2002, Van Harp and three other bureau officials were summoned to the office of Leahy, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, only to find their meeting turned over to Rosenberg. "For the better part of an hour she presented her views about the letter attacks and the culpability of Hatfill, without ever naming him," Willman writes. "When Harp tried to press Rosenberg for concrete details, Leahy's staff cut him off."
Instead of resisting this political pressure, the FBI knuckled under.Yes, exactly. Instead of resisting the political pressure to publicly investigate Steven Hatfill, the FBI knuckled under. And, when the FBI knucked under, in the minds of the public and many "journalists," the FBI became responsible for everything that happened to Dr. Hatfill. The eight months of intense pressure created by Dr. Rosenberg , Kristof, others in the media and various politicians to investigate Dr. Hatfill was simply forgotten about. The whole Hatfill mess became the FBI's fault.
June 9, 2011 (C) - Today, the (Maryland) Gazette contains an article titled "A treasure trove of information about Amerithrax." It should more appropriately be titled "A treasure trove of misinformation about Amerithrax." It's one historian's take on a 25 minute speech giving by Paul Kemp at a Rotary Club meeting. Here's a sample:
For instance, the FBI lost anthrax samples that Ivins supplied to it in 2002. Several years later, agents asked for additional samples, and Ivins used a different method, sending a purer virus.Kemp keeps feeding the public total baloney about the FBI losing the first sample Ivins supplied from flask RMR-1029. It wasn't lost. It was thrown away because Ivins didn't prepare it properly, and it was therefore useless as evidence.
It wasn't years later that Ivins supplied a new sample, it was two months later. "A purer virus"!? It wasn't purer, and it wasn't a virus. It was a sample of bacteria spores.
Another example of the misinformation in the article:
Nor did the FBI get anthrax samples from other major contractors under contract with the government. The largest, Battelle, had a number of locations working with anthrax, and equipment that could create an aerosol. Yet the FBI did not pursue those leads, so certain were they that only Ivins had mailed the letters.
Totally false, of course. The FBI was investigating all leads - including those at Battelle - long before the evidence started to pinpoint Bruce Ivins as the most likely suspect. I think the article by "historian" Paul Gordon achieves a new record for the amount of misinformation that has been printed in a single article about the Amerithrax case.
June 9, 2011 (B) - Ah! I was right! The reviewers are saving their reviews until Sunday. The Los Angeles Times just released a review by Wendy Smith of David Willman's book "The Mirage Man," and the review is dated June 12. It will undoubtedly be seen in print in their Sunday edition.
The blurb at the top of the review says the book "lacks structure." Hmm. Okay. So, it's not going to be LA Times review heaping endless praise upon a book written by a former LA Times reporter. After some other opening sentences, the reviewer then says:
The FBI botched the anthrax investigation so badly that it eventually paid $5.82 million to researcher Steven J. Hatfill, targeted for years as the bureau's principal suspect amid a flood of publicity, after a district court judge declared there was "not a scintilla of evidence" linking Hatfill to the letters.
So it's unsurprising that not everyone was convinced when the FBI announced on Aug. 6, 2008, that the actual culprit was Bruce Ivins, a microbiologist at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) who had committed suicide a week earlier.
Uh, oh! The review then says:
The circumstantial evidence Willman lays out is strong, though not undisputed.
Yeah, but what action by any government agency in today's Internet-connected world goes undisputed? Fortunately, the reviewer doesn't describe any disputes or take any sides. Instead, she spends a couple paragraphs describing how Willman jumps around in time and sometimes repeats information, which evidently makes the book somewhat difficult to follow for a person not very familiar with the case. Wendy Smith concludes her review with this:
By the time Willman shows the FBI finally closing in on Ivins in the fall of 2007 and relates the grim psychic unraveling that preceded his suicide in 2008, readers have too much information and not enough meaningful interpretation. Willman provides good evidence to back up his conviction that Ivins was guilty. What he doesn't provide is a well-organized structure to unite the multiple strands of a shocking news story into a strong full-length narrative.
Hmm. I can't disagree. I was concerned that Willman's book would make any book I write totally redundant. But, we have very different styles and considerably different views on what is important. What I think would be most important in my book would be my interpretations of the evidence, my understanding of the science, my understanding of the public and media psychology, and a linear structure that would make things easier to follow.
It's a very encouraging review, in that it encourages me to get back to work on my own book. Hopefully, it's just the first of many reviews. I'm very curious about what other reviewers might have to say. Since reviews are just opinions, there's no reason to believe that any two reviewers will see exactly the same strengths and faults.
June 9, 2011 (A) - The Lunatic Fringe is still very active in their unyielding defense of Bruce Ivins. One tactic used by people on The Fringe is to find instances where a person who believes Ivins was guilty was once wrong about something else, and therefore, since his views were once shown to be wrong, he or she cannot be trusted on anything. He or she is a person who makes mistakes. And, who would ever be silly enough to believe someone who makes mistakes!?
This morning, I received a bizarre email from a True Believer which said:
Ed, can you correct your webpage all the times where you said the FBI did not suspect Hatfill? To the contrary, the interviews establish that FBI was fixated on HatfillAs with virtually all claims from the Lunatic Fringe, this claim is also nonsense. Most of the instances where the FBI said that Hatfill was not a suspect were documented headlines in newspapers, not claims of mine. But, since Hatfill's name had not yet been made public, most of those headlines were primarily about Barbara Hatch Rosenberg's theories regarding Hatfill. My web page about the attempted lynching of Steven Hatfill goes into all the details.
The central premise of your webpage for 7 years was mistaken but you haven't corrected it yet. Thanks. We will want history and the record to reflect what those briefing meetings with FBI Director Mueller were like.
The argument from the True Believer seems to be that David Willman's book somewhere says that "the FBI" suspected Hatfill. That is not true. After Barbara Hatch Rosenberg and The New York Times had been pointing at Hatfill for months, certain individuals within the Department of Justice and the FBI appear to have started suspecting or believing that Hatfill was the anthrax mailer, but there also were many individuals within the FBI who did NOT think Hatfill did it.
Willman's book contains this on page 185 of the reviewers' edition:
Some FBI hands questioned the extraordinary investigative measures [regarding Hatfill]. Said Brad Garrett, one of the agents who dealt directly with Hatfill, "Did it make any sense at the time? No, it didn't. Is it overkill? I think the answer is yes." Garret made it clear that the outsized focus on Hatfill came from the top, not from agents working the case. "Particular management people felt, 'He is the right guy. If only we could put this amount of energy into him, we'll get to the end of the rainbow.' Did it take energy away? It had to have. Because you can't pull up another hundred agents and say, 'You go work on these [leads] that these guys can't, because they're just focused on Hatfill.'" [Note] 40 But looked at another way, so long as agents were tailing him, videotaping him, and monitoring his conversations, the FBI was preventing the presumed perpetrator from striking again.
In other words, the focus on Hatfill was the result of pressures from "the top," which were in turn the result of pressures from politicians and the media. Did the people at "the top" actually believe that Hatfill was the anthrax killer, or did they just believe that more pressure was needed to find proof that would up in court and relieve all the pressure? Did the agents in the FBI who believed Hatfill was the anthrax mailer believe it because so many other people with impressive credentials outside of the FBI believed it? Or did they just figure he could be the guy because they had no other viable suspects at the time? The one thing they did not have was evidence proving that Hatfill was the anthrax mailer. And evidence is the only thing that really matters in a criminal case.
It's certainly clear that some individuals within the Department of Justice believed that Hatfill was the anthrax mailer. In an attempt to find the sources of leaks about Dr. Hatfill, a top lawyer in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, Daniel Seikaly, was caught in a sting operation conducted by the FBI. The FBI evidently gave Seikaly false confidential information about how the bloodhounds had identified Hatfill's scent on the anthrax letters, and Seikaly gave the confidential information to Newsweek. Hatfill's lawsuit against the FBI & DOJ has details. I described this incident in my comment for December 23, 2007. And, in January of 2009, I made this comment on Dr. Nass's site:
I have stated MANY times that the FBI is NOT a Borg Collective where instantly everyone knows what everyone else knows, and everyone believes what everyone else believes.
Any claim that "the FBI" believed Hatfill was guilty is false. Any claim that "the FBI" believed Hatfill was innocent is false. The reality is that individuals within the FBI had different opinions. They probably still do.
June 8, 2011 - Yesterday, I ordered a copy of David Willman's book "The Mirage Man" from Amazon.com. They say I should receive it on Friday or Saturday.
I'm somewhat surprised that there haven't yet been any new reviews of the book. But, I think book reviews are typically in the Sunday editions and Sunday magazines. So, we'll see what happens on Sunday.
Meanwhile, on Dr. Meryl Nass's blog, one of the posters who calls himself "Anonymous" wrote that he couldn't understand what I was claiming in my (A) comment yesterday about finding additional evidence in a reviewers' edition of Willman's book which further indicated that a child wrote the anthrax letters. I responded in great detail.
In his book, David Willman doesn't say anything about a child writing the letters. The new facts which he provides are about people Ivins knew. Some of those facts strongly support my hypothesis that a child wrote the letters. (I'm being purposefully vague because I don't want to point at a 15 or 16 year old who may not have been the letter writer. I lack critical facts to make it anything more than a very promising hypothesis. The writer may have been some other child.)
I should probably give an overall opinion of "The Mirage Man." I think it's a terrific book. David Willman has done a masterful job of research and vivid writing. He seems to have interviewed just about everyone Ivins ever knew, all the way back to grade school. Willman names sources that have never been named before - and some are very surprising. Example: The co-worker to whom Ivins gave a copy of Gődel, Escher Bach was Patricia Fellows. Ivins became angry when she later told him she hadn't read it.
It was also Fellows who was talking with Ivins when the FBI caught some of Ivins' non-denial denials on tape. I'd assumed it was one of his mental health counselors. Here's what it says on page 297 of the reviewers' edition:
Agent Lawrence Alexander was at the FBI's office in Frederick, listening in as the conversation [between Ivins and Fellows] unfolded. As he followed the back-and-forth, Alexander looked forward to the day when a jury would hear Ivins stammering and equivocating about whether he committed the anthrax letter attacks. That night, Rachel Lieber listened to a tape of the conversation and resolved that she would play excerpts from it during the opening arguments at the future murder trial of Bruce Ivins. 6
That's just one example of information from Willman's book that has never appeared in print before. (Note #6 contains all the details about where Willman got the information mentioned in that paragraph.)
The book also contains a lot of information about how the silicon issue got started and why it has lasted so long. Numerous conspiracy theorists are mentioned by name.
While I consider it a terrific book, I certainly don't agree with everything in it. But, my disagreements are over relatively minor matters and over summations. For example, we disagree on why the bloodhounds where brought in on the Hatfill case. Willman writes about what FBI agents told him. I believe what the facts tell me. Also, I don't think the case was "bungled." With all the suspects they had, with all the pressures from inside and outside the government, and with a devious suspect like Ivins involved, it's really amazing that the FBI actually found the killer - even if now, with 20-20 hindsight, it seems like it should have been obvious a lot earlier that Ivins did it.
June 7, 2011 (B) - As a result of my (A) comment this morning, I received a couple emails telling me I could get a copy of David Willman's book via Kindle or on an iPad almost instantly.
Yes, I know the book is available on Kindle and via other electronic sources. However, I need/want a copy that I can go through with different colored highlighters to mark passages I might need for future reference (for my own book), plus I want to mark passages that I might need to cite sometime on this blog. Highlighting helps me remember things, and it helps me find things later.
I also received a bunch of emails explaining the reasoning behind the Lunatic Fringe claim that I had abandoned my "argument that it is 99% certain a first grader wrote the anthrax letters." It was someone's distortion of what I wrote on January 11, 2009, when I created my web page titled "The Facts say: A child Wrote The Anthrax Letters":
Facts are facts, whether they are believed or not.
In the Amerithrax case, the preponderance of facts show very clearly that a child almost certainly wrote the anthrax letters and addressed the envelopes. Yes, it is possible that the writing is that of an adult who knew exactly how to write like a child in every detail. But, while that may be "possible," it seems extremely unlikely.
They just ignored the last sentence, distorted the meaning of everything, and then they implied I had recently written those paragraphs. It only took multiple distortions of the facts in order to make their bogus claim. And now, of course, they're discussing deleting the claim, so they can pretend they never made it.
The bogus claim also seems to show an inability on the part of True Believers in the Lunatic Fringe to understand that it is possible to be less than 100% certain about something. True Believers may be 100% certain - without any facts to support their total certainty - that a child did NOT write the letters, but, since I work with facts, I can't be 100% certain that Bruce Ivins, Muslim terrorists or aliens from outer space didn't write the letter. So, while those alternative explanations are technically possible, the facts say they are also extremely unlikely.
June 7, 2011 (A) - Okay. The embargo is now lifted. It's okay for me to talk freely about David Willman's new book "The Mirage Man" (except for the fact that I haven't yet obtained a first edition, so I can't be certain what was written in the advance copy also appears in the first edition. I was just over at my local Barnes & Noble, and they didn't have any copies in yet. No other local book store has copies, either.).
A member of the Lunatic Fringe wrote yesterday:
Ed Lake at some point abandoned his argument that it is 99% certain a first grader wrote the anthrax letters. His position now is alternatively that the perpetrator was merely making it look like a child’s writing.
Where do the people on the Lunatic Fringe get such total nonsense!? Do I have to talk about a subject every day to avoid having them claim I've changed my mind? If I talk about something every day, they'll just claim I'm "obsessed," and therefore not to be trusted. There was nothing new about the subject of the handwriting on the anthrax letters for a long time, so what would there be for me to say - unless someone else brought up the subject?
Also, I've been waiting for the embargo to be lifted so I can discuss the new information in David Willman's book.
Although Willman himself appears to believe that Ivins wrote the anthrax letters and somehow disguised his handwriting, possibly by writing with the "wrong hand," there are new facts in his book which virtually pinpoint the 6-year-old child who Ivins almost certainly talked into writing the letters and addressing the envelopes.
The child is so clearly identified (if you are looking at facts showing that a child wrote the anthrax letters and not ignoring those facts because they don't support your beliefs), that I have to wonder: Does the FBI know who the letter writer is? Are they withholding the information because it could ruin the child's life? Since Bruce Ivins is dead, what point is there in turning an innocent 16 year old into "The boy who wrote the anthrax letters" in headlines all over the world?
On the other hand, the child and his parents might be totally unaware that all the evidence says that a child wrote the letters. The child may never have seen the anthrax letters on TV. (What sort of 6-year-old child watches The Evening News?) And the parents may have been assuming for 10 years that some Muslim wrote the letters.
The new facts in Willman's book explain so much. Among other facts, the reason the handwriting was so good for a first grader seems to be explained: The child's mother is a schoolteacher.
The new facts in Willman's book leave only one missing piece to the puzzle. And, therefore, there is still a possibility that the letter writer was some other first grader in Diane Ivins' day care center during that time -- and the remote possibility that Ivins wrote the letters himself.
The one unanswered question is: Did the schoolteacher actually have a six year old child at the time of the mailings?
June 6, 2011 - McClatchy newspapers today include a version of David Willman's most recent article. Yesterday, it was in the Sacremento Bee. Both are just edited versions of what AP and the Charleston Gazette released on the 3rd.
June 5, 2011 (B) - In this morning's (A) comment, I used the term "argument from ignorance," probably for the first time. I feel like I should have been using it a hundred times a day for the past ten years.
Argument from ignorance, also known as argumentum ad ignorantiam or "appeal to ignorance", is a fallacy in informal logic. It asserts that a proposition is true because it has not been proven false (or vice versa).
The Lunatic Fringe argues that Ivins' notebooks show he was doing normal work in those evenings for which he had no explanations. They feel they do not need to show how the notebooks show he was doing normal work. Their argument is: if you cannot prove their statement is false, that means their statement is true. The same with the "autoclave ticker tape." If you can't prove the autoclave ticker tape is not relevant to the case, then it is relevent to the case, nevermind how. The "argument of ignorance" tactic turns the burden of proof over to their opponents. The Lunatic Fringe doesn't have to prove anything. It's up to their opponents to prove them wrong. If their opponents can't prove them wrong - or if their opponents can't be bothered to do so - that means the Lunatic Fringe is right.
Here's a terrific 10-minute YouTube video of Neil deGrasse Tyson discussing "argument from ignorance":
If you are old enough to remember Senator Joe McCarthy, "argument from ignorance" was a favorite tactic of his:
[Joe McCarthy] announced that he had penetrated "Truman's iron curtain of secrecy" and that he proposed forthwith to present 81 cases… Cases of exactly what? "I am only giving the Senate," he said, "cases in which it is clear there is a definite Communist connection…persons whom I consider to be Communists in the State Department." … Of Case 40, he said, "I do not have much information on this except the general statement of the agency…that there is nothing in the files to disprove his Communist connections."
And it was up to others to prove McCarthy wrong. If they didn't, to McCarthy and his followers that meant he was right.
Another term to use when discussing the arguments from the Lunatic Fringe might be "argument from incredulity," which is basically their argument: If they cannot believe it, then it cannot be true.
June 5, 2011 (A) - I think the argument I've been having with Southack on FreeRepublic.com has run its course and has served its purpose. Anyone who has read the thread should be able to see that there are no facts which will convince Southack that the anthrax which contaminated the AMI building was not on the money paid as rent by 9/11 hijackers to a woman whose husband worked at AMI.
The discussion/argument began on May 22, and ended the only way it could end, with me allowing Southack to have the last word yesterday, June 4. With about 40 arguments from me and just 1 from Southack stated over and over about 40 times, it should be clear that further discussion on this particular subject is pointless.
Meanwhile, on Dr. Meryl Nass's web site, someone who calls himself "Anonymous," but who is not the same "Anonymous" who wrote other messages in the same thread, continued to argue that Ivins was a nice guy and that all his burglaries, vandalism and despicable acts against co-workers and former colleagues mean nothing. According to the thinking of "Anonymous," if Bruce Ivins never committed murder before 2001, then it's clearly not possible for him to have committed the anthrax murders in 2001.
I wrote: Ivins was a case study of a man who kept countless secrets from his "friends" and co-workers and manipulated them into believing he was just a harmless eccentric.Does one need to know that a co-worker will make a copy of the key to your home if you leave the key unattended?
Anonymous responded: I don't see that as a bad thing. If I have a coworker who has chronic, say, flatulence, would I need to know that?!? I mean other than finding out by being in a smallish office or lab? Some things are private/personal, even intensely so.
Does one need to know that a co-worker will steal your computer password and read your emails if you aren't careful?
Does one need to know that a co-worker will vandalize your car and property if he's in a bad mood?
Does one need to know that a co-worker will try to destroy your career if he feels you ignore him?
Does one need to know that a co-worker will plot to poison you if you don't treat him correctly?
"Anonymous" suggests that none of this is any more serious than farting while at work. And, it appears that - like Southack - no amount of evidence or arguing is going to change his (or her) mind. That particular discussion ended with what appears to be a personal attack (using something I said about Ivins, and turning it upon me).
Meanwhile, on Lew Weinstein's web site, where I'm banned from posting, the argument continues to be that nothing the FBI used as evidence is really evidence if people on that site don't believe it is evidence, or if they have merely commented on it. If they have used the Freedom Of Information Act to obtain a document that shows Ivins had no explanation for working long hours alone in his lab at night during the times the attack anthrax powders were made, but they believe that there is an explanation in the document somewhere, then the FBI's findings are null and void. All they need is to believe that the document somehow proves their beliefs, and it becomes proof of their beliefs - regardless of what the document actually says. And anyone who disagrees is just a "shill" for the FBI.
This morning, I found a couple emails in my inbox from a regular poster on Weinstein's site. One email said:
the reason you have no credibility is that in addition to not seeking documents, you don't consult with experts (someone not qualified in the field should always consult with experts)
Really? It seems to me that I have been consulting with experts for ten years on just about everything. At one time or another, I've consulted with just about every key scientist who was free to talk about the case (and I've read what many many more experts have written). But, that doesn't mean I'm only parroting what those experts believe or tell me. When experts do not address a subject or cannot agree on a subject, I will put facts together myself and explain on this web site exactly what the facts say. And, I'll wait to see if any expert can prove me wrong. The Anthrax Truthers, on the other hand, find an "expert" who agrees with them, and they consider that "expert's" opinion to be gospel, even if everything he or she says can be easily proven wrong.
The other email I received this morning said:
why did you fail to request the autoclave ticker tape? what purpose is served by internet posters who just get things wrong by a failure to seek the best evidence?
Why did I fail to request the autoclave ticker tape? Probably for the same reason I failed to request access to the menu in the base cafeteria: It wouldn't answer any relevant question I saw as being in need of an answer.
That seems to be another tactic of the Lunatic Fringe. They blindly "fish" for evidence to support their beliefs. As a result, they frequently point at things that have no apparent relevance - like the autoclave ticker tape - and they declare that it could or does mean something. They dare others to prove it does not mean anything. If the others cannot or don't have time to argue that the information is not relevant (who can "prove the negative" about anything?), the Lunatic Fringe will declare that means it is relevant, even if no Truther can explain how it is relevant. It's an "argument from ignorance."
Argument from ignorance, also known as argumentum ad ignorantiam or "appeal to ignorance", is a fallacy in informal logic. It asserts that a proposition is true because it has not been proven false (or vice versa).
I'm a researcher and an analyst. I evaluate the evidence supplied by experts and sources with solid facts. I develop an hypothesis which explains all the known facts. I then ask everyone to show me where my hypothesis is wrong. If they can do so (they are rarely able to do so), I revise the hypothesis so that it incorporates the new information.
If some expert publishes information that does not agree with my hypothesis, I will usually write a comment for my web site explaining the "expert's" point of view. Then I present my evidence, and I show how my evidence is supported by the facts, while the "expert's" point of view appears to be largely based upon opinions or anonymous sources. And, I'm open to further discussions of the subject.
That's the situation as we begin the week where David Willman's new book "The Mirage Man" goes on sale (on June 7). Reviewers and journalists have been generally embargoed from reviewing the book or citing from it until after it goes on sale, and so have I. Anthrax Truthers, however, haven't been embargoed and/or don't care about embargoes, so one of them has been citing passage after passage from Willman's book - out of context - and inexplicably plopping the quotes into old threads where a specific subject was previously mentioned. The idea seems to be that if some subject was previously mentioned by an Anthrax Truther, then the quote has some relevance, even if the previous mention had no apparent relevance to anything.
Sometimes, going through the babble from the Lunatic Fringe is like trying to decipher a book about toe nail cleaning that was written in Sanskrit. Is it really worth the effort? Do I really need to know what they're trying to say?
& Changes: Sunday, May 29, 2011, thru Saturday, June 4, 2011
June 4, 2011 (C) - I still can't figure out why the Lunatic Fringe believes that Ivins' notebooks show anything other that what the FBI stated they showed about his late evening hours in the BSL-3 lab. Yet, the Lunatic Fringe just keeps claiming that the notebooks say things that the notebooks clearly do not say.
So, rather than repeat what I wrote on June 2, I've moved that comment here, and I've expanded upon it - mainly by adding the image of the page from the notebook that they inexplicably seem to believe proves something.
They seem to believe that because Bruce Ivins' note books show that he was doing routine work during the days when he also worked alone in the BSL-3 lab in the evenings without a good explanation, that somehow proves that Ivins was doing routine and legitimate work on those evenings.
Of course, the lab notebooks show no such thing. And there is no logic to the claims from the Lunatic Fringe.
Here's what it says on page 32 of the FBI's Summary Report about the notebook entries:
When confronted with his suspicious pattern of hours worked in the lab, Dr. Ivins’s only explanation was that he “liked to go there to get away from a difficult home life.” He could not give a legitimate, science-related reason for being there during these hours, and none was documented in any of his lab notebooks. 21
And Note 21 at the bottom of the page says:
21 It bears mention that during the first five days of this second phase, Dr. Ivins did make notations regarding the health of some mice involved in a study being conducted by another colleague – thus justifying his presence in the lab for a short time on each of those days (Friday, September 28 through Tuesday, October 2). However, the first three of those days, he was in the hot suites for well over an hour, far longer than necessary to check to see if any mice were dead. And for the three nights before each mailing window, Dr. Ivins was in the hot suites for between two and four hours each night, with absolutely no explanation.
Yet, somehow, the Lunatic Fringe "researchers" can see "evidence" in the notebooks that Ivins was working hard at legitimate USAMRIID duties on those evenings. They used FOIA requests to get copies of the notebooks, and they've been discussing them on Lew Weinstein's web site for months.
One thread shows a page from a notebook. That thread contains their version of the page they think is so important:
As anyone should be able to see, the notebook page indicates some times when Ivins was checking for dead mice and rabbits in the evenings. On Tuesday, October 2, the notebook page indicates that Ivins checked on the mice at 10 p.m. (2200 hours) and evidently found that 2 mice were dead in one of the experiments. Moreover, the in-out logs show that on that evening he only worked 23 minutes in the BSL-3 lab. So, it's reasonable to believe that he only went in to check on the mice. It doesn't take long to check for dead animals, so, most of the 23 minutes were probably spent in the shower after he left the BSL-3 lab. This confirms what the FBI Summary Report said.
Also confirming what the FBI Summary Report said, on the 3rd, 4th and 5th of October, when Ivins would have been busy working on the creating the anthrax powders for the letters, the notebook page shows absolutely no evening times spent on checking on mice and rabbits. All animal checking was done during his normal daytime work. Yet, somehow the Lunatic Fringe sees an explanation for Ivins spending 2 hours and 58 minutes in the BSL-3 lab on the evening of the 3rd, 2 hours and 33 minutes on the 4th, and 3 hours and 42 minutes on the 5th. How is it explained? They don't say. It appears that they they consider it so obvious that they don't need to explain it to anyone. (They seem to believe that "explaining" is the same as "pontificating.")
According to the Lunatic Fringe, I'm not a researcher, I'm a pontificator. But, you don't have to be a researcher to see that the notebook page confirms what the FBI said in the Summary Report and disputes the total nonsense from the Lunatic Fringe.
June 4, 2011 (B) - The Frederick News-Post has once again printed lawyer Barry Kissin's opinion about the Amerithrax investigation. Kissin's wildly uninformed and misinformed opinion is, as always, that the attack anthrax was weaponized in some super-sophisticated way that Bruce Ivins couldn't possibly have been able to replicate. Mr. Kissin asks:
As of 2001, did the Army at Fort Detrick have the equipment and expertise necessary to create the attack anthrax -- anthrax powder of unprecedented purity and as dispersible as a gas? If not, who did have such equipment and expertise? Is there a legitimate purpose for such equipment and expertise? Has the program involving such equipment and expertise been terminated, or is the program being expanded as a part of the ongoing expansion taking place at Detrick?
Yes, Mr. Kissin, Bruce Ivins was making pure spores virtually every day very much like what was in the letters mailed to the two senators, and he was throwing out the kind of junk that was sent to the media. So, "unprecedented" is hardly a valid term to use for what Bruce Ivins was creating. The only additional task Ivins needed to do was to dry the spores, and Ivins knew multiple ways to do that - including ways that Mr. Kissin probably uses whenever he needs to dry something that is wet. Believing that something is difficult doesn't make it difficult.
And, Bruce Ivins also knew how to cause silicon to be incorporated into spore coats (although he probably didn't know he knew it), since he created the spores for flask RMR-1030, and that flask contained spores with silicon in their coats exactly like what was in the attack anthrax. So, any claim that Ivins couldn't do it is just plain false.
Mr. Kissin also reports that Bruce Ivins' former lawyer, Paul Kemp, recently gave a lecture at a Rotary Club meeting where Mr. Kemp talked about the Amerithrax investigation, and - according to Mr. Kissin - Kemp demolished the FBI's case and pointed the finger at Battelle. Mr. Kemp's reasoning is the same as Mr. Kissin's: Ivins didn't know how to do things he did every day. That's the kind of illogical reasoning the defenders of Bruce Ivins somehow see as logical.
June 4, 2011 (A) - David Willman has written another article utilizing material from his new book. This article was evidently written for the Sacramento Bee, it was distributed by the Associated Press for release tomorrow (Sunday, June 5) but McClatchy newspapers (The Charleston Gazette) released it yesterday, complete with notations about what the AP says can be cut to make the article shorter if some newspaper wishes to do so. The article is titled "The anthrax scare and one deeply troubled man." Here are a couple paragraphs:
My research for a book about the attacks found that misinformation continues to distort many of the essential details. Based on my review of thousands of pages of documents related to the FBI-led anthrax investigation, including the results of genetic and chemical tests, along with my hundreds of interviews with those most familiar with the evidence, there is no credible indication of foreign involvement in America's worst-ever brush with biological terrorism.
Indeed, the evidence points most convincingly to one of our own - a trusted Army scientist at what was presumed to be the most secure of American biodefense facilities.It's been a very busy week for people interested in this subject. I wonder what next week will be like.
June 3, 2011 - This morning, The Daily Beast contains what is described as an "excerpt" from David Willman's new book "The Mirage Man." It appears to be several excerpts with some new text added to bind the excerpts together. One section of the article describes how, in July of 2000, Bruce Ivins told his mental health counselor Judith M. McLean that he had planned to poison a young woman named Mara:
McLean learned from Ivins
that he was an accomplished scientist and had access to dangerous
substances, but she did not know anthrax was among them. ..... He said he had sometimes committed acts
of anonymous vandalism against those who wronged him. Ivins had earlier told a psychiatrist that
he carried a loaded gun at college. Imagining stationary objects inside
of buildings as his enemies, he said he fired at them, once destroying
a wall clock. ....
On the afternoon of July 18, 2000, Ivins arrived for his fourth session with McLean. They began discussing anew his obsession with Mara. He said he felt deeply attached to her, but she did not show the same interest in him. She was not responding regularly to his e-mails, and this angered him.
In a matter-of-fact manner, Ivins described how he had driven recently to upstate New York to watch Mara play in a soccer match, and how he had brought along a jug of wine that he had spiked with poison. If Mara had not been injured during the match, he would have offered her the wine when they met for a casual visit afterward. He had the ability, he told McLean, to create “lethal poisons” and the expertise to use them for revenge.
He said he saw himself as an “avenging angel of death.”After the session, McLean tried to get advice from the owner of the clinic and from other senior members on what to do about Ivins. She called the Frederick Police Department, but they told her that it didn't sound like any actual crime had been committed. McLean then called the clinic's lawyer, and he told her the same thing.
Much of this was described (without the counselor's name and other critical details) in The Washington Post back in August of 2008. The Anthrax Truthers tried to say the counselor in 2000 was Jean Duley, who they do not like and feel free to attack as untrustworthy. The fact that Duley didn't meet Ivins until 2008 is irrelevant to the Truthers.
The Anthrax Truthers seem to spend all day every day trying to find ways to dismiss as "biased" anyone who says anything bad about Bruce Ivins.
They don't believe that Ivins fired a gun at any clock while in college, so the psychiatrist must be lying, not Ivins.
Dr. David Irwin is dismissed as biased because he is a "forensic psychiatrist," which they believe means he works for the FBI. In reality, it just means he's qualified to testify in court (for the defense or prosecution) about psychiatric mental problems and their symptoms.
The Anthrax Truthers routinely attack the head of the Expert Behavioral Analysis Panel, Dr. Gregory Saathoff, as being in cahoots with the FBI and, therefore, incapable of giving an "independent" opinion.
The Truthers argue that nothing Ivins said or did prior to September of 2001 has any bearing on whether or not he committed the anthrax attacks in 2001. But, then, because they ignore all past deeds by Ivins, they try to argue that there's no reason to believe that a nice guy like Bruce Ivins would commit such a crime. In court, the claim that Ivins was a "nice guy" would bring Ivins' character into question (was he a "nice guy" or wasn't he?), and that would allow all of his past crimes to be shown as part of his character. The Truthers want to be able to say Ivins was a "nice guy" without anyone proving otherwise. Anyone who proves otherwise is "biased."
I've got a feeling that when David Willman's book comes out on June 7, there will be a LOT of new discussion in the media about Ivins and the anthrax attacks. It will be interesting to see what "media experts" have to say, particularly the experts who have made headlines by trying to cast doubt upon the FBI's findings that Ivins was the anthrax mailer.
June 2, 2011 (B) - For the record, the reason I'm writing about my emails here is because I see no point in arguing with some members of the Lunatic Fringe in private. The primary purpose of arguing with the Lunatic Fringe is to show the world why they are known as "The Lunatic Fringe." Private arguments won't do that. (My public argument with Southack on FreeRepublic.com continues to show very good examples of Lunatic Fringe reasoning. My arguments on Dr. Meryl Nass's web site don't always get posted, and when they do, they get delayed for hours or days. And, I have to be very careful to not say anything Dr. Nass might not approve of. That makes it difficult to have a good argument.)
June 2, 2011 (A) - Of all the weird blatherings expressed by the Lunatic Fringe on Lew Weinstein's web site over the years, one of the weirdest is the complaint that the FBI is keeping secret which scientific article Ivins sent to an FBI agent on August 4, 2004. I'm only mentioning it now because the lunatics have started sending me emails about it.
The blatherings relate to a paragraph in FBI document #847443. The paragraph on page 94 says:
On August 4, 2004, BRUCE IVINS of the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infections Diseases (USAMRIID), Ft. Detrick, Maryland, telephonically contacted Supervisory Special Agent (SSA) XXXXXXX of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). IVINS reported that XXXXXX also of USAMRIID, had provided him with a scientific article abstract about Bacillus spore suspensions in which the addition of silica to the spore coat was discussed. IVINS offered to send the abstract via facsimile to SSA XXXXXX and subsequently sent the abstract to the FBI offsite in Frederick, Maryland. The cover sheet and the article abstract are maintained in the 1A section of the file.
It was first brought up over a year ago. At that time, "Anonymous Scientist" speculated:
It’s probably just the Somlyo abstract.
Years ago, when I read that paragraph in the FBI report, that's what I figured, too. It was probably one of the two articles from 1980 which were being discussed around that time, articles which described how silicon had been discovered in the coats of Bacillus spores. Here's part of a comment I wrote on March 10, 2004:
Fact #8: In 1980 two scientific papers were written about finding silicon in spores similar to anthrax - spores of Bacillus cereus and spores of Bacillus megaterium. The papers included speculation that the silicon may have come from glass containers, but in one paper logic seemed to indicate that wasn’t true, and no true investigation was performed to figure out exactly where the silicon did come from. The two papers are:
1) M. Stewart, et al. (1980) Distribution of calcium and other elements in cryosectioned bacillus cereus T spores, determined by high-resolution scanning electron probe X-ray microanalysis. Journal of Bacteriology 143: 481-491. [A. V. Somlyo was a co-author. The article is HERE.]
2) K. Johnstone, et al. (1980) Location of metal ions in bacillus megaterium spores by high-resolution electron probe X-ray microanalysis. FEMS Microbiology Letters 7: 97-101.Then, as if last year's thread never existed, it was brought up again two days ago. And now I'm getting emails.
What's so weird is that this blathering isn't about something Ivins wrote, it's just about an article he sent to an FBI agent. The Lunatic Fringe somehow thinks it's of vast importance to know exactly what article it was, and they're working themselves into a lather over it. They're even sending me emails trying to get me worked up over it.
Why are they so worked up over it? They won't say. They don't explain anything they get worked up over. They just consider anyone who doesn't get worked up over what they are worked up over to be ignorant and biased.
May 31, 2011 - Nuts! I can't stop thinking about the three evolutionary theories which explain how Bacillus anthracis bacteria developed the ability to utilize silicon when forming spore coats: (1)the acid theory, (2) the structural integrity theory, and (3) the ultaviolet light theory.
In my (B) comment on Sunday, I wrote "the acid theory only involves spores that go through an animal's stomach."
That seems to be the wrong way to describe my problem with the "acid theory."
The problem seems to be that the "acid theory" implies that anthrax spores were all being killed by stomach acids before "Spore A" showed up. Because "Spore A" had by pure chance developed DNA that utilized silicon, this single spore was able to survive the acid in an animal's stomach, and it was thus able to produce millions and billions of descendants that also had the same ability to survive acid baths. Not only that, "Spore A" was also a super-spore, powerful enough to overwhelm the animal's immune system all by itself.
That's not evolution, that's creationism. A mysterious force gave "Spore A" all the powers it needed to survive.
My "ultraviolet light hypothesis," on the other hand, begins with a key fact: Spores form in a silicon-rich environment. Anthrax spores form in silicon-rich blood that has spilled on silicon-rich soil.
Spores do not form inside an animal's body. Spores are ingested when the animal gobbles them up while grazing. Inside the animal's body, they germinate into living bacteria, and the bacteria start reproducing and reproducing. Then, the animal gets sick, and the tens of billions of living bacteria in its blood, excrement and vomit get spilled on the ground. The living bacteria can not survive or reproduce on the ground, so the bacteria begin to form spores. Meanwhile, UV rays in sunlight proceed to kill every bacterium that is exposed to sunlight before it can produce a spore. And, even if the bacterium can produce a spore, every spore that is exposed to sunlight is also killed, just more slowly. That means that the only spores which survive are those which were formed out of direct sunlight, plus those which took up enough silicon from the silicon rich environment to create a protective spore coat that would absorb UV light until winds, weather and shuffling feet of other animals moved them out of the direct sunlight.
So, plenty of Bacillus anthracis spores were already surviving before they started utilizing silicon in their spore coats. The silicon in their spore coat just enabled them to increase their numbers. And, if the silicon also gave additional protection to help survive the acid in a cow's stomach, so much the better. But it was the increased UV ray protection provided by silicon that allowed Evolution to gradually increase the survival rates for Bacillus anthracis.
And the third theory, the "structural integrity hypothesis" doesn't explain why spores were dying due to lack of structural integrity before they started utilizing silicon in their spore coats to give them better "structural integrity." Today's lab produced spores do not have silicon in their spore coats, yet they seem to survive okay.
Back on November 24, 2010, anthrax weaponization expert, Sergei Popov, sent me an email that said:
Any purposeful process can occur in nature if the conditions are met. Traces of silicate in soil-grown culture, for example, will give you a signature similar to the intentional addition of silicate.
Yes, I definitely prefer the ultraviolet light hypothesis to the acid hypothesis and the structural intergrity hypothesis.
May 29, 2011 (C) - After I had posted this morning's (B) comment, someone reminded me of what a weaponized spore that is coated with silica particles looks like. It looks like this:
Clearly, the heavy coating of tiny silica particles would not only prevent the spore from sticking to other spores, the silica would also protect the spore from ultraviolet rays, allowing the spore to be blown around on a battlefield for days or even weeks before UV rays from sunlight would render it harmless. Groan! Now I'm wondering how long it will take the conspiracy theorists to latch onto this and start arguing that the 2001 attack spores were "weaponized" by growing them in a way that would protect them from UV rays - just like what happens in nature. The only counter argument I can think of at the moment is that Nature probably does a better job, since only 65% to 75% of the attack spores had measurable silicon inside their spore coats. And, the Dugway weaponization method used in the picture above coated nearly 100% of the spores, plus it obviously does a much better job of UV protection. So, why would anyone develop a "sophisticated" new method that obviously doesn't work anywhere near as well as the old method?
May 29, 2011 (B) - I spent much of last week involved in various arguments about anthrax. One absurd argument with Southack on FreeRepublic.com went on for days. It's still going on. The problem is: If I stop arguing, Southack will claim victory by saying I had ran out of arguments and thereby acknowledged that he is right.
Albert Einstein supposedly defined insanity this way: "Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."
My arguments with Southack might seem like doing the same thing over and over, but if you look closely, you'll see that I try slightly different arguments each time. In the process, I sometimes discover really good arguments that he must ignore because he cannot provide a counter argument. I realized, for example, that his theory that the AMI building was contaminated with anthrax spores that were on money the 9/11 hijackers paid as rent to a woman whose husband worked at AMI requires that the money be covered with about a teaspoonful of spore powder. How can that be? Southack argued that the anthrax spores on the money were invisible to the naked eye, yet there were enough to contaminate the entire building, to give Ernesto Blanco inhalation anthrax, and to kill Bob Stevens. He could not counter my argument, so he was forced to invent a rent payment envelope that contained the money and the anthrax.
I only spent about 20 to 30 minutes per day on those arguments. The idea is to leave a record on FreeRepublic.com showing that no amount of evidence can change the mind of a True Believer.
A different - and in some ways better - argument took place on Dr. Nass's web site where someone who calls himself "Savage Henry" brought up the subject of evolution and how evolution somehow created a need for anthrax spores to utilize silicon. His theory was that it helped the spores to aerosolize and infect new victims:
I was wondering if the incorporation of Silica into the Anthrax spore coat was a more natural evolutionary occurrence then we realized. The silicon improves the Anthrax organisms survivability; allowing it to spread easier in this windy and dusty environment? Silica anti-static properties additives needed for "weaponization of anthrax" may have been "discovered" by the magic hands of evolution long before our closest living relatives had opposable thumbs or developed secrets crushes on the hot girls gone wild over at "KAPPA KAPPA GAMMA" cave?
To my surprise, Dr. Nass allowed my response to get posted. I debunked "Savage Henry's" beliefs one by one.
But, in the process of that debunking, I speculated about a different evolutionary reason why the Bacillus anthracis bacterium might utilize silicon when forming a spore coat:
The siliCON (NOT siliCA) incorporated into the spore coat probably has something to do with evolution, but not with blowing in the wind. It probably has to do with helping to harden the spore coat to protect the core and DNA inside.
That idea about hardening the spore coat came from a comment I wrote back on February 14 & 15, 2010. A scientific paper from Japan had theorized that the ability to incorporate silicon in a spore coat came from an evolutionary need to allow spores to survive the acids in a grazing animal's stomach in order to infect the animal later in the digestive process. That hypothesis was countered by an opinion from Peter Setlow who suggested Bacillus bacteria may have evolved to utilize silicon in their spore coats to provide structural rigidity. I preferred that theory to the acid theory, probably because the structural rigidity theory seemingly incorporates all Bacillus spores, while the acid theory only involves spores that go through an animal's stomach.
After posting my response to Savage Henry's comment, I headed to my health club for a workout. As happens very often, while I was on the treadmill, I began to think about what I'd posted that morning. What I had written to Savage Henry began turning over and over in my mind. My use of the word "probably" nagged at me. Something else was in the back of my mind that seemed to be an even better reason for Bacillus anthracis to utilize silicon in its spore coat.
I recalled a discussion from many years ago where I argued that ultraviolet rays in sunlight killed anthrax spores, and someone else argued that anthrax "spores are highly resistant to sunlight, heat and disinfectants." Subsequent research, of course, showed that UV rays in sunlight do indeed kill spores, but it can take hours of exposure for it to happen.
Then I recalled that the pass-through boxes in BioSafety Level 3 laboratories use ultraviolet light to sterilize the boxes between uses. That seemed like solid proof that UV light kills anthrax spores fairly quickly.
However, it evidently takes a lot longer for sunlight to kill anthrax spores than for the concentrated UV light in pass-boxes to kill anthrax spores.
When I got home, I tried to find where I'd had that old argument. I couldn't find it. It was probably in some forum discussion somewhere, since it wasn't mentioned in any comment I made for this web site. The only comment I found mentioning ultraviolet light was something I wrote on June 23, 2003 about Bacillus thuringiensis:
It’s routine to coat Bt spores with various kinds of starches to protect them from ultraviolet rays of the sun when the spores are sprayed on plants as a pesticide.
I kept wondering: Does the silicon in the spore coat help protect anthrax spores from ultraviolet light?
That made me think again about the difference between spores grown in nature and spores grown in labs. If spores grown in labs don't typically have as much silicon in their spore coats, they could be more easily killed by the UV lights in the pass-through boxes.
Does ultraviolet light get deflected or absorbed by silicon? Doing some research, I found an article that contains this:
Ultraviolet light is usually absorbed by silicon and converted into heat, but we found a way to make silicon devices that absorb ultraviolet light and produce electrical current instead.
But, that's out of context. I could find nothing about silicon in spore coats protecting spores from UV light. However, it seems to be a much better hypothesis than both the structural rigidity hypothesis and the stomach acid hypothesis. As stated above, the stomach acid theory doesn't apply to all spores. The structural rigidity theory seemingly applies to all spores, but how many spores are actually killed because their nut hard spore coats aren't hard enough? The UV light theory provides a true life-or-death reason for Bacillus anthracis to utilize silicon. It applies to every spore that gets exposed to sunlight. Spores with silicon in their spore coats could survive in sunlight longer than spores without silicon in their spore coats. Thus the spores which utilize silicon can pass that ability on to their descendants. It's basic evolutionary reasoning.
But, is it true? As of this moment, it's just an hypothesis that nicely explains a lot of known facts. And that hypothesis is tied to another hypothesis which nicely explains a lot of additional facts. i.e., my hypothesis that Ivins grew the attack spores in autoclave bags at room temperature, which simulated natural conditions versus laboratory conditions.
After the Memorial Day holiday, I'll send this hypothesis off to a few scientists who have showed interest in this subject matter in the past, with the hope that they'll find it interesting enough to try to dig up the funding to see if they can find definitive answers.
But, first they'd have to validate my first hypothesis: that the attack spores were grown at room temperature, and that caused more of the bacteria to incorporate silicon into the spore coats. They'd probably need to prove that hypothesis in order to routinely grow a high percentage of spores with silicon in their spore coats.
Once they have a reliable method of growing significant numbers of spores with silicon in their spore coats, they can then compare how those spores survive exposure to UV light compared to spores with no silicon in their spore coats.
At the rate that kind of research seems to go, the results should be available sometime in the year 2030. Groan!
May 29, 2011 (A) - This morning, the Los Angeles Times contains a lengthy article by David Willman titled "The anthrax killings: A troubled mind." After describing some of Bruce Ivins' bizarre (and sometimes criminal) actions, the article has this paragraph:
This was the side of himself that Ivins kept carefully hidden. He devised sneaky ways to strike anonymously at people or institutions he imagined had offended him. He harbored murderous fantasies about women who did not reciprocate his overtures. He bought bomb-making ingredients and kept firearms, ammunition and body armor in his basement.
Yet Ivins managed to work his way into the heart of the American biodefense establishment, becoming a respected Army scientist and an authority on the laboratory use of anthrax.
The article is essentially a overview of Willman's new book "The Mirage Man," which will go on sale June 7. The article contains only a few hints of all the fascinating details about Ivins and the Amerithrax investigation that are included in the book, which is already driving some of the Anthrax Truthers into a lathered frenzy. I can't wait to see what kind of controversy it starts when the book goes on sale and everyone can start going through all of Willman's detailed findings.
& Changes: Sunday, May 22, 2011, thru Saturday, May 28, 2011
May 27, 2011 - Greg Gordon of McClatchy Newspapers has reported on the letter that Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York sent to FBI Director Mueller. Voicing and repeating doubts about the FBI's anthrax investigation seems to be Greg Gordon's current project. His article concludes with some new information:
The FBI said the bureau had received the letter and would respond directly to Nadler.
Will Rep. Nadler provide the FBI's response letter to the public? Time will tell. Will it satisfy Nadler? Unlikely.
May 26, 2011 - Hmm. Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York just wrote a letter to FBI Director Mueller complaining that Nadler wasn't given all the facts about the silicon that was detected in the anthrax letters back in 2001.
On November 26, 2008, I sent to you this follow-up question in writing: “What was the percentage of weight of the silicon in the powder used in the 2001 anthrax attacks?”
On April 17, 2009, then-Acting Assistant Attorney General M. Faith Burton, of the DOJ Office of Legislative Affairs, responded with the following answer:
FBI Laboratory results indicated that the spore powder on the Leahy letter contained 14,470 ppm of silicon (1.4%). The spore powder on the New York Post letter was found to have silicon present in the sample; however, due to the limited amount of material, a reliable quantitative measurement was not possible. Insufficient quantifies of spore powder on both the Daschle and Brokaw letters precluded analysis of those samples.
A February 15, 2011 report by the National Academy of Sciences (“NAS report”), in which the NAS included its review of the FBI’s data and scientific analysis in the anthrax investigation, raises three questions about this DOJ/FBI response to me. First, with respect to the anthrax on the letter sent to Senator Leahy, the NAS report shows on pages 66 and 67 (Table 4.4) that the silicon content found by the FBI was 1.4% in one sample and 1.8% in a second sample. Why were both figures not provided to me in response to my questions?Nadler seems to be upset that he wasn't told that one sample indicated 1.4% and another sample indicated 1.8%. He was only told about the lower percentage. And he complains that the FBI gave information to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) that they didn't give to him. The letter continues:
Second, the NAS report shows on pages 66 and 67 (Table 4.4) that the FBI found the silicon content in the New York Post letter anthrax to be 10% when the bulk material was measured by mass and 1-2% when individual spore coats were measured by mass per spore. Why was neither piece of data provided to me in response to my questions?
Third and finally, the NAS report raises questions about the appropriateness of the measurements taken of the anthrax on the letter to the New York Post. Specifically, on page 77, the NAS report says:
ICP-OES analysis indicated a silicon content of the bulk New York Post letter material of 10 percent by mass, while SEM-EDX performed by SNL demonstrated silicon in individual spore coats at a level corresponding to 1 percent by mass per spore. At the January 2011 meeting, the FBI attributed this difference to a limited amount of sample available (only one replicate was performed for ICP-OES analysis) and the heterogeneous character of the New York Post letter. An explanation based on the heterogeneous character implies that the specific samples analyzed were not representative of the letter material. In such a case, additional samples should have been analyzed to determine representativeness. If such data exist, they were not provided to the committee. Lacking this information, one cannot rule out the intentional addition of a silicon-based substance to the New York Post letter, in a failed attempt to enhance dispersion. The committee notes that powders with dispersion characteristics similar to the letter material could be produced without the addition of a dispersant.
So far, only the web site TickleTheWire.com has found this worthy of a news report. But, of course, it will be a major deal on Lunatic Fringe web sites, particularly among conspiracy theorists.
I thought that some scientists I've exchanged emails with had been working on getting answers to these unanswered questions, but it turned out that they can't work on anything without funding. So, what Rep. Nadler really needs to do is get funding for some lab (or multiple labs) to work on finding the answers to his questions.
The answers seem simple enough, but proving it to people who believe the anthrax was weaponized will be difficult.
In layman's terms, the biggest problem is that no one has officially explained why the New York Post powder contained pieces of material that seemed to be about 10% silicon. The problem and the answer are almost certainly found in the fact that the NY Post powder was "heterogeneous."
Heterogenous means that it was composed of unlike parts or elements, i.e., there was substance A in the powder, plus substance B, C and D. It was also "heterogeneous" in a second way: substance D contained different elements.
First, there were visibly different materials in the NY Post powder. The powder consisted of:
.05% vegetative cells.
1% other visible debris.
10% spores, mostly individual spores, plus a few small clumps.
88.5% soluble material (dried "matrix material" and dried agar).
The fact that the NY Post powder was 88.5 percent soluble material (mostly dried slime, a.k.a. dried "matrix material" which is left behind when a mother germ dissolves after producing a spore), should prove to anyone thinking logically that the spores were NOT weaponized after they were fully formed. But, logic doesn't seem to be work with conspiracy theorists, unless it's their own form of logic.
Below is a picture of NY Post spores embedded in the dried matrix material:
Scientist John Ezzell, in his talk at the November 29, 2010, Anthrax Truther seminar, explained that the NY Post powder looked like it had been centrifuged, the water had been removed, the remaining pellet had been dried, and the dried pellet had then been chopped up with a razor blade.
Since 88.5% of the powder was soluble matrix material, many chunks of the NY Post powder should have been nearly pure matrix material. That suggests that the matrix material may have also been heterogeneous, i.e., the slime almost certainly consisted of different elements.
Centrifugation separates elements by their specific gravity. In theory, centrifugation of the matrix material should have concentrated any loose, left-over silicon from the bodies of the mother germs into a disk near the bottom of the centrifuge tube. Thus, there should have been a broken up disk of concentrated silicon somewhere in the dried powder.
This is consistent with what was observed. The 10% reading was on part of the disk. But, how can anyone prove that is what happened? Much of the powder was evidently destroyed in various tests. And, if a lot of money is spent on performing additional tests, will the results convince Rep. Nadler and the conspiracy theorists that the attack spores were NOT weaponized with silicon? If they cannot be convinced no matter what the evidence says, why bother?
The lesser problem - why did a high percentage of the attack spores contain silicon in their spore coats? - seems to be related to the conditions under which they were grown, probably at room temperatures instead of at incubator temperatures. But, demonstrating that would also take funding.
Personally, I'd like to see a project funded to provide the answers just for historical purposes. Somewhere there should be money for that. It would be valuable information, whether or not the conspiracy theorists accept it.
May 24, 2011 - As expected, the Rev. Harold Camping didn't admit to being totally and ridiculously wrong about the world ending on May 21, he just gave excuses and made up new theories and new dates.
According to Camping, Judgment Day occurred on schedule last Saturday, but it was kind of an invisible Judgment Day that only God and Harold Camping could see:
"On May 21, this last weekend, this is where the spiritual aspect of it really comes through. God again brought judgment on the world. We didn’t see any difference but God brought Judgment Day to bear upon the whole world. The whole world is under Judgment Day and it will continue right up until Oct. 21, 2011 and by that time the whole world will be destroyed," he proclaimed.
So, we now have a new date for the end of the world: October 21, 2011.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Camping explained:
"Were not changing a date at all; we're just learning that we have to be a little more spiritual about this," he said in a rambling 90-minute radio broadcast that was part sermon, part press conference. "But on Oct. 21, the world will be destroyed. It won't be five months of destruction. It will come at once."But, he and his followers aren' t going to be putting up billboards about this new revised date. After all, Harold Camping was wrong about the world ending in 1994, and he was wrong about the world ending on May 21, 2011. Being wrong a third time would be bad for business. So, if Camping and his followers are really really quiet for the next five months, and if the world doesn't end on October 21, maybe no one will notice.
"I have never, ever told anyone I'm infallible," he said. "But God is infallible."
And, meanwhile on Dr. Meryl Nass's site, which she moderates, my best arguments are not getting posted.
It's very frustrating to have my responses withheld when I responded to these questions from BugMaster:
Ivins was prescribed medicines to quell his murderous thoughts? You know this as a fact, and have information supporting your conclusion?
I'd posted the names of Ivins' psychiatrists, including the psychiatrist he went to for help in 1978 when he was thinking about murdering Nancy Haigwood. And I posted the name of the therapist to whom, in 2000, Ivins told his plans to murder Mara Linscott by poisoning a bottle of wine he was going to give her. The facts show that Ivins went to these mental health professionals because he knew his murderous plans were wrong, and he needed help to stop himself. But, BugMaster's theory appears to be that he went to the psychiatrists because he was depressed, and it was the drugs that the pyschiatrists prescribed for him that caused all the murderous thoughts. And, evidently, none of his psychiatrists realized or cared that they were giving him drugs that caused his murderous impulses.
That's an interesting argument. Partcularly since BugMaster has argued before that psychiatry "consists of many lunatics running the asylum," and she doesn't appear to believe in psychoanalysis: "Have you ever met a psych major that WASN’T crazier than a shithouse rat?" But, my arguments are not going to be seen, because Dr. Nass is doing the moderating, and, for reasons of her own, she's only allowing BugMaster's side of the debate to be viewed.
The same thing happened with my debate with "Old Atlantic Lighthouse" (OAL). I pointed out all the facts that OAL didn't know about how Ivins prepared the attack anthrax, and that OAL simply made up numbers to get the results he wanted. And he responded that the FBI didn't know those facts, either:
If the FBI doesn't know all those things why are they saying they know Ivins did it? Don't you have to prove a person could have done it to say you know they did it? Didn't the FBI leave out that part in the case of Ivins?
I wrote a long comment explaining that it is not necessary to know exactly which road Ivins took while driving to Princeton to mail the anthrax letters in order to show that he had no abili and could have driven there. He had the ability and the means. The same is true with exactly how Ivins prepared the attack anthrax. Ivins was an expert on creating anthrax spores. He knew many ways to create spores and many ways to dry spores. It is not necessary to know exactly which method he used in order to prove that he had the ability and means to do it.
But, Dr. Nass didn't let my argument about that go through, either. So, all that can be seen in OAL's argument -- and a statement from Dr. Nass that she doesn't see any further point in continuing the discussion.
It's frustrating. But, frustration is an accepted condition when arguing with Anthrax Truthers.
May 23, 2011 - According to USA Today, the Rev. Harold Camping is "flabbergasted" that the world didn't end on Saturday. Camping added:
"I'm looking for answers. But now I have nothing else to say. I'll be back to work Monday and will say more then."
Presumably, he'll be speaking on his radio show this evening. Meanwhile, few (if any) of Camping's followers accept that his prophesy was bogus.
But one man, his voice quavering, said he was still holding out hope that they were one day off. Another believer asserted that their prayers worked: God delayed judgment so that more people could be saved, but the end is "imminent."
While this is going on, I'm trying to see if I can change the mind of a True Believer on FreeRepublic.com who is totally certain that the 9/11 hijackers were behind the anthrax attacks. I don't expect to be able to change his mind, but I feel the need to keep trying different things to see if anything works. And, I'm also arguing with a conspiracy theorist on Dr. Nass's site for the same reason. If I can't change the mind of an Anthrax Truther, maybe I can somehow demonstrate that there is no way to change the mind of an Anthrax Truther. Maybe I can show the world all the tactics they use to avoid accepting the facts.
May 22, 2011 - Groan! The world was supposed to end yesterday! So, of course, I didn't prepare a comment for this morning. Now I've got to write one from scratch. Grumble, grumble.
The Rev. Harold Camping appears to have made a calculation error. He appears to have picked numbers that fit with what he was trying to prove, and he used the numbers to make calculations about Judgment Day. Oops.
Evidently, 2 Peter 3:8 wasn't meant to be taken as mathematical input. It says:
With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.
Evidently, "like" wasn't meant to be interpreted as "computes to exactly."
Coincidentally, I had a discussion with "Old Atlantic Lighthouse" last week where I pointed out that the calculations he used in his attempts to prove Ivins to be innocent were "garbage in, garbage out" -type calculations. "Lighthouse" didn't have any input solid data to do his calculations (how many plates Ivins used, how many were contaminated, how many spores he used to seed them, etc.), so he just picked some numbers that would give him the results he wanted. In other words, the input he used was "garbage," so the output he got was also "garbage."
When I pointed out the error "Lighthouse" had made, he stopped arguing - for awhile. But, that didn't mean he accepted that his calculations were in error. He just started a different argument. The same with BugMaster. Often they just go somewhere else and argue with someone else. That's what a different conspiracy theorist did last week. He looked around and found a reporter at McClatchy newspapers gullible enough to believe him.
Harold Camping, however, cannot start his argument over again somewhere else. His erroneous calculation showed that the world would end yesterday. It would be very difficult to continue to argue that the world did indeed end yesterday.
Checking around to see what Harold Camping has to say about his garbage in, garbage out calculation, I haven't been able to find any comments by Camping ... yet. Maybe he's busy rechecking his calculations.
Reuters: "Camping's Judgment Day a dud, believers baffled"
The Houston Chronicle: "No word from Harold Camping on the day the world didn't end"
The San Francisco Chronicle: "Rapture passes - believers downcast, pastor silent"
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer: "Harold Camping mum about judgment day, athiests aren't"
The Sunday Times: "Apocalypse failed, doomsday prophet goes AWOL"
Zambian Watchdog: "Doomsday prophet does into hiding"
Slate: "Harold Camping AWOL Day After 'Judgment Day'"
The Christian Post: "Harold Camping's Doomsday Prediction a Scam?"
The fact that Judgment Day didn't occur on schedule must also be a disappointment for the Post Rapture Looting group. Their Face Book page had some very specific plans:
“When everyone is gone and God’s not looking, we need to pick up some sweet stereo equipment and maybe some new furniture for the mansion we’re going to squat in.”
More about Post Rapture Looting HERE. It appears to be an example of how the best laid plans of mice and men (and monkeys) ....
I tend to feel sorry for the followers of Harold Camping. Some spent their life savings on billboards advertising the coming Judgment Day. It's one thing to make a stupid mistake, it's another to make a stupid mistake with your life savings in front of the entire world. Evidently, they are now all now busy studying their Bibles, looking for explanations for what went wrong. Or they are waiting for Camping to tell them what went wrong.
The one thing they are NOT doing is saying, "Ah! Of course! Harold Camping's calculations were garbage in, garbage out-type calculations! That's why they didn't work!" Instead, they are looking for ways to rationalize what happened while still maintaining their faith.
And, so it is with the Anthrax Truthers. Proof won't change their minds. They just look for ways to rationalize any facts which prove them to be wrong, so that they can continue to believe what they want to believe. E.g.: "That isn't proof, it's something made up by the government to convince people to believe their lies!"
While I might feel sorry for followers of Harold Camping, I do not feel sorry for TV and Newspaper reporters who seemingly believe scientists who tell them nonsense, and the reporters parrot the nonsense in newspapers and on TV. It may be very similar to what the followers of Camping did with billboards, but TV and newspaper reporters aren't supposed to be "followers." They're supposed to be fact checkers.
In the past few days, I've seen just about every reporter on TV shaking his or her head with disbelief over the actions of Harold Camping and his followers. Some of the reports even ridicule Camping and his followers.
Is it really that difficult to see that all True Believers think basically alike? It shouldn't be.
In the past couple weeks, I've also seen reporters and others in the media laughing over all the conspiracy theories about President Obama's birth certificate and theories that Osama bin Laden wasn't really dead. But, at the same time, I'm seeing newspaper reporters accepting the beliefs of a conspiracy theorist who endlessly spouts nonsense about the anthrax case.
Is it really that difficult to see that all conspiracy theorists think basically alike? It shouldn't be.
& Changes: Sunday, May 15, 2011, thru Saturday, May 21, 2011
May 21, 2011 - Today, on Dr. Meryl Nass's web site, "Anonymous" quoted Peter Weber of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) as suggesting that some additional analysis would "pop the question marks really quickly" on all remaining questions about the silicon that was found in the attack anthrax powders - specifically the NY Post powder. And, "it'd be really helpful for the closure of this case" if some unanswered questions were answered.
But, there are questions that need to be answered before any other question is going to be answered by additional analysis: First: Who is going to provide the funding for the addtional analysis?
I can provide some great suggestions on the types of testing that LLNL could do, but who's going to pay for the work?
There are probably hundreds of scientists ready and willing to try to answer the remaining "unanswered questions" about the silicon in the attack powders. All they need is funding. Laboratories - particularly federal laboratories - cannot just work on any project they feel like working on. The project needs to be funded. Someone needs to pay for the work. And, before that can happen, the work needs to be justified.
The second question that needs to be answered then is: Who is going to authorize spending money to debunk the theories of a bunch of conspiracy theorists and True Believers, a.k.a. Anthrax Truthers?
If the remaining "unanswered questions" are ever going to be answered, the people who want the answers are going to have to find scientific justification. They're going to have to explain the benefits of the project. If would be nice if such a project would simply shut up the Anthrax Truthers. But, that's never going to happen. Conspiracy theorists and True Believers are never persuaded by facts. So, some other justification is needed.
I think it's going to require a scientist to find a scientific reason to justify the costs of the research. And, that probably means that the answers definitely won't shut up the Anthrax Truthers. It will put things back right where they are today: Scientists with beliefs disputing scientists with facts.
May 20, 2011 - Yesterday's McClatchy Newspapers (Miami Herald, Kansas City Star, The Fresno Bee, etc.) contain an article titled "FBI lab reports on anthrax attacks suggest another miscue." Evidently, someone was reading the 9,600 pages of FBI documents the FBI sent to the National Academy of Sciences and discovered that the element Silicon was found in the attack anthrax. And, then they heard that some scientists believe the Silicon was put there deliberately as part of a sophisticated process for weaponization. Ohmygod! That must have been a real shock to the McClatchy reporter. For the rest of us, of course, it's been discussed and thoroughly debunked for almost 10 years.
The scientist cited in the article is the same scientist who advised Gary Matsumoto on the nonsensical article "Anthrax Powder: State of the Art?" in 2003, who assisted in writing an article in 2007 suggesting Iraq was behind the anthrax attacks, who voiced his opinions on Lew Weinstein's site in 2009, who was the subject of a New York Times column in 2010, and who wrote to the National Academy of Sciences in 2010 to voice his beliefs about the attack anthrax. The McClatchy article says:
the FBI lab reports released in late February give no hint that bureau agents tried to find the buyers of additives such as tin-catalyzed silicone polymers.
The apparent failure of the FBI to pursue this avenue of investigation raises the ominous possibility that the killer is still on the loose.And the source of this information (or ridiculous misinformation) is identified:
Several scientists and former colleagues of Ivins argue that he was a career biologist who probably lacked the chemistry knowledge and skills to concoct a silicon-based additive.
"There's no way that an individual scientist can invent a new way of making anthrax using silicon and tin," said Stuart Jacobsen, a Texas-based analytical chemist for an electronics company who's closely studied the FBI lab results. "It requires an institutional effort to do this, such as at a military lab."
It appears that there is no idea that is so absurd that some newspaper reporter somewhere can't be convinced it is worthy of reporting to the public - particularly if the story comes from a scientist with impressive credentials.
For me, the disputes between scientists with beliefs and scientists with facts is a never-ending fascination.
May 17, 2011 - I was arguing with "BugMaster" earlier today. As part of the argument, she stated:
Occam's razor is attributed to the 14th-century English logician, theologian and Franciscan friar Father William of Ockham (d'Okham) although the principle was familiar long before. The words attributed to Occam are "entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity" (entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem).
The FBI's so-called case against Ivins IS NOTHING BUT ENTITY MULTIPLICATION!
And my argument was just the opposite: Her theory and the theories of other "Anthrax Truthers" are nothing but "entity multiplication."
Wikipedia has a more easily understood description of Occam's razor:
Occam's razor (or Ockham's razor) ... is a principle that generally recommends selecting the competing hypothesis that makes the fewest new assumptions, when the hypotheses are equal in other respects.
"Entity multiplication" is just another way of saying "piling assumption upon assumption."
Piling assumption upon assumption is what is done when Anthrax Truthers argue that the 9/11 hijackers had something to do with the anthrax attacks. The hijackers were all DEAD at time of the first mailing. So, the Truthers assume some convoluted way the mails could have been delayed for a few days. The hijackers were all DEAD for three weeks at the time of the second mailing, so the Truthers assume some associate did the actual mailing, an associate who left no trace of his existence behind. They assume the 9/11 hijackers somehow obtained the Ames strain without leaving a record. They assume the 9/11 hijackers had some reason to try to avoid killing anyone with the anthrax. They assume the 9/11 hijackers had some reason to mail the letters in Princeton. They just pile assumption upon assumption.
The case against Ivins, however, requires NO SUCH ASSUMPTIONS. The facts say Ivins was the anthrax mailer.
Therefore, according to Occam's razor, the case against Ivins is the much better hypothesis.
Interestingly, this can also be illustrated with a news story someone sent me today. I was sent a link to a French web site where someone has developed an hypothesis about this photograph:
The hypothesis is that the image was highly manipulated to make it more dramatic propaganda. The article says that someone ran a program called "Tungstene" that is supposed to "detect the different stages of alterations a photo may have undergone" and highlight the major changes in red. Here is the result:
The first assumption they made is, of course, that the program does what they believe it does.
The next assumption:
The light on and around Hillary Clinton was enhanced, while other parts of the photo were slightly darkened. This may be because Clinton’s stricken expression is what confers the most intensity to the photo.
The next assumption:
On the laptop computer in front of Clinton lies a document, probably a military map, which has been noticeably blurred. This tends to indicate its highly confidential character, which the White House wanted to protect. What the analysis of the photo reveals, however, is that the documents around and under the blurred map, including what appears to be a satellite photo, were in fact highlighted. In this case, the alterations seem intended to draw attention to the documents, rather than away from them.
The next assumption:
The left side of Obama’s strained face was also highlighted, apparently to further stress the tension of the scene.
The final assumption:
Finally, the numerous medals on Brigadier General Marshall B. Webb’s uniform (seated, centre) were brightened, possibly to highlight his authority as a military commander.
And the post-final assumption:
Inexplicably, the bottom part of the tie of the unidentified man standing behind Robert Gates seems to have been added onto the photo altogether. One guess could be that the tie was added to hide the man’s White House badge, which would have been close enough to read, therefore revealing his identity.
So, their hypothesis is just one assumption piled upon another assumption upon another, etc.
I contacted my alter ego, "FD," who has been analyzing photos for about 15 years. The first thing he did was locate a much larger version of the Situation Room photo. Click HERE to view it.
"FD's" hypothesis requires only one assumption: The program does NOT work as claimed. All it does is highlight the most complex combinations of pixels that are also sharp and clear.
1. Hillary Clinton's jacket is highly complex speckled pattern of brown and black. It shows as highly complex, while the black border on her collar does not, nor does her blouse, her face or her hands.
2. The top photo setting on the laptop computer in front of Clinton can be seen to be deliberately blurred (modified), particularly in the large version of the photo, yet it is darker than everything around it. That is because blurring the photo obviously made the combination of pixels far less complex.
3. The left side of President Obama's face is speckled with highlights because it is a complex combinations of browns and blacks just like Clinton's jacket.
4. The medals on Brigadier General Webb's uniform are a highly complex mixture of colored ribbons.
5. The bottom part of the tie belonging to the unidentified man standing behind Robert Gates is a highly complex pattern of browns and blacks. Gate's tie is blurred and less complex, so it isn't highlighted.
6. The computer keyboard under the photos is in sharp focus and at an angle that makes all the keys a complex pattern. The keyboard nearer to the photographer is blurred and less complex.
7. The pages of the books under Clinton's hand are complex because they are stacks of thin pages.
8. The sticker on the back of the computer in front of President Obama contains complex writing.
9. The photos under the blurred photo on the laptop are complex because they are photos viewed in miniature.
10. The jumble of wires between the computers between Clinton and Vice President Biden are a complex jumble of wires.
So, "FD's" hypothesis requires only one assumption: the program detects pixel complexity, not signs of modification. The French web site's hypothesis requires many more assumptions and doesn't explain items 6 through 10 above.
Thus, according to Occam's razor, "FD's" hypothesis is much more likely to be correct.
May 16, 2011 - Someone just brought to my attention a New York Times review of a new book called "Among the Truthers," by Jonathan Kay. The review is titled "Inside the World of Conspiracy Theorists." The review says:
as Kay sees it, conspiracy thinking is now experiencing a dangerous uptick in popularity. The terrorist threat has replaced the Red menace
Some of Kay’s most illuminating passages center not on what conspiracy theorists believe — even to dignify it with the word “theory” is probably to grant them more legitimacy than they deserve — but on why they are attracted to such tedious rubbish in the first place. He divides them into different camps, including the “cranks” and the “firebrands.”
Unfortunately, the reviewer doesn't explain the difference between a "crank" and a "firebrand." He describes a "crank" as a highly educated person in "a mid-life crisis" for whom a belief in a conspiracy theory offers a new "sense of mission." But, there is nothing in the review about what constitutes a "firebrand."
The author, Jonathan Kay's concern is seemingly that this current phenomenon is too similar to past types of mass hysteria and anti-intellectualism which led to rise of dictators.
The reviewer, however, sees this new phenomenon as far less focused. So do I. There are dozens of conspiracy theories, and the believers in one theory tend to ridicule the believers in others. And, even the believers in a specific theory tend to disagree with other believers in the same theory as to what the facts are and what the facts mean.
Plus, hopefully, it's now far easier than in the past to show the inconsistencies of arguments. As with Mitt Romney, it's very easy to show that he once argued in favor of something that he is now supposed to be against. And, if a leader starts to emerge among the Truthers, it's easy to show that leader's ignorance of facts and acceptance of things shown to be total nonsense. These days it's all on TV for the entire world to see, and it's on the Internet to be played over and over.
I worry sometimes about the influence of True Believers and conspiracy theorists on the Internet. But, then you watch them argue their beliefs on TV, it's usually totally different. On the Internet, they're usually able to avoid being put in a position where their views can be challenged with facts. It's like they have their own little TV station where they can say what they want. On a true TV network, however, unless they control the entire network, they cannot prevent people with facts from showing how the Truther beliefs make no sense. It's very difficult to get a following when what you say can be seen by the world to be totally hilarious when shown side by side with solid facts.
May 15, 2011 - Last Sunday, I stated that I would try to avoid writing anything more about the upcoming Judgment Day until Sunday, May 22. And, I've been asked to avoid writing anything further about a certain book until after it goes formally on sale to the public on June 7. That somewhat limits what I can write about today.
One thing I can comment upon is a video of Lawrence O'Donnell arguing with Attorney Orly Taitz. The person who brought the video to my attention saw it as an example of how "the establishment" and O'Donnell wouldn't allow Taitz to show evidence of her conspiracy theories to the American public. I see it differently, of course.
For me, it's just as O'Donnell says. He invited Taitz on his show to discuss President Obama's birth certificate, which Taitz had been demanding to see for two years because she didn't believe it existed. And, since it was now available for all to see, O'Donnell wanted to see what Taitz had to say about it. She had agreed to discuss the birth certificate on the show. That was the only reason she was asked to appear on the show.
Instead, she did as all conspiracy theorists do when confronted with facts showing their conspiracies to be nonsense: She refused to discuss it and changed the subject. She wouldn't talk about the birth certificate. She would only talk about a different part of her theory: peculiarities with Obama's Social Security number and his draft card. O'Donnell won't let her do that, and the interview ends with them talking over one another until O'Donnell shuts her off.
I see it as a very good example of the difficulties of trying to discuss facts with conspiracy theorists and True Believers. They won't get into a discussion of facts with you, except on their terms. If they have control of the shut-off button, they'll shut you off (as Lew Weinstein did with me). If you have control, they'll change the subject and preach whatever they want to preach until you press the shut-off button (as O'Donnell did with Taitz).
And then all the other conspiracy theorists and True Believers will nod their heads and agree that it's proof of their beliefs: everyone is involved in a vast conspiracy to prevent them from showing evidence of their theories and beliefs. At the end of the segment, O'Donnell laments that he should have known better. Yes, he should have. But, the clip is a good example of such an argument, anyway.
Last week, I participated in another example. A discussion of facts I was having with "Old Atlantic Lighthouse" was going pretty well on Dr. Meryl Nass's web site, until Dr. Nass joined the argument and decided that I was in cahoots with the FBI, and that the FBI had sent me to her web site to harass her. She posted this:
To recap: had the anthrax been grown in Ivins' lab, B. subtilis would have been present in the lab and the FBI would have found it. Believe me, they tried. They knew this could unravel their entire case.
To send Ed Lake in now to spin fantasies in an attempt at damage control is ludicrous. Is Ed Lake FBI's best shot? I guess the FBI case is even weaker than I thought.
The discussion was about the Bacillus subtilis contamination in the media letters and how it may have gotten there. To the Anthrax truthers, the B subtilis it must have gotten into the letters through some means that would prove Ivins to have been innocent. And that must be why the FBI didn't see the contamination as worthwhile to investigate further.
The facts say that B subtilis spores were probably in a particle of dust that landed on a plate as it was being inoculated to grow something else - like anthrax. That's how it typically happens. B subtilis is a relatively harmless bacteria that is all around us almost all the time, particularly in dirt and dust. And it occasionally contaminates experiments.
The Anthrax Truthers continue to argue that since investigators didn't find matching B subtilis spores in Ivins' lab, the contamination couldn't have come from there. The reality is, of course, quite different.
(1) In April of 2002, USAMRIID personnel thoroughly cleaned Ivins' lab and many other areas in Building 1425 after Ivins told people that he'd done two unauthorized cleanings after becoming worried about contamination from the examination of the Daschle and from a spill that took place in a lab.
(2) The B subtilis wasn't noticed in the media letters until mid-2005. So, in addition to the cleaning by Ivins in December of 2001, his second cleaning in April of 2002, and the massive and comprehensive third cleaning that also took place in April of 2002, there were undoubtedly additional cleanings during the following three years before the B subtilis contamination was found in the media letters and before investigators realized it might possibly provide evidence of some kind.
So, no one except rabid conspiracy theorists would expect to still find the matching B subtilis in a lab that had been so thoroughly cleaned so many times. It wouldn't be more than a very remote possibility to anyone else.
The question of how B subtilis spores might have gotten into the lab is the same question as: How does dust get into a lab? Answer: It gets tracked in by people entering from the outside.
The key fact about BSL-3 labs that needs to be understood is that they are designed to keep germs from getting out of the lab. They are not designed to keep germs from getting into the lab -- as is the case in hospitals. You do not scrub down before going into a BSL-3 lab, as you do before going into an operating room, you scrub down after leaving the BSL-3 lab.
Furthermore, BSL-3 labs are under negative air pressure. That means that, when you open the door to the lab, air from the outside is sucked into the lab. And the biosafety cabinets used during the innoculation of plates have negative air pressure, which means air from outside the cabinet is sucked into the cabinet.
Meanwhile, in the hallway outside the lab, people are walking around in their street shoes and (theoretically) tracking dirt, dust and bacteria from the outside all over the place.
Of course, care is taken to try to avoid getting any foreign bacteria onto plates while they are being inoculated. They remove the cover, inoculate the media and then close the cover. But, since B subtilis is almost everywhere, it's difficult to prevent it from occasionally contaminating a plate or flask or vial or test tube.
It's also unknown if plates were inoculated in a BSL-3 lab or a BSL-2 lab, but the facts suggest it was done in a BSL-2 lab. The image below is of Bruce Ivins handling a stack of plates. It shows him handling the plates with his bare hands in an open lab environment, almost certainly a BSL-2 lab, since he isn't wearing a mask.
He appears to be wearing a lab smock and safety glasses as his only protection. That's a biosafety cabinet behind him. You can see the chair on which he'd sit. In the picture, the open part of the cabinet is the space between his nose and his shoulder. The plexiglass protection is above that open part. A bacteriologist like Ivins would place the fresh, media- covered plates in the cabinet along with the inoculation materials, he'd then sit at the cabinet and, looking through the plexiglass, he'd reach through the open part to innoculate the plates. Fans in the top of the cabinet suck air into the cabinet through the open part to make certain that none of the materials used in the inoculation process would escape into the lab. The air gets filtered before it is released again back into the lab.
Typically, he'd use gloves while inoculating the plates, and he'd dispose of or sterilize the gloves when done. He might also use sleeve protectors to prevent carrying any bacteria that is inside the cabinet to the outside. The concern is not about bacteria that might be on the sleeve protectors, on his smock, on the floor or in the air getting into the cabinet.
Some of that was on my mind early in the week after I decided to page through some of the 9,600 pages of documents the FBI submitted to the National Academy of Sciences to find where I'd left off in my readings. As I was doing that, I noticed a page where it was stated that Dr. Patricia Worsham's lab was located in Biology Suite 3 in Building 1425, the same suite which contained Bruce Ivins' labs. Page 97 of Batch 1 Module 2 (B1M2) says:
Security. Repository [derived] samples were stored inside a key-lock freezer within the keypad-controlled room B309. Only the PI [Primary Investigator], SFC [REDACTED] and Special Agent [REDACTED] had unescorted access rights to B309. Sample remnants were destroyed the day of use if possible. All waste materials from the experiment (plates, pipette trays etc.) were autoclaved immediately upon exiting B309 or were maintained in a secure fashion within the locked room.
So, when Dr. Worsham was looking for the "morphs" and for B subtilis contamination by analyzing various anthrax samples derived or extracted from the samples in the FBI Repository, the derived samples all were stored inside a key-lock freezer within the keypad-controlled room B309. And, laboratory B309 is evidently another BioSafety Level 3 lab in Suite 3.
That pointed out something I hadn't been thinking about when I first read that page: Room B309 is at the opposite end of the corridor from the locker rooms and showers.
That appears to means that anyone leaving Worsham's lab or any other BSL-3 lab in Suite 3 would have to walk down the common corridor to get to the showers. It appears to mean that the keypad to get into Ivins' BSL-3 lab in room B303 was in the corridor, not in room B302. And that appears to mean, when Ivins left room B303, he'd have to go into the corridor (just as Dr. Worsham would have to do) in order to get to the showers and the locker room.
I'd been trying to figure out for weeks how - since there didn't appear to be any door between rooms B302 and B303 - Ivins could get into and out of his BSL-3 lab (room #B303) without going into the central corridor. The answer appears to be: He couldn't.
There is no wall or device that prevents someone from going from a BSL-3 lab to the outside without taking a shower, there is only a rule that you cannot go from a BSL-3 lab to the outside without taking a shower.
I'm not suggesting that there is anything wrong with that. It's just something I learned last week, something I'd thought was different. When I first started studying the details of this case, I thought anthrax would be handled inside a BSL-4 lab, and everyone would be wearing space-suit type protection. Gradually, I learned that they didn't even use glove-boxes, they handled anthrax inside biosafety cabinets with open fronts. They primarily rely on their anthrax vaccine inoculations to protect them. It's not like in the movies. Real life is less dramatic - but maybe more scary.
& Changes: Sunday, May 8, 2011, thru Saturday, May 14, 2011
May 11-12, 2011 - Hmm. It appears to be standard practice for book reviewers (or people who are sent preliminary copies of books to review) to sell the books they receive to specific second-hand book dealers - after reading them, presumably. David Willman's new book "The Mirage Man" has gone that route, and I'm currently in the process of reading it. It says that reviews should not be published until after the book is released (in June according to Amazon, in July according to the reviewers' copy of the book), but there are already reviews on Willman's own site HERE and another site HERE. So, I suppose it would be okay to mention a few things about the book (and it might help sell copies):
1. The book confirms that Ivins planned to poison his former associate Mara Linscott in June or July of 2000. Ivins told his therapist that the "young woman" was a former associate whose name was "Mara." But he didn't reveal her last name to the therapist. So, my deduction that the "young woman" mentioned in the Washington Post article was Linscott has been validated. The book identifies the therapist by name. (It's not Jean Duley. Jean Duley doesn't come into the picture until 2008.)
2. The book reveals that Ivins was thinking about poisoning a different woman in 1979. He told his psychiatrist about those thoughts. That's something I need to add to my page about Evidence vs Beliefs after Willman's book is published. Ivins evidently changed his mind about that plan, too. The book also identifies the psychiatrist by name.
3. The book indicates that Diane Ivins started running a day-care center out of her home almost as soon as they moved to the house across the street from Ft. Detrick in the early 1980s, even before they adopted Amanda and Andy in 1984. Diane was formerly a registered nurse, and she ran the day-care center for about two decades. It was a way of bringing in additional income for her family. While David Willman doesn't say anything about licenses, I've been arguing with Anthrax Truthers for years on that subject. They constantly pointed out that Diane Ivins didn't actually apply for a day-care business license until January of 2003, therefore, by their reasoning, there wouldn't have been any first graders in her home in September and October of 2001. And I've been arguing that, if she didn't actually have a license, running an unlicensed day care center (or baby sitting service) is a very common way for day-care center operators to get started. The fact that Diane Ivins was apparently running a day-care center (licensed or unlicensed) at the time of the anthrax mailings certainly fits with my analysis, although I wish Willman would have provided more details.
4. In my April 24 comment, I wondered if Ivins walked to work or drove, since he lived only a half mile away. Willman's book says he bicycled to work. Of course. I should have figured that.
The first chapters of the book include a lot of detail about Ivins' early years in high school and college, all obtained via interviews Willman had with people who knew him back then. It's an enjoyable book filled it fascinating details, including the names of people who received and sent various emails, information that was always redacted in previously released documents.
The people who still think Ivins was innocent are going to find it contains a lot of new information they're going to have to distort, rationalize or ignore. The people who think Ivins was guilty will find it fills in a lot of missing details.
May 8, 2011 - Last week was a very unusual and a very busy week. For me, it began when I tried to get a discussion going about evidence, particularly "exculpatory evidence" (i.e., evidence indicating innocence), on Dr. Meryl Nass's web site. I created a hypothetical case for discussion. Here's a modified version:
I had hoped that someone would argue that there is no "evidence of guilt" in this case, because they saw no single item of evidence that pointed specifically to Suspect C and only to Suspect C. That seems to be the standard thinking among the Anthrax Truthers: if an item of evidence also points to someone else, then they see it as worthless and not really evidence (or they might even see it as "exculpatory evidence").
In reality, evidence of guilt that points to multiple people is still evidence of guilt in any court.
The best example of evidence pointing to multiple "possible suspects" in the anthrax case is the evidence showing that the envelopes used in the attacks were purchased at a post office in either Maryland or Virginia. By itself, that evidence points to millions of people as "possible suspects." Yet, it could also be "exculpatory evidence" showing that millions of other people in Utah and Ohio and 46 other States could not have committed the crime.
By itself, the evidence of where the envelopes were purchased means very little. But, it is not the only evidence in the case. When combined with all the other evidence, it helps to narrow down the list of suspects to just one: Bruce Ivins.
If someone's Aunt Bertha bought some envelopes while on vacation in Maryland in 2001 and took them home to Texas, that is not evidence of any kind, since, by itself, it doesn't help prove anyone's guilt or innocence.
I planned to relate this to the Bacillus subtilis contamination found in the media letters. It's currently not evidence of any kind, since it neither tends to prove anyone's guilt or innocence. Moreover, if it could be turned into evidence, it appears that the B subtilis could only be used to help prove Ivins' guilt. If it was found somewhere at Ft. Detrick, it would point to hundreds of "possible suspects" working at USAMRIID, including Bruce Ivins. In court, that would be more evidence against Ivins.
What kind of "exculpatory evidence" could it be? Not finding it at USAMRIID means absolutely nothing. That's the current situation. The B subtilis wasn't identified in the media powders until 2005. By that time, four years after the crime, countless house-cleanings had been done at USAMRIID. The source of the contamination could have been sterilized years earlier. You could never use the absence of B subtilis with matching DNA as "exculpatory evidence" for anyone. The absense of evidence is not evidence. And, even if B subtilis bacteria with matching DNA were found in Ohio or Utah, would that prove Ivins' innocence? No. Not by itself. Materials and letters were exchanged between USAMRIID and Battelle and Dugway all the time. The contamination could have come that way. It would have no more value as exculpatory evidence than the claim by his boss that Ivins just wasn't the type of person to have committed such a crime. On the scales of Justice, it would have very little weight to offset the massive amount of evidence of Ivins' guilt.
I also kept hoping a discussion of the hypothetical case would generate an argument that would allow me to argue some solid evidence that points to Bruce Ivins and to no one else: specifically the evidence that Ivins put a hidden coded message in the media letters and was observed throwing away the code books. I know the Anthrax Truthers will argue that many other people also owned the same book and magazine. True, but how many of them had the capability to commit the crime? And how many of those threw away the coding materials after the FBI searched their homes?
That would undoubtedly result in an argument that "it still proves nothing." In reality, however, it proves a great deal. It proves that Anthrax Truthers won't accept anything as evidence unless it is evidence that supports their beliefs. Then, everything is evidence, even if they cannot explain how it could possibly be evidence.
But, no one responded to my hypothetical case. So, instead of starting a new discussion about the evidence against Bruce Ivins, the week began with discussions about "birthers" and how hilarious it was to watch Donald Trump trying to avoid looking at President Obama's long form birth certificate.
Then the news broke about the killing of Osama bin Laden, and conspiracy theorists and True Believers immediately began questioning everything. The facts kept piling up until most conspiracy theorists went quiet and only the voices of the True Believers could still be heard, arguing that they still didn't beieve that bin Laden had been killed.
Then, a couple people who knew I was interested in the thought processes of True Believers sent me emails about the True Believers who believe the end of the world is coming in just two weeks.
Next, some guy sent me an email asking for assistance in tracking down his missing next door neighbor, who he thinks sent the Goldman Sachs letters (remember them?).
And then another guy started bitching to me about how it was an insult to all peace-loving Americans that we didn't publicly defile bin Laden's body.
Meanwhile, each day, I'd check on Dr. Nass's web site and other sites where discussions of the anthrax attacks of 2001 typically took place. But, things were unusually quiet, just one lone True Believer on his soap box preaching to a mostly empty street corner.
While waiting for things to settle down, so I could start discussing the anthrax case again, it was also a time to observe those other events and wax philosophical.
It was interesting to see one reporter after another state that providing evidence to conspiracy theorists was a waste of time, since they'd just argue that the evidence was manufactured to support and cover up the vast conspiracy.
What do the anthrax conspiracy theorists think about the "birther" and "deather" conspiracy theorists? None offered any opinions. Past experience has shown that they probably think the other theorists are crazy. (In spite of all the obvious similarities, they really hate being compared to hoax moon landing conspiracy theorists, alien visitors conspiracy theorists, Pearl Harbor conspiracy theorists and the various assassination conspiracy theorists. And vice versa.)
And, I began to wonder: How did the May 21 Judgment Day True Believers become so accepting of the opinions and calculations of a 89 year old preacher on the radio? It turns out that 41% of Americans believe that Judgment Day will occur before 2050. So, there were plenty of people just waiting for someone to tell them what they want to believe -- or to confirm what they fear the most. If you want to double-check Harold Camping's calculations, click HERE. However, some news articles indicate that the calculations were actually done by Family Radio's special projects coordinator Michael Garcia, not Camping. Another article says the calculations were the work of Keith Harwood, the owner of a radio station. If you wonder if Camping's followers will get their donations back if the world doesn't end on May 21, click HERE. If you wonder how big this cult or movement is, according to The Press of Atlantic City:
About 1,200 billboards have been erected across the United States, and more than 2,000 have appeared overseas in Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Dubai, Russia, Egypt, Ireland, Australia, France and Italy [plus a lot more countries].
Interestingly, unlike the anthrax True Believers, the Judgment Day True Believers do not seem to mind being called "True Believers." They take pride in having absolutely no doubt about what they believe. And, they don't consider non-believers who disagree with them to be "True Believers" just because the non-believers truly believe what the facts say instead of what some preacher says.
The Judgment Day True Believers are an interesting topic for discussion and a fascinating diversion, but it's primarily an example of preachers and followers. Anthrax True Believers seem to be just preachers and more preachers, with very few real followers (only some bemused observers).
I'm going to try to avoid mentioning the Judgment Day True Believers again until my comment of May 22 (assuming there is a May 22). However, right now, I feel a need to cite two passages from the Bible:
For the preachers, there is Matthew 15:14:
Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.
For the followers, there is Ecclesiastes 4:10:
For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.
In other words, followers shouldn't expect to get their donations back if the world doesn't end on May 21. The preacher is probably just going to do as the song says: He's going to pick himself up, dust himself off, and start all over again.
& Changes: Sunday, May 1, 2011, thru Saturday, May 7, 2011
May 6, 2011 - News agencies are reporting that al Qaeda has released a statement confirming that Osama bin Laden is dead. That conjures up an image of a bunch of conspiracy theorists standing around discussing the matter. One says, "Okay, I don't believe President Obama or the Navy Seals, but if al Qaeda says it's true, then it must be true." And another says, "No, al Qaeda is agreeing with President Obama and the Navy Seals, so that must mean that they're all somehow working together to mislead us." And a third says, "I think we should ask Harold Camping to see what he says we should believe. But, .... we'd better ask him soon."
May 5, 2011 (B) - According to Wikipedia, the conspiracy theorists who think Osama bin Laden is still alive are being referred to as "deathers" and "proofers." An article titled "The Dumbest Deather Theory" has a reader's comment with a suggestion that maybe the Long Form Death Certificate should be produced to convince the "deathers."
On the other hand, the Associated Press has filed a Freedom Of Information Act request for the photos of bin Laden with a large bullet hole in his head, plus they also want to see the videos of the raid. That might actually work.
May 5, 2011 (A) - Hmm. There's a billboard next to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway advising people that, according to radio preacher Harold Camping, Judgment Day is coming on Saturday, May 21, just over two weeks from now.
However, an article in The Gothamist about the billboard says that May 21 is only the start of the "judgment period." The actual obliteration of Planet Earth won't take place until October 21, five months later. So, if you wake up on May 22 to a nice, beautiful, quiet Sunday morning, it just means no actual destruction has yet taken place ... except to the businesses and lives of followers of Harold Camping who spend all their money paying for such billboards and signs, as a New Jersey follower of Harold Camping did to pay for billboards like this one:
Note that 2012 is crossed out on the billboard, an indicator that the True Believers who believe as the Mayans did, that the end of the world will take place in 2012, are wrong. Unless the world doesn't end on October 21, 2011, then maybe ....
Click HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE for more pictures of billboards and articles about them. The web site HERE shows the billboards are up all around the world. Considering the cost of living and the price of land, would the most expensive billboards be in London, Brazil, New York City, Iraq or Dubai? The one HERE is in Vanuatu. I had to look it up. It's an island nation in the South Pacific, near Australia. Click HERE for an article about a guy in Texas who has been paying $1,000 a month for such billboards since October.
May 4, 2011 - On "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" last night, Rachel Maddow and Jon Stewart had a good laugh over the way some "Birthers" are arguing that the killing of Osama bin Laden was clearly just a stunt or a diversion to draw the American people's attention away from the more important issue: Obama's faked birth certificate.
The arguments are a standard reaction from conspiracy theorists. If they can't twist or distort something to fit their theories, they see it as part of the vast government conspiracy to get people to ignore their theories.
May 3, 2011 (B) - An article about the Maureen Stevens vs USA lawsuit on BioPrepWatch.com is mostly a re-hash of the Palm Beach Post article, but it phrases the legal argument in a slightly different way:
Richard Schuler, who is representing Stevens and her children, said that it is important to federal prosecutors that Ivins is blamed for the attacks because the federal government is not responsible for intentional acts and would therefore be able to escape liability.
In other words, if a soldier uses his military issue pistol to shoot his girlfriend in fit of jealousy, the Army is not to blame for allowing the soldier to have access to the pistol. There was no way for the Army to have known or to predict that the soldier would use the weapon for his own personal purposes.
It's a good legal argument. Using the beliefs of Ivins' supervisors who claim Ivins couldn't be the anthrax killer seems to be a desperate attempt to offset the preponderance of evidence that Ivins was definitely the anthrax killer, and that he misappropriated government materials for his own deliberate and personal purposes.
May 3, 2011 (A) - After 24 hours of watching news reports about bin Laden's death on TV, and after reading numerous printed reports, I'm beginning to feel much less concerned that something could go wrong and there could have been a mistake of some kind. The DNA match, the statement by one of bin Laden's wives who was present in the compound, and the wealth of valuable intelligence data they collected during the raid wiped away all rational concerns. Plus, the fact that they hauled the body away in a helicopter and buried it at sea many hours later means they had ample opportunity to photograph and examine the body to be absolutely certain.
It now looks like the only thing people can argue about is whether burial at sea was the right thing to do. I think it was the right thing. So do many Muslim scholars and clerics. Others disagree. How a body is buried doesn't seem to have anything to do with whether or not the individual will end up in heaven.
May 2, 2011 - Conspiracy theorists and True Believers are already disputing the death of Osama bin Laden. There are reports that experts have compared the DNA from bin Laden's body to that of his sister, and it was a familial match. Bin Laden's body was buried at sea so it can't be used by True Believer fanatics for their purposes. But conspiracy theorists will see disposing of the body as evidence of a conspiracy to hide the truth. "Facial recognition" software identified bin Laden's face, but that software isn't 100% accurate. They reportedly have lots of pictures of bin Laden's dead body, but photos can be faked. Reports say bin Laden died of bullet wound in the head, yet his face was still fully recognizable. Nevertheless, True Believers and conspiracy theorists will dispute whatever proof there is.
On the positive side, according to one report:
The original plan for the raid was to bomb the house, but President Obama ultimately decided against that. “The helicopter raid was riskier. It was more daring,” an official said. “But he wanted proof. He didn’t want to just leave a pile of rubble.” Officials also knew there were 22 people living there, and Obama wanted to be sure not to kill all the civilians. So he ordered officials to come up with an air-assault plan. The forces held rehearsals of the raid on April 7 and April 13, with officials monitoring the action from Washington.
The more facts I see, the better I like it. After nearly 10 years of nonsensical or misleading news reports about the anthrax investigation, I've become very skeptical of first news accounts. And I keep looking for things that conspiracy theorists and True Believers can use to create arguments. I don't expect bin Laden to appear on TV tomorrow saying the reports of his death were greatly exaggerated. I think he is almost certainly dead. But, I keep looking for a news report titled: "Bin Laden is dead and here is all the proof to make it an absolute certainty."
May 1, 2011 (B) - I've updated my version of the Docket for the Stevens vs USA lawsuit. I've also uploaded the court document which generated the Palm Beach Post article I commented upon yesterday.
The 10 page .pdf file court document starts by stating that Maureen Stevens (and her lawyers) no longer agree to "Stipulation #6," in which they had previously agreed with the US government that Bruce Ivins was the anthrax mailer. The pdf file then goes into a lot of interesting details about the depositions in which Dr. William Byrne and Dr. Gerald Andrews of USAMRIID stated their beliefs that the person who worked for them, Bruce Edwards Ivins, could not have been the anthrax mailer.
Dr. Byrne was Ivins' supervisor from August 1998 to January 2000, and Dr. Andrews was Ivins' supervisor from January 2000 until 2003. They were USAMRIID's "Chief of Bacteriology" during those times.
Interestingly (and amusingly), Dr. Byrne testified that a lot of "foreign nationals" ("people from Egypt, Poland, India, Iran, Latvia and China") were employed at USAMRIID from time to time as either contractors or as National Science Council fellows. The suggestion appears to be that one of those presumably untrustworthy foreigners must have stolen some of the contents from flask RMR-1029 to make the attack anthrax. Dr. Byrne testified, "I don't believe that Bruce Ivins was the perpetrator," because a sociopath and murderer just "wasn't the person I knew." Plus, because the exact equipment Ivins presumably used hasn't been specifically identified by the FBI, Dr. Byrne doesn't believe Ivins had the equipment or the skills needed to make the dry anthrax powders in the letters. Besides, people would have noticed what Ivins was doing, and there would have been evidence left behind.
Dr. Andrews, who was Ivins' supervisor at the time Ivins prepared the anthrax letters and murdered 5 people, had similar beliefs, i.e., Ivins didn't have the equipment or the skills required to make "weaponized" anthrax spores, people would have noticed, and there would have been evidence left behind. Plus, "what he saw as the evidence (in the envelopes) was probably in the range of six months to a year's worth of work pretty much dedicating three-quarters to full-time during the work week." He added, "Bruce Ivins never made dry spores." Item #21 on page 6 of the pdf file says:
Interestingly, Dr. Andrews indicated that he held his opinion with a degree of 95% confidence that the final weaponized product could not have been produced at USAMRIID.
So, Dr. Andrews not only believes that Bruce Ivins couldn't have made the "weaponized" powders, but neither could anyone else at USAMRIID.
Yet, during the course of the investigation, Ivins himself pointed at numerous other scientists at USAMRIID as people who could have made the powders. And Dr. John Ezzell reportedly stated at the November 29, 2010, conference that he could do it, and if he could do it, Ivins could also do it.
That's the type of dispute between experts that I'd love to see played out in a court room. Experts with beliefs (like Byrne and Andrews) would state their beliefs, and experts with facts (like Ezzell) would show how their beliefs are false. It's a classic confrontation seen so often in history: Expert #1 says it can't be done, and expert #2 proceeds to do it.
The difference in this case, unfortunately, is the experts with beliefs will continue to hold onto their beliefs even after they see that their beliefs are incorrect. They'll just change the argument to: "Well, you might be able to do it very easily, but that doesn't mean that Bruce Ivins was able to do it. I still believe that Bruce Ivins couldn't have done it.
"And Bruce Ivins is dead, so you can never prove anything for certain. Nyah nyah nyah."
May 1, 2011 (A) - Yesterday's Los Angeles Times editorial by Tim Rutten, titled "'Birther' blather lives on," contained some paragraphs worth re-reading. Here's one:
One of the striking things about the reaction to the president's calm and — to reasonable minds — entirely persuasive appearance in the White House briefing room Wednesday was the rapidity and ease with which so many leading birthers rejected the evidence he presented.
If you watched various TV news reporters trying to get Donald Trump to look at the "long form" of President Obama's birth certificate, however, you would have seen that he didn't "reject" it. Trump refused to look at it. Why? Because doing so could have put Trump on the defensive. Birthers and Truthers attack, they do not defend. They have no way to defend their beliefs, because their beliefs are beliefs, not facts. They have no facts. So, they must attack. By refusing to look at the birth certificate, Trump avoided being put on the defensive, and, instead, he simply moved on other attacks - questioning how Obama managed to get into Harvard when his earlier school records showed he was "a bad student." Then Trump praised himself for forcing the President to produce the long-form of his birth certificate, while at the same time attacking the President for taking so long to do so.
Meanwhile, there are some Birthers who have attacked the "Certificate of Live Birth" as being inadequate or forged. The Chicago Tribune has an article titled "Even with birth certificate, 'birther' theories will not die." It lists some of the new attacks and arguments from the Birthers:
The online magazine Slate quoted Sharon Guthrie, legislative director for a Texas state legislator who has introduced birther legislation, as saying, "What I've seen online, what they produced today, still says `certificate of live birth' across the top. We want to see a 'birth certificate.'"
Others insist that the certificate is forged. They claim that by using photo-editing software to examine the PDF file the White House released, it becomes clear that the document consists of several separate layers, indicating that it has somehow been manipulated.
Other quibbles get even more detailed: Why is the "Date Accepted" on the certificate four days later than the "Birth Date"? Obama's father's race is listed as "African," but many argue that in 1961 the more likely term would have been "negro." The word "Caucasian" under the listing for Obama's mother's race looks too perfect to have been done with a typewriter from that time.
Speaking of typewriters, others ask, why are the entries on the form centered instead of left-justified? And, because every good conspiracy needs a mysterious death, isn't it oddly convenient that the doctor who signed the birth certificate died eight years ago and thus cannot answer any questions?
The article also says: "Good conspiracy theories don't die — they simply adapt."
I've been seeing this same phenomenon for nearly ten years in the anthrax case. The silicon issue is the prime example. As each bogus theory about the silicon being proof of a sophisticated "weaponization" process was shot down by solid facts and solid science, the conspiracy theorists just manufactured a new bogus theory and started new arguments about how the silicon is proof of sophisticated weaponization.
Yesterday's Los Angeles Times' editorial showed how this ability to adapt to the facts so you can continue to believe what you want to believe isn't really a new phenomenon:
In the 1830s, an Upstate New York farmer turned biblical exegete named William Miller used a personal mathematical formula to predict that the second coming would occur in 1843. By all accounts, Miller wasn't much of a speaker himself, but one of his Boston followers had one of the new high-speed printing presses that were creating America's first truly popular media. Soon, Miller's followers are thought to have numbered in the hundreds of thousands.
What's significant is that, when 1843 came and went without an apocalypse, they simply recalculated and reformulated and kept on believing — setting a standard for a certain kind of cultic American group-think that has recurred in our national life ever since.
If you've been watching the news during the past few weeks, you've seen this is happening again - almost identically. California-based evangelical radio preacher Harold Camping is predicting that the end of the world is coming this month. His mathematical calculations make it a certainty - for him and his followers. The Huffington Post reports:
Judgment Day is coming May 21, 2011 -- not sometime this decade, not sometime this year, but precisely on May 21.
The hundreds of billboards warning unrepentant commuters of their impending doom are courtesy of a California radio station led by 89-year-old Harold Camping, who initially predicted the world would end in 1994.
So, Camping previously predicted the end of the world would happen in 1994. But, it didn't happen. So, he recalculated and now the new date is May 21, 2011. But, if it doesn't happen on that date, he'll almost certainly find another error in his calculations that will allow him and his followers to adapt to a new date.
It's the thinking of a True Believer. These True Believers differ from conspiracy theorists only because these True Believers don't think the government is behind the failure of their own calculations to determine the correct date.
So, is Donald Trump a True Believer, or is he a conspiracy theorist? Or is he just a bull-shit artist? ABC News has an article worth reading. It's titled: "Donald Trump and The Biggest Unanswered Birther Question."
Given that the President released his birth certificate, it clearly does exist. At a minimum, this existence seems to call into question the credibility of Mr. Trump’s sources, if not their actual existence.
Remember, these were the investigators Trump allegedly had on the ground in Hawaii who “could not believe what they’re finding.”
Given that the President’s birth certificate proves (again) that he was born in Hawaii, what did these investigators find that they couldn’t believe?
These questions were put to Mr. Trump in New Hampshire on Wednesday. What were the investigators finding? One time he responded, “I got him to give his birth certificate. No one else did, and most of the press is congratulating me.”
And at his news conference, he was asked directly, “Were you making this up? Where does this information come from?”
His answer? “No, what I think you are going to see, first we have to look at the certificate, but I am really happy that this has finally taken place. Because we have some major issues that are unbelievably important.”
When told by this reporter that he did not answer the question, his response was: “I think I did, I did. I did answer the question.”
Donald Trump was clearly bullshitting people when he claimed that the people he had "on the ground" in Hawaii "could not believe what they're finding." He evidently didn't expect President Obama would actually go to the trouble of getting his long-form "Certificate of Live Birth" released. That's a common error committed by bullshitters - assuming that their opponent will continue to ignore them as he has done in the past. (But, if he suddenly stops ignoring them, they can always attack him for taking so long to respond, and thus they can avoid discussing what he had to say.)
The real question is: Does Donald Trump actually believe anything he's saying, or is he just trying to get other people to believe it? Is his bullshitting just a tactic for achieving whatever it is that he wants to achieve? That could definitely be the case. He certainly seems to think he's smarter than most people, because he's made more money than most people. Making money seems to be is his measure of intelligence. Also, people who believe his bullshit must obviously be less intelligent than he is because they come to him for inspiration and advice. That feeds his ego. And, in his mind, anyone attacking him is just jealous of his success. If Donald Trump is a True Believer, his belief is a firm, unshakable belief that he's one of the smartest man on the planet and the world's best manipulator of people. Therefore, he may actually believe that he's entitled to be The Leader of the Free World.
His problem is (hopefully): He's fooling only the dumbest of the dumb. The rest are watching him for amusement. The Huffington Post suggests, "We need Trump to provide samples of his DNA to prove he's actually a carbon-based life form."
The Los Angeles Times article I cited at the beginning of my comment for today also contains this:
Until very recently, if every professional news organization in the nation examined a charge and found it baseless, it was — for all intents and purposes — dropped. Today, the growth of the Internet has drained the noun "news" of its former authority. If you don't like the facts presented on the sites of established news organizations, you simply keep clicking until you find one whose "facts" accord with your beliefs.
"There are no more arbiters of truth," former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told the Politico website. "So whatever you can prove factually, somebody else can find something else and point to it with enough ferocity to get people to believe it. We've crossed some Rubicon into the unknown."
Yes, we have "crossed some Rubicon into the unknown." Just as Julius Caesar did in 49 BC, we've stepped into an unknown territory, and there is no turning back. We're in a territory of cell phones and the Internet, where individuals can routinely communicate with each other and the rest of the world. If someone has a totally ridiculous idea, he or she can probably find dozens of people who totally agree - and at least one "expert" who will validate the idea. And, by talking together they can convince themselves that their ridiculous idea is the sublime truth.
It was a lot more difficult to find like-minded people before the era of cell phones and the Internet. In the previous era, a person could type his thoughts on a mimeograph sheet in order to distribute it on street corners, or they could send it off to people on a mailing list. But there was no mimeograph Google to instantly find other people who share the same interests all across the globe.
People looking for facts can often instantly find and verify facts. People with beliefs can usually instantly find other people who have similar beliefs.
I started writing these comments nearly 10 years ago when I saw a need in discussions about the anthrax attacks of 2001 to distinguish between "experts" with facts and "experts" with beliefs.
There's still that need. I keep hoping someone will come up with a simple checklist which will help people distinguish one kind of "expert" from another. There's definitely a clear pattern to the way all the "truthers" think and operate. And, it's very different from the way "experts" with solid facts think and operate. Unfortunately, part of the pattern for the "truthers" is that they won't allow themselves to be put in a situation where they have to discuss facts. When confronted with facts, they simply reject the facts as meaningless. Here's the pattern again as it applies to the Anthrax Truthers: