& Changes: Sunday, December 25, 2011, thru Saturday, December 31,
December 31, 2011 (B) - Hmm. I just received a couple links to YouTube videos where Ron Paul denies he believes the 9/11 conspiracy theories. The links are HERE and HERE. This is definitely not the subject I would have wanted for my last comment of 2011, but it will probably be so. Does the fact that Ron Paul denies believing in the 9/11 conspiracy theories mean he isn't a conspiracy theorist? Not really. All conspiracy theorists deny being conspiracy theorists. They consider themselves to be merely people interested in finding out "the truth." It's going to take someone a lot more interested in Ron Paul's beliefs than I am to figure out what he really thinks. I think the Republican field of Presidential candidates is a choice between Dumb and Dumber and who is the least dangerous. It's a difficult choice.
December 31, 2011 (A) - Someone just sent me a couple links to articles about a conspiracy theorist who is running for President: Ron Paul. One article is titled "Ex-Staffer Calls Ron Paul 'The Original 9/11 Truther'." The other article is HERE and has a title that doesn't mean anything unless you've been following Ron Paul's rantings - which I haven't. But the article goes into great detail about many of Ron Paul's conspiracy theories and contains links to supporting videos.
The site behind these articles is probably biased in favor of some other candidate, but, it's not what the site says that is so interesting, and it's not what Ron Paul can be seen and heard saying. What's so interesting (and depressing) is that there are apparently a lot of Americans who seriously believe that a conspiracy theorist would make a good President. But, lucky for the rest of us, there seem to be many more Americans who do not believe a conspiracy theorist would make a good President. At least, I seriously hope so.
December 27, 2011 - The Anthrax Truthers seem to have conceeded that Ivins was not checking on mice during the unexplained evening hours he spent in Suite B3 just prior to the anthrax mailings, although one Truther seems to want to argue that Ivins could have used approximate times in his notebook and just coincidentally wasn't in Suite B3 during any of those approximate times. That's a very good demonstration of the difference in thinking between Anthrax Truthers versus scientists, detectives and people who do not attempt to twist the facts to fit their beliefs. For scientists and detectives, 20 coincidences would be very good evidence that the occurrances are NOT coincidences. For Anthrax Truthers, there is evidently no limit to the number of coincidences if the only argument they have to support their beliefs is that all the evidence must be just an endless string of coincidences.
Meanwhile, a different Anthrax Truther shifted to arguing about guinea pigs and rabbits. If Ivins wasn't checking on mice during his unexplained evening times in Suite B3, then Ivins must have been checking on guinea pigs and rabbits. We've been through this before. The only information they have about the guinea pigs is a calendar or schedule that was found in Ivins' briefcase in the November 1, 2007 search of his home. The calendar reflects what was planned, but doesn't seem to fit well to what actually happened. It starts on page 123 of FBI pdf file #847447.
The calendar/schedule appears to indicate that Dr. Ivins was scheduled to do "guinea pig & Mouse checks" at 8 PM on September 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11, plus "mouse checks" on September 14, 15, 16, 28, 29, 30 and October 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 of 2001. However, The facts indicate that the calendar/schedule was nothing more than a plan -- a plan which was evidently not implemented. As mentioned yesterday, Ivins' notebook shows the mouse checks were done at 10 PM, not at 8 PM. So, Ivins' evening hours in Suite B3 are still unexplained time. The time cannot be explained by plans, the time can only be explained by documents showing what actually happened.
There's no reason to believe that the guinea pig checks were done according to plan, either. We know that Ivins wrote a summary of the guinea pig results on September 10, one day before the guinea pig tests were scheduled to conclude.
And, a look at Ivins' in-out logs for September 1 through 10, 2001, shows that he was not in Suite B3 at 8 PM during the first five days of the guinea pig test, which would have been the most critical days:
September 1 - Not in Building 1425.
September 2 - In Suite B5, apparently.
September 3 - In the B301 locker room.
September 4 - In Suite B5, apparently.
September 5 - Not in Building 1425
September 6 - In Suite B3.
September 7 - In Suite B3.
September 8 - In Suite B3.
September 9 - In Suite B5, apparently.
September 10 - In his office, presumably.
Of course, it would have been after 9/11 that Ivins would most likely have been making the anthrax powders. He didn't work on the evening of September 12, and he didn't enter Suite B3 on the evening of the 13th. But, he did work in the evenings on the 14th, 15th and 16th. Where was Ivins at 8 PM on those evenings? The in-out logs show:
September 14 - Not in Building 1425.
September 15 - Not in Building 1425.
September 16 - In Suite B3.
Two out of the three scheduled times, Ivins was not in Suite B3. So, the plan had nothing to do with reality. And, since the mice were definitely not checked by Ivins according to the schedule, there's absolutely no reason to believe the guinea pigs were checked by Ivins according to the schedule, either.
No matter how one looks at the facts, Ivins was spending an unusual amount of evening time in his lab in September and October of 2001, and he had no verifiable explanation for the bulk of the evening time he spent in his lab.
The Anthrax Truthers' remaining argument is about the rabbits that were also the subject of experiments at that time. But the rabbits weren't shipped to USAMRIID until after the first anthrax letters were mailed. So, they cannot explain anything about Ivins's evening times prior to the first letter attacks.
The Anthrax Truthers haven't provided any information about where the 52 rabbits were kept, but they assume it was somewhere within Suite B3, even though Suite B3 had no animal room for rabbits. The documents only show results as Ivins summarized them. Unlike with the mouse tests, there is no notebook page documenting the times when the rabbits were found dead. So, the facts say that Ivins had less to do with the care of the rabbits than he had with the care of the mice. The data was likely collected by "Veterinary Medicine Division animal caretakers" and reported to Ivins.
I'd like to get out of the area of assumptions, but that's up to the Anthrax Truthers. They need to provide solid facts about where the rabbits were kept and how care of the rabbits affected Ivins' unexplained evening hours before the second anthrax attack. We know the rabbits had nothing to do with his unexplained evening hours before the first letter attacks, so, unless they can show evidence to the contrary, the facts say that the rabbits had nothing to do with Ivins' unexplained evening hours prior to the second letter attacks, either.
December 26, 2011 - Hmmm. The (A) comment I wrote yesterday got a reaction from an Anthrax Truther. He provided a comment and a piece of a document that seems to indicate that the mice Ivins used in his vaccine tests in late September and October of 2001 were indeed kept somewhere within Building 1425, and not in Building 1412 as I had suggested might be possible. (These tests with mice were done after the first mailing, so they tell us nothing about Ivins' unexplained evening hours prior to the first letter attack.) The Truther's comment says:
Like the guinea pigs shipped to USAMRIID Building 1425 the week of September 24th and acclimated to biolevel 3 before being challenged, the mice similarly were housed in building 1425, not building 1412.
But, the piece of document also raises some questions. Here's what it says (X's are redacted information):
The document certainly seems to indicate that the mice could have been kept in Suite B3 in room 310, the animal room equipped to keep mice. In fact, it seems to make it very likely. But, the document introduces "Veterinary Medicine Division animal caretakers" into the situation. And, it just adds to the mystery of why Ivins was never in Suite B3 when the animals were being checked in the evening.
As I stated in my Sunday comment, when Ivins' Suite B3 in-out logs for 2001 are compared to the page from Ivins' notebook which shows when the vaccinated mice were checked during the period from September 27 through October 9, the facts say that Ivins was NOT in Suite B3 at the time of 20 of the 22 animal checks:
1. Thur. 27 Sept. = 1:30 PM - NOT in B3
2. Fri. 28 Sept. = 8:30 AM - NOT in B3
3. 10:00 PM - NOT in B3
4. Sat., 29 Sept. = 11:30 AM - NOT in B3
5. 3:00 PM - NOT in B3
6. 10:00 PM - NOT in B3
7. Sun. 30 Sept. = 11:00 AM - NOT in B3
8. 11:30 AM - NOT in B3
9. 3:00 PM - NOT in B3
10. 10:00 PM - NOT in B3
11. Mon. 1 Oct. = 8:30 AM - In Suite B3
12. 1:30 PM - NOT in B3
13. 10:00 PM - NOT in B3
14. Tue. 2 Oct. = 10:00 PM - NOT in B3
15. Wed. 3 Oct. = 9:00 AM - NOT in B3
16. 1:30 PM - NOT in B3
17. Thur. 4 Oct. = 2:30 PM - In Suite B3
18. Fri. 5 Oct. = 10:00 AM - NOT in B3
19. Sat. 6 Oct. = 9:45 AM - NOT in B3
20. Sun. 7 Oct. = 9:45 AM - NOT in B3
21. Mon. 8 Oct. = 9:45 AM - NOT in B3
22. Tue. 9 Oct. = 3:30 PM - NOT in B3
Furthermore, the two times when Bruce Ivins was in Suite B3 during an animal check where during the day. Ivins was not in Suite B3 during any of the five nighttime checks shown above (#3, #6, #10, #13. #14). (In-Out log details showing his movements on those evenings can be seen in FBI pdf file #847547, pages 55 - 57).
#3 - At 10 p.m. on September 28, the in-out logs show that Ivins may have been somewhere in the Animal Resources area, or possibly in Suite B5.
#6 - At 10 p.m. on September 29, Ivins appears to have been in his office.
#10 - At 10 p.m. on September 30, Ivins again seems to have been somewhere in the Animal Resources area, or possibly in Suite B5.
#13 - At 10 p.m. on October 1, Ivins appears to have been in his office.
#14 - At 10 p.m. on October 2, was not in Building 1425. He'd left the building at 9:39 p.m.
If the mice were in Suite B3, as seems likely, it would appear that Ivins deliberately left Suite B3 before the "Veterinary Medicine Division animal caretakers" arrived to check on the animals. It could be argued that Ivins didn't want anyone asking questions about what he was doing in his lab at that hour of the night. Another possible explanation would seem to be that some kind of protocol required that Ivins not be present when the animals were checked.
So, once again the Anthrax Truthers have helped to confirm that the time Ivins spent alone and unsupervised in his lab during the critical evenings before the second anthrax letter attack had absolutely nothing to do with checking on test animals. The facts say that during that time he was drying and purifying the anthrax powders for the second mailing.
December 25, 2011 (B) - Proving that I definitely know how to make mistakes, I accidentally deleted my interactive blog at anthraxdebate.blogspot.com. Ah! It's back. So, I also know how to correct mistakes. And, I definitely learned from this one: Do not enter an incorrect birthdate when setting up a profile.
December 25, 2011 (A) - Last week, when I wasn't working on my book, I sat around trying to think of a way to assemble some thoughts indirectly related to the Higgs boson, which one writer describes as "the invisible field that scientists believe fills the universe like a vat of molasses and gives elementary particles their size and weight." Earlier in the week I'd seen a terrific photograph of the Large Hadron Collider which is being used to hunt for the Higgs boson. And, I read an interesting metaphor which someone used to try to describe the effects of the Higgs boson:
The most memorable metaphor was offered by David Miller of University College, London. Since Mr. Waldegrave had been a colleague of Margaret Thatcher, Mr. Miller chose to portray the Higgs field thus: "Imagine a cocktail party of political-party workers who are uniformly distributed across the floor, all talking to their nearest neighbors. The ex-prime minister enters and crosses the room. All of the workers in her neighborhood are strongly attracted to her and cluster round her. As she moves, she attracts the people she comes close to, while the ones she has left return to their even spacing."
The party-goers are the Higgs field, which gives mass to particles like electrons (Lady Thatcher) by viscously impeding their progress. "Once moving, she is harder to stop, and once stopped, she is harder to get moving again because the clustering process has to be restarted." The Higgs boson itself he compared to a rumor spreading through the party, causing a wave of local clustering in the Higgs field.But, I didn't really want to write about a theoretical particle that even the most expert scientists find difficult to describe in layman's terms. I wanted to write about the thought processes involved in searching for the Higgs boson. For example, I found a Newsweek article that explained a different scientific discovery this way:
Galileo first realized the value of experiments: artificial situations a scientist sets up to study some phenomenon. He said they went far beyond making new discoveries or proving an idea correct; just as important was ruling out ideas. I recently moderated a talk among four Nobel Prize winners at the Museum of the Rockies in Montana. A theorist on the panel thanked the experimenter to his right for finding the particle that verified his theory and earned him his Swedish prize. The experimenter’s response was that he shouldn’t thank him—he would have been just as happy to have disproved the theory. Knowing what is and isn’t realized in nature will guide us on our searches as we move forward, and will help us address still deeper questions about space and the matter of which the universe is composed.
If they find the Higgs boson sometime within the next year, it will be a tremendous scientific discovery. But, one really great article makes the point I want to make :
This story will actually be a lot more exciting if it turns out that the Higgs Boson doesn't exist.
Verifying that your big, important theory is correct is a big deal. But that outcome is also just a little boring. It would be a lot more exciting if everything we thought we knew turned out to be wrong.
Although I find the topic endlessly fascinating, I have no idea if the Higgs boson exists or doesn't exist, and I don't have any opinions or bias one way or the other. What I'm trying to do here is explain the difference between (1) trying to find answers in order to understand something, and (2) trying to find answers in order to verify a firm belief.
The scientists trying to find the Higgs boson are doing so because their mathematical equations say it should exist. It's not a belief. It's the calculated solution to a puzzle. If it turns out the Higgs boson does not exist, then there is something seriously wrong with their equations, and the puzzle is a lot more complicated than it seems. That could be an even more exciting discovery than the Higgs boson.
How does this relate to discussions about the anthrax attacks of 2001? The best comparison I see is a comparison to my attempts to visualize the floorplan of Bruce Ivins' lab.
Back on April 17, 2011, I worked out a theoretical floorplan for Ivins' lab using only the in-out logs as a guide to where doors and rooms were located. The floorplan wasn't to scale, and there was no way to tell how it might compare to reality, but it seemed to answer all the questions I had at the time.
The next day, to show I was wrong, a True Believer supplied me with an actual floorplan for the first floor of Building 1425 at Ft. Detrick, including, of course, Bruce Ivins' lab in Suite B3. I was extremely pleased, even though the actual floorplan was very different from the way I had visualized things. Moreover, the actual floorplan created a lot of frustrating problems for me as I tried to figure out how the in-out logs related to the floorplan. I just couldn't make things work. My best assumptions about the locations of keycard readers created serious logic problems. Nothing made sense. Yet, I couldn't come up with answers that made better sense. I tried contacting people at Ft. Detrick, but they couldn't answer any questions due to the pending trial in the Stevens vs USA lawsuit. I tried contacting people who had written books about the attacks, but they couldn't answer my questions, either. So, I had no choice but to work with what I had while continuing to search for answers.
Then, on November 10, 2011, someone who had previously worked at USAMRIID and who had intimate knowledge of the layout of Building 1425, contacted me and set me straight on numerous critical matters. Suddenly, everything made sense! I am extremely grateful to the scientist who corrected my mistakes.
There were five key mistakes:
1. I thought that "CORR TO BACTI IN" in the in-out logs meant that Ivins was entering Suite B3 from the Bacteriology corridor. In reality, he was entering the Bacteriology corridor from the Staff Area.
2. I thought that "B301 IN/M" meant that Ivins was entering the men's locker room from an interior hallway within Suite B3. In reality, he was entering the men's locker room, but via the door from the Bacteriology corridor.
3. I thought that "B301 KEYPAD" meant that Ivins was leaving the shower room. In reality, it means that Ivins was leaving the locker room and entering the BSL-3 part of Suite B3 where he would enter the showers.
4. I thought that "CORR TO AR OUT" meant that Ivins was leaving Suite B3 and entering the Animal Resources Corridor. In reality, it means that Ivins was leaving the Animal Resources corridor and entering the Staff Area.
5. I thought Suite B3 was mostly a BioSafety-Level-2 area, and only some labs were BSL-3. In reality, everything beyond the locker rooms was a BSL-3 area.
And, of course, I also had the reversals wrong, i.e., when Ivins went in the opposite direction through the same doors.
The point I'm trying to make is that I was looking for the facts. I wanted to be right. I had no bias one way or the other. I had no belief that I was trying to validate. I just wanted to understand what the facts meant. Finding that I had misinterpreted the locations of keycard readers meant that I had made a hundred other minor errors, but none was a truly "serious" error. None affected the key question: Who sent the anthrax letters?
The scientists hunting for the Higgs boson can understand that kind of thinking. But conspiracy theorists and True Believers evidently cannot understand it. Mistakes are weapons they use to attack their opponents. If you made a mistake, they will argue that nothing you ever say or do from that point on can ever be trusted. Mistakes mean you are incompetent. Admitting to mistakes means you acknowlege that you are incompetent.
To me, making mistakes was the way I learned. Try as I might, I was unable to find the correct answers until someone corrected my mistakes. Having people correct my mistakes probably saved me from years of investigation.
The corrections had no effect on Bruce Ivins' guilt or innocence, but they allowed me to visualize and understand details that didn't quite make sense before.
I don't know if there are any True Believers arguing over the Higgs boson, but, if there are, they would undoubtely be arguing that there is no such thing as a Higgs boson. They would have their own belief about what causes particles to take on mass. As a result, they would be absolutely delighted if the Higgs boson is not found. To them, it would prove that they are right and all the scientists who believed in the existence of the Higgs boson were wrong. It wouldn't really prove the True Believers were right, of course. But, the True Believers would make the claim anyway. In the oversimplified world of the True Believers, there can be no third option where everyone is wrong, including the True Believers.
And, what happens if the Higgs boson is found and is proved to exist? The True Believers will just claim that it's a mistake. There's an error somewhere. And they'll start pointing out mistakes. If some scientist wrote a report where a word was misspelled, it would prove that the scientist makes mistakes, and therefore nothing he or she says or does can ever be trusted. If a scientist once thought mass came from a different source and changed his mind when the evidence showed the Higgs boson to be the better source, that scientist also makes mistakes and cannot be trusted. If a scientist made a statement that the Higgs boson would be found before the summer of 2012, and it isn't, then that scientist cannot be trusted. And, of course, if any scientist was being paid for his work, that means he or she profited from the findings, i.e., they were paid to find what they found, and therefore nothing they say can be trusted.
In the matter of the anthrax attacks of 2001, the current equivalent to the Higgs boson for the True Believers appears to be the location of the animals that were used in vaccine tests during September and October of 2001.
Ivins' worked many unexplained and unsupervised hours in Suite B3 during the evenings and weekends before the two mailings in September and October of 2001. The FBI, the DOJ and the facts say that during those hours Dr. Ivins was making the anthrax powders used in the attacks. The True Believers, however, endlessly argue that Dr. Ivins was working with test animals during those unexplained evening hours.
The facts seem clear: The in-out logs show that Ivins was not in Suite B3 during most of the times when the notebooks and calendars show he was supposedly checking on the animals. Therefore, those documents seem to show that the animals were also not in Suite B3. Thus, the unexplained evening hours Ivins spent in his BSL-3 lab in Suite B3 had nothing to do with checking on test animals. The time Ivins was in his lab was spent making the anthrax powders. A mountain of other evidence proves his guilt and says that is what Bruce Ivins must have been doing.
The True Believers argue that the test animals were in Suite B3 where Ivins worked. Their beliefs depend upon it. But, they keep producing documents (notebooks and calendars) which appear to indicate the animals were not in Suite B3. Using Freedom of Information Act requests, they've obtained dozens of obscure documents. Yet, as far as I can tell, they have never produced a single document which shows clearly and exactly where the animals were located. The True Believers seem to assume that if a BioSafety-Level-3 area was used to house the animals, that BSL-3 area must have been in Suite B3 in Building 1425. Building 1412 is almost entirely a BSL-3 area, but the True Believers argue that Ivins' animal tests could not have been done in in Building 1412 because that is where aerosol tests are done, and the animal tests in September and October of 2001 were subcutanous tests. Inexplicably, they assume that subcutaenous tests and cutaneous tests cannot be done in the same building. Thus, the only place left is Suite B3, where Ivins worked.
And it appears that one reason they believe they're right is because I was shown to be wrong when I thought that most of Suite B3 was a BSL-2 area. And I was wrong about the location of the keycard readers. When I'm shown to be wrong about anything, they seem to believe that proves they are right about everything. The possibility that we can both be wrong about different things doesn't seem to be anything they have ever considered.
So, for the True Believers, the "Higgs boson" in the anthrax case is the location of the test animals. If the test animals were in Suite B3, to the True Believers that explains all of Ivins' evening and weekend hours in Suite B3, and it means Bruce Ivins was innocent -- and it must have been Muslims who sent the anthrax letters.
To people like me, the facts seem to say that the test animals were NOT in Suite B3. But, I'm open to solid proof one way or the other. I have no bias. Proof that the test animals were NOT in Suite B3 would be "just a little boring," since it's what the facts already seem to say. And, if it turns out that the test animals were in Suite B3, that would be a very exciting piece of new information ... and it would pose a hundred new and very interesting questions.
Determining the location of Ivins' test animals seems to be a simple matter of asking the right people the right question. If the True Believers don't ask it soon, maybe I'll give it a try after I've finished the first draft of my book.
& Changes: Sunday, December 18, 2011, thru Saturday, December 24,
December 22, 2011 - Is there any argument so totally ridiculous that the Anthrax Truthers and True Believers will ever stop using it? Apparently not. In spite of all the proof to the contrary, the Truthers still endlessly argue that the attack anthrax was "weaponized" with Silicon. And, even more ridiculous is the absurd claim that Iowa State University destroyed samples of the Ames strain when they got rid of their anthrax collection in 2001. Lew Weinstein's web site revisits that absurdity this morning with his post, "Among the still unanswered questions ... Who decided to destroy the large collection of Ames anthrax samples at Iowa State University?"
Where are the "unanswered questions?" First, Iowa State University (ISU) never had a sample of the Ames strain. We have testimony from Michael Vickers, the veterinarian who examined the dead Texas cow. We have the testimony of Gregory Knudson, the USAMRIID scientist who asked Texas A&M for anthrax samples and who recieved the Ames strain at USAMRIID. Texas A&M scientist Howard Whitford was the person who was asked for such samples, and The New York Times implies he was the one who sent the sample to USAMRIID. The sample went directly from Texas A&M to USAMRIID. The Ames strain never went anywhere near Iowa. We even have the source of all the confusion: the mailing label and the letter that went with the sample. The letter is signed "TVMDL," which is the acronym for Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory. And Tom Bunn, the head of the USDA diagnostic laboratory in Ames, Iowa, stated that they never had a sample of the Ames strain or any strain with a similar name.
Second, we know who decided to destroy ISU's anthrax collection. The decision was made by Norman Cheville, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine, James Roth, professor of veterinary microbiology and preventative medicine, and Dr. Donald Reynolds, associate dean of research for Veterinary Medicine. They made the decision in a meeting on October 11, 2001. They checked with the USDA, the CDC and the FBI to see if it was okay to destroy their collection, and all responded: YES.
Lastly, we know why the three ISU officials decided to destroy their anthrax collection. (1) The samples in the collection had nothing to do with the anthrax attacks of 2001. (2) All the genetic material was already in the national respository. (3) It was going to cost $30,000 a month to put the collection under 24-hour guard, and they felt that the money would be better spent on student needs.
So, the collection was destroyed. Where are the "unanswered questions?"
In retrospect, the collection probably should have been turned over to Paul Keim at Northern Arizona University to add to his historical collection, but at the time that didn't seem feasible.
I keep thinking I should create a supplementary web page listing the dumbest arguments from the Anthrax Truthers. If I ever do so, the argument about ISU's collection will probably top the list. On some days, the Silicon coating argument seems dumber, but on most days that argument seems more tenaciously malicious than dumb. And the argument that Muslims were behind the attacks seems more blind than dumb. Only the ISU collection argument seems truly dumb.
December 19, 2011 - I neglected to mention in yesterday's comment that, while Ivins doesn't appear to have visited my web site in the days immediately following that critical March 31, 2005 interview with FBI Inspector Richard Lambert, we know that Ivins did get onto the Internet and do some interesting research during that time. The search of Ivins' home on November 1, 2007, found copies of web documents he had printed out on April 5 and 10, 2005. The documents on pages 127 - 186 of FBI pdf file #847447 relate to forensic analysis of trace elements (such as the Silicon found in the attack spores), and to handwriting analysis.
The Silicon in the attack spores and the handwriting on the letters and envelopes were NOT subjects that came up during the Lambert interview. Yet, after the interview, Ivins printed out page after page about forensic chemical analysis and about criminal cases where handwriting was used as evidence, and he held onto those documents for years. One document which starts on page 132 of the pdf file is a 2003 article titled "Is handwriting analysis legit science?" Dr. Ivins was a reader of my web site, and he undoubtedly knew I'd been arguing since late 2001 that the Silicon in the spores could be key evidence in the case and I'd been arguing that a child almost certainly wrote the anthrax letters. When Inspector Lambert failed to mention either one of those key subjects, did that indicate to Ivins that they were areas where the FBI had important evidence they didn't yet want to tell him about? Did Ivins print out the documents to help his lawyer mount a defense? It seems very likely, but we'll probably never know for certain.
December 18, 2011 - Last week, I renewed my ownership of the domain name anthraxinvestigation.com for another two years. It was another reminder that the 10th anniversary of the anthrax attacks of 2001 had come and gone. And, out of curiosity, I decided to take a look at my web site statistics from the early days. I purchased the domain name on January 12, 2002. But, it took time to find a web site host and to transfer everything over from my original site at http://memweb.newsguy.com/~detect/anthrax. So, I didn't start accumulating web site statistics until January 23, 2002. Looking at the statistics for that month, it appears I started out with an average of 38 visitors per day.
Other reports show those visits were from 394 different web sites. The U.S. Government was #14 on the chart which summarized where the visits came from based upon the suffix in the web site address, 8 places lower than Tonga. (#1 = .net sites, #2 = .com sites, #4 = .edu sites, #5 = .ca sites, #6 = .to sites, etc., etc., and #14 = .gov sites. Here's that chart:
Anthrax Truthers who expect the General Accountability Office (GAO) to ignore all the evidence in the Amerithrax case, and instead support the beliefs of the Truthers, may find it a bit disturbing to learn that the GAO was one of the first government agencies to visit my new web site.
I'm not sure what happened in February of 2002. My journal shows that I was having a problem with my web site host at that time. They didn't seem to know much about the statistical reports or how they worked. The statistics I have are only for February 16 through the 28.
March 2002 is the first month for which I saved statistics for the entire month. But, the statistics don't contain anything of any specific interest for today's comment.
I received my first documented visit from someone at Fort Detrick in April of 2002. The visit showed up about 4/5ths of the way down a long list of 1,625 different visitors to my site that is sorted in order by how many "hits" they generated (accessing a page on my site equals 1 "hit," and every image on the page counts as another "hit"):
Some might find it interesting that the British Broadcasting Corporation ((BBC) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) were in the top 20, and universities comprised 4 of the top 7.
I don't know if the information wasn't available, or if I felt I didn't have enough disk space to save such things, or if I just didn't know about it, but it wasn't until March of 2005 that I first began saving the daily logs. On the logs, every "hit" generates a line of code which contains details about where the "hit" came from, what the visitor looked at and even what kind of computer software was involved. Looking at those logs today, I can find no solid way to reliably distinguish Bruce Ivins' visits from other people at Fort Detrick who may also have visited.
In last Sunday's comment, I mentioned that it was on the 31st of March, 2005, that Bruce Ivins had a critical meeting with FBI Inspector Richard Lambert during which Ivins was made aware that the FBI might be investigating him as a suspect in the anthrax case, and Ivins' computer hard drives were copied that day and evening.
So, what did Ivins look for on-line after that March 31, 2005 meeting? My copies of the logs show that no one at Fort Detrick looked for anything on my site during the first 5 days of April 2005.
At 3:40.33 p.m., on April 6, 2005, someone at IP address 126.96.36.199 did a Google search for - "commonwealth biotechnologies" + anthrax. Here's what the log entry looks like:
Commonwealth Biotechnologies was one of the companies assisting the FBI in the forensic analysis of the anthrax spores. IP address 188.8.131.52 was (and still is) by far the most IP common address used by personnel at Ft. Detrick to access my site. But, I cannot prove it was Bruce Ivins who did the April 6 search.
The only visit to my site made by Bruce Ivins that I know about with virtual certainty was his visit at 6:12:48 p.m. on July 24, 2008, shortly after he was released from a psychiatric hospital. That entry on my web site log looks like this:
IP address 184.108.40.206 identifies the visitor as www.fcpl.org which is the web site for the Frederick County Public Libraries. And, the log entry shows the Google search Ivins did was for: Ed Lake. Evidently through experience, Ivins knew the fastest way to find my web site using Google was to type in my name.
I know Ivins made that specific search because this is from an Associated Press article dated Aug. 7, 2008:
Separately on Thursday, the FBI said in an affidavit that computers recently seized from a Frederick, Md., library may hold clues about Ivins and the mailings.
Ivins used the computers for about 90 minutes on July 24 to read e-mail and review a Web site dedicated to the anthrax investigation, Special Agent Marlo Arredondo wrote in the seven-page document. Ivins went to the library on the day he was released from a two-week psychiatric hospital stay that followed his counselor's petition for a protective order — and just a few days before he took his own life.
And note #34 on page 417 of David Willman's book "The Mirage Man" says:
Sworn affidavit from FBI agent Marlo Arredondo filed with a federal judge in support of obtaining a 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.
For years, I checked the web site logs a few times a week to see if anything interesting was going on. I found a lot of things that I thought were interesting at the time. I even maintained a list of visitors to the main page of my site, a list that eventually grew to 610 pages of fine print. Here's part of page 468:
My notations on the list also show that someone at 220.127.116.11 was a "Freeper" (i.e., a person who sometimes linked into my site from the discussion forum at FreeRepublic.com), and that person (or someone else at the same IP address) was a "regular," meaning that I first noticed he was a repeat visitor on Nov. 26, 2007 and the last time I paid any attention to him was on June 18, 2008.
I think I stopped maintaining the visitor list when Ivins was identified as the anthrax mailer on August 1, 2008. After that course-changing bit of news, I just didn't have the time to do it anymore.
So, what's happening on my web site statistics these days? The reports show that last month, November 2011, my site averaged 504 visitors per day from a total of 7,692 different web sites:
The site summary report shows my site got 50 visits from cs.detrick.army.mil in November. The "Total Countries" report shows that U.S. Government visits rank five places higher than in January 2002. However, unless they just aren't in the top 30 countries any longer, I appear to have lost all my readers in Tonga:
& Changes: Sunday, December 11, 2011, thru Saturday, December 17,
December 13, 2011 - I don't know if anyone is interested, but I finally finished the part of my new book which describes Ivins telling the FBI that he'll no longer answer their questions without his attorney being present. That happened on Monday, April 4, 2005, after FBI Inspector Richard Lambert had spent all day the previous Friday questioning Ivins about the case. Ivins decided Lambert's questions were focused on him and not on the science of the case, so he wanted his lawyer Richard P. Bricken present for all further questioning. "Lawyering up" was part of what FBI agents Lawrence Alexander and Robert Roth, and Postal Inspector Thomas Dellafera had feared would happen if Lambert asked the wrong kind of questions. They had wanted to collect a lot more information about Ivins first.
Although I undoubtedly read about it before, the research for Chapter 33 made me aware that Ivins had actually hired Attorney Richard Bricken almost two years earlier, in early August of 2003, when Ivins evidently feared the FBI might be focusing on him. But, according to David Willman's book "The Mirage Man," that fear gradually died away, and Attorney Bricken even closed his Ivins file in 2004 after nothing had happened for a full year.
I also learned (or re-learned or discovered) that the FBI searched Ivins' trash the night after the Lambert interview to see if Ivins might have become spooked and thrown away something incriminating. And they searched again about a week later, to get everything from the next trash pickup. Unlike the very successful search of Ivins' trash after the November 1, 2007 interview/confrontation, FBI agents found nothing incriminating in the April 2005 trash checks.
Chapter 33 turned out to be 14 pages long, which is way way too long. It ends on page 274. The chapter undoubtedly contains a lot of material that will have to be cut for the second draft, but the purpose of the first draft is to get things down in writing and to move forward. I'm doing that. Polishing the writing will take place in the second draft.
The details of Inspector Richard Lambert's interview (along with agent Ann Colbert and some scientific work by Darin Steele and others) are described in a 23 page report that begins on page 1 of FBI pdf file #847444. There are several other related reports that begin on page 24 of that same pdf file. Lambert's March 31, 2005 interview triggered a major turning point in the case, eventually resulting in Edward Montooth taking over the Amerithrax investigation.
December 11, 2011 - Now that the 10th anniversary of the anthrax attacks of 2001 is over and the Stevens vs USA lawsuit is settled, the only expected future news event is the GAO report, which probably won't be out until well into the New Year. I don't expect any real surprises from it, but it certainly seems to be the last hope for the Anthrax Truthers. They fantasize that the GAO report will somehow produce new evidence totally reversing all previous findings and confirming the beliefs of the Truthers. If that happens, I expect it to happen sometime after pigs learn to fly, after Hell freezes over, and after the Pope converts to Buddhism.
Some Anthrax Truthers seem to have lost interest and gone quiet. However, it could just be because we are entering the holiday season and even conspiracy theorists are busy doing Christmas shopping.
I was so busy for the past two months that I failed to notice or mention the tenth anniversary of this web site, which happened on November 22. My email archives also begin on November 22, 2001. The archives now contain 45,359 emails, although the first 16 entries in the archive and many others in the first batch aren't actually emails, they're postings to the alt.tv.pol-incorrect, alt.politics, alt.true-crime and the alt.security.terrorism newsgroups. That's where the arguing about the case began -- on those and other current events newgroups.
I think the first actual email I have in my archive (dated November 30, 2001) may be from the same person who sent me a bunch of emails this morning. He's still arguing the same argument: Muslims did it.
This morning's emails are about his continuing "investigation" trying to prove that Bruce Ivins was innocent -- and therefore some Muslim must have done it. (He gets upset when I say he's blaming Muslims. He says he's blaming a certain individual who just happens to be a Muslim.) He's inundating USAMRIID and the FBI with Freedom of Information Act requests for documents which he thinks prove something. But, he can't really explain what the documents prove. So, he implies that they prove or indicate something. Or more typically, he asks questions which imply that the documents could possibly mean something. All the documents really prove is that he has no proof of any kind to support his beliefs. Much of what he sends me via emails he also posts to Lew Weinstein's web site.
One of the more bizarre recent postings makes a truly weird claim:
Dr. Ivins could not possibly have continued to work alone without a buddy in 2002; thus AUSA Lieber’s premise on which she based her Ivins Theory — the pattern of hours (and fact it did not continue past 2001) — is specious
He appears to be claiming that U.S. Attorney Rachel Lieber "based her Ivins Theory" solely on the fact that Ivins didn't work long hours in his lab in 2002 the same way he did in August, September and October of 2001, when he was making the anthrax powders. And the Anthrax Truther is arguing that is because in 2002 they had a "buddy system" in place at USAMRIID which prevented people from working alone in containment labs. Therefore, Leiber's premise is "specious," i.e., seemingly correct without being correct.
That's really showing how desperate the Anthrax Truthers are to create arguments where there really are no arguments. He's evidently using this sentence from page 7 of the FBI Summary Report:
Before the anthrax mailings, Dr. Ivins had never exhibited that pattern of working alone in the lab extensively during non-business hours, and he never did so after the anthrax attacks.
And this sentence from page 8:
Dr. Ivins was never in the habit of working excessive late night hours in the lab, either prior to or after the mailings.
He's claiming that those statements are "specious" and misleading, because Ivins was not able to work long hours alone in his lab in 2002 after the buddy system was implemented.
The Anthrax Truther could have argued that Ivins didn't work long hours in his lab in 2009, either, since he was dead.
Presumably, Rachel Lieber and the authors of the Summary report were referring to this graph:
Although the graph shows only November and December of 2001 as times "after the mailings," the two sentences from the Summary Report do not identify any specific period of time after the mailings. So, the Anthrax Truther is arguing that one year or eight years after the mailing are still "after the attacks" and "after the mailings." Thus the claim in the report is "specious," and therefore Ivins is innocent. And Muslims must have done it.
That's the type of arguments being seen from Anthrax Truthers these days. Most of their arguments are nutty and ridiculous claims about Ivins working with animals during the time he was in Suite B3, even though all the facts show that the times when he checked on animals were typically times when he was NOT in Suite B3.
It's really getting pretty silly. I check the arguments with the hope that they may contain something worthwhile, but they rarely do these days. It's been a long, long, long, long time since they said anything of value.
Meanwhile last week, I finished Chapter 32 of the first draft of my new book, and I'm well into Chapter 33. I'm on page 267. Chronologically, I'm writing about early 2005, a turning point in the investigation, when field agents started pushing their management to stop focusing at Steven Hatfill and to start focusing at Bruce Ivins.
The Russians who were doing weird things on my web site for years (see my November 3 (A) comment) seem to have gone away. But I've thought that before, and they'd always return as soon as I started to believe they were gone permanently. So, time will tell.
Off topic: The health club I joined in October when my old health club went out of business was bought out by another health club chain and will be shut down on December 19. So, instead of traveling 1.1 miles south to my current health club, I'll have to travel 1.3 miles north to the new club. But, the new place will be vast and modern, with hundreds of exercise machines and all sorts of new features (including a swimming pool and a theater where people can watch big screen movies while peddling away on exercise bicycles), so I'm looking forward to the opening. And, I'm supposed to be locked into a $10 per month rate for the first 4 years. That's half of what I'm paying now.
And, while I was writing the above comment, Amazon.com sent me a purchase order to restock my 2005 book. They just sold out. So, my 2005 book will probably be a delightful Christmas present for someone.
Busy, busy, busy.
& Changes: Sunday, December 4, 2011, thru Saturday, December 10,
December 7, 2011 (B) - Yesterday, in a discussion on my blog, "Anonymous" brought up an interesting point. In my comment on Sunday, December 4, I had written about how difficult it is to get a large organization like the FBI to change directions. "Anonymous" pointed out that there were probably no more than "60 to 120" FBI agents and Postal Inspectors involved in the investigation over the life of the task force. So, "Anonymous's" argument was that the vast bulk of FBI employees didn't need to change directions. They were never actually involved.
That's a good point, and, to a degree, it's quite true. On May 16, 2004, the Hartford Courant reported:
As of the two-year anniversary of the attack last October , there were 30 FBI agents and 18 postal inspectors working full time on the investigation, and a cumulative 80 "agent work years" had been invested in the case, Weierman said.
On November 22, 2004, the Oxford (CT) Republican-American reported:
Thirty-one FBI special agents work the case full time, said Debra Weierman, an FBI field office spokeswoman in Washington. That's in addition to 13 postal inspectors, one U.S. attorney and a scattering of support staff.
And, on September 16, 2005, The Washington Post reported:
In the past year, the number of FBI agents on the case has dropped from 31 to 21, authorities said. During the same time, the number of postal inspectors has fallen from 13 to nine.
So, when "the FBI" changed directions in 2006, there were probably no more than three dozen people (FBI agents, Postal Inspectors, U.S. Attorneys and support staff) working full time on the case. Why would it be difficult to change directions?
The answer, of course, is that those 30 people weren't an independent group. Most of them were part of the FBI, and the entire FBI and the U.S. Attorney were part of the Department of Justice. Although FBI spokespeople had been officially stating over and over for years that Steven Hatfill was not a suspect, the media, some FBI managers, and some lawyers in the DOJ considered Hatfill to be the FBI's prime and only suspect. So, changing directions couldn't really happen until it was absolutely clear that someone other than Steven Hatfill was the anthrax mailer, and that "the FBI" knew with reasonable certainty who that other person was.
The great steamship "The FBI" wasn't steaming through open waters. When Attorney General Ashcroft identified Steven Hatfill as a "person of interest," he took the FBI and DOJ into a political minefield. From then on, they couldn't change directions until everyone in high command agreed that the new course was less dangerous than the current course.
I don't want to over-use the steamship analogy, but the "navigator" also had to be replaced. According to pages 219-221 of David Willman's book "The Mirage Man," on March 31, 2005, Richard Lambert interviewed Bruce Ivins and didn't think that he was the anthrax mailer. Inspector Lambert still believed the mailer was Steven Hatfill. This "disgusted" underlings who could find no solid evidence pointing to Hatfill and who saw Bruce Ivins as a much more likely person to have sent the letters.
It took over a year to get FBI top managment to understand that a new "navigator" was needed and to find the right person to replace the current "navigator." Meanwhile, the three dozen people working full time on the case had no choice but to continue on the original course (collecting data about all possible suspects) while waiting for a new "navigator" to be found and installed. Even after installation, the new "navigator" had to study the entire situation and make a case to the top management that changing course was less dangerous than continuing on the current course.
Yes, there were only about three dozen people working full time on the case. Yes, the vast bulk of employees of the FBI weren't directly concerned with the Amerithrax investigation. But, changing course involves everyone, because if the new course sends the FBI into a major disaster, the explosion will be felt by everyone - particularly top management.
December 7, 2011 (A) - While continuing doing research for my new book, I found another reference to Bruce Ivins' experience using the lyophilizer to freeze dry spores. This time, it's an actual statement from Ivins. On page 93 of FBI pdf file #847545, a letter written to an FBI agent (possibly Ann Colbert), Bruce Ivins stated:
8) Lyophilized spores. I related to you yesterday that frozen spores, once thawed, look very poor.
They clump and have lost considerable refractility. When materials such as proteins, viruses or
vegetative bacterial cells is lyophilized, a "cryoprotectant" such as glycerol, albumin, sucrose,
DMSO, etc. is used to keep the material from being damaged during freezing and thawing. I don't
know if your scientists have looked for the presence of a cryoprotectant in the evidence, but that
might be a reasonable idea.
Ivins, of course, didn't use a lyophilizer to freeze dry the attack spores. So, he could make himself seem "helpful" to the FBI by suggesting they look for something that Ivins knew wouldn't be there.
December 6, 2011 (B) - This morning, someone sent me a very interesting 2-page article titled "How a collapsing scientific hypothesis led to a lawsuit and arrest." It's another morality tale showing that scientists are human beings, too, and they can have all the ego problems and other frailties that the rest of us have. If a scientist makes a seemingly great discovery, that scientist can act like a True Believer and ignore all the proof that shows he or she was totally mistaken. The scientist might even attack critics of the finding. But, the article also shows that "the system works," and eventually the real science will prevail and the error will be found out.
I found it most interesting that Science magazine printed the original bogus paper and then had to retract the article. I'd almost become convinced that Science magazine never retracted anything, since their totally bogus 2003 article titled "Anthrax Powder: The State of the Art?" was about as wrong as any article can be, yet it was never retracted. The excuse used by Science magazine in my January 29, 2006 comment was that Gary Matsumoto's article was "a News article" and "didn't report original research." Too bad so many scientists can't tell the difference.
A couple weeks ago, I found that an illustration from the bogus 2003 Science article was used in a slide presentation created by one of the scientists involved in the National Academy of Sciences' review of the science in the Amerithrax case. The slide is at the top of page 12 of the pdf file. One can only shudder when thinking about what nonsensical and bogus "science" may have been discussed when that slide was shown.
December 6, 2011 (A) - While doing research into when and how the FBI began focusing on Bruce Ivins, I keep coming across the FBI report dated September 30, 2004 that's on page 100 of FBI pdf file #847443, and I'm not sure what to make of it. It says that at some unspecified point in time Bruce Ivins called the College Board in Ewing, NJ, to ask for a registration ticket for the October 2001 SATs. And, probably around that same unspecified point in time Ivins paid for the ticket with his credit card. The FBI agent asked the College Board what the envelope containing the ticket would look like and was told that it would have a return address of PO Box 6200, Princeton, NJ, 08541.
Was Ivins trying to establish an excuse to use if he was spotted driving around that part of New Jersey in October 2001? His two adopted children were about 17 at the time, so he might have been able to claim that the ticket was for one of them. It might not be a very good reason for driving around in New Jersey in the middle of the night, but when Ivins returned to "the scene of the crime" in early October to mail the second batch of letters, "I was looking over the area where my child might be soon be living," would have been better than having no reason at all.
Or is there some other explanation that hasn't even occurred to me? I suspect the Anthrax Truthers can think of dozens.
December 4, 2011 (C) - I just noticed something on page 25 of FBI pdf file #847444. A report about a March 31, 2005 interview with Bruce Ivins begins on page 24, and on the second page the report says:
In IVINS' experience, freezing "wrecks" spores. He has
never seen lyophilized spores which were not damaged or in poor
condition. For this reason, IVINS does not believe the material in
the anthrax-laced letters was lyophilized. If it was lyophilized,
something was probably added to protect the spores.
I found that paragraph interesting because it says that Ivins had experience freeze drying spores in a lyophilizer, although it's certainly possible they may not have been viable anthrax spores.
The spores that Ivins freeze dried were probably "wrecked" because they were still too wet when he put them in the lyophilizer. When Dugway makes spores using a freeze-drying method, they apparently begin with spores that are centrifuged to the point where there is almost no more water left to be wrung out of them. Then they are freeze-dried. And, after they are removed from the freeze dryer, the spores were so compressed and compacted that they have to be milled to break up the "pellets."
There's no evidence that USAMRIID had any kind of machine for milling spores. So, they almost certainly didn't centrifuge the spores as thoroughly as Dugway did. And, as a result, when Bruce Ivins used the lyophilizer to freeze dry spores that were still relatively wet and water-soaked, the water expansion that took place during the freezing process "wrecked" the spores. It appears that, contrary to Dr. Ivins' belief, nothing had to be added to prevent "wrecking" the spores, something had to be taken away: a lot more of the water.
So, when Ivins prepared the attack powders, he air dried the spores - not only because it was easier, but also because he didn't know any way to freeze dry spores in the lyophilizer without "wrecking" them.
December 4, 2011 (B) - I'm trying to get back to work on the first draft of my new book. I haven't written a single word for it since finishing Chapter 31 on October 4, two full months ago. The tenth anniversary of the anthrax attacks of 2001 provided too much else for me work on and study. But, I'm now doing a lot of thinking about what to write in the next few chapters, which are about how "the FBI" finally began to realize that Bruce Ivins was the anthrax mailer. The problem is: No two "sources" seem to agree on exactly when or how "the FBI" figured out it was Ivins. The FBI Summary Report is probably the closest to reality, but it's also very general. My book is about details, and it's in the details where people's recollections seem to disagree.
That was pointed out for me once again last week when I found a PBS interview with the DOJ's Rachel Lieber in which U.S. Attorney Lieber said:
I was added to the case in the spring of 2007 as we really began to focus on people who had access to 1029 and really began to push the investigation.and
When I first came on the case, I was coming onto somebody else’s massive global whodunit, multi-continent investigation. So I just really started to jump into dealing with witnesses and getting to know the science, which took some time to learn the science.
Then over the course of the ensuing I would say six or eight months, I began to do more of a synthesis of the evidence, a synthesis of the investigation to try to figure out where else do we need to go, who else do we need to be looking at.
I think by I would say January 2008, we were really, I think, beginning to focus pretty closely on Dr. [Bruce] Ivins. I think that’s fair to say. And at that point, I viewed my role as trying to piece together everything we had and take a hard look at what do we have, what can we use in court, do we have enough. If not, what else do we need to do to make sure that we’re correct in our assessment that this is the right person, that we ruled out all other suspects, that … we have evidence to prove that in court, that it could not have been this other person?So, it wasn't until January 2008 that Rachel Lieber really began focusing on Dr. Ivins. And her phrasing suggests she thinks the others around her felt the same way.
But, FBI Special Agent Edward Montooth was there two years earlier. The PBS interview with SA Montooth says that he took over as the lead FBI investigator in 2006. At that time, there was a lot of available information about Bruce Ivins, "but no one was really looking at him." The interview says this about how the focus shifted to Ivins:
[Interviewer:] When was the first time that Ivins, in your mind, became more than just a scientist that you guys were working with, that you suspected there was something going on there?
[Montooth:] I would say in late fall 2006. When we started the review of the investigation, we divvied up a number of people that needed to be reinvestigated. He was one of them. Over the next roughly three months, four months, as more information came in, … things weren’t adding up.
[Interviewer:] What were the red flags?
[Montooth:] Too many coincidences, … just too many things that couldn’t be explained. One of them, one of the biggest red flags, is there was absolutely no alibi, no accounting for his time in the “hot suites.”
On the surface we couldn’t answer them. We could not find any reason. The laboratory notebooks didn’t support it. What we could see in e-mails and e-mail traffic didn’t support it. Where he was during the window of opportunity was wide open. There was no accounting for his whereabouts.
Then, as we were getting more and more information on his medical and drug use and starting to review e-mails, it just was an uncomfortable feeling, and that struck us. …However, if you look at the FBI files - specifically page 27 of FBI pdf file #847444 - you will find that on April 4, 2005, Bruce Ivins was already feeling that they were focusing on him, and he told an FBI agent that he'd no longer answer their questions unless his lawyer was present. That was a year before SA Montooth took over. The FBI reports seem to indicate that some in the FBI suspected Ivins in 2005 or much earlier, but apparently not those in the highest positions.
On page 36 of that same FBI pdf file, it shows that on May 9, 2005, someone requested "all background investigation records associated with BRUCE IVINS' from the FBI archives and a "photocopy of an investigative file associated with a Single Scope Background Investigation (SSBI) of IVINS, dated on July 15, 2004." While this doesn't show that Ivins was the "focus" of the investigation at that time, it seems to show that he was the focus of someone's attention.
It took years before the evidence from the "morphs" could be viewed as being solid enough to be useable in court. That happened in 2006. It wasn't until 2007 that other major pieces of the puzzle were found: the hidden message, the details about Ivins' obsessions, and his habit of driving long distances to mail things so they wouldn't be traced back to him.
So, when Rachel Lieber says it was January of 2008 when everyone started being convinced, that is probably right. It took that long for all the facts to be found and all the participants to accept what the facts were saying. The vast steamship known as "The FBI" had gradually changed course. Some aboard may have been pointing in the right direction for years, but the bow of the ship was the DOJ lawyers taking the case to trial. And in January of 2008, the bow was pointed directly toward Bruce Ivins, and the official destination was Bruce Ivins' conviction at trial.
That's probably how my book will describe the change in direction. It was an environment where lots of people had theories and suspects, and it took awhile - and it took changes in management - before the facts become so convincing that all but the terminally stubborn could see that the evidence pointed to Bruce Ivins and only to Bruce Ivins.
A lot of "discrepancies" people may see in the opinions of various FBI and DOJ participants are just the result of how people remember and interpret things. For example, I have a mild disagreement with SA Montooth because my memory (and my facts) do not agree with his memory. In the PBS interview, there's this exchange with the PBS Interviewer:
[Interviewer:] … What specifically about the [KKG] obsession seemed to be important to understand? What did it say about him that you thought was important to prove?
[Montooth:] It showed us that this mailbox wasn’t a random mailbox, that there was significance to it for multiple reasons. … We think [it was] not only because of KKG, but [also] its proximity to somebody that he had a great disdain for, somebody that he absolutely implicated multiple times as being responsible for the mailing. That meant a lot to us.
[Interviewer:] Who was that?
[Montooth:] I’m not going to name the individual, but … from within the first month or two of the mailing, when it was obvious that a mailing had occurred, [Ivins] was telling [us]: “Oh, yeah, look at this person. He has the skill. He lives in the area. He’s somebody that his personality is such that he’s difficult to work with. He would do something like this.”So, while the specific mailbox may have had connections to Ivins and his obsessions, SA Montooth seemingly believes Ivins may have had another reason for mailing the letters from New Jersey: Ivins may have wanted to point to Joseph Farchaus as a suspect.
The facts as I see them, however, say that is highly unlikely. I could be wrong, and I'd welcome any solid facts that prove me wrong, but, until then I have to stick to the facts as I understand them. The facts say that when Ivins mailed the letters, he was totally convinced that the Ames strain was untraceable and that the attack powders could never be traced back to USAMRIID, much less to him. He also appears to have believed that the way he prepared the letters would convince everyone that al Qaeda must have been behind the attacks. And certainly no one would be able to prove otherwise. Bruce Ivins was so convinced that al Qaeda would be blamed that he even put a hidden message in the media letters that he could use to prove that al Qaeda was not behind the attacks -- if he ever needed to do so.
I see absolutely no reason to believe that the fact that Joseph Farchaus lived in Central New Jersey was a reason for Ivins mailing the letters from there. Ivins wanted al Qaeda to be blamed for the attacks. United Airlines Flight #93 had originated in Newark, New Jersey, and at the time of the mailing there may have already been news reports that some of the hijackers had stayed for awhile in New Jersey. That's the reason I see that best explains why Ivins chose New Jersey to mail the first anthrax letters. However, Bruce Ivins also had his obsessions. And, since he was driving to New Jersey anyway, he may have used the occasion to check out a KKG sorority location that he had never checked out before. That's why he used the mailbox closest to the KKG office. The fact that his father went to Princeton was another reason for picking that particular mailbox. It meant something to him, but no one would know that. Everyone else was only supposed to see the connection to where 9/11 al Qaeda members had been.
Mailing the letters from Newark would have been best. But, driving all the way to Newark would have added an additional two hours to Ivins' trip that evening. It would have changed a 6 or 7 hour trip into an 8 or 9 hour trip. And, he had to be back at work on the morning of the 18th so he could drive to Pennsylvania for a meeting with Covance. So, Princeton was either as far as he could reasonably go, or after reaching Princeton he decided he'd driven far enough.
The facts say that Ivins' assumptions and beliefs about the Ames strain began to fall apart soon after the investigation began. On October 12, 2001, Ivins was already finding it necessary to point out to people that it was the USDA in Iowa that they should be investigating as the source for the Ames strain, not USAMRIID. Ivins was arguing that the USDA distributed the common Ames strain all over world, so there was no reason to be focusing on USAMRIID.
On October 18, Ivins is even getting upset about being repeatedly questioned about the Ames strain, and he insisted that everyone should be talking with the USDA in Iowa.
On November 19, 2001, Bruce Ivins was evidently questioned by an FBI agent about someone the Bureau was investigating in the case. That person's last name appears to consist of 8 letters, as "Farchaus" does. But, that may just be a coincidence. The interview is on page 2 of FBI pdf file #847443.
On November 28, Ivins sent out another email stating that the USDA was the agency distributing the Ames strain. He was so convinced of it that he proposed a conspiracy theory about why the USDA apparently wouldn't admit to it. That email is on page 19 of USAMRIID's file #38 of Ivins' emails.
In mid-December, some people already knew that the Ames strain came from Texas, not Iowa, and the USDA never had a sample of it. In late December, Ivins performed the first of his swabbings and clean-ups to get rid of any spores in his office or lab that might be used as evidence against him.
Page 3 of FBI pdf #847443 is the start of a January 23, 2002 report documenting when Ivins contacted the FBI to give them some information (and probably to probe them to see what kind of information they might provide in return). Ivins identified two different people, either of which he believed could have been behind the anthrax attacks. The report says on page 2 (page 4 of FBI pdf file #847443):
Ivins knows of two people who have the knowledge and
character required to have prepared and sent the anthrax letters.
He does not have any evidence that either of them actually did
send the letters.
One of the last names is 7 characters long, but there's no way to tell the length of the other last name. It could be Farchaus.
Either way, the January 23, 2002 report seems to record what may be the first time that Ivins starting pointing to others at USAMRIID (or formerly at USAMRIID) as being better suspects than he. If the FBI was investigating Joseph Farchaus because he lived in New Jersey, Bruce Ivins was more than happy to jump on that bandwagon and play whatever tune the FBI wanted to hear. But, it only happened because Ivins was learning that he had been mistaken about how widely distributed the Ames strain was, although he still believed it could have gone from Texas to the USDA and then to USAMRIID. (The report seems to indicate that Ivins may have previously called the FBI to mention one of those same two people as being someone who "makes nice spores" of Bacillus anthracis.)
Six days after the January 23 telephone interview, the news broke that the Ames strain truly did come from Texas and had never gone to the USDA in Iowa. The belief that it had originated at the USDA was the result of a misinterpretation of the mailing label. And, it was soon realized that what the Ames strain was NOT a "common strain" as Ivins had so thoroughly believed, it was actually a very rare strain.
From that point on, Ivins started pointing to others at or formerly at USAMRIID as likely suspects every chance he got.
So, my point in all this is that you can get slightly different statements when you talk with different experts because they learned things in different orders, they don't share the same views on what is most important, and there could be many areas where there are details which one person remembers well and another has totally forgotten. It doesn't mean "the FBI" is inconsistent. It just means that no two people will describe things exactly the same way. If they do, then it may be a cause for concern, since it isn't "natural" for two people to describe things exactly the same way.
And, SA Edward Montooth may be totally correct about Ivins choosing the Princeton mailbox in order to point the finger at Joseph Farchaus, but I'll need to see a lot more evidence before I'll believe it.
December 4, 2011 (A) - My web site host did some maintenance early this morning, and the problem I expected to happen back on September 30 happened last night. When I learned about it this morning, I had to scramble to update my Domain Name Servers to link www.anthraxinvestigation.com to the right server address. It then takes awhile for everyone on the Internet to get the right information about where to find my web site. Sorry about that.
It's now 8:50 AM, Central Time. I'll post my regular Sunday comment in an hour or two.
& Changes: Sunday, November 27, 2011, thru Saturday, December 3,
December 2, 2011 - Yesterday, Judge Hurley issued an order officially closing the Stevens vs USA lawsuit. The ORDER reads as follows:
"With prejudice" means that the lawsuit cannot be refiled. It's over. It appears that the actual Settlement Agreement won't be made public. I thought it would. Several newspaper reporters have stated that they've read the agreement, but I've never seen a link to a copy of it anywhere. Evidently, since the settlement took place outside of court, it's not a document that needs to be included in the court docket. Live and learn.
December 1, 2011 (B) - A Palm Beach Post blog which asks if the $2.5 million settlement amount in the Stevens vs USA lawsuit was "fair" has 10 responses (as of this moment). Surprisingly, 6 of the 10 responders argue either that it's too much or that they don't approve of any taxpayer money being paid out for such matters, because the tax money comes from their own pockets. #3 doesn't care, #8 thinks that USAMRIID should be shut down, #10 thinks the comments about Stevens & her lawyers are "hurtful,"and #9 (Lew Weinstein) uses the occasion to spout his conspiracy theory:
If it wasn’t Ivins (and it seems very clear that it wasn’t), that raises the possibility that the $2.5 million was really “hush money” to keep important elements of the truth about the 2001 anthrax attacks and the pathetic FBI investigation of those attacks from the American people.
"Hush money"?! What secrets could Maureen Stevens and her lawyers have learned? The Lunatic Fringe appears to believe some of the depositions contain secrets about a conspiracy. If so, shouldn't the "hush money" have gone to the people being deposed instead of to those asking questions? The judge ordered the "sealed" depositions from Ivins' psychiatrists and counselors to be destroyed (except for copies to be kept in government archives) and the same with depositions from Ivins' assistants, Mara Linscott and Patricia Fellows. To conspiracy theorists, any time anything is kept secret or confidential that means it must be something proving a government conspiracy.
December 1, 2011 (A) - In a Palm Beach Post article (and in a video) about the settlement in the Stevens vs USA lawsuit, Maureen Stevens talks about her husband being infected by the J-Lo letter, which, of course, was not the letter that contained the anthrax. The myth about the J-Lo letter continues to be believed and repeated because it has never been declared false in widely published news stories. Only the facts say the J-Lo letter didn't contain anthrax.
November 30, 2011 - I've been waiting to see what McClatchy/ProPublica/Frontline would write about the settlement in the Stevens vs USA lawsuit. Their article is online this morning. It contains this tidbit of misinformation:
By settling, the government protected from public scrutiny a sizable cache of documents about its secretive biological weapons program.
The documents aren't about any "secretive biological weapons program," of course. The documents are about the lack of security at a facility that works to create vaccines.
The article also claims that "The FBI never turned up hard proof that Ivins carried out the killings," and, of course, they mention that as "many as 219 people had access to spores distributed from Ivins' flask," and they again bring up what they seem to consider to be their major news story of the century: the story about the error in the government's filing regarding the lyophilizer. But, they also state something I find very interesting:
Lawyers for Stevens’ family, who are limited to $625,000 in legal fees, are required under terms of the settlement to promptly return to the government all protected documents.
Previous news stories have stated that Stevens' lawyers were limited to 25% of the settlement amount, which computes to be $625,000. But, I wonder what the reason was for including the lawyer's fee in the settlement agreement. I would think that would be a private matter between Stevens and her lawyers. A third of the settlement amount would probably be more typical of the contingency fee that a law firm would get in a lawsuit settlement. But, they could claim the entire amount if it computed out to be equal to or less than what they would have received if they had not worked on a contingency basis. And, they worked on the case for 8 years. The fee agreement should have been worked out before the lawyers took on the case. So, it's a mystery as to why it's included as part of the settlement agreement. I've been looking for the actual settlement agreement to see what it says, but so far it hasn't appeared on the docket.
Until then, I'll assume that Maureen Stevens' lawyers want the world to know that they were taking only the minimum fee for their eight years of work on behalf of the Stevens' family.
November 29, 2011 - The terms of the settlement in the Stevens vs USA lawsuit have just been announced. According to AP/CBS News, the government paid Maureen Stevens and her family $2.5 million. The AP/CBS article says;
Maureen Stevens' attorney did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment. The settlement names her and her three grown children, and notes that attorneys' fees of no more than 25 percent will be paid out of that amount.and
Lawsuits filed by other victims have been dismissed, although at least one is on appeal.
A CNN report about the settlement doesn't add anything significant to the story. The lawsuit had demanded $50 million. The settlement amount seems to indicate that Maureen Stevens's lawyers took what they could get. As I stated in my November 14 comment, when I found an erroneous report from UPI that said the case had been settled for $50 million, I would have been mildly surprised if the actual settlement amount was over $10 million. $2.5 million is around what I figured. The Stevens' case seems to have fallen apart when they agreed to stipulate that Bruce Ivins was the anthrax mailer, and then they found that that could end their case because of legal precedents which prevented the government from being sued for the independent actions of a government employee doing something outside of his government work. Stevens' lawyers then tried to back off from that agreement and argue that Ivins was NOT the anthrax mailer, but the only support they had for that claim were some uninformed opinions from Ivins' friends and associates. The facts clearly said otherwise.
Later in the day, The Washington Post and The Palm Beach Post also had articles about the settlement.
November 28, 2011 - Someone who posts as "Old Atlantic Lighthouse" (OAL) posted an interesting question to my blog which is worth answering here. The question related to "inconsistencies" between what the FBI and DOJ argue as evidence in their case against Bruce Ivins and what I argue as evidence in the case against Bruce Ivins.
For example, my new supplemental page "How Bruce Ivins Made the Attack Powders ... Allegedly" states very clearly and specifically that the method most likely used by Dr. Ivins to make the attack spores was to simply take the spores from serial dilution plates that had been sitting in autoclave bags for many days ... even weeks.
But, the government makes no such claim. OAL saw that as an "inconsistency."
I explained to OAL that it isn't really an "inconsistency," it's just a different way of presenting facts to a different audience.
The FBI/DOJ's "audience" would have been the jury in the murder case against Bruce Ivins. Their evidence would be evidence for a court of law. Their argument would have simply been that Ivins had the means to make the anthrax spores, and he could have done it in a number of different ways. They could line up experts to testify that the attack spores could have been made in the amount of time Ivins had and using the equipment Ivins had. It could even be demonstrated. It would be solid fact. The defense could not possibly argue that Ivins could not have made the attack powders. You cannot prove the negative. The beliefs of Dr. Ivins' friends who didn't know how he could do it would not challenge the solid facts from the prosecution's expert witnesses.
My new supplemental page is about the method Dr. Ivins most likely used to make the attack anthrax, based upon all the available evidence.
Why wouldn't the DOJ argue it in court? Answer: Because in court the words "most likely" mean "inconclusive," and to the defense that is an opening to argue, "So, you do not know how the culprit made the attack powders???!!!!"
And the prosecution's expert witnesses would have to respond, "No, not for certain." If the scientist would have tried to explain that it could have been done in a number of different ways, all of which Ivins knew, the defense would cut him off: "Just a simple NO is all I need. You have no idea how the spores were actually made! Thank you!"
So, in court, it's best to avoid arguing something that cannot be conclusively proved. It can be conclusively proved that Ivins had the means to make the spores. It just cannot be conclusively proved which method he actually used.
If the defense lawyers tried to argue the matter anyway by asking the expert witnesses if they could determine exactly which method was used, the expert witnesses would just respond, "It could have been any one of several ways. All would produce the exact same results." That would just add to the jurors' understanding that Ivins had the means.
My audience is different. I'm not arguing a case in a court of law. I'm analyzing the evidence and showing what the facts say most likely happened. I'm "filling in the blanks." I'm improving my understanding of the evidence - and, hopefully, I'm also improving the understanding the readers of this web site have of the evidence against Bruce Ivins.
November 27, 2011 (D) - Digging around, I also found a transcript of PBS Frontline's full interview with Paul Keim. There's not much new in it, but it did contain a couple questions and answers worth showing:
[Interviewer:] His defenders will also say things like he didn’t have the ability, the knowledge to work with the dry stuff.; he didn’t have the equipment; he didn’t have the time. Speaking as an expert in anthrax, what’s your evaluation of his capabilities?
[Keim:] I don’t think that these spores are all that special. I think that it would be possible to grow these spores up in a normal BSL-3 [biosafety level 3] laboratory like Bruce had access to. I think that it would be possible to produce these spores in that type of a setting.
[Interviewer:] One of the things the other people point to the fact is, if he dried it in a lyophilizer, you would have found spores. No spores were found — no spores on his body, no spores in his car, no spores in his house, no spores in the lyophilizer; no DNA evidence even if the spores were killed, no DNA evidence within the lyophilizer.
[Keim:] I know that we have equipment like this. We don’t have spores in ours. You do not use equipment like this and end up with spores everywhere. If you think you do, you have very thorough decontamination.
One of the cleanest places in the world is inside my anthrax laboratory. If you go in there and look for spores, you won’t find them, because we absolutely keep those places clean. People who work with anthrax know how to clean up things, so I don’t find that convincing at all. …So, Dr. Keim seems to be saying that, even if Ivins had used the lyophilizer to dry the anthrax (which he certainly didn't), he still would have known "how to clean up things."
November 27, 2011 (C) - Going through the transcript of PBS Frontline's two full interviews with U.S. Attorney Rachel Lieber (done on July 8 and September 29, 2011), I found another fascinating wealth of items of interest. There's so much worth commenting on that it's tempting to just quote the entire interview. But, I can't do that. So, first, there's this about the "investigation" of Steven Hatfill:
[Lieber:] I do think it’s important to point out that while certainly there was some focus on Dr. Hatfill — we all know this — that at no given time was just Dr. Hatfill a singular, sole focus of this investigation. …
[Interviewer:] Why does the attention turn away from Hatfill eventually?
[Lieber:] … At the time that people were becoming less interested in Dr. Hatfill, the science was really coming into focus, where it was looking more and more every day like RMR-1029, [which] was this flask of spores at USAMRIID, was the parent material to spores that were mailed. … Over time, it developed that Dr. Hatfill didn’t have some of the expertise that would have been required, nor the access to that material for — I mean, among a number of other reasons why he was no longer a focus of the investigation.Later, Lieber discusses Bruce Ivins' unusual hours in Suite B3 and how that amount of time stands out from what everyone else was doing at USAMRIID:
[Lieber:] One of my first days working on the investigation in spring of 2007, one of the agents, Lawrence Alexander, who was one of the lead agents on the case, showed me basically a graphic of everyone’s lab access hours. When everyone else was in the lab between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. generally, or 7 [a.m.] and 3 [p.m.], he said, “Do you see anything different?” And it was just extraordinary when you see Dr. Ivins’ lab hours all late at night, on the weekends, when nobody else was there. The graphic itself told quite a story. So that was quite significant.
Also significant was the fact that his lab hours spiked in August and then really September and October of 2001; never before and never after had he shown anything like that, those late-night and weekend lab access hours. That was extraordinary. …Attorney Lieber clearly has a very different view of what consititutes "direct evidence" than Anthrax Truthers do:
[Lieber:] The interviews themselves proved to be quite significant. I would say that I think at the point that we did the first interview, there’s a lot of things we thought we knew about Dr. Ivins, we were pretty confident about, but it’s quite another thing to have the evidence to prove that point. So Dr. Ivins made statements that were direct evidence that we could now use against him in trial that confirmed what we thought. The case was strengthened considerably based on those interviews, those on-the-record interviews.
But hearing it from Dr. Ivins himself was extraordinarily significant. I could then put Vince Lisi from the FBI on the stand at trial to testify, “Dr. Ivins said he was obsessed with Kappa Kappa Gamma.” It was an obsession we wouldn’t understand.
He told us the genesis of that obsession, that it dated back 40 years, and he methodically explained to us about his habit of driving three or four hours in any given direction to visit Kappa Kappa Gamma houses.
To us, this was kind of an “aha” moment in the investigation. We now have an ability to prove in the own words of Dr. Ivins — so, again, direct evidence, his own words — why the location of the mailbox is so significant.
[Interviewer:] Why is that significant?
[Lieber:] … It is a way to connect Dr. Ivins to that crime, to the location where the letters were mailed. It’s a very significant thing to be able to say: “Ladies and gentlemen, Dr. Ivins, he showed this pattern of driving three or four hours in any direction from his home essentially to surveil Kappa Kappa Gamma locations. How do we know this? Because Dr. Ivins told us. And here, ladies and gentlemen, you’ll see this picture. Here’s where the mailbox was; here’s where the Kappa building is. It’s completely consistent with his pattern of his behavior.”I like this part a lot because of discussions I've had with Anthrax Truthers about what constitutes admissible evidence:
What we say to jurors is — a defense lawyer in D.C. used to famously say: “Don’t check your common sense at the door, ladies and gentlemen. Bring it in here with you.” … When you mail a letter, do you think you drop a hair into the mailbox? You don’t. And if you left a fingerprint on the pull drawer of the mailbox, would you expect it would be there a year later, after rain and wind and snow and hail and everything else? No. …
I think it’s also important to remember that there are federal rules of evidence; there are federal rules of criminal procedure. There are no rules in the court of public opinion. So people can say whatever they want, and that’s fine. … The rules of evidence exist for a reason: to keep the jurors’ eyes on the ball. What’s relevant, and what’s not? What is reliable; what’s not? What’s speculation, and what’s not? In a court of law, there’s no speculation. There’s only relevant admissible evidence. …Here's another comment about "direct evidence" that will upset Anthrax Truthers:
… There were definitely a number of significant moments in some of these interviews where I thought, OK, I’ve got it now, I can now prove that point with the words of the defendant himself, which is the most direct evidence you can get. …
And finally, ultimately, I think in one of the interviews, he conceded, “I don’t have a good reason.” And that, again, it’s a statement that you can use at trial to prove this point. Not only are these hours unusual, Dr. Ivins himself gave a number of inconsistent reasons why he was in there and ultimately said, “You know, I don’t have a good answer for that.”
And for the Anthrax Truthers who endlessly argue that Ivins was working normal hours and was tending to animals on those evenings when he was in Suite B3, here's what the interview says about that:
Interviewer:] We might argue it’s a long time ago. It’s hard for me to remember what happened last week. The lawyers and others point to the fact that there was a calendar of these animal experiments that were ongoing, that he had reason to be checking in with the animals. Maybe he stayed in longer than [usual]. There’s also the argument that if you look at other points in his career, he tended to work late at night or odd hours. The response to that?
[Lieber:] … We can demonstrate through records over the course of a five-year period, never once before and never once after did he spend anywhere near the amount of time in the lab. And honestly, people say, “Bruce is in the lab all the time at night.” Well, if you actually take a look at the lab access records, that’s not true. He may have said that he was, he may have been in his office late at night sometimes, but he was never actually in the lab for anywhere near the number of hours.
For example, from January through August of 2001, I think he spent something like eight or 10 hours in the lab alone at nights or on weekends. And then you start looking at mid-August, and he’s spending 20, 30 hours during the week overtime in the lab. And again, in the ramp-up to each of the two mailings, it’s extraordinary, the number of hours that he spent — three hours at a time, four hours at a time, 9:00 to midnight, that sort of thing.
And to the point some people suggest that he did have good reason to be in there, that there were animal challenges going on and somebody has to go in and evaluate the animals to see how they’re doing in response to their vaccinations and being exposed to anthrax, if you look at his lab notebooks, there absolutely are notations here and there about his going in to check on certain animals. And it would justify 20, 30 minutes in the lab, maybe an hour at most. But he’s spending something like two hours and 45 minutes, two hours and 45 minutes, two hours and 45 minutes, each night leading up to the mailings.
And again, that’s the beauty of physical evidence and laboratory notebooks. It’s a great thing about scientists: They record everything.
And here's a discussion about "circumstantial evidence" that Anthrax Truthers will have to work hard to ignore:
Interviewer:] But those who would play on the other side and those who defend him sort of say, “But it’s all circumstantial evidence.”
[Lieber:] The question of circumstantial evidence has come up many times, and I would say a couple of things. One, a large component of the evidence in his case is direct evidence, and that’s the scientific evidence that all points to RMR-1029. That’s direct physical evidence.
A second, very compelling type of proof in this case is the statements of Dr. Ivins. Statements of the defendant are direct evidence. … Many, many, many statements that Dr. Ivins made to us confirm certain points for us. There’s a direct evidence that would have been used against him.
And third, I would say significantly about direct versus circumstantial evidence, the jury instructions nationwide say the law does not make a distinction between direct and circumstantial evidence. Both carry equal weight.
So this notion that there’s no smoking gun, that there is no videotape of him mailing the envelopes, I can assure you that trials are happening right now in courthouses across this country that are based largely on circumstantial evidence. And convictions are coming down across this country every day without an eyewitness and a confession and a videotape. …And on the subject of the lyophilizer, U.S. Attorney Rachel Lieber makes it very clear that the freeze drying machine wasn't important because anyone was arguing that Ivins used it to dry the anthrax powders, it was important because it debunked the claim that Ivins' didn't know how to dry anthrax:
Not only does he know how to use it, it says “Property of Bruce Ivins” on the lyophilizer. He ordered it.
He wrote the instructions that go with this machine. So this all is clear, direct evidence that Dr. Ivins in fact did know how to dry materials. Notwithstanding what people say, there’s proof that he did.
The interview also discusses at length Ivins hours in Suite B3, and specifically shoots down any notion that Dr. Ivins was checking on animals during the times when the FBI claims he was making anthrax for the first mailing:
There are no notebook records that suggest that there is any reason why Dr. Ivins had a scientific reason to be in the lab for those lengthy late-night hours, solo in the lab, leading up to the first mailings. So take that whole piece out of it.
And there's a discussion about what Ivins may have been doing in early September, prior to 9/11, if Ivins dreamed up the attacks after 9/11. The response is that there are simply some things about any case that remain unanswered.
The interview ends with an apparent fact that I've used myself on occasions: The best arguments that Anthrax Truthers can come up with to argue that Ivins was NOT the anthrax mailer are all meaningless, unconvincing and even a bit silly. U.S. Attorney Rachel Lieber stated it this way:
However, again, just seeing all this play out in the years since Dr. Ivins’ death, and seeing the claims by his biggest defenders and what they point to as their “evidence” that he didn’t do it, I think if that’s the best that a defense could have come up with, I am confident that we would have convicted Dr. Ivins. …
November 27, 2011 (B) - Someone just brought to my attention an absolutely fascinating interview of FBI Special Agent Edward Montooth, conducted by PBS Frontline back on July 18, 2011. We saw only tiny bits of it on the PBS Frontline program "The Anthrax Files," back on October 11, 2011.
One very interesting part of the interview, for example, is the exchange that took place when the interviewer tried to argue that finding spores in Ivins' home would have been a "smoking gun," but SA Montooth (correctly) responded that that would have meant almost nothing to the case:
[Interviewer:] As far as the people who support him or don’t think that he did it say one of the most glaring things is that no spores were ever found. The spores weren’t found in the house. The spores were not found in the cars or in any piece of equipment.
[Montooth:] … [It] didn’t necessarily mean anything if we found them or we didn’t find them, because he worked with them.
If we found spores there, his comment would be: “Well, I work with them. Somehow when I cleaned myself as I was exiting the hot suite, I must not have done it properly, and I must have carried it home.” …
[Interviewer:] But if the spores had had the same signature in some ways as the attack spores, it would have been a smoking gun.
[Montooth:] Not necessarily. He works with it.
[Interviewer:] But the attack anthrax he didn’t work with.
[Montooth:] He worked with RMR-1029, which was the parent [strain]. …
[Interviewer:] But the attack stuff had silicon, for instance. … The spores were different because they seemed to have been grown [over] a couple of generations. So there would have been something.
[Montooth:] Could have.
[Interviewer:] It would have been a possibly suspicious thing.
[Montooth:] Yes. But once again, you wouldn’t have been able to really go one way or another positively, because he worked on it. He handled the letter, right? They’ve handed him samples when it was in the hot suite. He’s still going to be able to say maybe it came home with him then.The interview also shows some blatant lies that Ivins told the FBI agents, such as Ivins claiming he went into Suite B3 to get away from a guard who was always bothering him. The facts showed that that guard wasn't even working on most of the evenings Ivins spent in Suite B3. It's stuff heard before, but not in this kind of context.
Less blatant were the claims by Ivins that he wasn't really an expert on making spores, and that his subordinates and others at USAMRIID were more expert than he.
Another fascinating bit is a possible explanation for why Dr. Ivins chose to mail the anthrax letters from New Jersey:
[Interviewer:] … What specifically about the [KKG] obsession seemed to be important to understand? What did it say about him that you thought was important to prove?
[Montooth:] It showed us that this mailbox wasn’t a random mailbox, that there was significance to it for multiple reasons. … We think [it was] not only because of KKG, but [also] its proximity to somebody that he had a great disdain for, somebody that he absolutely implicated multiple times as being responsible for the mailing. That meant a lot to us.
[Interviewer:] Who was that?
[Montooth:] I’m not going to name the individual, but … from within the first month or two of the mailing, when it was obvious that a mailing had occurred, [Ivins] was telling [us]: “Oh, yeah, look at this person. He has the skill. He lives in the area. He’s somebody that his personality is such that he’s difficult to work with. He would do something like this.”So, while the specific mailbox may have had connections to Ivins and his obsessions, SA Montooth apparently believes that Ivins' reason for mailing the letters from New Jersey may also have been an attempt by Ivins to make Joseph Farchaus a suspect. For the FBI agents (and probably almost everyone else), it was a motive for mailing the letters from New Jersey that was easier to understand than reasons based upon Ivins' bizarre obsessions. (NOTE added Dec. 2, 2011: I don't buy SA Montooth's theory. When Ivins mailed the letters, he thought the Ames strain was untraceable. So, he wouldn't have had any reason to believe that anyone except al Qaeda would be blamed. Ivins probably started pointing the finger at Farchaus only after it became clear that the Ames strain was traceable, and it could be traced back to USAMRIID.)
Near the end of the interview, the subject of Ivins' suicide and how his suicide meant there could be no trial is discussed:
[Montooth:] What we see today is exactly what we wanted to avoid. We wanted a trial so that the public could see it and make their own informed decision. With that suicide, ultimately when he died, that took it away.
[Interviewer:] When you say “what we see today,” what do you mean?
[Montooth:] The debate that carries on to this day; the people that feel he couldn’t have done it; the people that say, “It was weaponized”; the people that say, “It’s Al Qaeda.”
The fact remains, our investigation wasn’t reviewed by a judge and a jury, and Dr. Ivins wasn’t held accountable. That leaves a lot of people unsatisfied, unfulfilled. …
That’s exactly what we were afraid of. We wanted to be able to answer to the victims all their questions, let it be heard in a court of law so that they could see that justice was served one way or another.
[Interviewer:] Do you think he would have been convicted? Do you think a jury would have convicted him?
[Montooth:] I think so, yes. …I don't know how the interview with SA Montooth was found, but knowing it exists caused me to hunt for and find the full text of the Frontline interview with U.S. Attorney Rachel Lieber. It could be nearly as interesting. If so, I'll comment on it later today or sometime tomorrow.
November 27, 2011 (A) - I've just installed my new supplemental web page titled "How Bruce Ivins Made the Anthrax Powders ... Allegedly." The page puts together details from various scientific and FBI reports, plus a lot of images I've accumulated over the years, and it makes a solid case that Bruce Ivins made the attack anthrax from spores that grew on discarded plates inside autoclave bags that he allowed to sit under tables and in corners of his lab for weeks.
The source of the attack anthrax was evidently apparent to the FBI (although they didn't know for certain who did it) by April of 2003. In a telephone interview with Bruce Ivins on April 15, 2003, which begins on page 43 of FBI pdf file #847443, the FBI agent who called Ivins first talked about how Ivins stored his frozen samples, then they talked about lyophilizers, and then they talked at length about how agar plates are used to test the number of spores in an animal test dose, and what happens to the plates after the tests. The FBI agent reported the statements from Ivins this way:
For aerosol challenges, the stocks of Bacillus anthracis
(B.a.) are kept in Suite B3. Dilutions are made and kept in large
glass bottles. These bottles are placed in bags and then a
transport can. They are transported to the Building 1412 airlock
and placed in the refrigerator one to three days prior to the
spray. The pre-challenge inoculum incubates overnight in Room XXX.
On the day of the challenge, the B.a. spores are heat
shocked at XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX cooled in ice, and placed in
9'10 mL tubes. One tube per animal is prepared. The XXX dilution
is plated using Tryptic Soy Agar (TSA) from the Tissue Culture
As the challenge runs, the all glass impinger (AGI) water
samples are collected after each run and given to IVINS to be
plated. The colonies are counted the next day to determine the
difference between the pre-challenge concentration and the dose
that each animal actually received.
The used agar plates are placed in a bag and autoclaved a
few days later along with the rest of the spray trash. If a spray
is conducted on a Tuesday or Wednesday, the plates are read the
following day or two and cleanup is on Friday. If it was a very
busy week, clean up might wait until Monday.
Plates, paper, and trash to be autoclaved are placed in a
tidy sack, which is a large, extra thick paper bag. The
individual's name and where the trash is from are noted on the sack
and it is brought to the basement where the animal caretakers
autoclave it. IVINS does not know how long the bag sits in the
basement prior to being autoclaved.
After a certain amount of time has passed after being
plated, B.a. colonies would no longer be able to be counted. After
five to seven days, B.a. spores would form on any nutritional agar
medium. Once the spores have formed, they are viable for a long
time. There are still viable spores on the original B.a. Ames
slant from Texas when it was last checked for the repository.
Spores do not need nutrients because they are inert.
Agar grown B.a. spores are almost always clumpier and
dirtier and are not as high quality as broth grown spores.
That particular conversation must have preyed on Ivins' mind, since he referred to it when he was called again a couple days later to discuss a celebration party held at USAMRIID and who may have been at the party. Ivins evidently brought up the subject of the agar plates and the trash, apparently in another attempt to mislead the investigation. This from an FBI report that is dated April 17, 2003, and is on page 45 of FBI pdf file #847443:
IVINS feels badly because his work could have played a
role in the anthrax mailings. Someone could have read his research
and determined that Bacillus anthracis (B.a.) Ames was vaccine
After his telephonic conversation with SA XXXXXXX on
04/15/2003, IVINS feels sick over the fact that the material used
in the anthrax mailings could have come from a stock made from the
B.a. aerosol challenge trash.
The first paragraph shows Dr. Ivins suggesting that the anthrax mailer - presumably Muslim terrorists - may have decided to use the Ames strain because it was "vaccine resistant."
The second paragraph shows Dr. Ivins pointing to the trash in Building 1412 as a possible source of the attack anthrax.
The trash they had been discussing may have been in Building 1412. But, if Ivins was given the material to be plated, there doesn't seem any reason why Ivins couldn't do the plating in Suite B3 in Building 1425, even if he actual animal tests were done in Building 1412.
The facts suggest, however, that the plates Dr. Ivins used to accumulate the spores for the attacks came from subcutaneous tests, not aerosol tests, and it's uncertain in which building or lab those tests were done. The only thing that seems certain beyond any reasonable doubt is that Dr. Ivins was the anthrax mailer. There were multiple ways he could have accumulated the plates and spores he needed. He had multiple motives. He had all the abilities and access to all the necessary equipment. He couldn't explain what he was doing in his lab on all those evenings in September and October. He had no alibi for the time of either mailing. The hidden message in the media letters points directly to him as the anthrax mailer. And, when questioned directly about whether or not he had sent the anthrax letters, he didn't deny it. His response was: "I do not have any recollection of ever have doing anything like that." And, "I am not a killer at heart."
& Changes: Sunday, November 20, 2011, thru Saturday, November 26,
November 23, 2011 - This morning, I received an email from an Anthrax Truther advising me of an error I had made:
Ed, there were no rabbits in the passive mouse study (duh)- it is normal rabbit antiserum that is being injected in the 10 mice in the fourth group - you endlessly compound your errors with each post - instead, consult experts and rely on documents ... stop your BS
You constantly misrepresent the documents which it appears you don't even read. ... and on the rare occasion you have read a relevant document, you totally misunderstand it. Instead, consult experts and obtain and quote documents. Thx.
Email Attachment (partial):
1. What should be done. a) Passive studies in mice - I would prefer that these studies be contracted out. We can provide
the challenge spores and antiserum. 1) Mice = CBA/J females, 10 per group, about 20 g. Inject intraperitoneally on days -1, 0, 1,
2 and 3 with one of the following: rabbit anti-rPA antiserum; rabbit anti-AVA antiserum; human anti- AVA IgG; Normal rabbit serum;
normal human IgG. On day 0, challenge subcutaneously with 10LD50s of V1B spores. Check mice 3X daily for deaths and note differences
in survival as well as time to death differences. If protection is seen, repeat experiment with 10 LD50s of Ames spores. If no protection is seen,
drop the challenge dose down to 3-5 LD50s of Vollum 1B spores. Enough animals should be ordered to repeat experiments.
Total number of animals = 400
I always welcome corrections to things I may have posted in error. It definitely makes a lot more sense that a "Normal rabbit serum" was injected into 10 mice than that rabbits were included in a mouse experiment. I misinterpreted the heading "Grp 4 normal rabbit." So, I've gone back and changed my comment for November 20 (and the version I put on my new supplemental page) to correct that error.
Correcting the error, of course, has absolutely no effect on the conclusion that Ivins was NOT in Suite B3 when the animals were checked. It merely clarifies what kind of animals were being checked. Therefore, checking on animals is definitely NOT an alternative explanation for Dr. Ivins' evening hours in Suite B3 when the FBI alleges that he was making lethal anthrax powders.
I appreciate being advised of the error.
November 21, 2011 (B) - For what it's worth, I just noticed some information on page 18 of FBI pdf file #847406 about how many plates were used when aerosol challenging rabbits in Building 1412. Here's what the FBI report says that they were told by someone at USAMRIID:
were run three (3) days per week with thirty (30) rabbits per day.
Two (2) dilutions of Anthrax were prepared per rabbit for each
challenge, and three (3) Tryptic Soy Agar (TSA) plates were
cultured per dilution. XXXXXXXXXXX noted that a total of
approximately 180 TSA plates were cultured per day when animal
challenges were being conducted. The TSA plates were obtained from
the XXXXXXXXXXXXXX group at USAMRIID.
I don't know that the same numbers would hold true for subcutaneous challenges of guinea pigs, but, if so, it would produce an interesting number.
If the 91 guinea pigs used for the subcutaneous Ames strain tests that began on September 1, 2001, required the same number of plates, that would compute to two (2) dilutions of Anthrax per guinea pig and 3 TSA plates per dilution. Or:
91 x 2 x 3 = 546 plates
It may just be another coincidence in the endlessly long line of coincidences, but 546 plates is significantly over the minimum number of plates that the report from the National Academy of Sciences stated would be required to produce the amount of spores in all of the anthrax letters.
On page 77 of the NAS report, they used a figure of 8 billion spores per plate (8 x 10 to the 9th), and they calculated that meant that the culprit would have required a minumum of 463 plates to make all of the anthrax spores in the letters.
It appears that all that Dr. Ivins would have needed to do was (1) wait until the discarded plates had been setting in autoclave bags long enough to completely grow over, then (2) wash the spores out of some of the plates and into a beaker. He could then (3) centrifuge and dry those spores for the five media letters. While doing that, he (4) could have washed the rest of the spores into another beaker, then (5) returned the clean plates to the autoclave bag and put the bags into the autoclave for sterilization and disposal. Three weeks later, after the media letters failed to have any effect, he could (6) purify and dry the spores from the second beaker for use in the two senate letters.
November 21, 2011 (A) - Today is the 10th anniversary of the death of Bruce Ivins' final victim, Ottilie Lundgren. The Oxford Patch has an interesting article titled "The Day Terror Came to Oxford," which describes how a tiny town in Connecticut suddenly became the focus of attention for the entire country and much of the world.
November 20, 2011 - On Thursday of last week, I wrote a comment that said I was preparing work sheets and graphs of Dr. Ivins' daytime hours in Suite B3 versus his evening hours for August, September and October of 2001. Those work sheets and charts are now part of my new supplemental page "Where & When Bruce Ivins Made the Anthrax Powders ... Allegedly." The charts and work sheets verify that Ivins' work patterns show he worked long hours in Suite B3 while allegedly making the media powders. Then, he suddenly stopped working significant time in B3 on September 17 when he allegedly drove to New Jersey to mail the letters. From the 17th through the 27th, he rarely went into Suite B3 (except to do cleaning work demanded by Pat Worsham). On September 28, he allegedly started working on the senate powders and again began working long hours in Suite B3. He finished making the senate powders on October 5, and, suddenly, he once again had almost no reason to go into Suite B3.
The FBI used Ivins' evening hours in Suite B3 as evidence in their case against Dr. Ivins. But the periods between his long evening hours in Suite B3 seem even more incriminating. Dr. Ivins evening hours in Suite B3 are very suspicious, but the lack of evening hours in Suite B3 while the anthrax mailer would be waiting for the letters to have their effect seems to confirm what Ivins was doing in Suite B3. A chart like this one would be highly convincing to a jury:
No flood of meaningless documents by Anthrax Truthers can explain why Ivins' evening work in Suite B3 ended precisely on the two days the two batches of letters were mailed. And why did Dr. Ivins suddenly have need to work in his lab again on September 28, after 10 days had passed and there had been absolutely no news about the first mailing?
The Anthrax Truthers would, of course, argue that it's all just more coincidences. However, every juror has a point where he or she suddenly realizes that there are just too many coincidences.
Last week, while I was looking at Ivins' daytime hours in Suite B3, I wondered again about the Anthrax Truthers' claims that the unusual hours Ivins was spending in Suite B3 were the result of working with test animals. The checks I did of Ivins' evening hours seemed to indicate that he was NOT in Suite B3 for most of the evening times he was supposedly checking on animals. But, what about his daytime hours? Last week, I looked at the day and evening times when he did animal checks during the period from September 27 through October 9 as provided on this page from Ivins' notebook:
What the page appears to show is that "Day 1" for the animal test was Thursday, September 27, 2001. The test involved four groups of mice with 10 mice per group. Group 1 had been vaccinated weeks earlier with the AVA anthrax vaccine (AVA = Anthrax Vaccine Absorbed). Groups 2 & 3 were injected with something else for comparison purposes. And the mice in Group 4 were injected with "normal rabbit" antiserum.
On Day 1 of the test, all the mice were injected with anthrax spores.
1 mouse in Group 4 died on Day 1 from causes unrelated to anthrax. All the other mice in Group 4 were dead by Day 5. All the mice in groups 2 & 3 were dead by Day 8. When the test ended on Day 13, there were still 5 vaccinated mice alive in Group 1.
So, how much of Dr. Ivins' Suite B3 time was spent doing these animal checks? Answer: Apparently NONE.
I compared Ivins' day and evenings times in Suite B3 (as reported by USAMRIID) to the times on the notebook page and found that, of the 22 times the animals were checked, Ivins was in Suite B3 only 2 of those times, and both of those times were during the day.
Here are the 22 times the animals were checked, showing when Ivins was or was not in Suite B3:
1. Thur. 27 Sept. = 1:30 PM - NOT in B3
2. Fri. 28 Sept. = 8:30 AM - NOT in B3
3. 10:00 PM - NOT in B3
4. Sat., 29 Sept. = 11:30 AM - NOT in B3
5. 3:00 PM - NOT in B3
6. 10:00 PM - NOT in B3
7. Sun. 30 Sept. = 11:00 AM - NOT in B3
8. 11:30 AM - NOT in B3
9. 3:00 PM - NOT in B3
10. 10:00 PM - NOT in B3
11. Mon. 1 Oct. = 8:30 AM - In Suite B3
12. 1:30 PM - NOT in B3
13. 10:00 PM - NOT in B3
14. Tue. 2 Oct. = 10:00 PM - NOT in B3
15. Wed. 3 Oct. = 9:00 AM - NOT in B3
16. 1:30 PM - NOT in B3
17. Thur. 4 Oct. = 2:30 PM - In Suite B3
18. Fri. 5 Oct. = 10:00 AM - NOT in B3
19. Sat. 6 Oct. = 9:45 AM - NOT in B3
20. Sun. 7 Oct. = 9:45 AM - NOT in B3
21. Mon. 8 Oct. = 9:45 AM - NOT in B3
22. Tue. 9 Oct. = 3:30 PM - NOT in B3
Logic says that if he was not in Suite B3 when he did 20 of the animal checks, then he almost certainly wasn't doing any animal checks during the times when he was in Suite B3 when the notebook shows he was doing checks. An assistant probably did the checks and reported the findings to Ivins so he could record them in his notebook.
And, of course, since Ivins was NEVER in Suite B3 during the times of the evening checks, the mice definitely weren't in Suite B3, either. And, the mice almost certainly weren't in Suite B4, since B3 and B4 were connected.
Where were the mice? I don't know. I'll leave that to the Anthrax Truthers to figure out. The only important fact is that the time Ivins spent checking on mice had absolutely NOTHING to do with his unusual evening hours in Suite B3. Dr. Ivins was making anthrax powders in his lab on those evenings, he was NOT checking on animals. The claims by Anthrax Truthers that Ivins' evening times were explained by the animal tests are bogus claims. The facts demonstate the Truthers start with a belief, they then look for vague and irrelevant facts which they can use to make claims based upon unanswered questions. If or when their questions are answered and their claims are shown to be total nonsense, they usually just change the subject and start another screwball argument about something else, but still based upon beliefs.
At the bottom of the notebook page above it says "(Results from 1st Sept are in Bk 2, page 150)." That notation refers to an earlier series of animal tests that appears to have started on September 1, 2001. I don't have the notebook page showing when the animals were actually checked during that test period. Other documents show that Ivins was evidently scheduled to check those animals at 8 PM starting on September 1. But the in-out logs show he wasn't in Suite B3 at 8 PM for the first five of those evenings, the days when most of the animals would have died. Moreover, there doesn't appear to be any reason to believe checking on those animals would take place somewhere different from the Sept. 27 to Oct. 9 test.
Furthermore, the unusual evening times Ivins spent in his BSL-3 lab appear to have more to do with his mental state than any official research work he had to do.
On Wednesday of last week I mentioned another chart I was going to put together. I said the chart would take the hours from the "Five Year Comparison" graph the FBI created and would put the years 1999, 2000 and 2001 in sequence instead of comparing months. The idea was to see how Ivins mental situation matched to his evening hours in Suite B3. Here's the resulting chart (click on it to view a larger version):
As I figured, the chart seems to show a pattern in 1999-2000 that matches to the intensity of Ivins' anxiety over Mara Linscott quitting USAMRIID to go to medical school for her MD degree. Linscott left USAMRIID in July 1999. The chart shows Ivins began working unusual evening hours in Suite B3 as her departure date approached.
The peak in October of 1999 seems to be when Ivins was on the verge of doing something extremely dangerous, but he managed to get control of himself and sent an email to Mara Linscott and Pat Fellows about how he needed to discuss his mental problems with both of them. And, he started thinking about seeing a psychiatrist again. He contacted Dr. Naomi Heller in early 2000 when he was thinking about making some kind of bomb (probably to be used in conjunction with an anthrax letter), and "Sane Bruce" evidently realized how dangerous "Crazy Bruce" was becoming. Dr. Heller was retired and no longer taking patients, so she referred Ivins to Dr. David S. Irwin.
In February of 2000, Dr. Irwin put Ivins on anti-depressants. That evidently slowed down Ivins' murderous impulses for awhile. In May of 2000, Ivins started seeing Dr. Allen Levy at Comprehensive Counseling Associates (CCA), but in June and July Ivins was still thinking about murdering Mara Linscott for having left him. When his counselor told him she thought he should be put in jail because of his plans, and Dr. Irwin and Dr. Levy also talked with him and tried to get his mental state under control, "Sane Bruce" apparently realized "Crazy Bruce" had gone too far. And, with the help of drugs, his anxieties and murderous impulses seemed to be kept under control for a full year.
What triggered the next spike of Suite B3 evening hours -- the BIG one starting in August of 2001? I don't think it had anything to do with Mara Linscott. I have an hypothesis for what it might have caused the big spike, but I don't have any solid evidence to confirm the hypothesis. There's no way to get any "solid evidence" of what was going on inside Ivins' mind as he began his work on the anthrax powders in late August, but there are a few bits of "circumstantial evidence" which could be significant if I can find someone to answer one question: What caused Ivins to write the September 26, 2001 email below?:
Specifically, what authority did Patrica Worsham have in September 2001 to instruct Dr. Ivins to clean up his lab? Ivins was clearly upset by Worhsam exerting some kind of authority over him. Yet, Pat Worsham doesn't appear to have officially become Bruce Ivins' supervisor until sometime in early 2002.
Who wrote the September 27 email? To whom was it written? And who would be "leaning hard" on whom if "he doesn't show up ready to roll?"
And, when preparing syringes to inject 40 animals with fixed quantities of anthrax spores, how many serial-dilution plates would be required to make certain the spore quantities are correct in each syringe? And what about the 91 guinea pigs that were each injected with 5,000 Ames spores for the Sept. 1 test? Could as many as 400 or 500 plates be used?
& Changes: Sunday, November 13, 2011, thru Saturday, November 19,
November 17, 2011 - For several months, the arguments from the Anthrax Truthers have been about trying to justify Dr. Ivins' evening hours in August, September and October of 2001 by claiming he was spending the time checking on animals as part of an experiment he was doing. An Anthrax Truther has been sending me an endless stream of documents about the experiment, as if doing animal experiments was something Ivins had never done before, and that's why he needed to work all those long and extremely unusual evening hours.
So, I expected an angry reaction from that Anthrax Truther about something I mentioned yesterday: If Dr. Ivins was working with 110 rabbits in a 2000 experiment and only 52 rabbits in a 2001 experiment, why did the 2001 experiment require Ivins to work at least 10 times as many evening hours for less than half the number of rabbits?
But, I received only one email overnight. The email contained a copy of the "Five Year Comparison" graph I showed yesterday, and a single sentence:
Does Ed realize that they did not even have keycard access reader from Jan. - July 1998
Hmm. No, I didn't realize that. I didn't create the graph, I just colorized it. But, what does 1998 have to do with anything? Is the Anthrax Truther's argument that Ivins could have had the same kind of identical spike in evening hours in early 1998, and no one can prove he didn't? Or is the argument that the title of the graph should have been "Four and 1/2 Year Comparison?"
My comment yesterday was mostly about how Ivins' evening hours seem to relate to his mental condition, not to his work. I'm considering using the data from the 4-1/2 year graph to create a 1999-2001 graph showing Ivins' evening B3 hours as they relate to his mental problems. When Ivins was angry and had thoughts of killing people, he seemed to work long hours in Suite B3. Showing the years in sequence - instead of comparing month to month - and relating the times to key moments in Ivins' mental history might be interesting. I'll start working on that when I get some time.
A couple days ago, in a discussion on my blog, "Old Atlantic Lighthouse" ("OAL") asked if Ivins also worked during the day on the dates when he worked those long evening hours. The answer was: Yes, on weekdays. However, with a few exceptions, on weekends Ivins only worked evening hours in B3.
Because of that discussion, I started plotting out a comparison of Ivins' daytime hours to his evening hours. I've completed graphs for August and September using only his B3 hours as found in a file on USAMRIID's web site. That file has Ivins' Suite B3 hours for all of 2001, not just August, September and October. But, it seems that all the new graphs make clear is what is already clear: While Ivins was waiting for the anthrax letters to be delivered, he had little reason to go into his BSL-3 lab.
So far, the August through October day-versus-evening hours in Suite B3 are as follows:
August Days: 23 hours, 26 minutes.
August Evenings: 11 hours, 40 minutes.
September Days: 22 hours, 4 minutes.
September Evenings: 35 hours, 59 minutes.
October Days: 29 hours, 33 minutes
October Evenings: 14 hours, 17 minutes
So, Ivins daytime hours in B3 in August and September were almost the same, but there was, of course, a huge surge in his evening hours in B3 in September. (August contains only one day that appears to be part of that surge: August 31.) October daytime hours were not far off of August and September, but it was in October that the letter powders needed to be quantified. October evening hours, however, were back to near what the evening hours were in August.
I'd probably have to plot out January through July to get a true pattern of his daytime hours in B3, but I doubt I'll ever find the time to do that. And there seems no point to it. The Anthrax Truthers are already arguing that Ivins' assistants could have been working on the evenings when Ivins wasn't working. Thus, they argue there was no surge, there was just a change in who was working evenings.
Another question in my blog discussion with "OAL" was about taking showers. For some reason, "OAL" seemed to think that Ivins would only shower twice per day, and he might take the showers at home, even if he went into the BSL-3 area several times in a day. The facts, of course, say that Ivins had to shower before entering the BSL-3 area and after leaving the BSL-3 area every time. That caused me to remember and re-read a January 25, 2007 interview with a female USAMRIID employee with an 8-letter last name (almost certainly Mara Linscott) that is described on page 24 of FBI pdf file #847425:
XXXXXXXX described IVINS as having weird behavior.
IVINS liked to take showers in the suites on days that he was
not working. He did this to get away from his home or use the
internet, etc. XXXXXXXX acknowledged IVINS was quirky with
unusual social skills and depression, but didn't believe he did
it [anthrax mailing]. Ivins thought of his office and the hot
suite as a safe place.
I seriously doubt that the above statement in red is true. I think it's far more likely that Linscott saw Ivins leaving his lab on a weekend after taking a shower (perhaps his hair was still wet), and she asked Ivins about it. Ivins' explanation was that he simply liked taking showers in the suite. That answer would avoid any further questioning that might result if he told her that he'd been working all alone in their BSL-3 laboratory on a weekend.
That same interview and FBI file also contains this on page 23 (my deductions are in red):
Most of the projects Linscott worked were geared for
publications, although since USAMRIID was a military institution
not all of the projects could be published. Occasionally
Linscott worked on Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) projects, but
didn't remember what they were. Linscott could not remember all
of the details to the projects because of the time lapse, but
believed she could remember more details if she looked at her
It's interesting to me that "most of the projects Linscott worked were geared for publications." That's definitely not the way I pictured things. But, it could explain why Linscott was making spores that she believed were going to replenish the contents of flask RMR-1029, but which Ivins probably just destroyed, since nothing was ever added to RMR-1029. Another sentence on that same page and file says:
laboratory notebooks, Linscott did not believe there was a
system for tracking the amount of Ba spores made, then used or
There are probably a kazillion little interesting details yet to be found in the thousands of pages of documents, but there's no doubt that any details related to the anthrax killings would just help confirm that Ivins was the anthrax mailer.
November 16, 2011 - I just noticed something about the "Five Year Comparison" graph I posted yesterday. The graph shows a much smaller - but somewhat similar pattern in Dr. Ivins' evening hours in Suite B3 starting in August 1999, reaching a peak in October of 1999, and tapering off through November, December and January to a low in February of 2000. Then Ivins worked somewhat unusual hours again in March, April, May and June of 2000.
Here's that bar chart again:
Gary Matsumoto's Vanity Fair article criticizing Ivins' vaccine came out in May of 1999. It greatly upset Ivins. In July of 1999, Mara Linscott left USAMRIID to return to school to get a MD degree. According to page 50 of David Willman's book "The Mirage Man,"
Ivins told a psychiatrist that Linscott's absence had plunged him into to state of misery. The physical symptoms he'd suffered two decades earlier, after his departure from Chapel Hill and Nancy Haigwood had returned. He had thought about ways to kill Haigwood -- and now he was having homicidal ideas about ways to kill Linscott, too. He said that he had access to deadly materials in the labs at USAMRIID and that he had obtained cyanide, perhaps to poison a neighbors' dog, and ammonium nitrate, to make a bomb. On November 1, 1999, Ivins, while keeping his worst thoughts to himself, suggested to Linscott and Fellows that his torment stemmed from a twisted family background. He sent this email to both of them:
The Nov. 1, 1999 email begins with this:
There is something we should probably talk about .... It deals with some perceived interpersonal problems and some special "sensitivities" of mine.
He rambles on about how he wants to write them emails about about his personal issues and discuss those issues with them. Then he writes:
There's nothing in it about any unsolved crimes or something bad about to happen to something, but it's not the sort of thing I would like to spread around to others.
If you look at the yellow bars on the bar-chart showing Ivins overtime evening hours for 1999, they start in August, the month after Linscott left USAMRIID. The evening hours peak in October, and Ivins' email is dated November 1, 1999.
We know that Ivins contacted Dr. Naomi Heller late that year because he was having homicidal thoughts again. She was retired and no longer seeing patients, so she referred Ivins to Dr. David S. Irwin. Ivins evening hours taper off into January of 2000, and in February Dr. Irwin subscribed anti-depressants for Ivins. Ivins evening hours in Suite B3 are very low during that February.
But Ivins is working long hours in B3 again in March, then fewer hours in April.
Strangely, April 2000 is when Dr. Ivins began work on an aerosol challenge of 110 rabbits. His low evening hours that month strongly suggest that his work with test animal was not causing the long hours, his obsessions and thoughts of revenge were causing the long evening hours. He worked long hours again in May 2000. That May, because of matters related to Ivins' health plan and driving distances, Ivins was turned over to a new psychiatrist, Dr. Allen Levy of Comprehensive Counseling Associates. In June, Ivins was having thoughts about poisoning Mara Linscott, and he started talking to his counselor about it. His evening hours are very few the following month, in July, when he apparently realized he'd gone too far, since his counselor had told him he belonged in jail.
What all this seems to suggest is that Ivins overtime hours have more to do with his obsessions and plans for revenge than anything about his work. He may have been working on some plan involving anthrax starting as soon as Mara Linscott left USAMRIID. The original plan Ivins developed back then may have had something to do with the bomb he was also thinking of making. The three components: (1) A bomb, (2) a typed or computer printed letter that begins "THIS IS NEXT" and contains a hidden message about Mara and Pat, and (3) powdered anthrax.
Ivins work with 110 rabbits in April of 2000 didn't require more than a tiny fraction of the overtime hours Ivins was spending in his B3 lab in 2001, when he was working on a project with only about 52 rabbits. That's another indicator that Ivins overtime hours had nothing to do with his work. It had to do with his mental state and his barely controllable obsessions and impulses.
November 15, 2011 - This morning, I was doing some research for a new supplemental page about how Dr. Ivins made the anthrax powders, and I happened to stumble upon page 133 from the "Ancillary Documents" pdf file in collection of 9,600 pages of documents from the National Academy of Sciences CD. That page contains a graph comparing 5 years of Ivins' overtime hours in Suite B3. It's in black and white, but I converted it to color:
This chart should make it even more clear that the evening overtime hours Dr. Ivins spent in Suite B3 around the time of the anthrax mailings were extremely unusual. In a period of 5 years, he only did it once.
November 14, 2011 (C) - I exchanged another email with my "confidential source" this morning. My source had previously written:
I should point out also that Bruce had a lab in B5 that he was quite active in.
And I responded yesterday:
Yes, he used room B505 for some reason. The room was mentioned in a search warrant.
To which my source responded this morning (with my red highlighting):
Bruce didn’t use a lab in B5 “for some reason” – it was his BSL-2 lab, that he used ALL THE TIME (to include “ cold” prep work for the CpG animal study in B3).
Ah! Ivins' room B505 in Suite B5 was a BSL-2 lab. That immediately poses the question: Was Suite B5 a BSL-2 suite, or were there just some laboratories within Suite B5 that were BSL-2?
But, I don't really have any reason to ask the question. I don't need to know the answer -- at the moment. My source is a very busy person who I certainly don't want to bug with idle questions. When my source is available for answering questions, I have a bunch of much more important questions to ask.
I also don't know exactly what is meant by "'cold' prep work for the CpG animal study in B3." I understand "B3" is Suite B3, and there are hundreds of mentions of "CpG" in connection with anthrax vaccines on the Internet, showing that it helps improve immune efficiency. And "'cold' prep work" evidently has something to do with getting non-dangerous materials ready for use in Suite B3.
So, if anyone brings up room B505 again, instead of saying Ivins used it "for some reason," I can say, "Ivins used his BSL-2 lab in room B505 in Suite B5 to prepare non-dangerous materials for use in animal studies being done in Suite B3." And, if someone asks, "What kind of non-dangerous materials?," I'll just shrug. I don't know, and I don't see that I have any reason to ask anyone. I don't see how the answer can tell me anything about Ivins' guilt or innocence.
November 14, 2011 (B) - If you're interested, you can click HERE to view a video interview with Dr. Meryl Nass that she says took place last month, or you can click HERE to read the transcript. Very little of the interview is about the anthrax attacks of 2001, but the subject does come up at around the 30 minute mark where this exchange takes place between Dr. Nass (DN) and Dr. Joseph Mercola (DM):
DM: And if one wanted to be practical or pragmatic about the process and cost effective because resources are an issue for some. Usually terrorists are not operating on an unlimited budget so there maybe more cost effective and efficient ways of using a terrorism threat than using something like anthrax.
DN: Yes and no. Many people have called biological warfare the poor man’s atom bomb. Yes, it’s cheaper and less technically demanding to create an anthrax weapon than a nuclear weapon and it’s cheaper than a chemical weapon of comparable effect. But still, as I said, there are good reasons why you wouldn’t want to use it on most cases.
DM: But it still could be used I guess as a…
DN: It’s a good terror weapon.
DM: If that was the intention was terror – it’s like 9/11 the intention was purely terror.
DM: There weren’t any other motive. They weren’t on planning on populating New York City.
DN: They didn’t even want to kill people with the anthrax letters. They taped the edges of the envelopes shut so that spores wouldn’t get out except the person or persons, I believe it was persons, who did it didn’t realize that the spores were smaller than the pores of the paper. So it got out that way. Inside, the letter said, “This is anthrax. Take penicillin.” So the intent was to warn people but to scare the death out of them.
DM: Just to address those letters a bit because it’s been about 10 years now since those letters were out. You have studied it pretty carefully. Your analysis or impression or conclusion was that the motivation for creating these letters was to validate the use of the vaccine?
DN: I can’t say that because I don’t have a cause-effect connection. But I will say the timing was suspect. Other things could also be attributed to the anthrax letters. The U.S. government wanted to make war in Iraq. We knew that Iraq really had nothing to do with Al Qaeda. But everybody knew Iraq had anthrax. Anthrax letters sort of brought up the specter of Iraq again as our enemy. I think helped the United States more easily wage war there.
A third thing that happened was that the U.S. government was able to designate huge sums of money for biodefense after the letters. Before the letters people were saying, what is the threat? Why do we have to spend money? What is your evidence? After the letters you didn’t need any evidence.
What's a lot more interesting to me is this text comment from Dr. Mercola:
The Anthrax Letters—A False Flag Event? If so, Why?
As you may recall, 10 years ago, the so-called "anthrax letters" incident occurred. According to a recent report , one of the widows from that event will receive a $50 million settlement from the U.S. government.And the link in that comment leads to a United Press International (UPI) article dated October 31, 2011, which is headlined:
U.S. settles anthrax lawsuit for $50M
And the first paragraph says:
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla., Oct. 31, 2011 (UPI via COMTEX) -- A Florida woman whose husband died in a 2001 anthrax attack will receive $50 million from the U.S. Government, her attorney said.
Since no other media outlet has reported that Maureen Stevens will get 50 million dollars, I'm going to assume that UPI just got that number from what the Stevens lawsuit was asking for, and her lawyer only said the case had been settled and didn't mention any specific settlement amount. Lawsuits are rarely settled for the amount asked.
I would be very surprised if the settlement amount turns out to be more than half that figure, and I'd be mildly surprised if the settlement amount turns out to be more than a fifth of that figure.
November 14, 2011 (A) - I probably should have mentioned this in yesterday's comment: The new information I learned last week doesn't significantly change any of the 20 items in "The Case Against Dr. Ivins" section at the top of this web site. This morning, however, I did rewrite one short sentence in Item #9 to make it more clear. I changed this:
Ivins' BSL-3 lab was within Suite B3.
Suite B3 was a BioSafety Level-3 area.
And I revised Item #4 from this
4. He accessed the locked room (lab B3) where the RMR-1029 flask of spores was stored at the times the attack anthrax would have been prepared.
4. He accessed the locked suite (B3) where the RMR-1029 flask of spores was stored at the times the attack anthrax would have been prepared.
November 13, 2011 - On Thursday, I exchanged several emails with, and then had a long talk with someone with direct knowledge of the location of things in Suite B3 in Building 1425 at USAMRIID. We also exchanged several emails on Friday. It took awhile, but my confidential source was very patient in getting new information to sink into my thick skull. Here's where the new information indicates the main keycard readers and the keypad used by Bruce Ivins were located (click on the image for a larger version):
This is all very different from my previous thinking. Here are the details of what I learned:
1. There were keycard readers at the door connecting the Staff Area to the Bacteriology Division corridor (numbers 3 & 4 on the floorplan above). Entering the Bacteriology Division corridor from Staff Area resulted in an in-out log entry of "CORR TO BACTI IN." Exiting from the Bacteriology Division corridor into the Staff Area produced a log entry "CORR TO BACTI OU." (I previously thought those log entries were for entering Suite B3.)
2. The key card readers used to open the door from the Bacteriology corridor to the B301 Men's Locker Room in Suite B3 recorded on the in-out log as "B301 IN/M" and "B301 OUT/M" (numbers 5 & 6 on the floorplan above).
3. The entirety of Suite B3 except for the Male and Female Locker Rooms was a BSL-3 area. That includes the animal rooms, all the laboratories, the cold room, the Administrative Office in B303, and even the latrines in B302 and B314. (I'd previously thought that Suite B3 was mostly a BSL-2 area and only specific labs were BSL-3).
4. The door between the B301 Men's locker room and the shower room was permanently sealed and didn't even have a door knob. It could not be opened from the Men's locker room, and probably not from the shower room.
5. The keypad (identified by an X on the floorplan above) logged as "B301 KEYPAD" and opened the first airlock door from the B301 Men's Locker Room allowing access into the rest of Suite B3 (and the BSL-3 area). The person using the keypad stood on a pressure pad which assured that only the person who used the keypad entered the airlock (i.e., preventing two people from entering at a time).
6. The Men's locker room in B301 was like the hall lockers in a school. It's where coats and personal supplies were kept. The so-called "lounge" or change/latrine room in B302 was another locker room similar to a gymnasium locker room. It's where the changing into scrubs and lab shoes was done. It's also where the men's toilets were located. And all entry to and exit from the shower room was via the door from B302. A person would shower before getting into scrubs and going into the main lab area, and they would shower again after leaving the main lab area and getting out of scrubs.
7. The "crash door" at the far end of Suite B3 was very solid and sealed with a metal pin. It was an emergency exit. Alarms would sound if any attempt was made to open it. It was never used. (I'd previously thought this was a regularly used exit to the AR corridor.)
8. The "passbox" for Suite B3 is built into the wall in Room B304 opposite the door. The passbox allowed a person in the "cold" corridor between Suites B2 and B3 to pass something into Room B304 in the "hot" suite, and vice versa. (I'd previously thought that the passbox was between rooms B302 and B303.)
9. There was a cage-like barrier blocking the B2-B3 hallway where rooms B303 and B304 meet. The barrier could not be opened and ran from floor to ceiling. People using the B3 passbox from the "cold side" had to enter the B2-B3 corridor from the Animal Resources corridor.
10. There were key card readers on the door(s) between the Animal Resources (AR) corridor and the Staff Area (numbers 7 & 8 in the floorplan above). Entering the AR corridor from the Staff Area logged as "CORR TO AR IN," going from the AR corridor into the Staff Area recorded as "CORR TO AR OUT." (I'd previously thought using the "crash door" resulted in those entries. My source tells me there were also keycard readers at locations 9 & 10, but I haven't yet found a time when Dr. Ivins used them, so I don't know what the log messages were.)
This new information resolves a lot of puzzles I couldn't figure out and which made no sense to me. For example, I couldn't understand how people could leave a BSL-3 lab (as I thought room B313 was) and go into a BSL-2 hallway to get to a BSL-1 change room where they would change and enter the showers. It made no sense to me. The new information shows it made no sense because it wasn't done that way. All the labs in Suite B3, plus the hallway and room B302 were BSL-3 areas.
I also couldn't figure out where the keypad was located, and it bugged me for months. I asked the public affairs people at USAMRIID about it several times but received no response.
I couldn't understand why there was an airlock (room B307) next to a door that Ivins seemed to use routinely to go in and out of Suite B3. Now that I know the "crash door" was never used, the location of the airlock makes perfect sense.
And, I couldn't make any sense of having the "passbox" between rooms B302 and B303. If it was there, I could argue that the "hot" side was either side. Having the "passbox" between B304 and the B2-B3 corridor makes perfect sense.
But the biggest and most important lesson learned was that key card readers opened the door from the Staff Area into the Bacteriology Corridor (numbers 3 & 4 on the floorplan above). That dramatically changes my interpretation of what the in-out logs showed for days like August 20. Here's my current understanding:
My confidential source and I discussed at length how Ivins got from the Bacteriology corridor to the Animal Resources corridor. My source recalled very clearly that it could NOT have been via the B2-B3 corridor, since that corridor was blocked by an metal gate that ran from floor to ceiling, and the corridor was also used as office space.
My source couldn't recall specifically if the B4-B5 corridor was also blocked in some way. Logic says, however, that it was probably blocked the way the B2-B3 corridor was blocked and for the same reason (whatever the reason was). Moreover, my source wrote in an email:
The B5 suite also had a door (AR side) that was not under any access control
I interpret that to mean that the door had no lock and anyone could use it. Plus, page 43 of FBI pdf file #847443 says "At one time, access to suite B5 could also be gained via the crash door," and indicates that "there was a key lock on the door which only worked some of the time." So, here's a diagram of the route Dr. Ivins appears to have taken through Building 1425 on the evening of August 20, 2001:
Previously, I had interpreted the log data to say that Ivins entered Suite B3 at 7:58 PM , he looked around to see if anyone else was in the suite, and then he exited via the "crash door," walked up the B2-B3 corridor and re-entered Suite B3 again, this time also going into the shower room for a couple minutes before leaving. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
It now appears that Ivins wasn't just checking to see if anyone else was in Suite B3, he was apparently checking to see if anyone else was anywhere in the Bacteriology or Animal Resources Divisions. He walked in one end of Suite B5 and out the other and used a door to exit from Suite B5 that he probably shouldn't have been using. He only went into Room B301 of Suite B3 for a couple minutes, probably to get something from his locker.
Dr. Ivins did this curious kind of checking of the divisions several times, particularly on the critical evenings when he was allegedly making the refined anthrax powders, October 3 and 5. It seems possible that on Monday, August 20 he found that there were too many people in the Bacteriology and Animal Resources Divisions and therefore decided against working in his lab that evening.
While the new information seems dramatically different from what I previously believed, it mostly just clarifies things. And, it changes absolutely none of the data on the graph below:
Perhaps the chart might more precisely be titled "Hours Ivins Spent in Suite B3," but the data still shows that Ivins was making the media anthrax from August 31 to September 16; he then waited for the media letters to be delivered and to have their effect; then he made the senate anthrax from September 28 to October 5; and then, after mailing the senate letters, he began waiting for the senate letters to be delivered and have their effect.
The new information clarifies a few things and thoroughly resolves some old puzzles, but it changes nothing about Ivins' guilt or innocence. All the evidence still says that Dr. Bruce Edwards Ivins was the anthrax mailer.
I had to totally overhaul my new supplementary page "Where & When Bruce Ivins Made The Anthrax Powders ... Allegedly" to reflect this new information. When time permits, I'll also have to go back and add notes to many comments I made during the past year to show that what I'd assumed about the locations of the card readers was wrong.
When time permits, I may also add a new supplementary page about "How Bruce Ivins Made The Anthrax Powders ... Allegedly."
& Changes: Sunday, November 6, 2011, thru Saturday, November 12,
November 12, 2011 - I checked the Docket for the Stevens vs USA lawsuit this morning and found that on Wednesday Judge Hurley had ordered a stay of all deadlines in the lawsuit pending the completion of the settlement agreement. Judge Hurley also ordered:
If Notice of Settlement is not filed by 11/30/11, parties must request a status conference.
So, he's given the parties until Wednesday the 30th to file the settlement agreement, otherwise the parties must have a status conference with him to explain what's causing the delay in filing the settlement agreement.
November 10-11, 2011 - I finally got someone familiar with Suite B3 at USAMRIID to very kindly answer my questions about the location of the keypad in Suite B3, and the locations for the card readers. The new information will require a lot of changes to my past thinking. It doesn't affect Ivins' guilt or innocence in any way whatsoever, of course. But, it resolves a BIG problem I had with trying to understand the implications of the in-out logs. I'm not sure exactly what changes I'll have to make, but I'll try to get most of them done for Sunday morning's comment.
November 7, 2011 (B) - Someone just sent me an email about a different kind of "Truther" conspiracy theory that has been around a lot longer than theories about the anthrax attacks of 2001. In response to a petition from "UFO Truthers," the White House stated that the government has no knowledge beyond what has been made public.
November 7, 2011 (A) - Watching Anthax Truthers distort and misread the facts paid an unexpected dividend this morning. On Lew Weinstein's site there's a new thread on this subject:
On October 4, 2001, at 9:57 P.M., a time when the FBI speculates that Bruce Ivins was making a dried powdered anthrax, he sent an email explaining he had been reading the news on the internet; he offered a possible explanation about Mr. Stevens’ illness identical to that accepted by the CDC regarding a recent case of inhalation anthrax contracted in 2011 by another man from Florida
When I first saw the thread, I thought: "Uh oh, was Ivins careless enough to take a laptop computer into his BSL-3 lab in room B313? But, no, it's just an example of how Anthrax Truthers do not check facts. Ivins' in-out logs clearly show that Ivins wasn't in B313 at 9:57 PM. He was almost certainly in his office. Just as the in-out logs showed that Ivins left Suite B3 when it was time to check on test animals on September 28 through October 2, 2001, page 56 of FBI file #847547 shows that Ivins left Suite B3 and he Bacteriology Division when he decided he wanted to send an email to an acquaintance at the CDC. Here are the log entries and the email time:
10/4/01 - 9:34 PM - in-out log = CORR TO BACTI OU - Ivins leaves Bacteriology.So, once again the in-out logs show that claims by the Anthrax Truthers are total nonsense. The FBI didn't "speculate" that Ivins was in his BSL-3 late at 9:57 PM on October 4 when the email was sent. The FBI says Ivins was making anthrax during the time he was in his BSL-3 lab, not during times he was in his office or in other parts of Building 1425.
10/4/01 - 9:57 PM - Ivins sends an email to Arnold Kaufmann at the CDC
10/4/01 - 10:07 PM - in-out-log = CORR TO BACTI IN - Ivins returns to Bacteriology.
The email (on page 19 of batch 35 of USAMRIID's files) indicates that on the evening of October 4, 2001, Ivins had read about Bob Stevens' anthrax infection on the "internet news." He sent Arnold Kaufmann the email that evening, probably to probe for inside details about the CDC's investigation. The email began this way:
I just heard this evening (and read over internet news) that a case of pulmonary anthrax may
have been identified in Florida. Is this true, or is this just hysteria?
According to pages 87 & 88 of David Willman's book "The Mirage Man," Kaufmann couldn't recall another occasion when Ivins had contacted him about a pending matter. The next morning, Kaufmann called Ivins:
Moments after Ivins answered, on the morning of Friday, October 5, it appeared that he was highly agitated about the Florida case. Kaufmann confirmed that the patient had inhalation anthrax. Ivins let fly his opinions. The CDC and its collection of fools were "missing the boat," he said. "Why were they wasting their time in North Carolina?" The CDC was "on the wrong trail." He pressed Kaufmann for details about what else was being done. Kaufmann explained that the CDC had "to cover all bases" and that teams were working in both North Carolina, where Stevens had gone hiking, and in Palm Beach County, Florida, where Stevens had lived and worked.
The conversation lasted no more than fifteen minutes, but it left an impression on Kaufmann: Bruce Ivins seemed to be taking this case personally.
Ivins had planned for Muslim terrorists to be blamed for the letters. But, the anthrax that had infected Stevens had not yet been tracked back to a letter sent through the mails. The CDC and others were still trying to figure out where the anthrax came from. There was a possibility that it came from natural sources, so that avenue was being checked.
Ivins had almost certainly realized that the anthrax that had infected Stevens was from the letter Ivins had sent to the National Enquirer. He was aggitated because his plan wasn't going the way he had intended. There was a danger that Bob Stevens might die, which would make Ivins a murderer. Yet, Ivins didn't change his plans. The next day, October 5, the day that Bob Stevens died, Ivins was back in his BSL-3 lab to finish his work to make the powders for the senate letters - purified powders ten times as dangerous as the powder that had infected Bob Stevens. Ivins evidently felt it was too late to stop. He couldn't bring Stevens back. And, if the CDC and other "fools" were thinking that the anthrax that killed Stevens was from natural sources, the letters to Senators Daschle and Leahy would soon change their thinking.
November 6, 2011 (B) - I just discovered that a copy of the September 26, 2002, Sandia report on the security at USAMRIID is available by clicking HERE. Below are a couple interesting items from the report:
Page 7 says:
Perhaps the most important observation in this report is that the culture at USAMRIID does not reflect the same indisputable commitment to security as it does to research.
Page 8 says:
The USAMRIID guard force is unarmed, not highly trained, and does not function at the professional level commensurate with this type of federal facility.
This, of course, will be used by Anthrax Truthers to argue that anyone could have sneaked into Building 1425 and stole a sample from Ivin's flask RMR-1029. In reality, though, it just indicates there was little reason for Ivins to be concerned that anyone - particularly the security guards - would notice he was doing something wrong or illegal when he was making the anthrax powders.
November 6, 2011 (A) - I just added a new supplemental page to this web site. The new page now included in the table of contents is titled "Where & When Bruce Ivins Made the Anthrax Powders ... Allegedly." It's purpose is to put together in one place all the material I developed over the past month or so about Ivins' time in Suite B3 and in his BSL-3 lab in August, September and October 1-10 of 2001. It includes the work sheets I developed, the graphs I created (including at least 2 new graphs) and all the details which show that Ivins was making lethal anthrax powders from August 31 through September 16, he mailed the letters with the powders on the 17th, and then just waited around with little reason to go into his lab until September 28 when it was clear the first letters had failed to have the desired effect. On the 28th of September, he began working on the Senate powders. He finished making those anthrax powders on the 5th of October, and after he mailed the letters containing the powders he once again had very little reason to go into his lab.
The new page also contains a section about the bogus report on PBS Frontline that claimed that Ivins' evening hours were not unusual. The new web page shows very clearly that those times were indeed unusual.
The page also eliminates the need for me to hunt for where I wrote a comment about the work sheets and where I posted the bar charts. Copies are now all in one place. And, I can provide easy links when the subjects come up again.
The page also contains a Table of Contents and allows me to link directly to the section on BioSafety Levels, the section on the Raw Data, or whatever other section I might want to mention in a comment.
Regarding other matters:
I'd expected the Maureen Stevens vs USA lawsuit settlement to be finalized and closed last week. But, it didn't happen. So, this coming week seems to be the time for it to happen.
I've been trying to get some information from USAMRIID about the location of the keypad and where Ivins kept his test animals, but they tell me they can't talk with the "media" or on-line bloggers like me until the Stevens' case is closed.
Last week, I also contacted the General Accountability Office (GAO) and was told that their report on the Amerithrax investigation is still in its "very early stages." They don't even have a working draft of the report yet. Evidently, the report won't be ready until sometime next year.
Yesterday, I tried to wrap up arguments I've been having with Richard Rowley and others on various ProPublica.com blogs HERE, HERE and HERE. It has once again become very clear that the Anthrax Truthers have no meaningful evidence to support their own theories and beliefs, so they try to convince people that the FBI had no case against Ivins. They claim the FBI's evidence isn't really evidence, the facts aren't really facts, and the logic isn't really logical.
There's really no point in arguing with people who cannot discuss the evidence against Bruce Ivins if they can only argue that they don't believe the evidence is evidence, and they have no better evidence pointing to anyone else. Yet, they all believe someone else sent the anthrax letters, and each has a different personal theory about who did it.
I'm open to being swayed by new facts, but screwball arguments claiming that the established facts aren't really facts just makes me chuckle. The argument turns out to be that they want me to change my mind and believe as they believe because it's what they believe. And I should disbelieve the evidence just because they disbelieve it.
Show me new facts or better evidence and we'll have a basis for discussion. Try to convert me to your beliefs by simply arguing your beliefs, and I'll tell you I have better things to do.
& Changes: Sunday, October 30, 2011, thru Saturday, November 5,
November 5, 2011 - Groan. A 94-page September 2002 report from security experts at Sandia National Laboratories analyzing the security at USAMRIID was released Thursday via the Stevens vs USA lawsuit. I haven't yet had time to go through it thoroughly, but skimming through it I noticed that the report provides some new details about the entrance into Suite B3. Page 76 shows this general diagram for all suites in Building 1425 which contain BSL-3 labs:
The floorplan fits with the other Building 1425 floorplans; it explains a few things; and it creates a few problems.
The floorplan nicely explains the purpose of doors 2 and 3. As the floorplan says, the two doors form a type of "airlock." The two doors help prevent any contaminated air within the suite from escaping to the outside, and vice versa. Both doors would have to be open at the same time to allow quantities of air from inside the suite to escape as far as the Men's and Women's change rooms and from there to the outside corridor. And both doors have to be open to allow airborne bacteria from the outside to rush in and contaminate experiments inside the suite. The double doors also help maintain the negative air pressure inside the suite.
Below is the same floorplan with the room numbers added in red along with the locations of where the keycard readers (1-4) and the keypad (5) appear to have been located:
The biggest problem for me would be re-identifying room B302 from a "lounge" to a "Change/Latrine" room. If I did that, all the times where I previously referred to B302 as the "lounge" might become confusing. I simply don't have time to go back and change everything. So, I'm going to leave B302 as the "lounge," but from now on I'll know that the room also contains the latrine (toilets).
Another problem is the small room between rooms B301 and B302. I originally identified it as the shower room, then I decided it as also a "change room" and re-labeled it that way. So, I'm going to revert it back to the "shower room." It'll be another example of where I once figured one thing, but additional facts changed my mind.
The above new diagram, however, shows very clearly that Ivins could enter the central hallway of Suite B3 via doors 1, 2 and 3 without changing clothes or taking a shower if he wasn't going to get into BSL-3 mode, or he could enter the same central hallway via doors 1, 5 and 4 and get into BSL-3 mode for entering his lab in room B313.
By the way, the Anthrax Truthers are at it again. And the 2002 security report from Sandia has a note (#54) near the bottom of page 92 that says:
 In the fall 2001 attacks, the quality of anthrax used varied. The anthrax samples sent to U.S. Senators Daschle and Leahy were determined to be of a high concentration and purity, milled to yield a small particle size, and specifically treated to eliminate static charge and promote aerosolization. However, many of these modifications to the B. anthracis strain could have resulted, in whole or in part, from past national biodefense activities. Therefore, at the present time, it is impossible to determine whether the perpetrator(s) had the technical skill to produce such a high quality anthrax or merely stole the material.
So, this report from Sandia was evidently written by people whose only information about the attack anthrax came from the news reports of the time. They clearly had no access to the confidential information other Sandia scientists (Joseph Michael and Paul Kotula) had determined earlier in 2002, that the powders were NOT specifically treated to promote aerosolization. Plus, the spores were definitely not milled. But, the Lunatic Fringe is doing the same with this report as they did with an error in another report that became part of the Stevens vs USA lawsuit documentation: they are claiming the report changes everything, and the "latest" information now says that the anthrax spores used in the 2001 attacks were indeed "weaponized" and were stolen or obtained from some secret and illegal national biodefense program. But, so far only the Lunatic Fringe is making such claims. No one in the media has picked up on it.
November 3, 2011 (C) - I've located the article that goes with the 6-minute AAAS video I mentioned in my (B) comment this morning. The article is titled, "Ten Years After Deadly Anthrax Mailings, AAAS Event Explores Lingering Questions." There's a link to the video in the article. The article says:
With no confession from Ivins and no airing of the evidence in a trial, the legal process was short-circuited, [Jeanne] Guillemin said, and that can lead to distrust and alternative explanations. “I think it is important that there be convened an independent commission,” she said, to assess the science—much of it newly developed—used during the anthrax investigation.And also this:
“There were multiple instances throughout Bruce Ivins’ career when colleagues and supervisors did not respond to behaviors and statements on his part that were, in hindsight, red flags for serious problems,” [Ronald] Schouten said. The panel’s psychological assessment of Ivins concluded that he was “psychologically disposed to undertake the [anthrax] mailings” and that he had the means and motivation for carrying them out.
Still, as Schouten noted, “there is no absolute certainty. There is always ambiguity. In science there is always a margin of error. In law, proof beyond a reasonable doubt does not mean 100%” and therefore the door is always left open to those who have doubts about a case.So, both experts commented on the "alternative explanations" and "doubts about the case" that the Anthrax Truthers are voicing. As I've written many times, I would be extremely pleased if some independent commission reviewed all the evidence against Ivins. I don't expect that any of the Anthrax Truthers would accept the findings, but it might prevent them from gaining any headway in trying to convince the American people that Ivins wasn't the anthrax mailer. After all, one of the findings of such a commission would likely be that every single one of the Anthrax Truthers has his or her own personal theory, no two theories are identical, and the only thing they agree on is that the FBI is wrong. They have no real evidence to support their personal theories, that's why they can do nothing except criticize the FBI's case.
November 3, 2011 (B) - There's a very interesting 6-minute video on the web site of the American Association for the Advancement of Science where two "experts" voice opinions about the anthrax attacks. The first "expert" is Jeanne Guillemin who discusses people's concerns about "authority of government," and suggests that a new group of scientists be formed to look at the science in the Amerithrax case to see if it really said what the FBI said it said. Dr. Guillemin seems to believe the science was okay, but she's concerned that recent questioning as a result of the report from the National Academy of Sciences has created too much unnecessary doubt.
The second expert is Dr. Ronald Shouten, a psychiatrist who was part of the Expert Behavior Analysis Panel and who finds no reason to believe that Ivins was not the anthrax mailer. He points out very clearly that the face Ivins presented to his friends and associates was very different from the person who broke into KKG sororities, who became obsessed with former associates, and who tried to seek revenge on people he felt had wronged him.
November 3, 2011 (A) - I was "attacked" by Russians again this morning. It's the first time in months. They seem to have found a new range of IP addresses that I hadn't blocked. Here's what this morning's first "attack" looked like on my access log:
By themselves, these ten accesses mean nothing. But there were ten more starting at 02:41:53, ten more starting at 02:51:41, at 03:01:27, at 03:11:09, at 03:20:46, at 03:30:34, at 03:40:31, at 03:50:14, at 03:59:55, at 04:10:12, at 04:20:41, at 04:31:20, at 04:41:58, at 04:52:34, at 05:03:02, at 05:13:20, at 05:23:48, at 05:34:07, at 05:44:29, at 05:54:41, at 06:05:11, at 06:15:35, at 06:26:11, at 06:36:35, at 06:47:07, at 06:57:59, at 07:08:23, at 07:18:58, at 07:29:19, at 07:39:41, at 07:50:30, at 08:00:48, at 08:11:25, at 08:21:40, at 08:32:19, at 08:42:37, at 08:52:56, at 09:03:30, and at 09:13:54 when I checked my web site access logs and noticed the unmistakable "attack" pattern.
The Russian web site at mir02.ru seems to have something to do with filling out job applications. When I checked on the location of IP address 18.104.22.168, however, I found that it was located at 55°45'21"E 37°37'3"N, which puts it in Golestan National Park, which is in Iran, not Russia. It's close to the Russian border, so they evidently use a Russian Internet provider.
What is it all about? I have no idea. They use the HEAD command, not GET. Information on the HEAD command says, it "is often used for testing hypertext links for validity, accessibility, and recent modification." So, they're just checking to see if I changed anything on my site? Why do it endlessly every ten minutes all day long? And why do they look for addresses I haven't blocked and try again? I dunno. But, I've added that range of IP addresses (46.173.000.000 to 46.173.256.256) to the tens of thousands of Russian IP addresses I had previously blocked.
November 2, 2011 - The article "Amerithrax review: Lessons for future investigations" I discussed in my (C) comment yesterday brings to mind one of the TV shows I regularly watch: "Bones." That Fox TV series involves an FBI Special Agent (SA) named Seeley Booth who regularly works with scientists from the Jeffersonian Institutute to solve crimes which require high levels of scientific expertise regarding the identification of decayed, dismembered or partially destroyed bodies. SA Booth primarily works with a top scientist named Temperance Brennan, whom he calls "Bones."
In the TV series, SA Booth has constant problems communicating with the Jeffersonian scientists whom he affectionately refers to as "squints," (presumably because they are constantly squinting into microscopes and other types of lab equipment). The scientists are constantly talking in an arcane scientific jargon that SA Booth cannot understand, and he's endlessly frustrated when the scientists become giddy and fascinated over the finding of specific types of bugs, liquids, chemical compounds and elements. SA Booth just wants to find the bad guys.
In real life, things are a lot more complicated than in that TV series. The Amerithrax investigation involved a lot of "squints," but the FBI generally used their own FBI laboratory "squints" to do the liaison work with the "squints" from USAMRIID, the University of Maryland, Northern Arizona University, etc. For example, an FBI "squint" Dr. Douglas Beecher contacted "squint" Dr. Paul Keim at Northern Arizona University when the FBI needed to identify the strain of anthrax that killed Bob Stevens. Two other FBI "squints," Dr. Darin Steele and Dr. Scott Stanley did liason work at USAMRIID and were present in the meeting on March 29, 2002, when USAMRIID "squint" Dr. Patricia Worsham instructed other "squints" who worked in Suite B3, including "squint" Dr. Bruce Ivins," on the proper procedures for preparing samples for the FBI repository.
In that March meeting, Ivins had been specifically instructed on how to prepare FBIR samples, yet he later claimed he wasn't sure how the April sample he claimed was from flask RMR-1029 was prepared, and he said it might have been prepared in a way that he was specifically told NOT to use. That April 2002 deliberate attempt by Ivins to mislead the FBI investigation was one of the reasons the FBI began to "squint" at Bruce Ivins as Ivins became the subject of intense FBI scrutiny by both FBI "squints" and "non-squints."
The article by Sonia Ben Ougraham-Gormley says:
As the academy report notes, "a scientific study is more than a series of well-executed experiments. The planning and decision-making used during the study are essential components of the science and can determine its outcome." The report therefore recommends that in future investigations, an oversight organization should be created at the outset to "advise on procedures, strategies, and protocols, [and] help with new methods of scientific approaches." This organization should be composed of experts not directly involved in the investigation and independent from the investigating organization, thereby fostering objective oversight and ongoing review of data results.
This might be a good plot line for a "Bones" spinoff series showing the "right" way for the Amerithrax investigation to have been handled. Instead of having a dedicated FBI agent hunting for the anthrax killer to prevent the killer from killing again, the case could be turned over to the "squints" at the Jeffersonian, and the "squints" could begin by building a database of every example of Bacillus subtilis ever found in the entire world to see if it can be definitively shown where the contamination in the media letters came from. While doing that, another group of "squints" could work on definitively determining all the possible ways that mutations can appear in a sample of anthrax. Another group could work on definitively determining what growth and drying processes were used to make the attack anthrax.
The problem is, of course, that each episode of "Bones" is only an hour long. Therefore, the scientists' way of doing things would require a TV network committment for a 7-year-long spinoff series called "Squints," showing the investigation of a single crime -- with no guarantee that all the science will be complete by the time the series ends. The killer might never be caught, but there will be a solid guarantee that every scientific item of evidence is thoughly examined for every possible meaning it might have.
Dedicated "squints" might watch "Squints," but would anyone else?
November 1, 2011 (C) - Groan! Today, we've got another opinion piece about the Amerithrax investigation. This one is in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. It's by Sonia Ben Ouagrham-Gormley, an assistant professor in the Biodefense Program at George Mason University. The article is titled "Amerithrax review: Lessons for future investigations."
It's a really thoughtful piece that requires careful reading. But what I get out of it is similar to what I got out of the Review by the National Academy of Sciences: There is a vast gulf between goals and methodologies used by scientists and the goals and methodologies used by law enforcement investigators and lawyers. And some scientists seem to be totally unable to understand that tracking down criminals does not require that every lead be followed to its scientific conclusion. Failure to reach a scientific certainty does NOT mean that someone else could be the culprit. There simply aren't as many possibilities in proving guilt as there are in proving every detail of how an anthrax powder was made. And the standards for what qualifies as "evidence" aren't the same.
The scientific investigation didn't become very important in the Amerithrax case until it became clear that the "field investigation" was not producing results. If the FBI had found a Closed Circuit TV (CCTV) camera that showed Bruce Ivins dropping the letters into the mailbox in New Jersey, there wouldn't have been any need to do any of the work that was done to track down the morphological variants found in the attack powders. Not doing the morph tests would not mean that someone else could have done it. The CCTV would have been sufficient to focus the investigation on Ivins, and all the other non-science evidence against Ivins could have been enough to convince a jury of his guilt.
When the investigation began, the FBI didn't even know where to look for the culprit. The assumption was that the letters were mailed from near where the culprit lived. In hindsight, it was a bad assumption. But, past investigations indicated that not many people drive hundreds of miles to mail letters when 20 or 30 miles would usually be enough to mislead the investigation.
It may drive scientists nuts because the FBI didn't investigate every possible scientfic lead to the point where there was no more science to do, but, as unscientific as it may seem, criminal investigations are also controlled by costs. There's just no way to cost justify tracking down every possible source for the Bacillus subtilis contamination in the media letters if it's likely to cost ten million dollars and prove absolutely nothing. A scientist might want "scientific certainty," but law enforcement just wants to catch the culprit - even if it's done in a way that drives scientists nuts.
In law enforcement, you start by using past experiences as a guide to look for quick resolutions. The goal is finding the culprit before he can do more harm. In science, you often start with the understanding that you may not know all the answers for ten or twenty years. The goal is understanding the science and informing the rest of the scientific community of what new scientific facts have been revealed.
If the Amerithrax investigation had been done the way some scientists think it should have been done, the FBI might still be working on trying to define the scientific limits of the investigation and on figuring out how much money could be allocated every budget year for the next fifty years. They'd have spent years looking for the funding and setting up ovesight committees before they even began looking for the culprit.
November 1, 2011 (B) - Hmm. The site I've used for emails for 15 years, newsguy.com, seems to be "down". That's a first. But, it was back "up" again after a few hours.
November 1, 2011 (A) - An old acquaintance from my early days of discussing the anthrax attacks of 2001 just advised me that he wrote a novel about the attacks, and it was released to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the attacks. The novel is titled "Mailaise" and is now available on Kindle from Amazon.com. The author, Dr. Don Weiss, was one of the epidemiologists who investigated the 2001 anthrax letters sent to New York City. The blurb on Amazon says that half the proceeds from sales of the novel "will be donated to charity."
I don't know if I can find time to read it right now, since I'm supposed to be working on my new non-fiction book about the case. But, skimming through some of the first pages of the book, it looks very interesting. The story seems to begin about 5 years after the attacks. I noticed this in chapter 1:
Some anthrax Web sleuths and keystroke gumshoes, a group to which Mackey grudgingly acknowedged he now belonged, believed the anthrax spores [in the AMI building] were aerosolized by the cleaning crews' vacuuming. One clerk recalled opening the second powder-containing letter upon her return from vacation. So why did two of her AMI co-workers become ill, but not she?
As far as I know, I'm the only person who ever theorized that the spores in the AMI building were "aerosolized by the cleaning crews' vacuuming." So, I appear to be one of the "Web sleuths and keystroke gumshoes." Hmm. Maybe I'll try to find the time to read it. I received a Kindle for Christmas, and I've never had the time to use it. It may be time.
October 31, 2011 (D) - Hmm. There was only 1 email from the Anthrax Truther in my inbox when I returned from the health club. He has evidently read my (C) posting from this morning, and he somehow twisted what I wrote to claim I was arguing that Ivins couldn't fit 52 rabbits in his lab in B313! He wrote:
Ed argues against the evidence -- argues that 52 would not fit -- without linking the email where Dr. Ivins says that is the advantage of a parenteral challenge.and
Ed regularly assertions are regularly contradicted by the documentary evidence -- which he never bothers to link or even understand. He never bothered to obtain the rabbit protocol under FOIA.Maybe he's reading someone else's web site and thinks it's mine. As I understand it, the Anthrax Truther's argument for Ivins' innocence is as follows:
1. Ivins wrote the words "we always work with it at BL-3" in an email on December 19, 2001. Therefore,
2. The rabbits and mice must have been in room B313 when Ivins checked them in September and October.
3. Therefore, Ivins was tending to the animals in his lab, he wasn't making the anthrax powders.
4. Therefore, Ivins was innocent.
5. Therefore, Muslims sent the anthrax letters.
This morning, I tried to show him how absurd that logic is, and the response from the anthrax truther is: Ed argues that 52 rabbits wouldn't fit in Ivins' lab.
Maybe I should respond, "And neither Captain Kirk nor Commander Spock ever wore a tutu." It might make sense to him and convince him that he's wrong.
However, his response is a good illustration of why I do not respond to his emails. Arguing with him in private is a total waste of time. But, sometimes a good point can be made if the argument is in public.
October 31, 2011 (C) - I found 19 emails in my inbox this morning from an Anthrax Truther who has been arguing on Lew Weinstein's web site for months that a single sentence in an email Bruce Ivins wrote in December of 2001 proves that Ivins was NOT making anthrax powders in his lab on the evenings when the FACTS and the FBI say that Ivins was was making anthrax powders. The Truther argues that Ivins was in his BSL-3 lab in room B313 tending to animals, not making anthrax powders. And, as bizarre as it seems, he and possibly one other Anthrax Truther seem to believe that Ivins kept test animals in his BSL-3 lab in room B313 in Suite B3. In his 19 emails, the Anthrax Truther even included this picture of what the animal cages in Ivins' lab would look like:
And, he seems to be arguing that such cages were in Ivins' 11x17 foot lab - and there was possibly even enough room for cages for 52 rabbits. How on earth can anyone believe such nonsense? He evidently can believe it because a True Believers can rationalize anything, no matter how mindlessly preposterous it is, if it helps him or her maintain their belief about who really sent the anthrax letters. I've pointed out the picture we have of the interior of Ivins' lab:
The photo above shows about a quarter of Ivins' 11x17 foot lab in room B313. As you can see, there's barely room enough to walk between pieces of equipment. The biosafety cabinet on the other side of Dr. Ivins is the biggest piece of equipment in the room, and there's a very good possiblity that there were more than one biosafety cabinets in the room. Ivins worked in that room with two assistants.
I've mentioned the the Anthrax Truthers the stink and noise of working in a room with caged animals, but it made no difference. I've mentioned that they'd probably have to store animal feed in the room, and they'd have get rid of excrement and hose down and sterilize the cages after animals died in them. It makes no difference.
I've also pointed out that the FBI summary report says that at other facilities, such as Battelle and Dugway, the FBI Summary report says they had "animal handlers" in charge of the animals. So, USAMRIID probably also had "animal handlers" taking care of the animals. But that makes no difference.
I've pointed out that there were separate "animal rooms" in Suite B3 for animals, Room B305 for guinea pigs and Room B310 for mice, but it made no difference. The facts suggest that those rooms might be BSL-2 rooms, but the Anthrax Truther appears to firmly believe animals were kept in BSL-3 rooms because of a single clause in an email Ivins sent on December of 2001. Here's the email with the critical clause highlighted in red:
From: Ivins, Bruce E Dr USAMRIID [mailto:Bruce.Ivins@DET.AMEDD.ARMY.MIL]
Sent: Wednesday, December 19, 2011 3:53 PM
SubjectL RE: CpG in Monkeys
The Sterne vaccine strain is a suspension of live, attenuated spores. The strain produces
PA, LF and EF, but not capsule, so that injecting it would generate an anamnestic immume response in
the immunized monkeys. They could be injected with the Stern spore in our P2 facility. (Actually,
virulent anthrax is a BL-2 agents, although we always work with it at BL-3 or (for aerosol challenges) BL-
4.) We have some Sterne vaccine now. The dose should be 1.0 ml, administered subcutaneously. Would
you like to wait until January or February to give it to them, then draw blood at regular intervals for
anti-PA titers? I think if this looks good we can talk seriously (with [Redacted]) about human use. I'll
try to call you Thursday or Friday of this week. Could you send me your phone number again? Thanks!
The Anthrax Truther evidently inexplicably interprets that clause as meaning that all work with anthrax is in a BSL-3 environment, therefore the mice and rabbits Ivins checked on during the evenings of September 28 to October 2, 2001, must have been in Ivins' BSL-3 lab in room B313. And, for the Anthrax Truther, that means Ivins was working with the animals in his BSL-3 lab in room B313 and not making anthrax powders as the FBI claims. He even sent me procedures for the disposal of dead animals, which he seeminly believes proves that Ivins would have spend hours in his BSL-3 lab or nearby putting the dead animals into an autoclave and waiting for the autoclave to go through its sterilization cycle.
I've been arguing with this particular Anthrax Truther for TEN YEARS. He appears absolutely certain that Muslims were behind the anthrax letters, therefore it couldn't have been Bruce Ivins. It's extremely difficult to pin down exactly what the Anthrax Truther believes, and he makes vague threats of suing me if I claim he believes something that isn't precisely what he believes. So, I try to always qualify such statements with "seems to believe" or "appears to believe."
Prior to the identification of Bruce Ivins as the mailer, his argument appeared to be that the culprit couldn't have been an Americian scientist unless that scientist was working with the Muslim terrorists. Now, his arguments seem to be all about proving Ivins innocent, because Ivins being innocent would mean the Anthrax Truther is correct in maintaining his belief that Muslims were behind the attacks. The motive has to be a Muslim motive, not a motive of getting better funding for USAMRIID's anthrax research or Ivins' personal motive of gaining recognition for his work with anthrax.
The Anthrax Truther seems totally ignorant or uncaring of the fact that anthrax was also worked with in the common lab in Room B304, where the incubators and flask shakers were located. And that lab was a BSL-2 lab. Ivins would evidently inoculate plates inside a biosafety cabinet in his BSL-3 lab in room B313, he'd cover the plates, and then the plates would be transported to room B304 to be put in the incubators. That appears to be what Ivins was doing in the picture above.
Flasks were also apparently inoculated in a BSL-3 environment and then taken to room B304 where they were shaken and the contents allowed to germinate and grow. When done, the flasks would be taken back to the BSL-3 lab.
Oops. I just received another email. So, that makes an even 20. Here's #20 in its entirety except for an attachment:
Ed never bothered to check the 9 notebooks uploaded by USAMRIID for the reason for his work in the BL-3 on August 13 - why bother when spinning around in B3 and puking on his shoes is so much easier?
The attachment is couple emails Ivins sent on the morning of August 13, 2001, which might somehow explain the sudden and unusual hours Ivins spent in his BSL-3 lab on the evening of August 13, 2001, although the emails have absolutely nothing to do with animal testing.
So, the purpose of this comment is to show how a True Believer can maintain a belief no matter how preposterous it is. He or she does it by simply rationalizing everything to make it fit his or her belief. If he or she can't rationalize the facts, he or she simply ignores any facts which disprove his or her belief.
I can't just respond to the True Believer's emails, because any email response from me will result in him sending me dozens or hundreds of emails stating his beliefs. And we can't argue on Lew Weinstein's web site, because no one like me who disputes the beliefs of the Anthrax Truthers is allowed to post there. So, I'm illustrating the argument here.
Oops. I just received email #21 (he's sending them to me and carbon-copying two Anthrax Truthers):
remember when he thought time of death was the time Ivins checked on the mice? he never corrects himself like this past week when he said it was absurd to think 52 would fit when he should have known (from the email) that 60 would fit
I've wasted almost all morning on his nonsense. I'm not even going to try to decipher what that email means, since it's now lunch time. After lunch it'll be time for me to head to the health club for a workout. And I need to do some grocery shopping on the way home again. Busy busy busy.
October 31, 2011 (B) - This morning, the Reuters News Agency also has an article about the settlement in the Maureen Stevens vs USA lawsuit. It has one tidbit of information that seems new:
The October 27 court filing said the defendant in the case, the U.S. government, was working "expeditiously" to obtain the required approval for the settlement from the Department of Justice "and has no reason to believe it will not be granted".
Looking at the actual filing, I see it's a "Joint Motion to Stay Deadlines Pending Finalization of Settlement." It says:
Defendant United States of America and Plaintiffs ("the parties") respectfully move this Court to immediately suspend all deadlines in this case because the parties have reached a tentative settlement subject to the required approval by officials in the Department of Justice. The Defendant is working expeditiously to obtain such approval as soon as possible and has no reason to believe that it will not be granted. However, certain deadlines will arise very quickly, potentially before the parties have obtained approvals and completed all the paperwork necessary to finalize the settlement.
The "deadlines" are tomorrow and Wednesday for the filing and hearing of various motions. That seems to suggest that while they can't be certain of getting the details of the settlement worked out today, it would certainly appear that the settlement should be finalized before the end of this week. It will be interesting to see what the settlement amount is. I'm pretty sure that it cannot be kept secret, as if often done in lawsuits filed against corporations.
October 31, 2011 (A) - I haven't been writing about the various news stories like the October 26 article in The New York Times titled, "How Ready Are We for Bioterrorism," since the subject of our current state of preparedness for a biological weapons attack isn't really "on-topic" on this web site. This web site is about the anthrax attacks of 2001. However, if you read the article you'll see an explanation for why White House officials were given Cipro shortly after 9/11. Conspiracy theorists often use that fact as "evidence" that the White House knew about the anthrax attacks before the attacks actually happened. In reality, it just means that many scientists were worried about the possibility of a bioweapons attack ever since the first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993. And they convinced people in the White House to take precautions. Some people who are totally surprised by an event become very suspicious of better-informed people who were concerned about the possibilty of such an event. They wonder: If such a terrible event was "predictable," why wasn't it stopped? Answer: It wasn't predictable, it was just a known possibility. But, to a conspiracy theorist, a "known possibility" should be a call to action and the possibility should also have been eliminated. And there's no way to convince them that that was probably totally impossible.
October 30, 2011 (C) - The Associated Press has an article about the settlement in the Maureen Stevens vs USA lawsuit, but it doesn't report anything that wasn't previously reported on Friday in the Palm Beach Post.
October 30, 2011 (B) - Grumble grumble. I plotted out Ivins' Suite B3 hours and Room B313 hours on a stacked bar chart and discovered another mistake I'd made. For some reason, I hadn't included Ivins' hours in his BSL-3 lab for September 10 in the chart. I just failed to copy the number over from the work sheet. Then, when I did the stacked bar chart, it showed up as very odd because it was the only time when Ivins spent hours in Suite B3 without going into room B313. When I checked the data, I discovered the error. So, while the minutes chart I created three days ago is still wrong, the hours chart for this morning has been fixed. And here's what the stacked bar chart looks like. (For this comparison, Ivins' hours in Suite B3 are shown stacked on top of his hours in Room B313, although they were mostly the same hours):
If you click on the small chart above, you'll be shown a larger version. What the stacked bar chart shows that I hadn't noticed before from looking at the work sheets is that Ivins never spent more than a few minutes in Suite B3 unless he was also going to go into his BSL-3 lab in Room B313. I'd noticed the times when he seemed to spend only 1 minute in Suite B3, but the pattern to his hours wasn't as clear. Now it is.
During the times when Ivins was waiting for the anthrax letters to be delivered, he not only had no reason to go into his BSL-3 lab, he had no reason to go into Suite B3 at all - except for a few minutes from time to time. And the same pattern holds true for early August. The only exception is September 25 when Ivins was evidently directed by Patricia Worsham to do some house cleaning in his BSL-3 laboratory. Otherwise, he probably wouldn't have gone into his lab on that evening, either, because he had nothing else to do in Suite B3 or his lab in room B313. And on September 26th, when Ivins' letter to Worsham says he was cleaning door jams and taking pans out of hoods, his in-out logs say he didn't go into his BSL-3 lab at all and only spent 8 minutes in Suite B3. So, it was either very quick work or he did the work during the day.
October 30, 2011 (A) - Uh oh. Last week was another extremely busy week, and as a result, this is another one of those mornings when I have to start writing a comment from scratch. First, I put together another graph showing Ivins evening hours in his BSL-3 lab in August, September and early October 2001:
The graph I created on Wednesday the 26th showed the time in minutes, which requires some mental calculations to covert the data into hours. This one shows the same data as hours. The previous chart also showed all of August. Things become more clear when the irrelevant times in early August are eliminated.
What the graph shows very clearly is that, on August 31, Ivins suddenly started spending hours nearly every night in his BSL-3 lab in room B313. That is the time when he was allegedly making the anthrax powders for the media letters. Except for the period around 9/11, he worked many long hours until September 16.
On the 16th, he was finished making the powders for the media letters. On the evening of the 17th, he allegedly drove to New Jersey to mail the letters. Then, from the 18th through the 27th he sat around waiting for the reaction to his letters. During all that time he spent only a fraction of an hour in room B313. On the 25th, the facts say Ivins spent 1 hour and 42 minutes cleaning the lights in his BSL-3 lab after being directed to do so by Patricia Worsham.
On the 28th, after waiting for ten days and finding absolutely nothing in the news about his first set of letters, he started going back into his lab again to work for hours on the powders for the senate letters. On the final evening, October 5, he worked for over three and a half hours in Room B313.
Then, once again he drove to New Jersey to mail anthrax letters, and it appears he once again had very little reason to go back into his BSL-3 lab in room B313 again while waiting for the second batch of letters to have their effect.
The FBI files don't provide any data beyond the 10th of October. But, the USAMRIID files show that Ivins didn't go into his BSL-3 lab on the 11th or 12th at all. On Saturday the 13th, he went into his lab at 9:58 PM, but there's no information showing when he exited his lab. On Sunday the 14th he was in his lab in the evening for about an hour and a half. On the 15th he entered his lab twice and spent a total of 23 minutes inside. On the 16th, he spent 15 minutes in room B313. And on the 17th of October, the date when Peter Jahrling asked him to quantify the spores in the Daschle letter, Ivins was in and out of room B313 from around 4 in the afternoon until 9:30 in the evening.
To me, this information is almost another "smoking gun." It appears to show very clearly that Ivins had little reason to go into his BSL-3 lab in the evenings, except when he was allegedly making the anthrax powders. And the time he spent in his lab and the time he spent just waiting for the letters to be delivered and create panic fit perfectly. When combined with the fact that Ivins had very little reason to go into his BSL-3 lab in the evenings for a year and a half prior to the time he allegedly started making the anthrax powders, this analysis of his hours making anthrax and waiting for the effects of his letters seems to be full confirmation that Ivins was making anthrax powders in B313 prior to the attacks.
PBS Frontline can argue that he would often go into Building 1425 at night, but the facts say Ivins would mostly just go into his office and putter around with his computer sending out personal emails and doing personal web searches. He was NOT required to work 16-hour days as part of his job.
Others can argue that Ivins was spending that evening time checking on animals, but that is just plain absurd. The in-out data for September 28 through October 2 show that Ivins had to leave Suite B3 when it was time to check on the animals. So that time had absolutely NOTHING to do with the unusual hours Ivins spent in his BSL-3 lab in room B313.
I was going to include in the new graph the hours Ivins spent in Suite B3, showing that data and the BSL-3 data as a "stacked bar" graph. But, I ran out of time, and after thinking about it, I decided it might just confuse matters. Plus, I found an error in my calculations for September 25 and had to correct some current and past information about that date. However, I'll do the "stacked bar" graph later today or later this week. If the results show anything of interest, I'll write another comment.
& Changes: Sunday, October 23, 2011, thru Saturday, October 29,
October 29, 2011 (C) - As expected (because the vast majority of such lawsuits never go to trial), the lawsuit Maureen Stevens filed against government as a result of the death of her husband has been settled out of court. The Palm Beach Post's article announcing the development says:
[One of Maureen Stevens' lawyers,] Attorney Jason Weisser said he couldn't divulge the terms of the settlement until it is formally approved by the U.S. Justice Department. The accord, he said, was hashed out last week during a mediation session with government attorneys. They declined comment.
So, we'll have to wait to see what the amount of the settlement was. I think I can safely predict that it was definitely not anywhere near the $50 million demanded. The article ends with this:
Weisser declined comment on what prompted the government to settle the lawsuit. He said both sides were up against tight deadlines - Hurley on Wednesday was to hear the government's motion to throw out the lawsuit. While the lawsuit had already survived the scrutiny of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and the Florida Supreme Court, such motions are always scary. Further, he said, there were no guarantees they would win at trial.
Overall, he said, both he and Stevens are satisfied with the settlement.
"Justice," he said, "has been served."The amount of the settlement would depend upon how frightened Maureen Stevens lawyers were that the case would be thrown out of court by Judge Hurley. My feeling is that the chances were pretty high.
But, now the Anthrax Truthers can stop fantasizing how the trial would have in some way proved them right.
October 29, 2011 (B) - The New York Times received a letter to the editor from U.S. Government public affairs officer Michael P. Kortan responding to the NY Times' October 17 editorial. The letter steps through several points where the government disputes what the Times' editorial contained. Near the end of the letter it also says:
We strongly disagree with recent television reporting on this issue cited in the editorial.
ProPublica evidently used that sentence as a reason for an article titled "The FBI Responds to our FBI Stories," in which they use Kortan's statements to the Times to show what ProPublica et al have reported. Example:
What we reported: A National Academy of Sciences committee that reviewed the investigation’s scientific findings concluded the unusually high amount of silicon measured in spores sent to the New York Post was unexplained – something the panel’s vice chairman, David A. Relman, told us remained a “big discrepancy” in the FBI case.
What Kortan wrote: “[S]cientists directly involved in the lengthy investigation into the anthrax mailings — both from within the F.B.I. and outside experts — disagree with the notion that the chemicals in the mailed anthrax suggest more sophisticated manufacturing.”So, it's just a word game. The FBI says there's nothing about the attack anthax that suggests it involved "sophisticated manufacturing," and ProPublica is citing an NAS "expert" as saying the amount of silicon in spores sent to the New York Post is a "big discrepancy" in the case. A better term than "discrepancy" might be "unexplained data." The bulk of the data says that the "unexplained data" is irrelevant, but NAS scientists want the irrelevancy to be proved to a scientific certainty. It might shut up some conspiracy theorists, but there's almost no chance it would mean anything to the investigation. So, it's a question of money. And it's a damned-if-you-do/damned-if-you-don't situation. Should the government waste money investigating something that is certain to be irrelevant to the case? Or should they drop the matter and just let the conspiracy theorists endlessly claim that if it's possible that the silicon and tin proves Ivins' could not have made the the anthrax powders, then that means that Ivins did not make the anthrax powders?
October 29, 2011 (A) - The discussion on NPR about the anthrax attacks of 2001 involves three guests, Dr. Paul Keim of Northern Arizona University, Dr. David Relman of Stanford University (who was involved in the National Academy of Sciences' review of the science used in the Amerithrax investigation) and Stephen Engleberg of ProPublica.com.
Dr. Relman makes some interesting points about how science is better at eliminating suspects in criminal cases than identifying suspects. Dr. Keim speaks well, as usual, but doesn't say much in the interview that he hasn't said multiple times elsewhere. ProPublica's Stephen Engleberg, except for equating the Steven Hatfill "investigation" to the Bruce Ivins investigation, says nothing particularly controversial. So, it's a good discussion, but it doesn't contain much for me to comment about. (A good comparison between the Hatfill "investigation" and the Ivins investigation can be found on a ProPublica blog HERE.)
October 28, 2011 (C) - There's a new discussion on NPR about the anthrax attacks. I've only listened to a few minutes of it, but I'll listen to all of it tomorrow and make a longer comment then. It seems very interesting.
October 28, 2011 (B) - While there haven't been any significant new articles lately about the 10th anniversary of the anthrax attacks of 2001, I've been involved in discussions on the topic. In a discussion related to a ProPublica article, I was arguing with someone called David Efron for awhile. But, he seems to have backed away after posting some thoughts that I thoroughly shot down. Meanwhile, on a different ProPublica discussion I've been arguing with Richard Rowley about whether or not a cryptographer would have had to testify and validate the code used in the hidden message in the media letters. That discussion has now spilled over into a second page, where Rowley grills me on being wrong in my original hypothesis that the highlighted A's and T's were "doodling" and how I would have to explain being wrong if I were to testify in court. Rowley also argued the cryptographer subject along with a dozen other subjects on my blog.
One of the other subjects on my blog went as follows:
Rowley: As to the 'Greendale' connect, we saw years ago that Hatfill had such a connection too. Of no real value.
Lake: It was of no value in the Hatfill case because there wasn't much other "evidence" to show a jury. That's not true in the Ivins case where there is a MOUNTAIN of other evidence to show the jury.
That's a very important point about circumstantial evidence. "Greendale School" meant very little as evidence against Hatfill and against Ivins. BUT, it's like the proverbial straws on a camel's back. For Hatfill, we have only a half dozen "straws" (i.e., items of evidence) on the camel's back, so it would be easy (and correct) for such evidence to be dismissed as "just a coincidence." For Bruce Ivins, however, we have a mountain of "straws," and the "straw" about the Greendale School cause to which Ivins and his wife donated money could be the "straw" that would convince one or more jurors that there were simply too many pieces of evidence ("straws") for them all to be just coincidences.
October 28, 2011 (A) - It's totally off topic, but I'm going to mention it anyway. Sales of my novel "Clipper" on Kindle have suddenly picked up. I could think of absolutely no explanation for why. Then I suddenly realized that the ABC TV show "Pan Am" is probably generating some interest in the adventures of Pan Am employees during the early days of intercontinental air travel. And that's what my novel is about.
An Anthrax Truther might argue that it's just a coincidence that sales of my book increased when the TV series "Pan Am" began to air. But, that would mean that every book I've sold in October is such a coincidence, since Amazon.com didn't sell any Kindle copies in August or September. The Anthrax Truther might still claim that I don't have any "material evidence" that "Pam Am" spurred those new sales. That's true. But the "circumstantial evidence" I have is compelling, even if the Anthrax Truther argues that "circumstantial evidence" isn't really evidence and proves nothing. If "Pan Am" gets cancelled and the sales of my book suddenly stop, I'd see that as further evidence of a connection, but an Anthrax Truther would undoubtedly see it as just another coincidence.
October 26, 2011 - It's becoming more and more clear that a lot of people are mixing up Bacteriology Suite B3 with Ivins' BSL-3 laboratory in room B313 within Suite B3. And that includes FBI agents.
A couple days ago, one of Ivins' defenders on various forums, Richard Rowley, mentioned that "The Case Against Bruce Ivins" that I have at the top of the main page of this web site contained this as item #9:
9. It was not commonplace for him to work long evening hours in lab B3 before the anthrax attacks or in the months after the anthrax attacks. His long hours in B3 at that time broke his normal work pattern.
And, I'd been telling everyone for months that B3 is not a "lab," it is a suite of 15 rooms including 5 laboratories. So, I assumed that the incorrect information in item #9 was my mistake, and I corrected item #9 to read:
9. It was not commonplace for him to work long evening hours in the Bacteriology Division's Suite B3 before the anthrax attacks or in the months after the anthrax attacks. His long hours in Suite B3 at that time broke his normal work pattern. Ivins' BSL-3 lab was within Suite B3.
But as I went about plotting the hours Ivins spent in Building 1425, in Suite B3 and in his BSL-3 lab in room B313, I found that the error - if it truly was an error - wasn't mine. The "error" was the FBI's. They were using B3 to mean room B313, regardless of where Ivins' actually spent the time within B3 after he used the keypad. Their explanation on page 29 of the FBI Summary Report doesn't do much to clarify things:
Dr. Ivins created RMR-1029 in his lab, B-313 in Building 1425 (also referred to as “B3” or the “hot suites”), and stored the flasks in the walk-in cold-room there, among hundreds of other flasks.
So, they are using room B313 and Suite B3 interchangeably, even though they are not technically the same thing.
I had taken the FBI's graph of Ivins "Night Hours in Suite B3" from page 8 of the search warrant in FBI file #07-526-m-01.pdf, which looks like this:
and I moved all the data from 2001 to be after the data from 2000. So, instead of having the months for 2000 and 2001 being side by side as the FBI had done, I created this chart with year 2001 following year 2000:
And that's why, back in 2009, I wrote what I'd written as item #9 in "The Case Against Bruce Ivins."
Now, because the FBI uses Suite B3 and Room B313 somewhat interchangeably, I'm just going to leave the title of the graph the way it is, and I'll leave the new wording for Item #9 the way it currently is.
When I started plotting out the actual hours for August and September of 2001 that Ivins spent in Building 1425, and in Suite B3 and presumably in his BSL-3 lab, it became clear the data on both graphs above are for the time Ivins presumably spent in his BSL-3 laboratory in room B313, not in Suite B3. I say "presumably" because the keypad still appears to have been in the change room, not on the door to room B313. When Ivins pressed his personal indentification number (PIN) into the keypad, he was recording that he had changed from his street clothes into "scrubs" and lab shoes, and that he was on his way to his BSL-3 lab in room B313. But, there was no physical barrier preventing him from going anywhere within Suite B3 in his scrubs - particularly at night when there would be no one around to question why he was in a BSL-2 lab in BSL-3 scrubs (if anyone ever questioned such a thing).
Page 30 of the FBI Summary Report says this about changing into and out of scrubs and lab shoes:
It is important to note that entering and leaving B-313 is a time-consuming process. One must disrobe and change into lab attire on the way in, and then, on the way out, change out of the lab-wear, shower, and get dressed.
But, you can get into Suite B3 and walk from one end to the other without being required to change into scrubs. On October 5, 2001, the in-out logs show that Ivins did exactly that. He entered Suite B3 from the Bacteriology corridor, he spent 8 minutes doing something within Suite B3, and then he left via the "crash door" into the Animal Resources Corridor. He presumably went to his office, and then he entered Suite B3 again seven minutes later and began changing into scrubs for the first of two long evening sessions in his BSL-3 lab in room B313.
I've just completed my analysis of Bruce Ivins' in-out logs for September of 2001. Using the in-out logs on pages 51 - 55 of FBI file #847547, here's the work sheet data I developed:
4,240 minutes = 70 hours and 40 minutes
2,529 minutes = 43 hours and 9 minutes
1,854 minutes = 30 hours and 54 minutes
* includes time spent in the library: 14 minutes on the 22nd, 13 minutes on the 28th.
The FBI's graph indicates that Ivins spent about 32 hours in "B3" during September. My analysis shows Ivins spent 43 hours in B3 and just under 31 hours in his BSL-3 lab. But, I measured the BSL-3 time from when he typed his PIN number into the keypad. The FBI agents may have measured the time from when he entered the change room, and they may have counted some other things. I can't explain the difference without seeing what data the FBI used.
NOTE ADDED OCT. 31, 2011: I was off by 1 hour in calculations for September 25, and I've corrected that error.
There's a similar problem with the data for August that I analyzed on October 23. The FBI's chart shows Ivins spent about 12 hours in "B3" in August. My analysis shows Ivins spent 10 hours and 55 minutes in BSL-3 room B313.
What the work sheet data for September 2001 also shows is that the unusual amount of time Ivins spent in Suite B3 and in his BSL-3 lab in room B313 is only part of the story.
The most important fact that jumps out at me when I look at the chart for September is that Ivins was not only NOT in his BSL-3 lab on the evening he was allegedly driving to New Jersey to mail the letters (September 17), but he also didn't work in his lab in the evenings during the time he was presumably waiting for the letters to be opened and for the panic to begin. He didn't work a single minute in his BSL-3 lab during the evenings from the 17th through the 24th. Then he spent less than an hour in his lab on the 25th and didn't go back in again for two more evenings. And he spent less than 2 hours in Suite B3 during the period from September 17 through September 27.
So, it was not only extremely unusual for Ivins to have spent so much time in his BSL-3 lab during the critical times in August, September and October of 2001, the fact that he didn't spend any time in that lab for a week after the letters had been mailed is evidence that the there was no longer anything to do in his lab after he'd prepared the powders for the media letters. He had worked in his BSL-3 lab to create the powders for the letters, and when he was done, he no longer had any reason to go into his BSL-3 lab for a week.
Then on September 28, ten days after the letters were postmarked, he apparently decided something had gone wrong with his first mailing. So, he once again started going into his BSL-3 lab, this time to work on the second set of letters. The work on the senate powders evidently began on September 28 and continued through October 5. Here's the work sheet data for my analysis of October 1 through 10:
1,041 minutes = 17 hours, 21 minutes
699 minutes = 11 hours, 39 minutes
610 minutes = 10 hours, 10 minutes
Note, that during the weekend of October 6 and 7, when the second batch of letters was presumably mailed, it was the first time Ivins didn't work on a weekend since August 11 and 12. Plus, he began another period of waiting for the letters to generate panic, and he only spent 14 minutes in his BSL-3 lab during the period from Oct. 6 to 10.
In summary, Ivins was clearly working unusually long hours in his BSL-3 lab during the times he was allegedly making the anthrax powders, and he spent almost no time at all in that same BSL-3 lab after the letters were mailed, while he was allegedly waiting for reactions to the letters.
Here's a chart of the times Ivins spent making anthrax and the times he spent waiting for the effects of the letters:
No matter how you look at the evidence, it says that Ivins was the anthrax mailer beyond any reasonable doubt.
October 24, 2011 (C) - Two more articles about the anthrax case showed up today. The first is dated yesterday and is an editorial in The New York Post titled "Anthrax and the FBI." The second is a ProPublica.com article titled "Secret Reports: With Security Spotty, Many Had Access to Anthrax."
The NY Post article is actually kind of funny. The three "independent scientists" who paid to have a nonsense paper published in the Journal of BioTerrorism and BioDefense have been promoted to "emminent scientists." And the Post hilariously reports,
It turns out the bureau hid from the public its discovery that the anthrax spores were laced with tin and silicon, possibly to make it float more freely -- a “chemical fingerprint” and seeming clue to the identity of the attacker.
The FBI was in the process of having Ivins indicted, so the FBI and the Department of Justice had declared Ivins to be the killer long before he committed suicide - they just didn't do it publicly. The phrasing in the paragraph suggests that either (1) the FBI should have publicly declared Ivins to be the killer before he was indicted (which is just plain stupid), or (2) the DOJ only pointed at Ivins as the killer because he'd committed suicide and couldn't defend himself.
October 24, 2011 (B) - I awoke this morning thinking about what Frontline had said at about the 25 minute mark in their program "The Anthrax Files," which aired on October 11:
They showed their version of FBI's chart of Ivins' overtime hours in Suite B3:
Then Frontline tried to make it appear that the overtime hours in Suite B3 meant nothing. They said,
In fact, Frontline, ProPublica and McClatchy newspapers have taken a close look at Ivins' lab work records. The FBI chart was based upon the night hours in only one lab. But, our research shows it was not unusual for Ivins to work late at the other labs and offices throughout the Army complex. And, during those days the FBI found suspicious, Ivins was in fact performing a number of time-sensitive experiments in the lab.
Frontline's claim is incorrect. The chart does not show time spent in "one lab." It shows time spent in Suite B3, which had five working labs, including Ivins' BSL-3 lab in room B313, a common lab in room B304 that Ivins evidently frequently used, the former glanders lab in room B312, and Patricia Worsham's two labs in rooms B306 and B309.
But, more importantly, Suite B3 contained the labs that Ivins used. There's no evidence that Ivins used or had any reason to use any labs anywhere else in Building 1425 on any routine basis. Animal rooms are not considered to be laboratories. The in-out logs show that when Ivins left Suite B3 to check on the health of mice and rabbits, he went somewhere that didn't require use of his key card. And, checking on the animals didn't take much time.
On the Frontline program, they showed how Ivins "work hours" chart looked when the chart also included all the time Ivins spent in Building 1425:
The facts show that checking on animals had nothing to do with what Ivins was doing in Suite B3. And, the Frontline chart shows that the number of hours Ivins was spending in the evenings in Building 1425 was declining down to a low point in July of 2001. Then, Ivins' evening hours suddenly and dramatically increased in August. Details show the increase began in mid-August, around August 13. Most of the additional time Ivins spent in Building 1425 in August and September is his unexplained time in Suite B3.
Here's my version of the chart showing Ivins' hours in Suite B3:
When you look at all the data, it seems to say that what Ivins normally did in Building 1425 at night was use his computer in his office. It's known that Ivins was constantly sending emails to Mara Linscott and other acquaintances from his past. It's also known that all of Ivins' emails for 2001 mysteriously disappeared from his computer before the FBI came around checking in 2005. Page 6 of FBI pdf file #847444 says:
ADMINSTRATIVE: On January 13, 2005, the hard drive of IVINS' assigned USAMRIID computer was copied by the FBI with his consent. A review of the hard drive copy revealed that e-mails for the year 2001 appeared to be missing from the hard drive, although e-mail activities for the prior and subsequent years were located. IVINS was asked by interviewing agents to explain the reason for this omission.
IVINS advised that he was very surprised by the interviewing Agents' claim that his 2001 e-mails were missing from his hard drive. IVINS said he archives e-mails by subject, not by date, however, he believes e-mail for this time period should be on his computer.
So, Ivins' emails for 2001 mysteriously disappeared from his computer, but emails from prior to 2001and after 2001 were still there. No doubt Ivins' defenders would say "it's just another coincidence" or "it doesn't prove anything." (Last night, one of his defenders, Richard Rowley, posted this: "I've grown to admire Ivins in the past 3 years.") But, to rational people it appears to be another example of Bruce Ivins destroying possible evidence.
In summary, what the data shows is that Ivins spent a lot of time in Building 1425 prior to August, and he did spend some time doing USAMRID work from time to time, but the vast bulk of his evening hours were spent in his office on his computer. And much of that computer time was spent sending out emails which he destroyed before the FBI came around to make a copy of his hard drive. ( It appears that most copies we have of Ivins' emails from 2001 were copies obtained from the computers of the recipients of Ivins' emails.)
The Frontline claims are totally bogus. Ivins wasn't "working late" during the evening times prior to August. He was mostly on his work computer doing personal things. And, in August, when he suddenly started working long hours in Suite B3 it was truly unusual and suspicious. But, because USAMRIID employees were so accustomed to seeing him in the building in the evenings, no one ever thought to question him about what he was doing. They were totally blind to the fact that he'd suddenly changed from spending his evening hours on sending out personal emails and doing computer searches to spending time making anthrax powders for the attack letters.
October 24, 2011 (A) - The second part of the Vancouver Sun's 3-part series about the Amerithrax investigation showed up today, and, as expected, it's nearly identical to the article that appeared in the Miami Herald on October 12. Some paragraphs in the Miami Herald version are divided into two paragraphs in the Vancouver Sun version, and the sub-headings are different. Otherwise, it's the same article and not worth a new analysis.
October 23, 2011 (C) - Ah! My (A) comment from this morning resulted in the Anthrax Truther re-starting his arguments on Dr. Nass's web site HERE. I've already posted my response, but it may take a day or two for Dr. Nass to moderate it and allow it to show up on her site. I've also received three jibberish emails from the Anthrax Truther addressed to me and another Anthrax Truther (the messages may be "tweets," since they show up as the subject of his emails):
Ed, STILL doesn't dare link the documents relating to the rabbits or the related emails - he just keeps spinning around and then pukes over his shoes :0)
Anthony Basssett - it's obvious that Ed doesn't ask anyone to help explain things because they've never seen something so confused (and oblivious to their confusion) in their life
Dr. Ivins explained what would be involved in the formaldehyde study with the rabbits (about which you don't cite any links
Of course, he doesn't explain what any of that jibberish has to do with the fact that the animals Ivins checked were not in Suite B3 and therefore have absolutely nothing to do with the time Ivins was spending in his BSL-3 lab in room B313. The Anthrax Truther seems to justify the jibberish by believing that if I can't decipher it, that means he knows more than I do about where the animals were located - and that proves Ivins to be innocent.
October 23, 2011 (B) - I've completed my initial analysis of Ivins in-out log times for August 2001 as shown in FBI file #847547, pages 49 to 51. Here's the work sheet:
1,882 minutes equals 31 hours, 22 minutes.
771 minutes equals 12 hours 51 minutes - This is the time on the FBI graph of Ivins' overtime hours in B3.
655 minutes equals 10 hours 55 minutes.
So, during evenings in August 2001, Ivins spent over 31 hours in Building 1425, but only about 13 of those hours were spent in Bacteriology Suite B3. The rest of the time may have been in his office or in some other area of the building that didn't require key card access -- with the exception of 1 minute on August 18 when he entered and left Suite B4's containment area for some unknown reason.
Something may have happened on the Friday or the weekend before Monday, August 13 that caused Ivins to suddenly start spending unusual hours in his BSL-3 lab.
Note that he only spent 8 out of 31 August evenings in his BSL-3 lab, but 5 of those evening were on weekends. So, he not only started working unusual hours in his BSL-3 lab, but in August he was doing most of it on weekends.
I'll do an analysis for all of September plus another for October 1 -10 later in the week. It would be nice to have similar data for some "normal" month prior to the attacks to use for comparison, but I don't recall ever seeing such data.
October 23, 2011 (A) - Last week was another very busy week. As a result of all the 10th anniversary media articles and TV shows, I haven't written a word for my book since October 4. I'm not stuck. I don't have "writer's block." I'm just not finding the time. I'm on page 253 of the first draft. There's probably not much more than 60 or 70 pages left to go. Chronologically, I'm now writing about 2004 and early 2005 when the FBI seemed to first started to focus on Bruce Ivins. On April 4, 2005, Ivins advised the FBI that he'd hired a lawyer and he wasn't going to talk with them any further without his lawyer being present. That's where the current chapter, Chapter 32, will end.
What keeps me so fascinated and busy, preventing me from working on my book, are things like the discovery last week that the animals Ivins was checking in late September and early October of 2001 were in a different suite, not in his B3 suite. Anthrax Truthers had been claiming for MONTHS that Ivins' time in his BSL-3 lab in Suite B3 could be explained by his need to check on the mice and rabbits involved in tests.
I had no reason to believe that the animals weren't in the animal rooms in Suite B3, so I was arguing that it wouldn't take much time to check on the animals.
The counter argument was if the animals were found dead, Ivins might have to perform a necropsy and then spend an hour or so autoclaving them.
My counter-counter argument was that Ivins wouldn't do that if the mice were part of someone else's experiment.
The response was that protocols called for immediate disposal. I didn't buy it, but I'd run out of arguments.
Then, on Dr. Nass's web site, I got into another discussion about the work Ivins was doing with animals. There was an argument which seemed to suggest that Ivins took the animals to his BSL-3 lab in room B313 for some reason. As part of that discussion, I wrote this:
I don't have any direct knowledge of how animals were handled in Suite B3, but I'm pretty sure that the animals remained in the animal rooms from the time they arrived at USAMRIID to the time they were removed after death to be disposed of.
"Anonymous" considered my statements to be "weasly words," and he asked:
The animals Bruce Ivins was tasked to check were in the hot suite.. Yes or No.
That gave me the idea of comparing the notebook times to the in-out log times on pages 49-51 of FBI file #847547. And, BOOM! It turned out that the mice and rabbits weren't even in Suite B3. The logs show that Ivins had to leave Suite B3 to check the animals, which the facts seem to suggest were in Suite B5. So, checking on the animals had absolutely NOTHING to do with the time Ivins was spending in his BSL-3 lab in room B313 in Suite B3.
And the Anthrax Truthers cannot dispute the finding. If they check the same documents, they'll find the same thing.
So, they argue something else.
This morning I recieved an email telling me that the tests on the mice were not the same tests being performed on the rabbits. As usual, the Anthrax Truther wouldn't explain why he was telling me this. He apparently figured it must mean something, even though he can't explain what it means, So, he just mentioned it as more imagined proof of something.
Looking at Ivins' notebook, however, one can see that Ivins checked both the mice and the rabbits at 2200 hours on September 28, 29 and 30. So, unless the argument is that Ivins could be in two places at once, the rabbits were in the same general area as the mice - most likely in Suite B5. They were NOT in Suite B3, and checking on the rabbits also had nothing to do with the time Ivins was spending in his BSL-3 lab in room B313.
The arguments are getting sillier and sillier - even stupid. Yesterday and this morning I received emails arguing that I make mistakes, too. The Anthrax Truther sending the emails is currently fixated on the fact that, for awhile, I didn't know what "AR" stood for in the log entries "CORR TO AR OUT" and "CORR TO AR IN." As proof of his beliefs, he sent me something I wrote back on April 17, 2011:
There appears to have been a second door that Ivins could use to enter and leave his Bacteriology lab. When Ivins used that door (#5 on the diagram above) to exit, the log showed "CORR TO AR OUT" indicating that he was exiting into the corridor to the "AR" area. The logs show he could enter Building 1425, go a different direction and enter his lab via "CORR TO AR IN" without going through the locker room. And, he could exit that same door (#5) and re-enter via the locker room door (#2) a minute later or less. So, the AR door was just an exit into a corridor, and "AR" does not indicate "Animal Room," as some have suggested.
For example, here is the log data for the evening of September 7, 2001:
The log shows Ivins entered Building 1425, and then he used the AR door (#5) to enter his lab instead of the locker room door. A few minutes later, he left his lab via the locker room door (#2) and then re-entered his lab again 2 minutes later via the AR door. After spending more than two hours in the BSL-3 "hot suite," Ivins left the Bacteriology lab via the locker room door at 10:17 p.m., he spent over an hour in his office or somewhere else, and he finally left the building at 11:50 p.m.
It's like arguing with an obnoxious 12 year old. I pointed out a major error he made, and I proved that Ivins' time with the animals had nothing to do with the time he spent in his BSL-3 lab. The Anthrax Truther countered with an argument that I make mistakes, too. And he's showing me that I didn't know what "AR" meant. He wrote at 8:46 this morning:
You thought "AR" (accessed after the B301 keypad entry) was Autoclave Room when it actually was Animal Room.
No, Anthrax Truther, "AR" does NOT mean "Animal Room." No, Anthrax Truther, I did NOT believe that "AR" stood for Autoclave room. In April, I didn't know what it stood for. Now I know that "AR" stands for Animal Resources. The Animal Resources Division was on the other side of the corridor when Ivins used his key card to enter or exit via the rear "crash door" of Suite B3. When the in-out log entry was "CORR TO AR IN," that meant he was entering from the Animal Resource Division corridor. It does NOT mean he was coming from any animal room. That would require that the key card reader have the ability to read minds. More often than not, when Ivins exited through the "crash door" into the Animal Resources Corridor, he was going to his office. When Ivins exited the "front door" of Suite B3, the log entry was "CORR TO BACTI OU" which means he exited out into the Bacteriology Division Corridor.
I realize that this type of discussion would be better done on a forum somewhere, but I'm banned from Lew Weinstein's web site, the forum where the Anthrax Truther posts his nonsense most often. It's where he made most of his claims that Ivins unusual hours in his BSL-3 lab could be explained by the fact that he was checking on mice and rabbits. I'm banned from posting there because they don't like anyone challenging their beliefs with facts, so I'm posting here in response to his endless emails. I prefer this type of discussion to be in public view. It accomplishes nothing to argue with him in private. Any email I send him just generates 100 meaningless, irrational and irrelevant responses.
He's very upset that I showed all his claims to be total nonsense when he claimed that checking on animals explained Ivins' time in his BSL-3 lab.
Enough about that.
Comparing the times in Ivins' notebook to Ivins' in-out logs led me to something else. When I needed a link to Ivins' in-out logs for a couple comments last week, I briefly used the first one I could think of, the in-out logs supplied by USAMRIID. Then I realized that that file only contains the times he spent in his BSL-3 lab and didn't show his entries into Building 1425 or in and out of corridors, which is what my comments were about. (I was looking at my print-outs when I wrote the comments.) So, I dug up the link to the FBI file which shows that kind of in-out information on pages 49 through 57. (And on prior pages it shows how they used the in-out logs to check on whether Ivins may have been working with another individual who was also in the building during some times Ivins was in the building.)
The USAMRIID file contains Ivins' in-out entries for the change room for January through December of 2001.
The FBI file contains Ivins' evening in-out entries for all of Building 1425 for August 1 through October 10, 2001.
The Frontline program "The Anthrax Files" which aired on October 11 insinuated that Ivins normally worked in the evenings, so they claimed that the times Ivins spent in the "hot" area of Suite B3 in August, September and October of 2001 weren't really that unusual even though the chart shows those hours are VERY unusual:
A question occurred to me: What was Ivins doing in Building 1425 during those times prior to August of 2001? Ivins job did not require him to work 16 hour days. It appears that Ivins even had to create "make work" for his assistants to keep them busy. The assistants told investigators that they made batches of spores using shaker flasks that they believed were going to replenish the contents of flask RMR-1029, but none of it actually went into flask RMR-1029. So, Ivins either just dumped those spores into an autoclave, or he condensed them and stored them somewhere in the cold room B311. (He didn't use them in the anthrax letters because the facts says the spores in the letters were grown on agar plates not in shaker flasks.)
Ivins told FBI agents that he'd often go to work just to get away from his home life. So, he was just hanging around in Building 1425, sometimes sleeping in the lounge in Suite B3.
The USAMRIID in-out logs show not only the times Ivins went through the change room in the evenings, but also during the day. For January 2001, they show he didn't use the keypad until the 17th, when he apparently spent a lot of time in his lab during the day. On the 19th he also spent some time in his lab during the day. Then, on the 21st he spent 36 seconds in his BSL-3 lab in the evening, from 21:32:20 to 21:32:56. So, the chart above isn't about Ivins time in his BSL-3 lab, it's what it says, it's about his time in Suite B3. And, the USAMRIID logs don't show his entries into and out of B3, they only show when he went through the change room and used the keypad.
The FBI logs show when Ivins entered and left Suite B3 in the evenings and when he entered and left the building and certain parts of the building. I'll analyzing August of 2001 to see what the data tells me about the "normal" time Ivins spent in Building 1425 in the evenings. If the data shows anything of interest, I'll post the information as a new comment when I'm done.
& Changes: Sunday, October 16, 2011, thru Saturday, October 22,
October 22, 2011 (C) - Damn! Someone just pointed out to me that today's article in the Vancouver Sun is very much like the article that appeared in the Kansas City Star on October 10. The Sun article seems much much longer, but the article in the Star could have been a trimmed down version of the longer article. The first paragraphs in both articles are identical. So are many of the other paragraphs. But there are also differences. It could just be that McClatchy et al cranked out various versions of their story on October 10 with the hope that someone outside of the McClatchy chain will pick one of them up and pay for printing it. And the Vancouver Sun just decided to print one of the versions.
It would be interesting to compare one to the other, but that would require using too much copyrighted material. I'll wait to see what tomorrow's article looks like. If it's nearly the same as the October 11 article in the Macon Telegraph or the October 12 article in the Miami Herald, I probably won't spend much time on analyzing it or Monday's article.
October 22, 2011 (B) - Uh oh! McClatchy, ProPublica and Frontline are at it again. I just learned that the Vancouver Sun (which does not appear to be a McClatchy newspaper) has published the first in a three part series about the anthrax investigation. The first part is titled "Was this man the anthrax killer?" The second part will be published tomorrow, and the third part on Monday.
So, we're in for another three rounds of bad information and bad research that need to be debunked. Let's start with this:
Already, an FBI science consultant had concluded that the attack powder was made with a rare strain of anthrax known as Ames that's used in research laboratories worldwide.
The Ames strain was used in only 18 labs, 15 of them in the U.S., one in England, one in Canada and one in Sweden. At the time of the attacks, it was thought to be a common strain used worldwide. We now know that belief was wrong.
The next distortion of the facts:
What kind of murderer, they wonder, would ask the cops to test his own gun for ballistics?
Ivins emails show he believed that the spores he used in the attack were totally untraceble. So, he was probably doing as sociopathic criminals often do, he was insinuating himself into the investigation to learn what the investigators knew. And, he was certain in his beliefs about the untraceablity of the Ames strain he used. So, the McClatchy et al reasoning about what a standard criminal would think are irrelevant. The case is about what Bruce Ivins knew and believed at the time of the attacks.
Yet records discovered by Frontline, McClatchy and Pro-Publica reveal publicly for the first time that Ivins made available at least three other samples that the investigation ultimately found to contain the crucial variants, including one after he allegedly tried to deceive investigators with the April submission.
There were 606 samples of the Ames strain found at USAMRIID. It appears that 341 of them belonged to Ivins. For the attacks, Ivins appears to have used spores gathered from discarded plates used to test the concentrations of spores in aliquots. He didn't use any spores taken directly from flask RMR-1029. The fact that Ivins gave an Ames sample from flask RMR-1029 to Terry Abshire that Ivins believed had no connection to the attack anthrax does NOT indicate that Ivins was innocent.
Claire Fraser-Liggett, a genetics consultant whose work provided some of the most important evidence linking Ivins to the attack powder, said she would have voted to acquit.
Acquittal isn't the same as being innocent. Lots of guilty people are acquitted and set free for lack of sufficient evidence. And, it seems very clear that Claire Fraser-Liggett has not looked at all the evidence.
"This mailbox wasn't a random mailbox," said Edward Montooth, a recently retired FBI agent who ran the inquiry. "There was significance to it for multiple reasons. And when we spoke to some of the behavioural science folks, they explained to us that everything is done for a reason with the perpetrator. And you may never understand it because you don't think the same way." Ivins was a complicated, eccentric man.
I've made this exact point repeatedly. And it undoubtedly applies to Clair Fraser-Liggett.
The article by McClatchy et al says:
Sometime before the mailings, prosecutors theorize, Ivins withdrew a sample of anthrax from his flask - labelled RMR-1029 - and began to grow large quantities of the deadly germ. If so, his choice of strains seemed inconsistent with the FBI's portrait of him as a cunning killer. Surrounded by a veritable library of germs, they say, Ivins picked the Dugway Ames spores, a culture that was expressly under his control.
This is FALSE information. It's McClatchy et al's theory of what the prosecutors' theory might be. The facts indicate that the attack spores were grown on plates that were allowed to sit around for weeks in Ivins' lab at lower than incubator temperatures. And, Ivins believed that the spores he scraped off of the plates before sterilization were from a totally untraceable strain. McClatchy et al are using 20-20 hindsight, which Ivins did not have.
Using the Ames strain "pointed right at USAMRIID," said W. Russell Byrne, who preceded Andrews as the chief of the Bacteriology Division and who's among those who are convinced of Ivins's innocence. "That was our bug."
Again, all the facts say that no one realized in September of 2001 that the Ames strain was used mainly by USAMRIID, and Ivins most of all. Everyone thought the Ames strain was common and used in labs all over the world, thus making it totally untraceable. For that reason, Ivins appears to have chosen it over any other strain that he would have believed to be "less common" and "more traceable."
Next was drying. Simple evaporation can do the job, but it also would expose other scientists in a hot suite. Lieber said the lab had two pieces of equipment that could have worked faster: a lyophilizer, or freeze dryer, and a smaller device called a "Speed Vac."
There was no lyophizer in Ivins' lab. And "simple evaporation" done inside a biosafety cabinet will NOT expose other scientists in a hot suite. It's more false information from McClatchy et al. The biosafety cabinet has fans which suck in air from outside the cabinet and push it through filters. So, the cabinets are designed to keep dry spores that may be floating around inside the cabinet from escaping to the outside.
Then the article ends with the familiar opinions of his bosses and friends at USAMRIID who do not think he could have made the anthrax because they don't know how to do it. The article downplays the fact that the FBI and the NAS had scientists who say that the attack anthrax could have been easily made in Ivins' lab, and they could prove it by doing it.
Tomorrow's second installment will undoubtedly be more of the same - false and distorted information resulting from bad research and biased reporting.
October 22, 2011 (A) - This morning, there's a new editorial in the Washington Post about the Amerithrax investigation, and there's an opinion piece by lawyer/conspiracy theorist Barry Kissin in the Frederick News-Post.
The Washington Post's editorial claims that the FBI had a good case against Ivins, but the "coup de gras " was "cutting edge" scientific evidence which linked Ivins to the attacks. The Post then says:
This scientific evidence came under fire in February when the National Academy of Sciences, which was commissioned by the FBI to review the case, reported that the bureau had not performed enough tests or been precise enough to conclude definitively that Mr. Ivins was the lone culprit.
That's a somewhat screwball interpretation of what the NAS determined. The science that pointed to flask RMR-1029 would NEVER have proved that Ivins was "the lone culprit," and no one in the FBI or anywhere else ever believed it could. The flask was stored in a refrigerated "cold room" that was not connected to Ivins' lab. The "cold room" was accessable to anyone with access to Suite B3. The Post has the facts backwards. The science led to flask RMR-1029; that flask pointed to Ivins as the person in charge of the "murder weapon;" but the coup de gras was all the evidence that was found after the science pointed to Ivins, evidence which confirmed that Ivins had means, motive and opportunity.
The Washington Post then says:
Now three independent scientists have teamed up to publish a paper in the Journal of Bioterrorism and Biodefense that points to other alleged failings in the FBI’s testing procedures. Also this month, a joint investigation by PBS’s “Frontline” newsmagazine, the ProPublica online newsroom and McClatchy Newspapers raised additional questions about the accuracy of the FBI investigation. For example, the journalists revealed that Mr. Ivins handed over to investigators lab flasks that contained telltale markers found in the anthrax used in the attacks. This revelation appears to contradict FBI assertions that Mr. Ivins withheld or manipulated evidence.
Groan. Shouldn't it be the responsiblity of newspapers and TV journalists to check the facts? Here the Post is assuming that the "three independent scientists" (which included two well-known conspiracy theorists) were somehow finding some new evidence instead of simply distorting evidence and making stuff up. And the Post doesn't even question what Frontline, ProPublica and McClatchy said about the FBI's investigation.
The point of the Washington Post's editorial is to state that "Congress should convene a panel of independent law enforcement specialists and scientists to pore over the evidence collected in the course of the FBI investigation."
That's fine by me. I'd very much like to see an independent investigation of all the claims made by Frontline, ProPublica, McClatchy and the "three independent scientists" in order to show the world that their claims are total nonsense.
The Barry Kissin opinion piece in the Frederick News-Post is titled "Anthrax Whodunit." It begins with this:
Back on Aug. 29, 2008, The FNP published a column by Katherine Heerbrandt titled "If not Ivins ..." Heerbrandt began with the viewpoint of Norm Covert, a well-known former Fort Detrick public affairs officer: "The anthrax in the mailings, he says, was 'highly bred, weapons-grade ... with a silica coating and a slight electrical charge so that each particle repelled the other ... each particle no more than five microns.' Ivins had neither the expertise nor the equipment to create such a sophisticated form of anthrax ..."
That poses the question: When do absurd claims stop being simply wrong and become totally stupid? The endlessly repeated claim that the attack anthrax had a silica coating has been disproved in every way imaginable. There was no silica coating. Anyone who claims there was is either ignorant of the facts or deliberatelly ignoring the facts. There was no silica. The element Silicon was found inside the spore coats - where it had accumulated via natural processes from the growth media. The element Silicon was almost certainly in the form of silicic acid, since the compound silica wouldn't accumulate inside a spore that way, and silicic acid would.
Mr. Kissin's conspiracy theorist side shows itself when he says:
The FBI and Justice Department have been caught not only peddling a bogus case against Ivins, but also covering up evidence of the anthrax letters' connections to "the government's classified work on anthrax." And all it's going to take to block further inquiry is their "adamant opposition"?
And, of course, Mr. Kissin also calls for an inquiry into the case. So, once again it seems to me that the easist way to clear the air is to debunk the claims from the conspiracy theorists, Frontline, ProPublica, McClatchy and the "three independent scientists," two of whom have been talking since 2001 about government conspiracies to cover-up secret and illegal bioweapons programs. Proving that Ivins was the anthrax killer won't change their conspiracy theory. It'll just prove to them that Ivins was part of the conspiracy, since he was an anthrax expert and worked in a U.S. military facility. One of the "independent scientists," Barbara Hatch Rosenberg pointed at Steven Hatfill for years as being a "rogue CIA agent" who was responsible for the anthrax attacks. If that isn't what she still believes, then it wouldn't be a major change for her to start claiming that Ivins was the rogue scientist who used her imagined U.S. government stockpile of illegal bioweapons to launch the anthrax attacks of 2001.
Yes, we need an investigation. We need an investigation of the nonsense spouted by Frontline, ProPublica, McClatchy and the "three independent scientists." Their claims don't show that someone else sent the anthrax letters. They never point to someone else. They never show better evidence pointing to someone else. Their claims basically just say that government employees sometimes don't write clear enough or specific enough, and thus they leave room for Frontline, ProPublica, McClatchy and "independent scientist" to twist and distort the facts. And, somehow they believe that their own distorted facts mean someone else was the culprit. So, the facts distorted by those media groups and individuals needs to be un-distorted. Everyone agrees on the solution. We just don't agree on what the problem is.
October 21, 2011 (C) - This morning I demonstrated in my (B) comment that the mice Ivins checked on during the evenings of October 1 and 2, 2001, were in someone else's lab, and Ivins' checking had absolutely nothing to do with the time he spent in his BSL-3 lab on those same evenings. This afternoon, while I was working out at my health club, I realized that I should have checked the previous evenings, too. So, when I returned home, I did so. Here's the information for the five evenings that Ivins checked on mice and rabbits, September 28 through October 2, matching the time Ivins claimed he checked the mice and rabbits (always at 10 pm) to Ivins' in-out logs (pp 55-56) for those evenings:
September 28, 2001:
10:05 PM - CORR TO AR OUT
10:00 PM - Claimed to check mice & rabbits
10:40 PM - CORR TO AR IN
September 29, 2001:
9:58 PM - CORR TO BACTI OUT
10:00 PM - Checked mice & rabbits
11:18 PM - 1425 REAR DR OUT
September 30, 2001:
10:06 PM - CORR TO AR OUT
10:00 PM - Claimed to check mice & rabbits
10:34 PM - CORR TO BACTI IN
October 1, 2001:
9:19 PM - CORR TO BACTI OUT
10:00 PM - Checked mice
10:13 PM - CORR TO BACTI IN
October 2, 2001:
9:39 PM - 1425 REAR DR OUT
10:00 PM - Claimed to check mice
So, it's clear that the times Ivins recorded in his notebook that he checked on the mice and rabbits were only approximate times.
It's a certainty that the animals were in some other suite outside of Bacteriology Suite B3.
It's a certainty that the time Ivins spent checking on the animals had absolutely nothing to do with the time he was spending in his BSL-3 lab allegedly making the anthrax powders.
And, it's a certainty that the Anthrax Truthers who believed that Ivins' checking on the mice and rabbits somehow proved that Ivins couldn't have been making the anthrax powders were wrong. As always, the Anthrax Truthers just believe what they want to believe.
What's less certain is where the animals were located. The in-out logs recorded when Ivins used his key card to get into other areas in Building 1425, such as the library or the area identified as "795". So, it appears the mice and rabbits were in Suite B5 where there were no BSL-3 laboratories and some FBI reports indicate there was no electronic lock on the suite door, and thus no key card was required for entry.
October 21, 2011 (B) - I just came across something very interesting while arguing on Dr. Meryl Nass's web site. It's a good illustration of why I continue to argue with the Anthrax Truthers even though they NEVER find evidence to prove their beliefs. I argue with them because they sometimes find evidence confirming the FBI's findings which the Truthers mistakingly believe proves their case. Here's a page from Ivins' note book that the Anthrax Truthers keep claiming proves that Ivins was doing legitimate work on a couple of the evenings that the FBI says he was probably making the anthrax powders in his BSL-3 lab in room B313 of Building 1425:
Note that the page says that on 1-Oct and 2-Oct Ivins checked on mice that were part of a colleague's study at 2200 hours or 10 p.m. (We know the mice are part of a colleague's study because it says so in note #21 on page 32 of the FBI Summary Report.) The Anthrax Truthers claim the above page from Ivins notebook shows that Ivins was doing legitimate work in his BSL-3 lab in room B313 of Suite B3.
However, in responding to a comment by Richard Rowley on Dr. Nass's site, I decided to see how those times match up to Ivin's in-out logs (pp 55) for the same evenings. What I found was surprising, even to me.
On October 1, Ivins the in-out logs show that Ivins wasn't in Suite B3 at 10 PM, but he was in building 1425. The in-out logs say Ivins left Suite B3 at 9:19 PM and returned again at 10:13 PM. So, if he was checking on mice that evening at 10 PM, he was doing the checking in another suite.
And for October 2, the in-out log entries show something a bit different. They show that Ivins entered Building 1425 at 7:24 PM and left at 9:39 PM. So, if he checked on the mice at 10 PM, the mice were either in Building 1412 or Ivins checked on them somewhere in Building 1425 before 9:39 PM and falsely wrote in his log that he checked them at 10 PM.
So, the FACTS say that the checking on the mice in no way gives Ivins any explanation for what he was doing in the BSL-3 lab on those critical evenings. And, it appears to show that Ivins deliberately made incorrect entries regarding the times he checked on the mice for his colleague.
Once again, claims by Anthrax Truthers that Ivins was doing legitimate work in his BSL-3 lab on the evenings in question are shown to be bogus claims. The data actually shows the opposite of what the Truthers claim. The data shows that (1) checking the mice was not part of the time Ivins spent in his BSL-3 lab, (2) the mice were in a different suite, and (3) Ivins wrote in his log that he checked the mice at a time when the in-out logs say he was already gone from the building. I.e. Ivins made incorrect entries in his log to show that he did things at times he didn't really do them.
When you do a correct analysis, new data will always fit and confirm the analysis. When you do a bogus analysis - as the Anthrax Truthers do - new data will always show that their analyis is bogus.
October 21, 2011 (A) - Jeeze! Today is supposed to be the day the world comes to an end! I'd totally forgotten about it until it was mentioned on CNN while I was having breakfast. Reverend Harold Camping is standing by his prediction, although he's now adding a "maybe" and "probably" in front of it. It could happen at any time, so I'd better type fast:
The October 20 issue of The Daily Reveille, which is published by Louisiana State University, contains an article about Martin Hugh-Jones titled "Professor is worldwide anthrax specialist." The subtitle is "Research disputes FBI findings," which refers to his paper in the Journal of BioTerrorism and BioDefense. The Daily Reveille article says,
Hugh-Jones said his study of anthrax began long before the chemical became notorious in the United States, but anthrax research became more difficult after the chemical gained national attention.
He said new and interesting questions are always emerging as he studies the chemical that causes problems in countries around the world.
The "chemical" the Daily Reveille is writing about is presumably anthrax, which, of course, is a bacterium, not a chemical. Obviously, they didn't let Martin Hugh-Jones proof-read the article before they published it. But, it does prove a point: Don't believe everything you read in the newspapers - even university newspapers ... and journals about BioTerrorism and BioDefense.
On the subject of errors made by the media, ABC News Channel 7 in Arlington, VA, has a "2001 Anthrax attacks timeline" which includes this breaking news:
Oct. 2, 2001: Two weeks after sniffing powder in a letter addressed to Jennifer Lopez, The Sun photo editor Patrick Stevens, who worked at the American Media building in Florida, is hospitalized.
So, it was someone named Patrick Stevens who was the first victim of the attacks, not Robert Stevens? And WJLA Channel 7 still believes that Stevens got anthrax from the J-Lo letter? There is apparently no way to stop that kind of nonsense from being printed over and over and over.
ADDED NOTE: Apparently, WJLA Channel 7 reads comments made to their articles. They changed the date for the first mailing to "September 17-18" and they changed the entry for Oct. 2 to read as follows:
Oct. 2, 2001: Two weeks after sniffing powder in a letter sent to the American Media building in Florida, The Sun photo editor Robert Stevens, who worked at in the building in Boca Raton, is hospitalized.
It's definitely rare to see a news outlet correct an error. Too bad Frontline and McClatchy don't do the same thing.
October 20, 2011 (B) - I'm involved in a couple interesting discussions. The discussion on Dr. Meryl Nass's web site brought out the fact that of the 1,070 samples of the Ames strain the FBI found in 18 different laboratories, 606 of those samples came from USAMRIID, and of those, 262 came from one researcher at USAMRIID and 314 came from another researcher. Since Bruce Ivins was USAMRIID's leading expert on the Ames strain, it seems very likely that Ivins had the 314 samples. And yet, there were only 8 samples from the 1,070 that had all four of the key mutations that were found in the attack anthrax.
So, if someone wanted to steal a sample of anthrax from Bruce Ivins, they had 314 samples to choose from, including the "ancestor Ames samples" from the cow that died in 1981. Only 4 samples in the B311 cold room actually had the four key mutations. So, if someone stole a sample from flask RMR-1029, it seems it would be a 100 to 1 chance that they would steal a sample from one of the containers with the four mutations.
Also, in a discussion on a ProPublica.com forum, the evidence came up that Ivins used a 6-year-old child from his wife's day care center to write the anthrax letters and address the envelopes. That led to me mentioning that on September 17, 1993, Ivins wrote a letter to the editor at the Frederick News-Post declaring that pedophilia was just a matter of “sexual orientation” and expressing concern about “discrimination” against pedophiles. One defender of Bruce Ivins who goes by the name "Seattle Reader" immediately responded by defending Ivins and claiming the letter was just Ivins' funny way of meaning the opposite of what he actually wrote. I responded with this:
My response seemed to bring that particular argument to a halt. So, now I'm arguing with a guy who wants to know why Ivins didn't send the anthrax to Kappa Kappa Gamma, if that was his obsession. Is it really so difficult to understand that someone can be obsessed with one thing and at the same time have problems at work that motivate him to do things related to his work problems? Who says a person is allowed only one motive per lifetime?
October 20, 2011 (A) - Because discussions seemed to have slowed down a bit, I had time to take a look at the docket for the Stevens v USA lawsuit. It looks like the trial date has been pushed to early January. Previously, it was scheduled to start before Christmas. I also found that the government has moved to exclude testimony from a couple of Maureen Stevens' "expert witnesses," Richard Wade and Park Dietz. The government's reasoning:
The Court should exclude Dr. Wade’s testimony because he is not qualified as an expert in laboratory biosecurity, or personal security; and his opinions add no value beyond a layperson’s understanding.
The Court should exclude Dr. Wade’s testify for its unreliable methodology, because he did not cite any industry standards or conduct a risk assessment, and he relies on unsupported assumptions
Dr. Dietz’s opinions on USAMRIID’s violence prevention policies and training methods should be excluded because they are based on false and insupportable assumptions rather than facts
Dr. Dietz’s causation opinion should be excluded as wholly unsupported by scientific, technical, or otherwise specialized knowledge
Seems reasonable to me.
October 19, 2011 (B) - It appears that the entire area within Suite B3 that is outlined in red below was considered to be a "BSL-2 containment area." Within the BioSafety Level-2 area, Ivins' lab in room B313, Worsham's lab in B309 and possibly her lab in B306 were BSL-3 containment areas. Everything within the red line is considered to be "hot." But the BioSafety Level-3 areas are "hotter" than the other areas.
What the floorplan shows is that Ivins would have to leave his BSL-3 lab and go through a BSL-2 area to get to the showers. And Patricia Worsham would have an even longer walk through BSL-2 areas from her BSL-3 lab to do the same thing. There's nothing wrong with that, but it's not how an outsider/layman would envision such things.
What it does, however, is explain a couple paragraphs from some FBI reports. Page 26 in FBI pdf file #847443 describes a tour of Bacteriology Suite 3 (B3) that Ivins gave to some FBI agents:
IVINS took the agents on a walk through of the areas of
Building 1425 where he handled the anthrax letters. He received
the Daschle letter contained in two or three ziploc bags from
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX He took the letter through the B3
passbox into Room 313, IVINS' lab space in B3. 313 can be seen
through the window to the left of the B3 passbox as well as through
the B3 crash door.
and in the next paragraph on page 26:
Ivins pointed out the B3 cold room as being on the right
side of the hallway when looking through the crash door, with a
black box on the door. Room 308 is the pass through to suite B4.
The mouse animal room is the third door down on the right when
looking through the crash door. The guinea pig room is across the
hall with the cleaning supplies for the suite located to the right
of the door as the room is entered.
These two paragraphs tell me that the FBI agents couldn't enter the BSL-2 "hot" containment area enclosed in red in the floorplan above. They could only look into the "containment suite" through windows from the "cold" side. A scientist with the right immunizations, like Ivins, could walk in one door of Suite B3 and out the other door in street clothes. But, going into the BSL-3 labs required changing into scrubs and lab shoes. Leaving the BSL-3 lab to leave Suite B3 required removing the scrubs and lab shoes and taking a shower. But, a scientist could leave a BSL-3 lab and go to other areas or rooms within Suite B3 and return to the BSL-3 lab without changing out of scubs or taking a shower.
The floorplan also says that scientists working in BSL-3 labs not only had to walk through BSL-2 areas but also through the "cold" area of the lounge to get to the showers. Again, there's nothing "wrong" with that. It's just not how an outsider/layman would likely picture things. Live and learn.
October 19, 2011 (A) - A Fox News article titled "Doubts Persist About FBI's Anthrax Investigation 10 Years Later Amid New BioTerror Concerns" has a tidbit of information that may be new:
Asked about Quantico letter [that accused Ayaad Assaad of being a "potential terrorist"] and whether it was sent by the same person who sent the anthrax -- the FBI told Fox quote
“The Quantico letter was thoroughly investigated both with regard to who sent it as well as the allegations contained in it. The person mentioned in the letter did not mail the anthrax, and we were unable to determine who sent the anonymous Quantico letter."
October 18, 2011 (C) - An Anthrax Truther just sent me a link to a couple pages from the book "Plague Wars: The Terrifying Reality of Biological Warfare" by Tom Mangold and Jeff Goldberg. The link was evidently intended to prove something about why the anthrax attack spores of 2001 may have been microencapsulated, as claimed in the Journal of Bioterrorism & BioDefense article by Martin Hugh-Jones, Barbara Hatch Rosenberg and Stuart Jacobsen and hyped by The New York Times. But, the section from "Plague Wars" shows just the opposite. It shows why there was no reason for microencapsulation of spores. The book says on page 375 and into page 376:
The authors first write about using microencapsulation to protect bacterial and viral agents from exposure to "their natural enemies heat and light." Without such protection, the living bacteria and viruses would quickly die from the heat of an explosion or from exposure to the UV rays of the sun, and they wouldn't survive long enough to infect anyone.
But, for dormant anthrax spores, there is exactly the opposite problem. Anthrax spores are already somewhat protected from heat and UV light by their exosporium and their natural spore coat. Therefore, to make a useful bioweapon they need to be genetically altered to make them more susceptible to the effects of heat and Ultra-violet light, otherwise the hardy spores will survive for decades and make the infected areas uninhabitable.
This is just the latest in an endless stream of materials I've been sent over the past decade by Anthrax Truthers who believe the materials somehow support their beliefs, but in reality usually disprove their beliefs. Every time they do that, it makes me more certain of my analysis. The Anthrax Truthers usually just forget about the material they sent, and they move on to trying to make the same absurd claims using some other item from another book or scientific journal. But, sometimes, like this time, they send me nasty emails arguing that I misinterpreted what the book's authors wrote.
October 18, 2011 (B) - This morning's New York Times contains an editorial titled "Who Mailed the Anthrax Letters?" It adds to the nonsense printed in the article by William Broad and Scott Shane several days ago, and tends to indicate that the nonsense may be coming primarily from the editors at the Times, not from the reporters. The editorial says:
Last week, The Times reported that one of the leading anthrax authorities and two colleagues believe that distinctive chemicals in the mailed anthrax suggest it was produced by sophisticated manufacturing, which the scientists deemed far beyond Dr. Ivins’s capabilities.
Martin Hugh-Jones is definitely an anthrax authority, but that's because he's a veterinarian. He's one of the world's leading experts on how animals contract anthrax and how it is spread from place to place in nature. His two supposed "colleagues," Dr. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg and Dr. Stuart Jacobsen have been spouting conspiracy theories since 2001. It was Dr. Rosenberg who convinced Nicholas Kristof and the New York Times to point to Steven Hatfill as being the anthrax mailer. For months the Times spread total nonsense about Hatfill. One would think they would have learned a lesson from that. They were sued by Hatfill and escaped by convincing judges that Hatfill was a "celebrity" and therefore needed to prove actual malice on the part of the Times before he could collect. The government paid Hatfill nearly $6 million because they bent to the pressure from the Times and others and labeled Hatfill a "person of interest."
This morning's editorial in the Times also shows a kinship with McClatchy/Propublica and Frontline. They make the same ridiculous arguments. The New York Times editorial says:
As for the circumstantial evidence, an investigation by PBS Frontline, assisted by ProPublica and the McClatchy newspapers, cast doubt on two elements that prosecutors had declared important. A contention that Dr. Ivins worked extraordinarily long hours alone at night in his laboratory just before the mailings looked less suspicious after the journalists found that he regularly worked late hours in other labs and offices.
Yes, and the fact that he "regularly" worked long hours in offices and other laboratories explains why the guards and others in Building 1425 didn't pay any attention when Ivins suddenly started working those hours in his BioSafety Level 3 laboratory instead of his office and other laboratories where he'd previously spent his time at night and on weekends. The guards had become accustomed to seeing him in the building at night. They just had no way of knowing that he was doing something different from what he normally did.
The evidence is that Ivins was working in his BSL-3 lab alone and unsupervised with equipment that he could use to create the powders. And why couldn't he explain what he was doing in his BSL-3 lab on those evenings? Why did he suddenly start doing something different? What was he doing? It's the fact that he was in his personal BSL-3 lab doing something different that is the evidence against Ivins. The fact that he normally worked long hours only shows why his time spent making the anthrax powders went unnoticed by others.
The Times editorials' second point is:
And a contention that Dr. Ivins tried to mislead investigators by submitting an anthrax sample free of genetic markers looked questionable after the journalists found that he had submitted other samples that contained the markers.
It is the New York Times that is doing the "misleading" here. The sample Ivins gave to Terry Abshire in February of 2002 was NOT a submission to the FBI repository. It was NOT prepared in response to the subpoena. Abshire had asked Ivins to give her a sample of the Ames strain that she could use as a "standard" in her tests, something to compare the FBIR samples against. However, the sample was evidently never used for that purpose; it was just forgotten about and sat around in Abshire's cold room for years until it was noticed and became one of the samples that matched the attack anthrax. It proves nothing about anything. Ivins didn't know about the morphs in February of 2002, and he didn't use spores directly from flask RMR-1029 in the letters. So, there was no reason for him to not give Abshire the sample. The February 2002 slant created from flask RMR-1029 that Ivins gave to Abshire for the FBI repository, on the other hand, was improperly prepared. It was prepared in a way that meant it could not be used as evidence in court. It's very likely that the sample Ivins gave to Abshire that the Times is making such a big deal about was also not prepared according to subpoena instructions, so it couldn't be used in court, either. It appears that, years later, a sample was taken from it to create the properly prepared slant that became FBIR sample #053-070.
The real problem with the Amerithrax case is that it is so complex that newspaper editors, conspiracy theorists and True Believers can find little items which they can distort and spin into nonsensical claims that might seem important to members of the general public who do not regularly follow the case. In reality, though, it's just meaningless nonsense.
(NOTE: Click HERE to go to my interactive blog to discuss this comment.)
October 18, 2011 (A) - The Journal of BioTerrorism & Biodefense finally has the link to the Hugh-Jones, Barbara Hatch Rosenber, Stuart Jacobsen paper on their web site. It's in a "Special Issue".
October 17, 2011 (B) - The paper by Martin Hugh-Jones and conspiracy theorists Barbara Hatch Rosenberg and Stuart Jacobsen is now available for viewing somewhere on the Journal of BioTerrorism & BioDefense (JBTBD) web site. (I can't find it, but I've got the link.) The paper is titled "The 2001 Attack Anthrax: Key Observations," and it is indeed the same paper that appeared elsewhere in June.
Here are some tidbits from the paper:
A priori, the most likely sites of production of the letter anthrax are laboratories that work with dry spores: Battelle, Dugway, and DRES, and their associated institutions and subcontractors.
The Latin term "A priori" means that the conclusion is self evident and doesn't require experience or research to reach. But, in this case it's only self evident to conspiracy theorists who wish to believe that the powders were "weaponized" in some secret and illegal U.S. government bioweapons development facility.
The paper then proceeds to distort all the facts to show that the authors' presumed "weaponized" spores could have been made in an illegal bioweapons facility and then stolen by or turned over to the person who mailed the letters.
As for USAMRIID, which the FBI has examined closely, there is no material evidence that the attack spores were made there, and no direct evidence that an individual at USAMRIID made the anthrax, or mailed it. The FBI cannot point to specific equipment, facilities or materials that would have been needed at the site(s) where the spores were produced, or the time required for their production
Of course, there is no "material evidence" proving that the spores were made at Battelle, either. There's just a mountain of circumstantial evidence showing that the spores were made at USAMRIID and not at Battelle.
The article then speculates that the media and senate powders were from "two different production runs" of secret and illegal bioweapons. The facts say, however, that the senate powders are merely purified versions of the media powders. All the dried slime from the growth plates were removed, as were any contaminants. The individual spores in the media powders were indistinguishable from the individual spores in the senate powders- which the paper admits.
Then the paper really goes into true nonsense territory:
Six months after the attacks, an unusual chemical was said to be found in the letter spores, and in November 2003 the
journal Science published an article claiming the spores contained a “polymerized glass” component –a silane or siloxane compound that “leaves a thin glassy coating”. This information was said to have been provided by US Intelligence to officials of two NATO countries.
The article in the journal Science was submitted by a journalist (Gary Matsumoto), not a scientist. And the scientist who advised Matsumoto on the nonsense theories in his article is the same scientist who co-authored the JBTBD paper.
Most of the JBTBD paper is same-old same-old reasoning that conspiracy theorists have been spouting for nearly a decade. Here's an example from page 6:
The effects that a silicon compound on the spore coat may have on spore properties, including dispersibility, cannot be assumed.
In other words, the affects on dispersibility are known for silica particles on the outside of a spore. But, just because the element silicon was found inside the spore coats, that doesn't mean it did not have some "weaponization" purpose. All the authors of the paper want is for the government to prove the negative, i.e., prove that the silicon did not provide some weaponization benefit. Until then, conspiracy theorists will assume there is a "weaponization" benefit. And, they won't allow anyone to assume that there was no weaponization benefit - regardless of what the facts say.
Then, there's this from page 8:
All the evidence in the public domain is consistent with the concept that the spore coats of the attack anthrax were silicone-coated.
That is only true, of course, if you ignore all the evidence in the public domain which shows that the silicon was inside the spore coats and all the testimony from experts who have seen images of the attack anthrax who declared that the spores showed no signs of weaponization utilizing silicon - and they were not silicone-coated.
The paper then wanders into the area of microencapsulation which first showed up years ago. It appears that the authors totally misunderstand the purpose of microencapsulation, and they attempt to argue that the attack spores were "microencapsulated" with silicone even though Sandia's images clearly show that to be totally untrue.
One microencapsulation process involves creating tiny dissolvable spheres which hold lethal viruses or non-spore-forming bacteria which cannot survive being dried. When encased in a liquid inside a microcapsule, the viruses can survive the long storage periods that weapons must remain on shelves until used against an enemy. When ingested, the spheres dissolve and release their deadly contents. This form of microencapsulation is meaningless for spores, however, since spores come in a natural "microcapsule," the spore coat, and spores can survive for decades on shelves until put to use.
Another microencapsulation process involves droplets of liquid growth media that are "encapsulated" by loose particles of silica. In a patented process invented by Ken Alibek and others, tiny silica particles keep the droplets from combining into larger drops. Inside each encapsulated droplet is one or more bacteria. The bacteria feed on the growth media inside the microcapsule and reproduce. The benefit of microencapulation is that, if there's a contaminant in the microcapsule, it cannot affect the entire run. It can affect only the contents of the tiny microcapsule.
The Hugh-Jones et al paper concludes its theories about microencapsulated spores with this:
Although a process of this type is not known to have been applied to bacterial spores, methods have been developed to encapsulate biologicals with silicone polymers that confer high stability while protecting biological activity.
Of course the process hasn't been applied to bacterial spores. Spores are naturally microencapsulated, and Alibek's process is for growing bacteria. It's not a process for coating spores. The paper continues with this on page 8:
Microencapsulation can provide protection from the environment and better dispersibility and flowability.
No, it can't. Microencapulating a spore makes no sense, since the spore already has dispersibility and flowability. And the other type of microencapsulation is a method of eliminating the common problem of contamination ruining an entire large vat of germinating bacteria. Microencapsulation eliminates the large vat and uses instead millions of tiny vats and limiting the size of each vat to about 1 millimeter in diameter. So, contamination can only ruin what's within one of those tiny vats. Everything in all the other "vats" would still be okay and uncontaminated.
The paper seems to know it's microencapsulation theory is nonsense, since it says on page 9:
Whether or not the hypothesis just presented is accurate in detail [which it is NOT], it is obvious that the attack spores must have been treated with some procedure that produced the silicon-tin signature observed on their spore coats. That signature, alone, shows that the attack spores were grossly over-qualified for their job. The FBI has adequately proclaimed and demonstrated that surrogate samples, containing no silicon or tin, can be sufficiently dangerous. Perpetrators who were inspired on 9/11 and ready to go on September 18 would not need to bother with unnecessary complications like coatings. If they could, they would take advantage of pre-existing spore preparations, regardless of their sophistication.
That is an example of making a false assumption about coatings and then saying coatings weren't necessary, but the fact that they are assumed to be there means they must have come from some illegal bioweapons facility.
The rest of the JBTBD paper is pretty much the same. If the FBI didn't find evidence to prove the conspiracy theories, it's because the FBI didn't look hard enough or in the right places. The final paragraph (on page 10) says:
Critical scientific questions, some of which have already been indicated in this paper, must be answered before the anthrax case
can be laid to rest. That will require scientific expertise and political neutrality, ideally with full access to all that the FBI knows, and with the resources to commission additional work at other laboratories if the existing scientific information is inadequate. Indeed, further scientific investigation may be the only way to bring the facts of the case to light.
No, the facts of the case are already under very bright lights. It's only because some people have different theories (no two of which appear to be the same) that those people refuse to see what the facts of the case prove.
But, I also believe there should be some relatively inexpensive way of settling a lot of the debate - perhaps even a way that would pit the conspiracy theorists and True Believers against scientists and investigators who have actual facts. Unfortunately, it can't be a public debate between individuals, since the conspiracy theorists rely too much on beliefs which cannot be proven or disproven, so a public debate would just be more of the same: conspiracy theorists asking unanswerable questions and claiming that because the questions aren't answered, there must be a conspiracy. A debate with rules and written questions and answers might work, though, if the referees can be agreed upon. It's a thought.
October 17, 2011 (B) - Ah! There's a public debate is going on on ProPublica's web site. I posted a comment there a couple days ago, and now "Seattle Reader" and "Watchmaker" are arguing with my post. Example comments from "Watchmaker":
We now apparently live in a police state. We allowed the FBI to kill one of our own - an innocent man who devoted his life to government service.
If the FBI can do that to Dr Ivins, they can do it to any of us.
And, "Watchmaker" says this about me:
You can’t argue with a sick mind.
It's so typical of True Believers that they go directly to personal attacks instead of debating the evidence. That's the reason why a public debate between Anthrax Truthers and experts on the FBI's evidence would never work. The True Believers would launch into vicious personal attacks the instant their beliefs are challenged.
October 16, 2011 (C) - For several months I've been accumulating information about the layout of USAMRIID Bacteriology Suite 3 in Building 1425 at Ft. Detrick. Here's what I have so far:
The information on the floorplan was collected from various reports and documents. The "crash door" into the Animal Resources corridor is merely the type of door that has with a "crash bar" or "panic bar" that you can push against with your hip or belly to open, just like emergency exits in movie theaters. It's referred to as a "crash door" in depositions in the Stevens vs USA lawsuit and elsewhere.
The "Cold room" in B311 was where Ivins kept flask RMR-1029 and dozens of other test tubes, beakers and flasks which, among other things, contained Ames anthrax spores. The freezer outside of the cold room contained frozen bacteria, including frozen samples of Ames strain bacteria.
The "Glanders lab" in B312 was shut down after the anthrax attacks, the scientists were moved to other labs in Building 1425, and B312 was turned over to Patricia Worsham for her work with the FBI on the repository project. In Jeanne Guillemin's book she mentions that there were scientists working on the Amerithrax investigation "right next door" to Ivins' BSL-3 lab. The former Ganders lab was where they were working.
Sometime prior to the attacks, they cut the door from Patricia Worsham's lab in Room B309 to allow her to enter and utilize a much bigger lab in Suite 4, room B406. They also knocked out the entire back wall of room B308 and turned that storage room into a passageway into Bacteriology Suite 4.
The biggest remaining puzzle is the location of the keypad Ivins would use when he left the change room to enter his lab. Logic says that the keypad would have been on the outside of the door to Ivins' BSL-3 lab in room B313. But, if so, why did the log entry read "B301 KEYPAD"? Why wasn't it "B313 KEYPAD"? Plus, depositions in the Stevens v USA lawsuit imply or even state that the keypad was used to enter the entire suite.
This is from a January 26, 2011, deposition of Dr. Gerard P. Andrews in the Stevens v USA lawsuit (document 155-4):
It seems to say that the keypad was used to exit from the change room into the main lab section of Suite B3. Note that it says "they would have to punch a personal access code that was issued to them by security once they were cleared for access into the containment suite." It doesn't say that they punched in the access code to get into their personal lab.
And there's this from page 4 of document 155-1, the Defendant's Statement of Facts:
"Containment" in this context also appears to be BSL-2 containment suite B3, not Ivins' BSL-3 containment lab within Suite B3. I tried asking the public relations person at USAMRIID, but I got no response. Perhaps I asked too many questions at one time. I may try again and ask just one question: Where was the &#@%^$% keypad located that Ivins used to gain access to the containment suite? The location of the "pressure pad" is another question, but it may have to remain unanswered. The facts indicate you stepped on it to get into the change room, not into the locker room.
There's a major logic problem with having the keypad anywhere in the change room area. That logic problem is demonstrated by Ivins' in-out log for the critical evening of October 5, 2001:
The log shows that Ivins used his key card to enter Building 1425 at 7:40 PM. He went down the Bacteriology corridor to Suite B3 and used his key card to enter B3 at 7:44 PM. Eight minutes later, he used his key card again before pushing open the "crash door" to exit into the Animal Resources corridor at 7:52 PM. It certainly wouldn't have taken him 8 minutes to get from the "front door" of B3 to the "crash door." So, he was probably checking each one of the rooms to make certain there was no one else around. In eight minutes, he could have checked every lab and even gone into Suite B4 via the B308 passageway to make certain that no one was in any room in that suite, either.
After exiting via the "crash door," he appears to have gone to his office to get something, and then he entered suite B3 via the front door again, but this time he went through the change room and used the keypad. Then it appears he went in and out of the change room a couple times without using the keypad.
I've tried drawing a diagram showing where the in-out logs say Ivins went, but the diagram makes no sense unless the B301 KEYPAD is on the outside of room B313. Ivins entered the BSL-2 "containment suite" without using the keypad when he walked from the front door to the crash door in eight minutes. Does it make any sense that he would use the keypad only when he entered the same area via the "change room"? That's the "logic problem." It says Ivins could go directly into his BSL-3 lab without using the keypad, or he could go through the change room and use the keypad. If the keypad is in the area of the change room, then the keypad was just there to keep a record so authorities could see who was at fault if there was a contamination problem.
Yes, I'm going to have to try again to find out where the keypad was located. In one document it says that you can see Ivins' lab from the left side of the passbox. For that to happen, you would have to have windows in two walls of room B303. That's not a problem. But figuring out where that damn keypad was is a problem.
October 16, 2011 (B) - Since the flood of 10th anniversary articles and TV programs about the anthrax attacks of 2001 seems to be coming to an end, maybe I should address three of the more nonsensical claims by the Lunatic Fringe that come to me via emails and also appear on various Anthrax Truther blogs:
1. Rabbits. I keep getting emails about how I don't understand that the fact that Ivins bought some rabbits to use for lab testing just before the attacks provides Ivins with a reason for him being in his BSL-3 lab in the evenings and weekends when the facts say Dr. Ivins was most likely making the attack anthrax powders. It isn't that I don't understand it. It's that there's nothing in the documents that says what the Anthrax Truthers claim the documents say.
It's a virtual certainty that the rabbits were not kept in Ivins BSL-3 suite, and the evidence relates to the time Ivins spent in his BSL-3 suite, not time he spent with rabbits in some other room somewhere at USAMRIID. Besides, USAMRIID had animal handlers to take care of rabbits, guinea pigs, mice, etc. And, Ivins also worked during the day on tasks that were part of his job, like matters related to the acquisition of rabbits and tests performed on the rabbits.
The receipt of the rabbits does nothing except, perhaps, explain a few minutes here and there. If the rabbits somehow provided an explanation for what Ivins was doing during those critical times, then the Anthrax Truthers who believe so should be able to explain how it does so. But, they can't and don't. They just make baseless claims.
2. Opinions by "Experts". Anthrax Truthers seem to believe that if a scientist who hasn't viewed all the evidence in the Amerithrax investigation disagrees with the investigators who actually worked on the investigation, then the investigators must be the ones who are wrong. For example, in the PBS interview of Clair Fraser-Liggett, this exchange took place:
PBS: What they [the FBI] were saying is, “We’re sure this guy is the guy.” They were stressing science. Did you feel the emphasis they were placing on the evidence that they had gotten from science was somewhat misleading?
Fraser-Liggett: I think that the evidence on science probably was misleading.
The science that we had done was above reproach. The interpretation of that science will always be a question that we have to deal with.
Then to go from that to make the link to Bruce Ivins, it all happened so quickly. … So I personally was taken a little bit by surprise by all of this. …So, the claim by the Anthrax Truthers is that, because Clair Fraser-Liggett thinks "the evidence on science probably was misleading," the FBI scientists and investigators must have been misled. There appears to be a standard rule used by Anthrax Truthers: If two "experts" disagree, the "expert" who says something that appears to agree with the Anthrax Truthers must be the one who is correct. They see no possibility that the "expert" who appears to agree with them could be unaware of all the facts or just plain wrong.
3. Unreleased "Evidence". Anthrax Truthers endlessly claim that anything that hasn't been publicly released in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests must be evidence of Ivins' innocence. It's a tactic to gain support. Perhaps the most preposterous claim of this kind is the claim that because Ivins gave a scientific article to some FBI agent that discussed the appearance of silica in Bacillus spore coats, that somehow proves Ivins' innocence.
The claim is based upon this paragraph from page 94 of FBI pdf file #847443:
On August 4, 2004, BRUCE IVINS of the United States Army
Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), Fort
Detrick, Maryland, telephonically contacted Supervisory Special
Agent (SSA) XXXXXXXXXXXXXX of the Federal Bureau of Investigation
(FBI). IVINS reported that XXXXXXXXXXXXX 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 article abstract via
facsimile to SSA XXXXXXX and subsequently sent the abstract to the
FBI offsite in Frederick, Maryland. The cover sheet and article
abstract are maintained in the 1A section of the file.
The article is very likely one of the two articles from 1980 or the article from 1964 that everyone was discussing around that time. (Click HERE, HERE and HERE to view the articles.) But, until the FBI provides the exact article to the Anthrax Truthers, they will continue to claim that the FBI is covering up some critical article that shows something that somehow proves something regarding Ivins' innocence and/or weaponization using silica.
These kinds of claims will probably never be addressed by the media. They're the claims of Anthrax Truthers, and it's generally recognized by journalists that conspiracy theorists and True Believers are immune to facts. So, the Anthrax Truthers will just continue to make their baseless claims over and over, year after year, until some journalist forgets that it's all just Anthrax Truther nonsense and prints it as news because the Anthrax Truthers have impressive credentials.
October 16, 2011 (A) - Wow! Last week was an extremely busy week for me, and it was also very interesting. It was all undoubtedly an effect of the week being the approximate 10th anniversary of the anthrax attacks of 2001. So, to counter what we saw the previous week on the CNN program "Death By Mail," we had the PBS Frontline program "The Anthrax Files;" then we had the inexplicable, bizarre article in the New York Times by William Broad and Scott Shane giving credence to a nonsensical article in a bioterrorism journal by some conspiracy theorists; we had Science magazine shooting down the Times article and the nonsense it used as "news;" we had a blitz of McClatchy/ProPublica/Frontline articles on October 10, October 11 and October 12; we had an article by Laurie Garrett promoting her beliefs, and we had Frontline release a transcript of their interview with scientist Clair Fraser-Liggett. And there was lesser stuff, too, including another McClatchy/ProPublica/Frontline article about how the FBI wasn't going to re-open the Amerithrax investigation just because some people don't believe the evidence against Bruce Ivins because they think someone else must have sent the letters.
And, helping to counter the blitz of baloney from McClatchy, ProPublica, Frontline and the New York Times, this morning we have a new Los Angeles Times article by David Willman titled "Science in anthrax letter case comes under attack." The Willman article debunks the claim by Hugh-Jones, Rosenberg and Jacobsen that the finding of the element tin in the attack anthrax was not mentioned to the public and was kept some kind of secret:
[Dr. Joseph] Michael [of Sandia National Laboratories] also rejected the three critics' assertion that federal investigators "have avoided public mention of the extraordinary presence of tin."
Indeed, at a conference of the American Society for Microbiology on Feb. 24, 2009, a year before the investigation was formally closed, Michael displayed seven slides that identified the tin's presence. The FBI cited his remarks in a news release, and he repeated his presentation five months later at another major scientific meeting. Both events were open to the news media.
However, the most interesting piece of news I see in Willman's article is this:
In an interview, Hugh-Jones said the coauthors had circulated their most recent analysis to reporters and were paying $916 to have it appear in an online journal, which posted it Saturday.
So, the Hugh-Jones et al article was not only a rehash of conspiracy theories that two of the authors had been promoting for nearly a decade, the authors paid the Journal of Bioterrorism and Biodefense $916 to put it on-line. (They should have asked me. I'd have done it for half the price. (Joke.))
That means that the "scientific paper" that New York Times reporters William Broad and Scott Shane made such a big deal about last week was not only a non-scientific paper that had been around since June or longer, it is going to be published in an on-line journal that is NOT a scientific journal, and the authors paid the journal to print it! That should totally shoot down any claim that it was accepted based upon its scientific merits. (However, Dr. Meryl Nass sees things differently. Click HERE for her views.)
David Willman also corrects one item from the Frontline TV program "The Anthrax Files":
For their collaborative effort, ProPublica, Frontline and McClatchy Newspapers produced an 8,400-word report and a video presentation that aired Tuesday night. They called renewed attention to criticisms of the FBI case that were made eight months ago by the National Academy of Sciences committee.
They quoted retired FBI scientist Jenifer A. Smith as expressing concern about pressures to solve the case quickly. Yet in an interview for this article, Smith praised Montooth's leadership and said she believed the overall evidence proved Ivins' guilt.
"I personally think Ivins did it," said Smith, who retired from the FBI in early 2009. "I actually think they got the right guy."
I wish the Los Angeles Times article and the Science magazine article had addressed a lot more of the baloney printed by McClatchy and The New York Times, put on-line by ProPublica, and aired by Frontline. So much of what was printed, put on-line and aired was total nonsense and can be clearly shown to be total nonsense. But Science magazine and the LA Times just addressed a few pebbles from the mountain of nonsense.
The lesson seems to be that if conspiracy theorists and True Believers just keep repeating their theories and beliefs for year after year after year after year, sooner or later people in the media will forget what the real facts are and start to think that what the conspiracy theorists and True Believers are claiming is actually "news." And, they'll report it to a public that has also forgotten what the real facts are. And fewer and fewer journalists and scientists will stand up and argue for the truth.
That's a direct road to havoc.
(NOTE: Click HERE to go to my interactive blog to discuss this comment.)
& Changes: Sunday, October 9, 2011, thru Saturday, October 15,
October 15, 2011 - Today, there's a new McClatchy/ProPublica/Frontline article by Greg Gordon, Steven Engelberg and Mike Weiser in circulation. It's titled "Despite Evidence of FBI Bungling, New Probe Into Anthrax Killings Unlikely." I don't know where it's been published, since Google so far shows only the link I provided in the previous sentence, plus a link to a nearly identical article on ProPublica.com. Both versions of the article include this:
Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and others on Capitol Hill who’ve been skeptical of the case against the late Bruce Ivins said adamant opposition from the FBI and Justice Department is likely to block further inquiry into the case.
Even if he were the committee chairman, Grassley said, “I would question my capability of raising enough heat (to reopen the case) when you’re up against the FBI. And I’ve been up against the FBI.”and
[Rep. Rush] Holt, who is a physicist, traced some of the resistance to the fact that Congress “has never felt comfortable dealing with scientific issues,” as well as to the public wishing to forget “an unpleasant occurrence.”
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat who has supported Holt’s bill, “is frustrated that the FBI has failed to answer all of his questions,” said his spokesman, Ilan Kayatsky. However, Kayatsky said, “it does seem unlikely at this time that they will reopen their investigation.”Nevertheless, the so-called "experts" that McClatchy, ProPublica and Frontline have been depending upon in their "investigation" of the FBI's investigation have a golden opportunity to get the case reopened. The article explains:
To reopen the case, [Former FBI agent and profiler Brad] Garrett said, would take “something fairly compelling … somebody comes forward [or] there’s a new piece of evidence that links it to somebody else.”
Nearly every one of the conspiracy theorists and True Believers believes they have "evidence" that someone else sent the anthrax letters! Unfortunately for them, however, it's obviously not "compelling" evidence or McClatchy, ProPublica and Frontline would have seized upon it and exploited it. Instead, all that McClatchy et al can do is question (and distort) the FBI's evidence against Ivins.
Laurie Garrett recently claimed to have evidence that al Qaeda did it when she wrote:
As the National Academy of Sciences concluded earlier this year in its analysis of the FBI investigation there is cause (and at least strong circumstantial evidence) to implicate al-Qaeda. I detail most of those circumstantial links to al-Qaeda in my book: I will not repeat the long list here.
But, it appears her evidence against al Qaeda also consists mostly of attacking the FBI's evidence against Bruce Ivins, plus claiming that false positives weren't really false positives and lab contamination wasn't really lab contamination.
The same seems true of all the evidence that conspiracy theorists and True Believers claim to have: It consists primarily of disbelieving the evidence against Bruce Ivins. Actual solid evidence against someone else is non-existant.
If someone else did it, why is there no solid evidence against anyone else? The answer from the conspiracy theorists and True Believers is just another attack upon the FBI: There is no solid evidence against anyone else because the FBI failed to find it or even look for it. That implies that all the conspiracy theorists and True Believers are totally incapable of finding any evidence for themselves. So, their arguments are all about beliefs and opinions. And, most of them do not agree on who they think sent the anthrax letters. So, among Anthrax Truthers there's unity against the FBI's case, but near total disagreement about who did it if it wasn't Bruce Edwards Ivins.
Is it any wonder that no one wants to reopen the case just because some angry and frustrated conspiracy theorists and True Believers have differing beliefs and opinions about who did it?
(NOTE: Click HERE to go to my interactive blog to discuss this comment.)
October 14, 2011 (B) - While working out at the health club this afternoon, I keep thinking I should have added a few things to this morning's comment about the PBS Frontline Clair Fraser-Liggett interview. Rather than go back and change that comment, I'll just add the additional thoughts here:
It's interesting that Fraser-Liggett said things like, "The FBI absolutely understood the science." And she goes on and on about the learning she and her team needed to do in order to conform with the rules of evidence.
If the PBS Frontline producer hadn't been determined to present a show attacking the FBI's case against Bruce Ivins, the producer could easily have turned it into a program about the carelessness at USAMRIID for letting a mentally ill person work with deadly pathogens. All it required was asking the right questions: questions about letting scientists work alone late at night without a reason, questions about leaving autoclave bags filled with dangerous bacteria setting on the floor for weeks, and questions about whether Fraser-Liggett knew of Ivins' past plans to murder a former co-worker and obtain bomb making materials. The reporter could also have asked if they do things in Fraser-Liggett's lab the way they did them at USAMRIID in 2001. Do they allow the type of things that went on in Ivins' lab? If the Frontline editors picked out segments from the early part of Fraser-Liggett's interview, instead of from the end, and used material from the new questions about USAMRIID, the result would have been a very different TV program.
When you are interviewed by a reporter, the reporter doesn't generally come to you with an open mind. He or she comes with an assignment from his editor. And, he typically has prepared some questions to probe the subject from his personal point of view. If you don't tell the reporter what he wants to hear, he can just ignore what you say and quote someone else. Or, he can quote you and then compare what you say to several others who disagree with you. And you have no opportunity to respond. You just learn what the results are when you read the newspaper or watch yourself on TV. I've done many interviews on this subject and on other subjects, so I know whereof I speak.
October 14, 2011 (A) - Someone just brought my attention to a PBS.Org article from October 10th that I hadn't seen before. It's a transcript of an interview titled, "Clair Fraser-Liggett: 'This Is Not an Airtight Case By Any Means'." In a way, the article/interview points out a "problem" with using outside laboratories to help do the FBI's investigative work. While the benefits far far outweigh the "problem," and in the Amerithrax case using outside laboratories was totally unavoidable, you still do end up with scientists doing "blind" work on small parts of an investigation.
The work is done "blind" because the outside scientists must not know where test samples come from. So, they just see a sample with a number, and they analyze the sample. The results go to the FBI where FBI scientists know what the numbers mean and where each sample came from. They put the pieces together with all the other evidence. When the "blind" evidence is presented in court, the fact that the outside scientists didn't know where the sample came from supposedly guarantees that they were not biased for or against the defendant.
And the outside scientists doing the "blind" work were involved with only one tiny part of the investigation. So, they have absolutely no idea what other scientists are doing or what other fields of investgation are underway.
The problem is: After the evidence is presented in court (or in this case presented to the public), the scientist can offer a personal opinion about the case that is not much more informed than any other outsider's opinion. But, journalists can give that scientist's personal opinions a lot more weight than they deserve.
The interview with Clair Fraser-Liggett explains some of this in the interview where she answers questions from PBS:
Q: Did the FBI understand the science? Did they have the capabilities themselves to undergo this investigation?
A: The FBI absolutely understood the science, but at the time they didn’t have the capabilities in-house to do any of the work. So they knew immediately that they had to go outside.And
Q: Talk about the pressure.
A: The pressure was enormous. For most academic scientists like myself, you never find yourself in a situation like this. … This was a criminal investigation. That was made clear to us early on.
We had to go through extensive training about how to revise the way we kept lab records. We had to demonstrate that we could keep all the material under a lock and key and make sure that only a small number of individuals had access to it.
We became familiar with the idea of chain of custody. When material comes in the door, you know who’s touched it, who’s had access to it, all the way through the entire process. That’s not the way that academic science is usually done. …And
A: One of the things that was very clear to us is that we were working in partnership with the FBI but doing a very specific part of this, carrying out a very specific part of this overall investigation. We did not ever know any more than we needed to know to do our job.
A: When the FBI took over the investigation very early on, they were really the ones that were running the show, so they were making the connections. They were calling the shots, and they were making the determinations about what material was being sent between labs.
And this exchange explains the need to have outside scientists do "blind" testing:
Q: Did you know who Bruce Ivins was?
A: Of course I knew who Bruce Ivins was, having worked in the biodefense area for a number of years. I had seen him in a number of meetings, but I didn’t consider him to be a close colleague.
Q: … Explain who he was, his reputation, and what your estimations of the man was.
A: In a sense, he was almost a legend of sorts in the field of weaponization of anthrax, development of an anthrax vaccine. He had been leading a number of key programs at USAMRIID for many years. He was one of the principals in an ongoing, large-scale vaccine trial.
At the same time — and this is just my opinion — he was also eccentric. I don’t mean anything good or bad about that. He was just eccentric. … He wasn’t easy to talk to, more because it seemed like he was uncomfortable with who he was. He just seemed a bit socially awkward.
So, Clair Fraser-Liggett knew Bruce Ivins, and she had opinions about him. And she also have overblown expectations about what her testing of the morphs might prove:
Q: … If you could somehow match the anthrax that was in the letters to another sample that was pulled in, you’d have a smoking gun. …
A: Yes. … If we could find molecular differences that held up and could be traced back to a potential source, that would potentially provide the smoking gun and say, “This is where the material came from.”Then Clair Fraser-Liggett and her colleagues at the University of Maryland concluded their scientific work:
Q; What was found?
A: It was found, in looking at the nearly 1,100 strains in the repository, that there were eight out of the total that contained the four key mutations that had been identified as probably being most important in tracking samples. There were a smaller number that had three, and an even smaller number that contained one or two of these mutations.
That became very important information. It wasn’t as if the majority of the samples in the repository all contained these mutations. It was literally a couple of handfuls of samples, so that allowed the FBI to focus on eight samples instead of 1,100, and ask, how are they related? Are they related? Where did they come from?
Q: What did they find?
A: What they found in looking at these eight samples that contained all four mutations was that they could all be traced back to a single source flask of Bacillus anthracis spores that had been named RMR-1029 and that had been developed and kept at USAMRIID dating back to either 1997 or 1998.
Q: So what do you all think? … What does this mean?
A: We clearly all felt that the enormous amount of work and time that had been put in was absolutely worth it.
We all realized, when we
began, that the work that we were doing as genetic analysis would never
on its own solve the case, but it could provide critically important
information to point toward a potential source and at the same time
exclude a large number of other potential sources as being where the
material came from. …
Q: … They decided Bruce Ivins is the guy. … Do you believe, from what you’ve seen, what you’ve read, what you know of the investigation itself, that they got it right? …
A: Ten years after the fact, I’m left probably feeling more frustrated than I had hoped about how all of this came to conclusion. It was obviously a tragedy that this didn’t go to trial because of the Ivins suicide.
But I think that it was also a tragedy because there was so much effort that had gone into trying to put together a set of protocols and a plan for how to carry out this kind of investigation. Basically this was like a dress rehearsal, and we never got an opportunity to do the real production and get feedback.
I think there are still a lot of unanswered questions. I think there are still a lot of holes, and I think the FBI is the first to admit that’s the case.
There is likely some information that might have come out if this had gone to trial that will never see the light of day now that the case has been deemed to be closed. …
I have no way to know whether or not Bruce Ivins was really the perpetrator. I think it’s unfortunate in that there were aspects of his personality that made it very easy to cast him as the eccentric, psychologically disturbed scientist with a possible motive. But that doesn’t mean that he’s guilty. …The PBS journalist doing the interview then proceeds to ask deliberate, leading questions which were obviously asked to get answers that will fit with PBS's/McClatchy's biased view of the case:
Q: The other conclusion was that it seemed to be that the FBI had overemphasized how the science defined the end results of the case. Explain that.
Q: [Did] the FBI, to some extent, perhaps overemphasize the role of science in proving their case?
Q: Were you surprised at the tone of the FBI as far as how clear they were that Ivins was the man?
Q: Did you feel a little sense of awkwardness about being there, because you realized that you were possibly part of a bit of a charade?
Q: [What about] the thoughts that pressure from the top down, to some extent, perverted the investigation?
So, PBS got the answers they wanted by asking biased, leading questions that would get the right answers from someone who was not really familiar with all the evidence against Bruce Ivins. And, they could then report on TV that "one of the FBI's outside experts" didn't fully agree with the FBI's findings.
What I'd like to see is what Clair Fraser-Liggett thinks about all the evidence showing that Ivins was indeed the anthrax mailer. Her answers seem to indicate that she thinks that, except for her work on identifying flask RMR-1029 as "the murder weapon," everything else is just an interpretation of Ivins' quirky personality. The "smoking gun" in the case, from my point of view, isn't flask RMR-1029, it's the hidden message in the media letter which directly links Ivins to the media letters. It may take some thought and understanding, but an eloquent prosecutor could easily convince a jury of its significance while making counter-arguments from the defense look as feeble as arguments that Ivins couldn't have gotten out of his house at night to drive to New Jersey without his family and everyone in New Jersey knowing about it.
(NOTE: Click HERE to go to my interactive blog to discuss this comment.)
October 13, 2011 (B) - I've been so busy lately that I totally forgot that I need to add new topics to my new interactive discussion blog at anthraxdebate.blogspot.com if I want to generate discussions about things I've posted. So, I've added a bunch of new blog topics related to my recent comments, and I've gone back into my comments on this site to add links at the ends of comments. If I've missed a topic you want to discuss, send me an email and I'll add it to the blog.
October 13, 2011 (A) - Whew! Things seem to be slowing down a bit. That gives me some time to study materials I didn't have time to study for the past week or so. But, first I have to comment on a new article by Laurie Garret which can be found on the Council on Foreign Relations web site. She believes al Qaeda was behind the attack. She writes, "I was never convinced Ivins was a serial killer." That may be because Ivins was not a "serial killer." He was a "mass murderer." There a very big difference. Serial killers get a thrill out of killing and kill over and over to get that thrill. Bruce Ivins was a criminally negligent mass murderer. He evidently wasn't fully convinced that his first mailing was responsible for Bob Stevens' death when he mailed the second batch of letters. Then the other deaths and infections started getting reported. The facts say that Bruce Ivins didn't really intend to harm anyone with either mailing.
But, it's this statement from Garrett that seems almost nonsensical:
if Ivins didn't do it, the terrorists are still out there, ten years later, free to wreck more havoc.
Shouldn't it read: If Ivins didn't do it, and the real terrorists have been out there for ten years, free to wreak more havoc, why haven't they done so?
Garrett doesn't address that question. Instead, she addresses the question of why al Qaeda didn't boast about their role in the 2001 anthrax mailings. Her fantasy answers:
It is possible that a claim of credit was never found because it is in one of the lost letters, and the primary operatives responsible for producing the spores perished on 9/11 in their dastardly hijackings.
The second possibility is that al-Qaeda considered the mailings a failure. No Senator or famous news anchor died.
But, the letters caused panic, shut down congress and cost America many billions of dollars. Wouldn't that be plenty of reason for al Qaeda to claim credit? Instead, bin Laden actually denied that al Qaeda was responsible for the mailings.
Plus, of course, the first letters contained medical advice (TAKE PENACILIN NOW) and the second letters stated what the powder was (WE HAVE THIS ANTHRAX) so that the recipients could seek immediate medical assistance. And it's been ten years since the attacks. Bin Laden has been killed. Other al Qaeda leaders have been killed along with many of their followers. Afghanistan, al Qaeda's sanctuary, has been invaded. Yet we're supposed to believe that al Qaeda has never found sufficient cause to launch another attack. If they make such an attack 10 or 20 years from now using an Afghan strain, will Garrett and other True Believers scream, "See, I told you al Qaeda was behind the 2001 attacks!"
There's something else I found amusing and interesting in the Garrett article. It's this statement:
At least one USAMRIID scientist tells FRONTLINE that he had samples drawn from the RMR-1029 flask in his lab, but didn't turn them over to the FBI.
Doesn't she realize that she's pointing the finger at Henry Heine and claiming that Heine violated a subpoena? Clearly she just wasn't paying attention to the Frontline program, since Heine said just the opposite. He stated that, as a result of the subpoena he informed the FBI of his various samples, and the FBI took all of his Ames samples.
It really bothers me that such ridiculous and totally incorrect claims by conspiracy theorists and True Believers go largely unchallenged. They're just left out there on the Internet and in paper copies to be read and re-read by the public.
I'd like to see the top 20 or 30 nonsensical claims from McClatchy reporters, conspiracy theorists and True Believers answered by key experts on some public forum. This web site can show that their claims are ridiculous (or even stupid), but I'm only getting about 700 visitors per day to my site these days, and the nonsense is going out to tens of millions.
(NOTE: Click HERE to go to my interactive blog to discuss this comment.)
October 12, 2011 (D) - Ah! McClatchy is back to their standard nonsense. Today's article about the anthrax case in the Miami Herald, a McClatchy newspaper, is titled "Newly released files cloud FBI's anthrax finding." It reinterprets various items of evidence against Ivins to mistakenly claim that those items aren't really evidence.
The McClatchy reporters claim that Ivins was teaching FBI agents very soon after the attacks how morphs can form from one generation to the next. In reality, Ivins was talking about problems associated with "passaging," where contamination can occur from one growth media to the next. Contrary to McClatchy's interpretation, Ivins believed his product didn't suffer from this problem because he didn't do any passaging. He constantly claimed that his spores were "one step away from the cow." Ivins had no clue about "morphs" at the time, so if he used the term because he'd heard others use it, he was thinking it meant something else.
As I've stated and proven, Ivins didn't know about morphs when he supplied the first sample from RMR-1029 in February of 2002, so he submitted an actual but invalidly prepared sampleo that couldn't be used as evidence in court. John Ezzell told the McClatchy people that, but they have their own mistaken ideas and they're sticking to them.
McClatchy claims that in April of 2002 the FBI had "zeroed in" on Hatfill. That's nonsense. The record indicates that the FBI had checked out Hatfill and found no reason to suspect him. Hatfill didn't become a "person of interest" until newspapers, scientists and politicians demanded that Dr. Hatfill be investigated. That was in late June of 2002.
I could go on and on, but I've already spent too much time on debunking McClatchy crap.
October 12, 2011 (C) - Hmm. Maybe I'm missing something, but yesterday's Macon Telegraph (a McClatchy newspaper) has what appears to be a relatively intelligent analysis of the problems associated with using a new science in a criminal trial. The article is titled "Was FBI's science good enough to ID anthrax killer?" The article is by McClatchy regulars Stephen Engleberg, Gary Matsumoto, Greg Gordon and Mike Wiser. Yet, it contains things like this:
Paul Keim, an anthrax expert at Northern Arizona University who assisted in the FBI investigation, said he had qualms about whether the bureau's groundbreaking laboratory method would have survived a rigorous legal review.
"I don't think that it was ready for the courtroom at the time Bruce committed suicide," Keim said.
If Ivins hadn't killed himself, he said, the FBI would have launched a "hard push" for additional data that showed the methods were reliable. Such research, he said, also could have shown it wasn't valid.
October 12, 2011 (B) - There's a new article on Science Magazine's web site this morning. It's titled "New Challenge to FBI's Anthrax Investigation Lends an Ear to Tin." It's about William Broad's and Scott Shane's article in Sunday's New York Times. Like the Times' article, the Science article is about the upcoming article by Martin Hugh-Jones and conspiracy theorists Barbara Hatch Rosenberg and Stuart Jacobsen to be published in The Journal of Bioterrorism and Biodefense (JoB&B). Science magazine says:
The authors of the paper, led by Martin Hugh-Jones, an epidemiologist and emeritus professor at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, speculate that the anthrax may have been weaponized -- made easier to inhale—by coating it with a silicon-based compound applied in the presence of a tin catalyst. That speculation, in turn, has raised questions about whether Ivins was indeed the mailer or if he was helped by somebody else because he did not have access to the equipment required to weaponize the spores as theorized in the paper.
And that is what the JoB&B paper is, of course: speculation. And, it uses speculation to counter the known facts. And by theorizing that Ivins couldn't have done it alone, the implication (or theory) is that there must be a government conspiracy going on.
These are not new questions, and two of the paper's authors, Barbara Hatch Rosenberg and Stuart Jacobsen, both of whom have been vocal critics of the FBI investigation, have raised similar questions before. And the presence of silicon in the anthrax has been a subject of controversy since 2001; the issue didn't die even after scientists at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, established through spectral imaging that the silicon was present in the spore coat and not on the spore surface—as might be expected from an external coating.
The Science article then delves into the issue of the tin found in some samples of the attack anthrax:
The new paper puts the spotlight on tin, which the authors claim has been brushed under the carpet by FBI investigators. The FBI has "avoided public mention of the extraordinary presence of Tin," the paper says.Science then cites an FBI Press Release from 2009 which says:
Spores from the letters showed a distinct chemical signature that included silicon, oxygen, iron, tin, and other elements. Spores from Ivins’ RMR-1029 flask did not contain those elements in quantities that matched the letter spores. This is not unusual considering that Ivins’ RMR-1029 preparation had been submerged in water and other chemicals since 1997 and was a mixture of 34 different spore preparations. The letter spores were dried spores, produced from two separate growth preparations as indicated by differences in the New York and Washington, D.C. mailings. Although the chemical fingerprint of the spores is interesting, given the variability involved in the growth process, it was not relevant to the investigation.
The Science article then points out that Sandia National Laboratories' chemist Joseph Michael analyzed numerous batches of anthrax spores grown by researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories using various methods, and even under controlled conditions they still found that the spores contained trace amounts of tin, chromium, magnesium and other elements.
"We were surprised at first, then we realized that the elements could have come from any number of sources—lab equipment, a residual cleaning solution, some other kind of contamination," Michael says. He and his colleagues published the work in Forensic Science International in 2008.
The Science article then proceeds to eviscerate the paper by Hugh-Jones et al this way:
In the new paper, Hugh-Jones, Rosenberg, and Jacobsen do not offer such a simple explanation. Instead, they speculate that the attacker or attackers may have used a process similar to one used in applying coatings in the manufacture of drugs. They don't cite any literature or documented methods for weaponizing anthrax but offer that a "procedure of this kind can be envisioned for encapsulating B. anthracis spores." They write that "the ratio of Tin to Silicon in the attack spores is 'about right' for a Tin catalyst used to produce a silicone coating, according to a chemist in the field."
In other words, the Hugh-Jones et al paper uses "junk science" to challenge real science.
(NOTE: Click HERE to go to my interactive blog to discuss this comment.)
October 12, 2011 (A) - I need to add one more point about last night's Frontline show "The Anthrax Files." At the 33:40 minute mark, they had USAMRIID scientist Henry Heine telling Frontline that there were "various samples" from Ivins' flask RMR-1029 in his laboratory, but the FBI's scientists looking for the four morphs didn't find the morphs in those ten samples. The implication was that the FBI scientists had made another mistake of some kind.
Is it really that difficult to understand that there are at least two very simple explanations for this: (1) Most likely, Ivins used his "single colony pick" method to create the ten samples he gave to Heine. Ivins would routinely use the "single colony pick" technique, which involves using a single spore to create a colony of spores, and the colony is then used to seed a flask of growth material to create billions of spores. The "single colony pick" process assures that the end result does not include any contaminant bacteria (and it also prevents the transportation of "morphs" to the end product because only one spore was used to start the process). (2) Henry Heine was mistaken.
That's what is so frustrating about a show like Frontline's "The Anthrax Files." It's loaded with so many errors and so much misleading information, but there is no way to reach the same audience to show them that a lot of what was on the show was just plain nonsense and/or mistaken personal beliefs.
October 11, 2011 (C) - The entire PBS Frontline report "The Anthrax Files" is available on-line as of this morning. Just click HERE to go to the PBS site where you can view it. The Frontline program is 52 minutes long, and it's not quite as bad as I had feared, although it definitely questions the validity of the FBI claim that Bruce Ivins was the anthrax mailer. It makes absolutely no suggestion as to who else might have done it. It uses "conspiracy theory" reasoning, which is to base your argument on questions about the government's case, instead of trying to provide better evidence about a better suspect. The idea is that if you can create enough doubt about the government's case, total nonsense might seem reasonable by comparison.
To be fair, it's extremely difficult to summarize the entire case in just 52 minutes. As I said about the CNN program "Death By Mail" last week, there are countless details to the Amerithrax investigation, and when airing a show that just 45 or 52 minutes long, you have to ignore over 90 or 95 percent of the information. You just pick the items that best fit the part of the story you want to tell.
1. The Frontline report contains a lot of misleading information, and some claims that are totally untrue. For example, at the 4:45 minute mark, Frontline says that the FBI brought the Dachle letter to USAMRIID for Bruce Ivins to examine. Total nonsense. The FBI brought the letter to John Ezzell, and, later, when Peter Jahrling asked Ivins to quantify the spores in the letter, both Jahrling and Ivins were doing so without permission from the FBI.
2. At about the 9 minute mark, the Frontline program blames Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times for the initial focus on Steven Hatfill as a suspect. The program doesn't mention Barbara Hatch Rosenberg at all, even though she was the person feeding bogus information to Kristof and to other reporters and fingering Hatfill to the FBI.
3. The Frontline report claims at about the 13 minute mark that when the FBI searched Hatfill's apartment for the first time, "they brought the press." Again, untrue. No one has publicly stated how the media got wind of the search, but the media were waiting for something to happen because they had been doing their own investigation of Hatfill for months as a result of the campaign by Barbara Hatch Rosenberg. If there was a tip to the media, it almost certainly came from lawyers at the DOJ, not any FBI agent. It's known that DOJ lawyers were talking with the media.
4. At the 19 minute mark, the Frontline report talks about the search of the pond in the Catoctin mountains as a being search for an "underwater lab." Baloney. It was just a search for whatever might be there. Like so many other aspects of the Hatfill "investigation," the FBI had to do things that were illogical because they would face a firestorm of criticism if they didn't.
5. At about the 22 minute mark, the viewer is totally misled by the way Frontline suggests that the FBI didn't start looking at the morphs until after it was becoming clear that Hatfill was probably innocent. Frontline seemingly suggests the morphs became a "promising new lead" in 2005 or so. In reality, the FBI first started looking at the morphs in late 2001. But, it took the creation of an entirely new science - Microbial Forensics - to get useful information from the morphs. That process took years.
6. One bit of information Frontline showed at the 25 minute mark was new to me. They claim that Ivins typically worked long hours at night. The only difference about the long hours he worked in August, September and October of 2001 was that he worked those hours in his BSL-3 lab. On all the other times, he worked elsewhere in the building. The FBI claim was always that Ivins started working long hours in his BSL-3 lab just before the mailings, but I'd been assuming he didn't normally work long hours at night at all. The new info changes nothing, it just poses some new questions.
7. At the 26:20 mark, the Frontline program shows Claire Fraser-Liggett making a totally bizarre statement. She says she cannot understand how anyone can grow spores without leaving behind traces of spores on the equipment. I guess that means she doesn't understand how Petri dishes used to grow spores can be tossed into an autoclave, sterilized and then hauled off to a dump to be buried and still cannot be used to test for live spores.
8. At around the 32:50 minute mark, the Frontline report shows Jeffrey Adamovicz saying he couldn't understand why Ivins would send in a false sample in April 2002 after sending in a a good sample in February 2002. The answer is simple: (1) Ivins didn't know about the morphs in February. (2) Ivins' sample submitted in February was not properly prepared and could not be used as evidence, so it was also a "invalid sample" but just "invalid" in a different way.
9. At the 37 minute mark, the Frontline program talks about not finding spores in Ivins' home or his cars. Why don't they mention that he'd been working with anthrax for 20 years and still didn't find any spores in his home. Why would he suddenly become unable to shower and decontaminate himself when he started preparing the anthrax letters?
10. At the 39:20 minute mark, the Frontline program has McClatchy reporter Greg Gordon distorting the facts by saying Ivins was "sneaking into" KKG sorority houses. Ivins was burglarizing the KKG sorority houses.
11. At the 43 minute mark, Colonel Russell Byrne is shown seemingly attempting to justify allowing a mentally ill man who has threatened to kill his co-workers to continue to work with dangerous pathogens at USAMRIID. Byrne seems to see something wrong with the police arresting a man who has threatened mass-murder!
12. At the 44:20 minute mark, the Frontline report claims that Ivins took an overdose of Tylenol "a year and a half after the FBI first started investigating him." I've been studying the FBI documents of the case, and they show that the FBI had been interviewing Ivins since 2002, maybe earlier, and they started considering Ivins to be serious suspect in April of 2005, over three years before he committed suicide. It was in April of 2005 that Ivins told the FBI that he wouldn't submit to any more interviews without his lawyer being present.
13. At around the 49 minute mark, the Frontline report suggests that the morphs found in the attack anthrax, which matched the morphs in flask RMR-1029, "weren't necessary one of a kind." True. But, of over a thousand samples tested, the only samples that matched the attack powders came directly or indirectly from flask RMR-1029. Plus, there is no evidence that those four morphs will repeat if a million samples are tested. It's only a "scientific possibility."
14. One thing that pleasantly surprised me about the Frontline report was that there was absolutely no mention of the McClatchy "yellow journalism" nonsense about the FBI changing their theory of the case in a document that was filed in the Stevens v USA lawsuit. Evidently Frontline could see that was just a simple error, even if McClatchy reporters couldn't.
15. Another pleasant surprise was that they didn't mention anything about the silicon and tin found in the attack spores. But, someone sent me an email this morning suggesting that may have been because they left that pound of baloney to William Broad and Scott Shane to munch upon in The New York Times.
As stated above, it's extremely difficult to adequately describe the anthrax investigation in a 52 minute TV program. But, I'd certainly like to see all the "unanswered questions" addressed in another TV show. Nearly all of the questions have been adequately answered, it's just that some in the media and all the conspiracy theorists and True Believers haven't been paying attention.
(NOTE: Click HERE to go to my interactive blog to discuss this comment.)
October 11, 2011 (B) - McClatchy newspapers is printing nonsense about the anthrax case again. The latest article appearing in their various newspapers today begins with this claim:
Months after the anthrax mailings that terrorized the nation in 2001, and long before he became the prime suspect, Army biologist Bruce Ivins sent his superiors an email offering to help trace the killer.
Ivins said he had several variants of Ames anthrax — the strain that the FBI believed was used in the attack — that could be tested to find the origins of the powder that had killed five people.
October 11, 2011 (A) - I'm being told that the article by Hugh-Jones, Rosenberg and Jacobsen that was given so much attention a couple days ago by The New York Times in the article by William Broad and Scott Shane is basically the same article found HERE, which was posted to the BioWeapons Prevention Project blog and discussed on Lew Weinstein's site back in June. Hugh-Jones et al were apparently submitting it to any media outlet that might publish it. That's unusual. Normally, serious scientific journals do not publish things that have been published elsewhere before. Which raises the question: Is the Journal of Bioterrorism and Biodefense a science journal? Their web site says:
The Journal of Bioterrorism & Biodefense is an international, peer-reviewed journal publishing an overview of research on Bioterrorism and biodefense
Is that a field of science? What science? The magazine's web site also says,
The Journal of Bioterrorism & Biodefense explicates the complicated aspects of bioterrorism that cause harmful effects to mankind and also biodefense mechanisms through which bioterrorism can be controlled or prevented . The Journal is promptly available, and is freely accessible globally through internet to share the innovations of the researchers for scholarly advancement in this field.
So, it's a free magazine in the Internet? Yup. The current issue is HERE, the previous issue is HERE. No sign of the Hugh-Jones et al article, though. I'm not criticizing the magazine in any way, but it makes me wonder what The New York Times was thinking when they made such a big deal about a free article that was previously published on-line in June. And, it's a conspiracy theorist article that ignores all the critical facts that don't promote conspiracy theories.
(NOTE: Click HERE to go to my interactive blog to discuss this topic.)
October 10, 2011 (E) - There's a new clip from tomorrow's Frontline show HERE. It shows Senator Daschle's intern, Grant Leslie, describing what she thought and did as she opened the anthrax letter addressed to Daschle.
October 10, 2011 (D) - Wow! Busy day. Someone just sent me a link to a letter the Expert Behavioral Analysis Panel (EBAP) sent to Clinical Psychiatry News in response to a criticism made by Dr. Annette Hanson regarding the panel's report on Bruce Ivins. (The EBAP summary is HERE.) I'd mentioned Dr. Hanson's criticism in a comment back on June 24. The link also leads to Dr. Hanson's response to the panel's response. Dr. Hanson seemingly questions the objectivity of anyone who works with the FBI. But, this is also a matter of interpreting what others are saying on some very technical issues. If it were about science, I'd make a longer comment and jump in, but it's about how people view psychiatic ethics and the need to protect the public from mentally ill people in our midst, particularly mentally ill people working with dangerous pathogens. So, I'll just let readers of this web site click on the link and read the EBAP's letter and Dr. Hanson's response for themselves. (It's at the bottom of the page and continues on the bottom of the next page.)
October 10, 2011 (C) - As expected, the NY Times article by Bill Broad and Scott Shane is being picked up by other media outlets around the world: New York Magazine, The Associated Press, Homeland Security Watch, UPI, The Daily Beast, The Sky Valley Chronicle, MainJustice.com, WTOP. There will undoubtedly be many more (not including blogs run by individuals), since at this writing the NYT article has only been on-line for 12 hours. I've also started a thread for discussions about the article on my blog.
October 10, 2011 (B) - The New York Times article by William Broad and Scott Shane that I was looking for yesterday showed up this morning. It's titled "Scientists' Analysis Disputes F.B.I. Closing of Anthrax Case." To my total and stunned surprise, it's a rehash of an old, old issue. It's about the tin found in the attack anthrax. It appears that there's an upcoming article in The Journal of Bioterrorism and Biodefense that delves into the issue of the amount of the element tin found in (at least one sample of) the attack anthrax. The lead author of the article is Martin Hugh-Jones of Louisiana State University.
In addition to Dr. Hugh-Jones, the authors of the new paper are Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, a biologist, and Stuart Jacobsen, a chemist; both have speculated publicly about the case and criticized the F.B.I. for years.
So, the conspiracy theorists are getting some new publicity. This is an issue that has been voice many, many times on various Anthrax Truther blogs by Dr. Jacobsen, usually in conjuction with the amount of the element silicon that was also found. And since Dr. Rosenberg is involved, that means it's also all about "weaponization" theories and imagined secret and illegal government labs making illegal bioweapons using supersophisticated processes involving tin and silicon. And, now it's an issue being addressed by top reporters at the New York Times who write:
In interviews, the three authors said their analysis suggested that the F.B.I. might have pursued the wrong suspect and that the case should be reopened. Their position may embolden calls for a national commission to investigate the first major bioterrorist attack in American history.
The president of Lehigh University, Alice B. Gast, who was also in charge of the National Academy of Sciences panel evaluting the science used in the Amerithrax investigation is interviewed as part of this "new" story in the Times. Gast believes the issue of the tin should have been more thoroughly explored. The Justice Department responds:
Dean Boyd, a Justice Department spokesman, said the paper provided “no evidence whatsoever that the spores used in the mailings were produced” at a location other than Fort Detrick. He said investigators believe Dr. Ivins grew and dried the anthrax spores himself.
“Speculation regarding certain characteristics of the spores is just that — speculation,” Mr. Boyd said. “We stand by our conclusion.”According to Bill Broad and Scott Shane, "no evidence directly tied Dr. Ivins to the crime." They claim that the NAS "sharply criticized some of the F.B.I.'s scientific work." And they write,
If the authors of the new paper are correct about the silicon-tin coating, it appears likely that Dr. Ivins could not have made the anthrax powder alone with the equipment he possessed, as the F.B.I. maintains. That would mean either that he got the powder from elsewhere or that he was not the perpetrator.
And if pigs could fly, we could all feast on deep fried pig wings.
If Dr. Ivins did not make the powder, one conceivable source might be classified government research on anthrax, carried out for years by the military and the Central Intelligence Agency. Dr. Ivins had ties to several researchers who did such secret work.
And if the powder had been made by Pinocchio, how would he have gotten a mask over his long nose?
At the very end of the New York Times' article, it starts talking about how tin is a common contaminant in laboratory work, how spores pick up all kinds of contaminants, and how the article by Hugh-Jones, Rosenberg and Jacobsen neglected to mention or even consider that the tin could have been a meaningless contaminant. The three authors evidently just assumed it must be a sophisticated additive.
Evidently, it's acceptable in the newspaper business these days to show the "other point of view" at the very end of an article that seems designed to create unnecessary controversy instead of much needed clarity.
October 10, 2011 (A) - The Baltimore Sun's web site has an article titled "Frontline's 'Anthrax Files' takes a hard look at FBI's role in suicide of Ft. Detrick scientist." Just when I was becoming hopeful that tomorrow's Frontline piece might be better than previously expected, David Zurawik of the Sun writes:
the report shows how a federal agency can shred an individual's life -- with or without the proper evidence to convict. "The Anthrax Files" suggests that anyone with the psychological issues Ivins had might have cracked under the weight of the FBI invading his privacy, exposing his secrets and ultimately getting him kicked out of the community of researchers that he called home at Ft. Detrick.I had been collecting every piece of information I could find about the anthrax investigation for 7 years at the time of Ivins' suicide, and I'd never picked up the slightest hint that the FBI was investigating him. So, the FBI's investigation of Ivins was undoubtedly kept out of the public eye. There wasn't even the slightest hint in the media. The complaint now seems to be that the FBI shouldn't investigate anyone, because an investigation invades one's privacy and exposes intimate secrets. And, they seem to be saying, discovering that a mentally ill person is handling extremely dangerous pathogens in a government lab is nobody's business, and they should be left to do whatever they want to do.
Once again, I'm feeling that tomorrow's Frontline will not be up to their usual standards.
October 9, 2001 - Uh oh. Yesterday, I was misled by an Anthrax Truther again. When will I ever learn?! I didn't write a comment for this morning because there's a thread on Lew Weinstein's blog with this headline:
Anonymous states … This DARPA budget document shows that DoD was experimenting with microencapsulated pathogens in 2000-2001 … Bruce Ivins could not have produced such a dry anthrax powder that was microencapsulatedand an Anthrax Truther posted this in response:
William Broad and Scott Shane’s article on this subject will appear later in the day. Let’s see if they rely on scientists who have made anthrax simulant using a silanizing solution — scientists who have made microencapsulated product.
I didn't expect to see any article about Bruce Ivins using (or not using) microencapsulation, but I did expected to see some kind of article today by William Broad and Scott Shane about the anthrax attacks. And, I figured I'd write a comment about it. But, no such article has showed up. So, now I have to hunt around for something else to write about.
The Aberdeen News has an article titled "Ten years since Daschle received anthrax-laced letter," but it doesn't contain anything new or worth commenting about.
The Times of Trenton has an article titled "A decade on, legacy of anthrax attacks lingers in Mercer County and beyond" contains a suggestion that there may have been as many as 10 anthrax letters, but they don't cite any source for that idea, although it appears to have come from author Leonard Cole. Other than that, it's same-old same-old.
That leaves the seven emails I found in my inbox this morning from an Anthrax Truther.
The first email from the Anthrax Truther is about the claim that Ivins started working on the second batch of anthrax on Tuesday, September 25, 2001, when he began working in the evenings in his BSL-3 lab again for the first time since the first mailing. The Anthrax Truther found a very interesting email sent by Ivins at 9:57 p.m. on September 26th:
The email says that Ivins spent some time on "Tuesday evening," which would be the 25th, removing the covers from the ceiling lights. However, the email doesn't say where those ceiling lights were located. The in-out logs say they were either somewhere outside of Suite B3, where Ivins was from 6:57 p.m. to 7:42 p.m. or the lights were in Ivins' BSL-3 lab in Suite B3. The logs say Ivins was in Suite B3 from 7:42 p.m. to 9:28 p.m., and he was in his BSL-3 lab from 7:45 p.m. to roughly 9:27 p.m. It certainly doesn't take an hour and 42 minutes to remove the ceiling light covers in a room that is only 11 feet by 17 feet. It can probably be done in a few minutes, if that's all he did. And, besides, Ivins had until October 5 to make the anthrax powders for the senate letters. So, having something else to do for a few minutes on the evening of the 25th doesn't change much.
But, what's far more interesting about the email is it's tone. The Anthrax Truther tells me that this email was sent to his new boss, Patricia Worsham. And the wording seems to verify that. It's a very sarcastic tone for an email to one's new boss: "Dear Queen of the Universe, Ruler of All that you Survey"? "Your humble servant"? And, what was redacted in "(especially those who clear [redacted] ...)"? It looks like a four-letter word was redacted.
Anthrax Truthers would undoubtedly argue that it was just "Bruce being Bruce," but other facts indicate that Ivins was very upset and resentful for having Patricia Worsham promoted to be his boss. In April of 2002, Ivins would ignore Worsham's direct instructions and create a massive firestorm by telling people about his second unauthorized cleaning and how he found contamination after an accident in one of Patricia Worsham's labs. (This morning, in reponse to this paragraph, I received this note from an anthrax truther:
Ed you appear not to understand the workplace humor or the facts of the case - at his funeral, Pat held up a T-shirt saying "The Queen is not amused" and everyone laughed
Hmm. I understand "workplace humor" very clearly. And that incident at his funeral shows that the email was still vividly remembered seven years later. But, I admit this is a matter of individual intepretation.)
The second email from the Anthrax Truther is a claim that the minutes of a meeting that took place on October 11, 2001, somehow explain what Ivins was doing in the evenings the FBI says he was making anthrax powders. Here's the link to the thread on Lew Weinstein's site where the minutes of the meeting can be found:
* Minutes of Meeting Produced Under FOIA To DXer Today Report On Experiment Dr. Ivins Was Conducting On Nights The DOJ Speculated, Without Basis, That He Was Making a Dried Powder And DOJ Claimed, Without Basis, That Dr. Ivins Had No Reason To Be In LabHere's the text that came along with the email from the Anthrax Truther:
Ed Lake hopes that by not mentioning the newly produced documentary evidence regarding what Dr. Ivins was doing in late September and early October 2001, people won't learn about it.
I keep asking Anthrax Truthers to explain their reasoning, but they never do. Evidently, the claim here is that, if Ivins had "normal" work to do during the day, that also means he had "normal" work to do in the evenings. No, it doesn't!
(Today, I'm being bombarded with email after email that fall into this category. Each email seems to pertain to some bizarre belief held by the Anthrax Truther, and he evidently cannot articulate their significance in any meaningful way. Some are about things that happened years after the attacks, others are about people the Anthrax Truther doesn't think anyone should trust, but his reasoning appears to be some mindless bias which no one else seems to share.)
The third email from the Anthrax Truther said:
Contrary to Ed Lake's apparent understanding, the FBI has not released any notebooks and certainly none from September and October
The notebook released by USAMRIID that addressed the mouse experiments in September confirmed that the mice had to be checked three times (under animal protocol) -- explaining why Dr. Ivins was doing on those dates in September.So, I was in error about the FBI releasing the notebooks. It's USAMRIID who would release the notebooks.
The email is in regard to a page from a notebook which clearly shows that Ivins checked mice in the evenings on Sept. 28, 29, 30 and October 1 and 2. It only takes a few minutes to check if the mice are alive or dead, and to make a note about it. Besides, the mice were in room B310. The questions are about what Ivins was doing in his BSL-3 lab in room B313 from September 25 through October 5. So, this lab notebook page says absolutely nothing about that:
And, it shows that Ivins was NOT checking the mice on the critical evenings of October 3, 4 and 5. So, this document would tend to confirm that Ivins had no explanation for the time he spent in his BSL-3 lab in August, September and October. (An email this morning shows that the question of who performs the necropsy and autoclaves the remains is unknown. If Ivins was checking the mice for someone else, it seems extremely unlikely that he'd do any such work.)
The fourth email from the Anthrax Truther asked for the source of this statement of mine:
"Adamovicz was Ivins best friend at USAMRIID"The Anthrax Truther's claim was:
Ed, if you sourced your statements, you would make far fewer errors ; on average, one out of every two of your statements is factual baseless
Admittedly, I was working from memory. So, now I'll check my memory by going back through my comments on this site to look for the name Adamovicz.
The first item I find is a comment from which provided a link to a statement Jeff Adamovicz posted to Lew Weinstein's site on May 11, 2009:
May 11, 2009 at 12:11 pm I am Bruces’friend and colleague so I am somewhat biased on this topic. However, I was also the Chief of Bacteriology at USAMRIID and in Bruces supervisory chain and understand very well the science and the labs capabilities.
But, admittedly, it doesn't say he was Ivins' best friend. Checking further, I find it was Henry Heine who was Ivins' "best friend." My bad. I believe in Henry Heine's radio interviews he described himself as Ivins' drinking buddy and best friend. But, I'd have to check my sources further. That would mean I'd have to listen to the radio broadcasts again, since I didn't use the term "best friend" in any of my comments. Or maybe I'll just acknowledge that I made an error in stating Jeff Adamovicz was Ivins' "best friend." He wasn't. Lesson learned: Do not rely on memory so much!
The fifth email from the Anthrax Truther suggests that I may have been thinking of Arthur O. Anderson as being Ivins' best friend. Nope, I wasn't.
The sixth email from the Anthrax Truther says:
Note that Ed Lake's disinterest in obtaining the contemporaneous notes being withheld from the dates in early October 2001 match his disinterest in the late hours the week of Christmas.
The Anthrax Truther attached Ivins' evening in-out logs for December 19 through the 28th, 2001. They show that Ivins spent roughly a half hour in his BSL-3 lab on each of two evenings, the 20th and 28th. And there's an unexplained use of the B301 KEYPAD at 1:56:13 on the 21st. That entry is by itself on the log, with no information about entering the change rooms or Suite 3 or Building 1425. So, it seems to be a glitch. And the time might actually be 1:56 p.m.
Is the Anthrax Truther trying to claim that someone said that Ivins never worked in the evenings in his lab before or after the August to October 2001 time period? Who ever made such a claim? (This is another of the weird emails which seem to be about something that the Anthrax Truther thinks is important, but he cannot or will not explain the importance and why anyone should even care about such matters.)
The seventh email from the Anthrax Truther is also about Arthur O. Anderson and how Anderson was Ivins' "friend and confidante." I've already admitted my error about who was Ivins' "best friend."
So, I did have something to write about this morning after all. I thank the Anthrax Truther for his emails.
BTW, among the emails I received this morning from the Anthrax Truther was one which complained that I never mentioned that Patricia Worsham also believed that Ivins couldn't have made the anthrax powders. Dr. Worsham makes such statements in her depostion in the Stevens vs. USA lawsuit. I think I've discussed the subject before, but I have no problem with mentioning it again: It's people who know how to make powders using the Ivins' equipment who are the "expert witnesses." Ivins' friends who do not know how to make such powders with the equipment Ivins had - like Pat Worsham - are of no value as "expert witnesses." The government has all the "expert witnesses" they need to prove beyond any doubt that Ivins had all the necessary equipment and expertise to make the anthrax powders.
And, lest we forget, USAMRIID's best known expert on making spores, Bruce Ivins, claimed in numerous interviews with the FBI that John Ezzell, Joseph Farchaus, Patricial Fellows, Gregory Knudson, Henry Heine, Erick Henchal and Mara Linscott all had the necessary knowledge to make the powders found in the anthrax letters. (See note #39 on page 426 of David Willman's book "The Mirage Man.") So, Ivins apparently didn't think that Pat Worsham could do it, which somewhat of a verification that her non-expert testimony in the Stevens lawsuit is meaningless.
& Changes: Sunday, October 2, 2011, thru Saturday, October 8,
October 8, 2001 - DXer sent me four nasty emails complaining about yesterday's post. Here are the first three:
ed, I'll gladly send you numerous links showing that the reference is always asking for a copy under FOIA so as to see what time it was sent - are you THAT stupid? -now correct your post you stupid jerk
this is just one of many references to the need that it be produced under FOIA - you are such a bad researcher it is no longer funny
your case study illustrates well that you will make any assumption - no matter how ridiculous - that gets you to your conclusion .. at the same time blatantly mischaracterizing the record because of your poor reading comprehension
In none of his emails does he explain where he got the 11:22 p.m. time. He appears to have simply made it up as an example of a time that would somehow give Ivins an alibi (although it wouldn't). He's been trying to get the real exact time of the email mentioned in the FBI's Summary Report because he apparently believes that the FBI knows the time would give Ivins an alibi, and that's why the FBI doesn't want anyone to know the time.
The FBI's Summary Report merely says this on page 32 and 33 about the September 17 email:
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 Also, source information, including from Dr. Ivins’s own e-mails and his prescription records, reveals that there were other times in those same years when he was experiencing personal difficulties. However, during none of those other time periods were his off-hours in the lab anywhere near the hours he spent there in the weeks leading up to the mailings. Further, his e-mails written contemporaneously with the mailings indicate that the circumstances surrounding his home life were improving. For example, in an e-mail to a former colleague, dated September 17, 2001, on the day before the first letters were postmarked, Dr. Ivins discussed his improving home life. In another e-mail to this former colleague, dated September 19, 2001, the day after the first letters were postmarked, Dr. Ivins reported that he had exercised for the first time in months and that he “felt good.”
It's my understanding that the email was sent to Mara Linscott during the morning of the 17th. That's information I received from a "reliable, confidential source" yesterday.
However, since I cannot supply the proof, DXer is free to suggest that the FBI isn't releasing the email because it would give Ivins an alibi for the time of the media mailing. After all, that's the purpose of most of the claims Anthrax Truthers make: That the FBI, the DOJ and USAMRIID aren't releasing information because the information proves Ivins was innocent. But, we know that, when the information is released, it confirms what the FBI stated. We never hear about that. Anthrax Truthers only want to voice their suspicions and theories. They don't want to see any of their suspicions and theories disproved. When a claim is disproved, they simply ignore it and move on to another claim.
October 7, 2011 (B) - Uh oh! It looks like I made a serious mistake back in February: I mistakenly believed something the Anthrax Truther who calls himself "DXer" told me about an email Bruce Ivins supposedly wrote on September 17, 2011. DXer wrote on Lew Weinstein's web site on February 24, 2011:
Ed, we’ve established that you agree he did not travel [to New Jersey] during the workday on 9/17 or during the workday on 9/18.
Now Ed, would you agree that Dr. Ivins wrote an email to a former colleague, dated September 17, 2001?
Would you agree that at the time he wrote that email, he was not on the road driving to Princeton?
Do you know what time he wrote that email?I responded:
If it was dated the 17th, then it couldn’t have been after midnight, and it still wouldn’t provide an alibi.
And then DXer responded:
Is the reason that Ed thinks an email at 11:22 p.m. would not provide Dr. Ivins an alibi because he thinks Dr. Ivins could have left a house with 3 adults unnoticed?
And then DXer added a few minutes later:
The time the email was sent is not opinion, Ed. It is fact. It is a fact you do not know but merely assume. It isn’t even the only email he wrote.
I've never been able to find that email, but since DXer used it in an argument which he thought proved his point, but actually proved mine, I accepted it. And, ever since then I'm been assuming that Ivins sent an email at 11:22 p.m. on September 17, 2001, just before leaving for New Jersey to mail the media letters.
Today, I mentioned that email to someone who has been following the case very closely, and I was quickly shot down! There is evidently no record of any email sent by Ivins at that time. The last email Ivins sent to Mara Linscott on September 17 was sent in the morning. So, Ivins could have driven to New Jersey any time after he logged out of Building 1425 at 7:13 p.m. on September 17 until he logged back in again at 7 a.m. or so on the 18th.
DXer has been harping about that email for many months, asking for information about what it contained, but he never provides any information about where to find it or where he got his information that it even exists. And, it now appears that it does not exist. It was either a bluff or just a mistake on his part. And I fell for it.
October 7, 2011 (A) - The University of Wyoming News just published an article titled "UW Professors: Accused Anthrax Killer Couldn't Have Done It." The two professors are friends of Bruce Ivins who work or have worked as professors at the University of Wyoming: Jeffery J. Adamovicz and Gerry Andrews. Here are the claims:
"The scientific evidence clearly shows that the (anthrax) wasn't produced in our laboratory (USAMRIID)," the two UW professors say. "The FBI based part of its case on unusual activity that took place in our lab for one week. There is no way he could produce that amount of spores in our lab during that time."
Other independent laboratories couldn't produce anthrax under similar lab conditions, and the FBI could not recreate the attack strain, Adamovicz says.
"The FBI's own evidence suggested a more advanced laboratory produced it," he says.One week? The evidence says that Ivins was working alone in his lab at various times from August 2001 through the first five days of October. The scientific evidence shows that the attack spores could have been produced in Ivins' laboratory. (The facts also suggest that Ivins had been accumulating spores for over a year before the attacks.) Other independent laboratories could produce spores under the conditions found in Ivins' lab. The idea of the FBI even attempting to recreate "the attack strain" shows either a vast misunderstanding by the person who wrote the article or by Adamovicz. They probably meant something else.
The article says that Adamovicz will appear on the PBS Frontline program "The Anthrax Files" which will air next week, on Tuesday October 11 at 9 PM Eastern Time. It will be interesting to see if Frontline compares Adamovicz's beliefs to the facts - or if they present Adamovicz's uninformed opinions as facts.
October 6, 2011 (D) - I'm going to try an experiment. There's no way for me to add a feature to this web site where people can post comments. So, since I was booted off of Lew Weinstein's forum because I didn't conform to his accepted beliefs, and since Dr. Meryl Nass's site isn't being regularly updated, and since a lot of people apparently don't like posting to FreeRepublic.com, I've created a new blog forum at anthraxdebate.blogspot.com where I can (supposedly) moderate the discussions. I'm not sure how everything works, so it'll be just an experiment for awhile. Also, since my hours are basically 9 to 5, people who post in the evenings won't see their posts appear until the next day. If you post, I request you pick a unique name instead of using "anonymous."
If you have thoughts about the PBS Frontline program "The Anthrax Files," post them by clicking HERE.
October 6, 2011 (C) - Yesterday, PBS Frontline issued a Press Release describing the program "The Anthrax Files" which is due to air on Tuesday, October 11 at 9 PM Eastern Time. The Press Release seems to indicate the program won't be as bad as I had feared.
It mentions Nicholas Kristof's campaign to point the finger at Hatfill, while also saying that top management in the DOJ and FBI believed Hatfill was the anthrax mailer, while lower level investigators didn't. That's good. That's also what the CNN program said. But, not so good is this comment about not finding Ivins' home and car contaminated with anthrax:
“The smoking guns you would have expected to see if he had been the perpetrator weren’t there,” says the FBI’s genetic consultant Claire Fraser-Liggett.
Ivins had been working with anthrax for decades. Why would he not know how to keep from contaminating himself, his home and his car? Just because he didn't normally work with dry anthrax? That's absurd. However, there's also this:
“It’s not just the science. It’s not just the strange behavior on the part of Dr. Ivins. It’s not just an obsession or two. It’s not just the mailbox. It’s the confluence of all these things taken together,” says assistant U.S. Attorney Rachel Lieber. “That’s compelling evidence.”
Yes, indeed! It's the confluence of all the evidence taken together that says Ivins was definitely the anthrax mailer.
The article concludes with a statement that "many of Ivins' colleagues insist the FBI got the wrong man." But, that's nearly always the case. A mass murderer is tracked down and his friends and neighbors simply cannot believe it.
There'll be a lot more people than just Ivins' colleagues watching the Frontline program. I'm now much more hopeful that Frontline will try to present the facts, not just opinions from Ivins' colleagues and fantasies from McClatchy newspapers.
October 6, 2011 (B) - Hmm. Looks like I've been affected by the recession -- at least temporarily. The sign on the door of my health club says it's closed and will remain shut until the landlord can arrange for liability insurance.
So, instead of doing my regular workout, I spent the afternoon checking out the three other health clubs (a.k.a. "Gyms") that are closer to where I live than the one I've been attending. Wow! I could write a long comment on the differences between them, but it would be a bit off topic. (The worst was small and had only one person in it, the next worst was tiny and crowded with senior citizens.) Fortunately, the best is also the nearest, and they gave me a two day free trial.
October 6, 2011 (A) - UPDATE: It looks like the "intrusion attempt" problem with the USA Today web site has been fixed. I don't get the error message anymore.
Umm. Wha ...? Every time I access the USA Today column by Dan Vergano about how "al Qaeda lab lingers in anthrax story" (see my October 2 (D) comment), I get a message from my anti-virus software telling me that an attempt to attack my computer had been blocked. (The link I used on October 2 doesn't cause the "intrusion attempt," the current link on Google for the USA Today article does.) When I look at the details about the attack, I see this:
So, the Air Force Air University at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama, is attacking my computer via an image on USA Today's site that contains executable code? That's interesting. I wonder if they know about it. I'm not a conspiracy theorist, so I'm going to assume that their computer has been hacked in some way. I'll let them know. And, I'll also let USA Today know about it, since the image is on their site.
October 5, 2011 (B) - Hmm. Back on September 3, I posted a comment about a letter Senator Charles Grassley sent to the Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI Director Mueller as a result of the nonsense in the media from McClatchy newspapers. Someone just brought the government's response to my attention. It's in the form of a letter from Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich to Senator Grassley dated September 23, 2011. The letter informs Sen. Grassley:
You expressed concern that documents filed in the civil action "seemingly contradicted previous information provided to congressional leadership" and "indicated that the DOJ no longer believed that Dr. Ivins created refined anthrax powder in his laboratory." The motion for summary judgement filed by the Department's Civil Division in this litigation does not contradict the findings in the FBI criminal division. To the contrary, the Department has stated in defending the civil action "that the evidence would show that Dr. Ivins was the anthrax assailant." That statement was specifically recited no fewer than 15 times in the dispositive motion filed by the Department.
The letter then goes on to explain that the issue in the motion wasn't about Ivins' guilt, it was about whether the government could have foreseen that Ivins might commit such a crime. Under Florida tort law, if the government could not have reasonably foreseen such a criminal act, then Maureen Stevens has no legal case. Then Weich's letter adds this interesting point:
While several of Dr. Ivins' former colleagues may have doubts about his ability to surreptitiously produce the anthrax powder in the specialized equipment available to him at the lab, we are convinced that he did so based upon the totality of the evidence developed in the criminal investigation, [....] The doubts of his colleagues only underscore our view that Dr. Ivins' actions were not foreseeable under Florida tort law.
The letter also explains that the supplemental filing was not a retraction (as McClatchy newspapers claimed), it was a "clarification" that, while there was no lyophizer in Ivins' Suite B3, there was one nearby and he had access to it. Unfortunately, that brings up the question of: why mention the lyophilizer in the first place if it's unlikely that Ivins used it to make the attack powders? The answer seems to be to counter a claim that Ivins didn't have access to it.
October 5, 2011 (A) - Today, the Hartford Courant has an editorial titled "Anthrax Attacks Still A Mystery After 10 Years." Clearly, what they see as a "mystery" is just a lack of research on their part. They mistakenly believe:
The anthrax spores were "weaponized" with a high percentage of silicon, making the bacteria even more lethal. Yet there's no evidence that Dr. Ivins either had the equipment or was capable of the elaborate process necessary to add the silicon.
The spores were NOT "weaponized," there was NOTHING added to the spores to make them "more lethal." Yet, the Courant continues to spout the nonsense that the spores were weaponized. How much evidence is required to convince someone who refuses to look at the evidence? Evidently, there can never be enough.
One of the 9/11 hijackers, Ahmed Alhaznawi, reported to a Florida hospital with a dark wound that the attending physician told the FBI was consistent with cutaneous anthrax, which causes skin lesions.
The "dark wound" was described by the doctor as a "gash," and it was totally consistent with al Haznawi's claim that he had bumped into the sharp corner of a suitcase. There was no sign of anthrax anywhere al Haznawi stayed or went, and he was dead at the time of the anthrax attacks. His body was tested after the crash in Pennsylvania and no anthrax infection was found, although the FBI determined there was some accidental lab contamination of the specimens. It was only after the doctor was confronted by theorists who believed that the 9/11 hijackers were behind the anthrax attacks that the doctor acknowledged that it was possible that it could have been anthrax.
The cave at Tora Bora where Osama bin Laden hid for a time twice tested positively for the same strain of anthrax found in the letters, according to Pulitzer-prize winning author Laurie Garrett
The tests were determined to be false positives. Extensive additional testing found no sign of anthrax.
But, if newspaper editors are just going to believe what they want to believe, and try to get their readers to believe the same thing, we're going to need a better way to get the actual news.
October 4, 2011 (B) - The web site for the medical journal Annals of Internal Medicine contains an article titled "The Anthrax Attacks 10 Years Later" Dated October 3, 2011, it illustrates once again how bad information can get perpetually circulated. One of the authors of the article is the doctor who diagnosed Bob Stevens' case of inhalation anthrax, Larry M. Bush, MD. Unfortunately, the article isn't entirely about medical matters. It also says this:
The [Federal] Bureau [of Investigation] reported that the anthrax spores in the letters were genetically connected to unique anthrax spores that Ivins had developed and maintained in his laboratory at USAMRIID. Although the FBI has stated that its investigation went beyond scientific evidence and included interviews and other information as part of what it considers a firm case incriminating Ivins, on 15 February 2011 a panel of scientific experts assembled by the National Academy of Sciences, at the request of the FBI, independently evaluated the Bureau's genetic analysis of the anthrax spores. In doing so, this group of highly trained personnel advised that the scientific evidence put forth by the FBI was not sufficient to prove that Ivins was the culprit. Furthermore, recently filed official papers have acknowledged that the “hot suite” sealed area in Ivins' laboratory did not contain the equipment needed to turn liquid anthrax into the refined anthrax powder that was present in the letters, and that the laboratory lacked the facilities in 2001 to manufacture the kind of spores found in the letters (10, 11).
So, this nonsense is now in the historical record of the Annals of Internal Medicine. Reference 10 is the Palm Beach Post story about Maureen Stevens changing her lawsuit to argue that Ivins was not the anthrax mailer (because her legal case was endangered if she continued to acknowledge that Ivins was the anthrax mailer). Reference 11 is the McClatchy nonsense about the single-line mistake the government made in a filing in the Maureen Stevens lawsuit. And, the facts about the National Academy of Sciences stating that the scientific evidence was "not sufficient to prove that Ivins was the culprit" is also worded in a way that misleads the reader. The scientific evidence might not be conclusive by itself, but anyone viewing the entirety of the evidence should be left with no doubt that Bruce Ivins was the anthrax mailer.
October 4, 2011 (A) - If you missed the excellent CNN program "Death by Mail" which aired on Sunday night, you still have the opportunity to watch the reruns at 8 PM and 11 PM, Eastern Time on Saturday, October 8.
Also, PBS Frontline has a new blurb for their upcoming program "The Anthrax Files" scheduled to air on Tuesday, October 11 at 9 PM, Eastern Time. The blurb says:
Seven years later, after mistakenly pursuing one suspect, the most expensive and complex investigation ever undertaken by the FBI ended when they identified Army scientist Dr. Bruce Ivins as the sole perpetrator of the attacks. The FBI made their announcement after Ivins had taken his own life.
But questions about the case continue. Earlier this year, a National Academy of Sciences panel raised doubts about the FBI’s scientific conclusions. And many of Ivins’ colleagues insist the FBI got the wrong man.
Next week, in our season premiere, FRONTLINE, along with our partners ProPublica and McClatchy Newspapers, will take a hard look at the FBI’s handling of the country’s most notorious act of bioterrorism. After 10 years and a $100 million investigation, how strong was the FBI’s case? Was Dr. Bruce Ivins the anthrax killer?The blurb poses some questions: Should the FBI have publicly identified Ivins as the anthrax killer before he committed suicide, so that the media could have hounded him they way they hounded Steven Hatfill? Do Bruce Ivins' colleagues know more about the evidence than the FBI and DOJ? Can Frontline raise enough questions to convince their viewers that someone else could have been the anthrax mailer? How much evidence will they have to ignore to do that?
October 3, 2011 (B) - I'm getting some questions about the ice machine that appears to be located next to the door in Ivins' BSL-3 lab. In my (C) comment yesterday, I had referred to it as an "ice bin." I've changed what I'd written, because there do not appear to be any Scotsman ice bins that look like what's in the photo of Ivins. Here's the Ivins photo again, along with a photo of what appears to be of the same style of ice machine:
The issue is: Would they have an ice machine in a BSL-3 lab? (Some scientists say no.) Or was the picture of Ivins taken in some lab other than room B313? The photo and the floorplan only seem to match Ivins' B313 lab. Or is it a broken ice machine that no longer makes ice but can still be used as an ice bin? Who knows?
Do you store buckets on top of an ice machine to carry ice to a bin somewhere? Or do you store buckets on top of the bin to use when you need to go to the machine to replenish the ice supply in the bin? I dunno.
Page 23 of FBI file #847443 says:
The ice machine and the centrifuge were in B3, therefore anyone [from B4] who needed to use that equipment would have entered B3.
Does that mean that there was only one ice machine in Suite B3 and it was located in Ivins' BSL-3 lab? I doubt it. It also could mean that there was a second ice machine in B304 and Ivins had one of his own in B313.
I'm told that the light switch doesn't seem appropriate for a BSL-3 lab, either, since it could have little holes in it which could capture bacteria or spores in the air. And that kind of light switch is very hard to wash down with water and bleach without shorting something out. On the other hand, if they handle different types of bacteria, what might seem wrong for BSL-3 Lab X might be okay for BSL-3 Lab Y, even though they are both technically BioSafety Level-3 labs.
It's another puzzle. But, as of now, the facts still say that the photo is of Ivins in room B313.
October 3, 2011 (A) - I give last night's CNN Report "Death by Mail" a 3 star rating, or an A-. With all the commercials, they probably didn't have more than 40 minutes to tell the story. And, they did fairly well. I don't think the program left any doubt that Ivins was the anthrax mailer, even though his lawyer claims he could have gotten Ivins off anyway, because no one was there taking home movies when Ivins mailed the anthrax letters at 3 in the morning.
The problem with the Amerithrax case is that it's a jigsaw puzzle of a thousand pieces. And, in a 40-minute show, you can't talk about more than a dozen of the pieces or so. If you give a hundred writers all the pieces and ask each to write a program about the anthrax case, you'd get a hundred different shows, each emphasizing different things. A thousand writers would produce a thousand different shows.
But, I have to wonder why CNN advertised the program this way:
CNN Presents: Death by Mail: The Anthrax Letters: A look into the anthrax letters after the 9/11 attacks revealing the possibility that the government accused the wrong man.
I didn't see that in the show. The possibility may be there, but it certainly wasn't the message of the show. I suppose it's an ad-man's way of drawing in an audience - make it seem like there's more controversy than there really is.
The show also didn't live up to the CNN headline "Strange sorority fixation was link that led to anthrax suspect." Nancy Haigwood's call to the FBI wasn't shown as being what led the FBI to Ivins. Although Haigwood was definitely featured in the show, it was just a way of telling the story of how a bunch of different clues led to Ivins. Haigwood was the first to point to Ivins, but the record of her call was simply filed away. It wasn't until years later, after a lot of other things fell into place, that the FBI dug Haigwood's call out of the files and contacted her to ask for more information about Ivins.
One error bothers me - or at least I think it's an error. They said that the bloodhounds were tracking the scent of anthrax when they were led to Dr. Hatfill. I'm pretty sure that's not true. They were supposedly tracking human scents off of the anthrax letters. It also bothered me that they kept saying that the Ames strain is a "laboratory strain," as if it was created in a laboratory. It wasn't. The Ames strain was found in a cow that had been grazing in a pasture in Texas. So, saying it's "not out there in the wild" is also technically untrue.
But, I don't mean to quibble. It was a good show. It was very worthwhile. And it gives me hope that the PBS Frontline show "The Anthrax Letters" scheduled to air on October 11 won't be as bad and distorted as the ads make it appear.
October 2, 2011 (D) - USA Today has an opinion piece about the anthrax attacks of 2001. In Dan Vergano's column titled "Al Qaeda lab lingers in anthrax story," Vergano seems to be totally ignorant of all the evidence against Bruce Ivins, since he only discusses the fact that there were some "false positives" in tests for anthrax in a suspected al Qaeda lab in 2004, and that the National Academy of Sciences stated that it could not be conclusively proved that anthrax matching the attack anthrax couldn't possibly be made elsewhere (other than by Ivins and Dugway in 1997). It's that same Anthrax Truther argument again: If it's possible someone else did it, then someone else must have done it.
October 2, 2011 (C) (Modified on Oct. 3) - As I do research for my book, putting things in order, I constantly have to go through documents that I had previously read long ago. Only now I'm studying them much more carefully. There are things I know now that I didn't know months or years ago. And there are things I didn't care about years ago that I now care about. As a result, I keep stumbling into little puzzles and little surprises that keep me wondering for hours. For example, here's part of a floorplan which shows Bacteriology Suites 3, 4 and 5 in Building 1425 at USARMIID:
Suite 3 is, of course, the suite of rooms and laboratories shared primarily by Bruce Ivins, Patricia Worsham and their associates. Ivins' BSL-3 lab was in room B313.
I had been wondering and trying to figure out for a long time where the key card readers are located. But, yesterday, when looking at this floor plan (and another floor plan with more detail), I suddenly noticed something else. I noticed the size of the doors compared to the size of the rooms. In such a laboratory, the doors are probably 36 inches wide, which is the maximum for standard interior doors in this kind of setting. Using that door size as a ruler, that means that Ivins' BSL-3 lab in room B313 was around 11 feet by 17 feet, which just happens to be the same size as my "office" (the master bedroom in a 2 bedroom apartment). If the doors are slightly smaller, his lab could be 12x18.
Either way, that's still a lot smaller than I had been thinking. And, if the picture below was taken in Bruce Ivins' lab - which is said to be the case - it shows the northwest corner of room B313 and its only door. The door handle is a solid piece of metal that looks like a hook, probably so you can pull the door open with your arm if you've got your hands full of Petri dishes to take to another room in the suite.
The door opens inward just as the floorplan shows, and there's certainly no more than 3 feet between the door and the corner, which also fits with the floorplan. But, what the floorplan doesn't show that the picture shows is that, if you open the door to more than 90 degrees, it will bang into the metal table and that beige plastic container of junk. A person enters room B313 by walking between the ice bin (or is it an ice machine?) and the table. The picture above appears to show almost a fourth of Ivins' lab space - the fourth by the door.
Wow! That's definitely not the kind of government laboratories you see in the movies! Someone I know was once given a tour of the Bacteriology suites and B3. She described it to me as looking like a "rabbit warren." I now understand that description. It's not only a maze of crowded rooms, it's also not a place for anyone who might be claustrophobic.
You can't see it in the picture, but there's a large window to the left of the door. One of the FBI documents says that Peter Jahrling watched through the window as Ivins set about preparing plates to quantify the Daschle powder on October 17, 2001. Behind the camera that took the photo above, there could be one or two more biosafety cabinets (for use by Ivins' associates) and tables, and possibly a small autoclave. But the room almost certainly didn't contain anything like incubators or flask shakers. Everyone went to room B304 if they needed to use that kind of equipment. Ivins probably also used centrifuges in room B304 for making the anthrax powders. The plates being handled (without gloves) by Ivins in the picture above were probably headed for incubators in room B304. That seems to mean that people were going back and forth between BSL-2 areas and BSL-3 areas all the time.
The size of the lab also explains a few things about Ivins' obsessions with his two female associates, Patricia Fellows and Mara Linscott. With Ivins and two attractive women working together in a room like that, they'd be almost bumping into each other all the time. And one could easily hold conversations in a normal voice, even if the other person was at the opposite side of the room.
The dimensions of the rooms suddenly clarify something else that previously didn't seem to make sense. The walk-in cold room (B311) was described as containing nothing more than a "bench" (probably a work bench) and two shelves on the wall. Samples and other materials were stored on the bench, the shelves and on the floor. Looking at the floor plan, that description now seems about right for a room that is probably no larger than 7 feet by 11 feet. (Notice that the cold room is the only room with a door that pulls open from the hall, instead pushing inward into the rooms. Safety concerns, and perhaps even a law could be the reason for having a door to a refrigerator room that opens outwards.)
And the "Change Room" between the Men's Locker Room and the lounge now looks like it may have been designed for use by one person at a time. It isn't much wider than a doorway.
By now, I'd hoped to have figured out where the key card readers and the keypad were located, but I've hit another snag on that. It's beginning to look like I'll have to create a new supplemental page titled "Mysteries of the Card Readers" or "Mysteries of Suite B3" to explain the puzzles and snags I keep running into and what a resolution of the puzzles would tell us about Ivins' movements on the evenings he was making the anthrax powders.
The point of this morning's comment is to provide a better understanding of the layout of Suite B3 and Ivins' lab - for me, and hopefully also for the readers of this web page. It should show how a simple thing like noticing the size of doorways can entirely alter the way one visualizes Suite 3. That was certainly the case for me. Ivins' lab was even more crampled and cluttered than my office. Wow!
October 2, 2011 (B) - On their web site, CNN has a news article titled "Strange sorority fixation was link that led to anthrax suspect," which may part of what will be shown on this evening's hour-long special "Death By Mail."
As of 2:30 PM, there are almost 400 comments by readers at the end of the article. What the comments seem to show is that most people know very little about the case. As a result, the idea of connecting the anthrax attacks to a Kappa Kappa Gamma fixation seems ridiculous to them. And, it would be ridiculous if it were the only connection linking Ivins to the attacks. But, that's only because the web article just looks at that very tiny part of the evidence against Ivins. Hopefully, the TV program will provide a lot more of the evidence and present it in a more understandable way.
October 2, 2011 (A) - It looks like my web site host didn't change servers as planned. This web site was down from about 1 PM yesterday until about 1 AM this morning, but the old IP address still seems to work okay. It appears they tried to make the change, ran in to a major problem, and then undid all changes. I'll have try to find out what happened and when they expect to try again.
& Changes: Sunday, September 25, 2011, thru Saturday, October 1,
September 30, 2011 (B) - Today's USA Today has an article titled "Strides in biodefense follow 2011 anthrax scare." The article makes some good points about how the scientific effort to find the anthrax killer led to advances in microbial forensics which have paid dividends recently. Microbial forensics helped track down the source of the ecoli outbreak in Germany which killed 50 people earlier this year, and the source of the cholera outbreak in Haiti. Tests which cost millions in 2001, now cost thousands. And there are much tighter controls on the distribution of bacteria samples.
September 30, 2011 (A) - This is a reminder that this web site will be unavailable for awhile tomorrow, and possibly into Sunday. The word I have is that my web site "host" will be changing servers from 10 AM until 10 PM tomorrow, Eastern Time. They can't tell me exactly what time they'll be changing the server which holds this web site, but it will take about two hours to make the transfer. This site will become unavailable the moment they disconnect the old server. They'll notify me when they're done, and they'll tell me what the new IP address is on the new server. That could happen any time between 12 noon and 10 PM. (If it's after 10 PM, the site will probably be unavailable all night.)
Once I know the new IP address, I have to update the Name Server at the company from which I got the domain name anthraxinvestigation.com. I'll replace the old IP address with the new IP address. The Name Server makes the connection between the domain name and the server. I.e., anthraxinvestigation.com = 123.456.789.101. And, it could take awhile to propogate the new connection through the Internet to where everyone knows the new address.
Hopefully, it won't be as complicated as it seems and it will all take place very quickly.
September 29, 2011 - The long-awaited CNN special about the anthrax attacks of 2001 is called "Death by Mail," and it will air this coming Sunday, October 2, at 8 and 11 p.m. Eastern Time. CNN has a 2 minute 40 second video preview on their web site, along with an article titled "The Anthrax Mystery." The video preview is very interesting because it shows interviews with FBI Inspector in Charge Ed Montooth and the Postal Inspector Team Leader Thomas Dellafera who together led the investigation that identified Bruce Ivins as the anthrax mailer, plus Federal Prosecutor Rachel Lieber who helped assemble the legal case against Ivins. Reporter David Willman is also in the video, as is Nancy Haigwood, whose career Ivins attempted to destroy just because she wouldn't be the kind of friend Ivins wanted. So, it's clear that CNN's "Death by Mail" is going to be more about facts and less about beliefs and alternative theories as it appears the PBS Frontline program scheduled to air on October 11 will be. I've already set my DVR.
September 26, 2011 - It looks like the question of whether or not to dismiss the Stevens v USA lawsuit won't be settled before November. Today, Judge Hurley set 9 a.m. on November 2, 2011, as the time for a hearing on the motion.
September 25, 2011 - I spent all day yesterday writing a very long and very complex comment for today. It was all about the physical layout of Bacteriology Suite 3 and what the In-Out logs showed about Ivins' actions on October 5, 2001. It required a lot of research, careful study, and the comparing of information found in various documents. The writing process forced me to think things through very carefully, but I still ended the day with the feeling that some of the pieces didn't quite fit. I'd hoped that a good night's sleep would help me find an easy solution, so I could finish the comment this morning. But, instead, I woke up realizing that some of what I'd written had to be wrong. The pieces apparently didn't fit together because I was misunderstanding something about where things were located in Suite B3. And, it's probably going to take me at least a couple more days to figure things out. But, I'll probably just wait and use it as my October 2 or 9 comment. That means I have to start from scratch with a totally different comment for today.
This morning, I noticed that Wired Magazine just published the 3rd part of a multi-part series about the attacks of 9/11 and the anthrax attacks that followed. The series is titled "Terror and Bioterror: 9/11 to 10/4." It appears to consist mostly of excerpts from Maryn McKenna's 2008 book "Beating Back The Devil" which seems to view events from the perspective of the CDC's Epidemic Intelligence Service. And, since it was published in 2008, a search for the word "Ivins" gets no hits. So, it's not of much help for today's comment.
Since last Sunday's comment described how Ivins went about mailing the first anthrax letters ten years ago on that date, I'll try to describe what Ivins did during the week following the first mailing.
The facts say that Ivins arrived back home on the morning of September 18th in time to shave, shower and get to work at 7:02 a.m. Then, he and two associates drove to Denver, Pennsylvania, to meet with people from Covance, a drug testing firm. While Ivins was on that day trip to Covance, the media letters were being collected from the mailbox at 10 Nassau Street in Princeton, NJ, and they were then taken to the Hamilton Mail Processing Center, near Trenton. Ivins may have figured that the trip to Covance would give him an alibi for the time of the mailing, but it didn't.
The next day, the 19th, Ivins was feeling good. He wrote an email to his former co-worker, Mara Linscott, telling her how good he felt and that he'd even exercised for the first time in months. His good feeling was almost certainly the result of having finally done something that he'd been thinking and worrying about for perhaps as long as a year or more. 9/11 had given him the resolve he needed to actually go through with it. He'd not only taken direct action to get the vaccine program back on track, he'd also taken an action that should alert all of America to the dangers of a bioweapons attack from the same people who attacked on 9/11. As such, Ivins would have seen it as having done an heroic deed. That's why he'd put the hidden message in the letters - so he could prove that he was the hero who saved America, if or when the time was right. Now, it was just a matter of waiting for the reaction to his five letters.
On Thursday, September 20th, Ivins tried to arrange for a trip to Battelle. It could be ideal to be away from USAMRIID when the letters were found and the panic began. That way, the top officials at USAMRIID might summon him back to help with the situation, since he was one of America's foremost experts on anthrax. He may have envisioned headlines: ANTHRAX EXPERT SUMMONED HOME. But, no one except Ivins had any interest in such a the trip.
On Friday, September 21, clearly still in a good mood, Ivins sent an email to Nancy Haigwood, the woman whose career he'd tried to destroy several times in the distant past. It was the first time he'd contacted her in years, and Haigwood almost freaked out, since the email discussed her children, which she hadn't had when Ivins had last communicated. Ivins asked about their health and wondered if she had any specific plans for their education. It was clear to Haigwood that Ivins was researching her and her family. Ivins also mentioned that, since USAMRIID was the "primary BW [BioWarfare] research center in this country, we are more than a bit on edge." He was waiting for something to happen.
When Haigwood didn't respond to his email, Ivins telephoned her. There was nothing menacing in the call, but it made Haigwood extremely uncomfortable. Years later, when FBI agents asked Ivins about the call, he would say that he simply contacted her "after the anthrax attacks" to refresh their friendship. But, of course, no one except Bruce Ivins knew at the time that there had been any "anthrax attacks." Then there was also the fact that it had been Haigwood who had brought the book Gödel, Escher, Bach to Ivins' attention, and a hidden message in the media letters used a code described in that book.
On Saturday, September 22, Ivins filled out an application to join the American Red Cross as a volunteer. On the form, he stated that he worked in "anthrax research," a term he'd never used before on any application. Previously, he'd always referred to himself as a "microbiologist" or as a "bacteriologist."
Although Ivins wasn't aware of it, on that same Saturday, Joanna Huden, an employee of the New York Post noticed "an itchy, red bug-like bump" on the last joint of her right middle finger. As a result of a mailing that Ivins seemingly expected or hoped would harm no one, his first victim was feeling the first symptoms of cutaneous anthrax.
Sunday, September 23, 2001, appears to have passed uneventfully. But, the next day, Monday the 24th, Stephanie Dailey at American Media, Inc. (AMI) in Boca Raton, Florida, returned from a two week vacation and found a stack of mail addressed to the National Enquirer waiting for her. It was her job to open and process mail for the Enquirer. Although she didn't yet know it, there was a letter filled with anthrax powder in the stack.
On Tuesday, September 25, Erin O'Connor, an assistant to Tom Brokaw, the news anchor on "NBC Nightly News" noticed a black lesion on her chest. Ivins' second victim was feeling symptoms of cutaneous anthrax. And, in Boca Raton, Stephanie Dailey finally got to a strange letter addressed to the National Enquirer. The letter had a childlike, handwritten address, no return address, and thus could be assumed to be another one of the many crank letters that the Enquirer routinely received. Nevertheless, Dailey opened the letter, and a brownish, multi-colored powder fell out. Certain that the letter was just some kind sick hoax, she tossed the letter and envelope into a wastebasket and wiped the powder off her desk. That should have seemed to be the end of it. But, of course, it wasn't. Ernesto Blanco had been exposed while bringing the letter from the Boca Raton post office to AMI and delivering it to Dailey's desk.
Meanwhile, at USAMRIID, Bruce Ivins was becoming impatient. He was seeing nothing in the news about his letters. It was now a full week after he'd mailed them, and there was nothing - absolutely nothing. And, to make matters worse, some politicians were talking about how badly innocent Muslims were being treated after 9/11. Instead of a panic over an anthrax attack from Muslim terrorists, politicians were arguing that there was no reason for any panic!
Dr. Ivins hadn't been working evenings since the night he mailed the letters. There had been no need to. Things were still very slow at USAMRIID. And, he had nothing secret or illegal to do in the evenings while he waited. But, a need was growing. Ivins didn't know what had gone wrong. There should have been some reaction to the letters. Was the letter too vague to be seen as a serious threat? Should he have mentioned that the powder was anthrax? Was the lack of a return addess a factor? Did he make a mistake in sending the letters to the media?
On the evening of the 25th, Ivins set to work on correcting the situation. He entered Building 1425 at 6:57 p.m. and apparently spent about 45 minutes in his office. Then, he entered Suite B3 at 7:42 and went directly into the change room. After changing into scrubs, he used the keypad to open the door that allowed him to proceed to his BSL-3 lab in Room B313. He remained in his lab for approximately an hour and 10 minutes before showering out and reentering the mens' locker room at 9:27 p.m. He quickly dressed and left the building at 9:29 p.m.
It would require a lot of work to prepare material for a second mailing, particularly since the second mailing would have to include something that could not possibly be ignored - like purified anthrax spores -- trillions of them.
& Changes: Sunday, September 18, 2011, thru Saturday, September 24,
September 22, 2011 - This morning, I received an email from the General Accountabilty Office (GAO) advising me that they haven't yet set a date for the release of the GAO's report on the Amerithrax investigation.
Also, an advertisment for PBS's October 11 Frontline program "The Anthrax Files" is now available for viewing HERE.
I've been told that the male "talking head" at the end, who demands "smoking gun" evidence is the ultimate in biased commenters, Thomas DeGonia, an assistant to Paul Kemp, Ivins' lawyer. The woman who fantasizes that the real killer "might still be out there" is Claire Frasier Liggett, former head of The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) and current head of The Institute for Genomic Sciences (IGS) at the University of Maryland. Her comment may have been taken out of context, since it's like saying that, if Ted Kaczyinski wasn't the Unabomber, then the real Unabomber might still be out there.
Lastly, this morning I received word from my web site host that they are going to be moving to new equipment on October 1, and that that will require a change in IP addresses for my web site. I can't recall the last time I had to change IP addresses, so I'm going to have to research how to do it. I don't think it's a "big deal," but people accessing my web site on that day may find that it won't be available for a period of time. I'll post a reminder on September 30.
September 21, 2011 - The anthrax community seems very quiet lately .... too quiet. I'm seeing no new arguments, no emails, and no news. However, I just found a PBS Schedule for the show "Frontline" and learned that their long-awaited program titled "The Anthrax Files" will air on October 11, 2011 at 9 p.m. Eastern Time. The blurb says:
Seven years later, after mistakenly pursuing one suspect, the most expensive and complex investigation ever undertaken by the FBI ended when they identified Army scientist Dr. Bruce Ivins as the sole perpetrator of the attacks -- after Ivins had taken his own life. Now, new questions are being raised about the FBI's investigative methods and whether Ivins really did it. FRONTLINE, in a co-production with ProPublica and McClatchy Newspapers, takes a hard look at the FBI's investigation of the country's most notorious act of bioterrorism.
Because of Frontline's excellent reputation, I'm going to assume that their program about the Amerithrax investigation won't be as brainless as the blurb indicates.
I've had indications over the past months that CNN is also planning an hour-long program about the anthrax attacks. But, I've found no indications of when that show may air. I assume it will also be in early October.
The Government Accountability Office's (GAO) report on the anthrax investigation is due -- before the end of this month, I think. There was some talk of it being published on the 20th, but that didn't happen. I recall something from long ago about it being scheduled for release on the 30th, but I've lost track of where I read that. However, the GAO's job is to determine how well government monies are spent, not to second guess the work of other agencies. So, I'm not expecting anything sensational from the GAO's report.
And, of course, sooner or later Judge Hurley will have to rule on whether to dismiss the Stevens v USA lawsuit or not.
September 18, 2011 (B) - Hmm. I just did my routine Google search for the words "Anthrax" and "2001", and I found a fascinating article about something totally unrelated to the anthrax attacks of 2001 (the author's credentials show he worked at the University of Maryland to sequence anthrax DNA). On second glance, however, the article is also very much related to anthrax discussions, because it shows how biased people with an agenda view science - versus how science should be viewed. The article is on Forbes Magazine's web site and is titled "Dr. Oz tries to be a scientist." Dr. Oz is evidently a Medical Doctor with a daily TV show. I'd never heard of him before, and looking at his web site, it appears that his show is syndicated, meaning it could show up almost anywhere on your local listings.
It appears that Dr. Oz performed some "scientific" tests and found that there was arsenic in apple juice. The problem is, his "scientific" tests were anything but scientific. The article says:
Oz didn’t try to replicate his own results, and didn’t even think to question the numbers he got from the lab he hired. Here’s a hint, Dr. Oz: if you come up with a surprising result, then you must try to replicate it yourself to see if you get the same answer. And you should be your own greatest skeptic. Not Dr. Oz: he had all his samples tested at a single lab, which the FDA warned him was giving erroneously high results.
But of course Oz wasn’t going to go back and check his results. That would be too scientific! Instead, he aired a show in which he wildly overstated the results and the possible risks. He didn’t express even the slightest uncertainty about his findings. He interviewed audience members who dramatically confessed that they hadn’t realized they were poisoning their own children. The horror!
And, it's all a crock! Among other things, Dr. Oz evidently didn't realize that there are two forms of arsenic, commonly called (1) organic arsenic and (2) inorganic arsenic. The article says that organic arsenic is almost everywhere and is mostly harmless. (This is all totally new to me, too.) The FDA advised Dr. Oz:
“As we have previously advised you, the results from total arsenic tests CANNOT be used to determine whether a food is unsafe because of its arsenic content. We have explained to you that arsenic occurs naturally in many foods in both inorganic and organic forms and that only the inorganic forms of arsenic are toxic, depending on the amount. We have advised you that the test for total arsenic DOES NOT distinguish inorganic arsenic from organic arsenic."
But, Dr. Oz isn't backing down. He's evidently using the controversy to promote his TV show, by demanding that the FDA send people to his show to argue the matter. Uh oh. I've spent almost ten years arguing the science of the anthrax attacks with Anthrax Truthers, and there doesn't seem to be any to get them to change their minds about anything. They argue with you because it helps them promote their beliefs. However, when you give up on trying to change their closed minds, they declare victory because you walked away and couldn't convince them. (If Dr. Oz follows the Anthrax Truther technique for countering solid proof of being wrong, he will simply claim that he wasn't wrong, he was just misinterpreted, or he'll claim that he was just making an important and valid point using data he knew was wrong in order to illustrate his important and valid point.)
September 18, 2011 (A) - Someone just pointed out to me a long article dated September 16 in the Asbury Park Press written by Representative Rush Holt of New Jersey, with the title "Another 10th anniversary: anthrax attacks." According to Rep. Holt, he knew from the very beginning that the anthrax investigation was being sloppily handled:
The FBI tested every office on Capitol Hill for anthrax, and they discovered spores in my office and three others in the U.S. House of Representatives. Investigators closed an entire wing of the Hart Senate Office Building.
This was the moment when I became a firsthand witness to the anthrax investigation. It was also the moment when I first grew concerned about the processes and professionalism of government investigators. Their practices for taking evidence, I saw, were sloppy and even illogical.
In other words, the investigators weren't gathering evidence the way Rush Holt would have gathered evidence. And Rep. Holt says he would also have started testing mail boxes long before the FBI started testing the mailboxes. And, he feels the FBI should have started asking people a lot sooner if they noticed someone mailing letters at the Princeton mailbox on September 17th or 18th or on October 6th, 7th, 8th or 9th. And he complains that the FBI has no "direct physical evidence" linking Bruce Ivins to the attacks, as if Holt believes that every case must have "direct physical evidence" to identify the culprit. Holt also writes:
In Congress, I have introduced legislation that would create a special committee, modeled after the 9/11 Commission, to investigate the anthrax attacks, including our pre-attack preparations, the incidents, the public health response, the forensic response and the subsequent improvements made. Such an investigation would help us understand what really happened, why and whether America has grown better prepared to deter biological attacks.
I wish there would be such a commission. I wish there would be a trial of some kind to evaluate the evidence against Bruce Ivins and have a jury present a verdict. But, neither event seems likely to happen. The General Accountability Office's review, which is due very soon, may be the last official review of the Amerithrax investigation. Evidently, our sharply divided Congress can still find a majority to readily agree that another investigation of the anthrax investigation would very likely be a total waste of money.
When it comes to checking to see if it could be determined which mailbox was used to mail the letters, I can agree that the FBI and/or Postal Inspection Service should have started sooner. But, it doesn't look like it would have made any difference. The results would have been the same. Rush Holt might argue that if they had started sooner, say in late October 2001, when it was first realized that the envelopes were leaking spores, they might have gotten different results when questioning people to see if anyone saw anyone mailing a letter at that mailbox on September 17th or 18th.
Of course, they wouldn't have been able to start looking for witnesses in October. That was just when they should have started checking the mailboxes. There were hundreds of mailboxes to examine and swab, and then the swabs had to be plated and the plates had to be examined for bacterial growth. And, if they found any bacterial growths, the bacteria would have to be analyzed to determine if it was anthrax. So, considering all the work involved, it would have been no sooner than January or February before the investigators would have been able to determine that only one mail box was sufficiently contaminated with anthrax spores to be the point of mailing. How many people in February would remember someone mailing a letter on September 18th at 3 in the morning?
The facts say that Ivins left his home in Frederick, MD at around 11:30 p.m. on the evening of September 17, 2001, and he drove to Princeton, NJ, most likely entering town on Highway 206, which makes a turn were Nassau Street begins. As he drove up Nassau Street, it would have been about 2:30 or 3 in the morning of the 18th, since the trip would have taken him 3 or 3-1/2 hours at that time of night.
The facts indicate that Bruce Ivins almost certainly drove up Nassau Street two blocks to the location of the Kappa Kappa Gamma office at 20 Nassau Street. Having burgled several other KKG locations in the past, he would have wanted to see what the place looked like. He was there in the middle of the night, of course, and the streets would likely have been devoid of traffic, but, in the daytime, the building entrance is under the red arrow in this image from Google:
The doorway is the main entrance to the old, 4-story brick building that occupies more than half the block. Inside the building are doctors' offices, psychologists' and psychiatrists' offices, and other offices of many kinds. The KKG office was reportedly on an upper floor. At street level, the door at 20 Nassau Street is between the Red Onion Restaurant (behind the tree) and the Tippy Toes shoe store for children's shoes. This definitely would not be the type of location where Ivins might risk committing another one of his KKG burglaries.
Below is another Google view of the KKG entrance at 20 Nassau Street. This image was taken at a different time, since the Red Onion Restaurant (again behind a tree) has a different colored awning:
Below is a daytime Google view looking back down Nassau Street after Ivins would have made a U-turn in the empty nighttime street to head back to the mailbox he had passed shortly before finding the location of the KKG office:
And below is the view from 20 Nassau Street. The KKG office entrance is directly across the street from Bruce Ivins' father's alma mater, Princeton University.
In the first picture above, the building with the blue awning is the Chase Bank at 16 Nassau Street. It has two Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) next to the sidewalk. Below is another view of the Chase Bank showing the rest of the block as Ivins headed back to the mailbox:
The Chase Bank might have had closed circuit TVs watching over the ATMs, which Ivins would have wanted to avoid. But, since it took the FBI a year to find the right mailbox, there wouldn't have been any chance of the bank still having tapes of the night of Septmber 17-18. (They are typically kept only 48 hours or less.) If Ivins noticed the ATMs at all, he probably simply looked away while passing, so his face wouldn't be seen.
What looks like it might be an alley at the left in the picture above is actually Bank Street. And, on the other side of Bank street, about 175 feet from the door to the KKG office at 20 Nassau Street, is the nearest mailbox. (A tour via Google shows that the nearest mailbox in the other direction is at the corner of Witherspoon and Nassau Streets, well over a thousand feet from the KKG office.) The mailbox in front of 10 Nassau street is the one Ivins allegedly used on the morning of September 18, 2001, and again three weeks later, in early October:
Note that in the picture above there is a waste basket 10 or 12 feet from the mailbox. Presumably, Ivins carried the anthrax letters inside a Ziplock bag, which he opened to dump the letters into the mailbox. He might have been tempted to throw the Ziplock bag into the nearby trash bin, but, since it probably had his fingerprints on it, he more likely took the bag with him and threw it out the window or into some other trash bin as he was driving back to Frederick.
It seems very unlikely that anyone would have seen Ivins mailing those first letters at 3 a.m., and even less likely that the event would have been remembered months later, even if the FBI could somehow locate the witness. Around a year after the mailings, however, the investigators did ask people in the area. But, the results probably wouldn't have been any different three months after the mailings.
And, if they had found a witness, how reliable could the witness's memory be about something from so long ago? Why would it mean any more than the fact that the mailbox was the nearest mailbox to the KKG office, a sorority with which Ivins was pathologically obsessed? Why would it mean any more than the fact that the mailbox was across the street from Ivins' father's alma mater? Why would it mean any more than the fact that the ZIP code on the senate letters was for the area in New Jersey where Ivins' father's family had lived for over a hundred years? Why would it mean more than the fact that the media letters contained a hidden message that directly connected Ivins to the mailing?
Answer: It wouldn't. If the FBI had found someone who remembered a thin, middle-aged guy who looked like a scientist getting out of his car with Maryland plates to mail a letter at 3 in the morning on September 18, 2001, wouldn't Rush Holt and all the others who aren't convinced by the other evidence against Ivins just dismiss the eye-witness testimony as being too far-fetched to be real? They'd say: "Who can remember such details from so long ago? It's got to be some kind of FBI conspiracy. The FBI must have hired some guy to make the statement just to frame Bruce Ivins."
The evidence says that Bruce Ivins was the anthrax mailer. The problem isn't that the FBI should have found more and better evidence. The problem is that the people who do not think that Bruce Ivins was the anthrax mailer have personal reasons for not believing the evidence. They want the FBI to find other evidence which confirms their personal beliefs. And, until that happens, they'll continue to argue that the case is "unsolved" and someone else could have done it.
& Changes: Sunday, September 11, 2011, thru Saturday, September 17,
September 17, 2011 - Today's Wall Street Journal has an opinion piece by theorist Edward J. Epstein which is supposed to be reviews of David Willman's book "The Mirage Man" and Jeanne Guillemin's book "American Anthrax." However, Mr. Epstein seems to merely use those books to once again expound his own erroneous views on the Anthrax attacks of 2001. Here are a few samples of Mr. Epstein's erroneous beliefs:
The clouds of trillions of spores closed down Congress.
Of course, there were only about 5 trillion spores in all the letters combined, and only a tiny fraction - billions of spores, not trillions - escaped from the Daschle letter, the only letter that was opened in a congressional office.
Among the anthrax samples collected from different labs, only one matched the "fingerprints" of the killer anthrax in the letters.
In reality, there were eight samples collected that matched the "killer anthrax."
the FBI arrived at Ivins, who worked alone in his lab, had the skills and could have driven the nine-hour round trip from Frederick, Md., to Princeton and back.
MapQuest shows the round trip from USAMRIID to the mailbox to be 7 hours. But, in the middle of the night - when the trips were most likely made - it could have taken as little as 6 hours.
In 2007, the FBI interrogated Ivins.
In reality, the one thing the FBI did NOT do on the November 1, 2007, occasion mentioned by Mr. Epstein was "interrogate" Bruce Ivins. They detained him and didn't allow him to return home until after they had completed their search of his home, his office, his lab, and his vehicles. They explained to Ivins what they were doing and why. They answered any questions he might have, and they responded to his explanations for why he did certain things. They allowed him to call his lawyer. They got his medicines for him, and they rented hotel rooms for him and his family for the night. But they did NOT "interrogate" him. They had interviewed Ivins many times previously. For example, the Timeline shows that four years earlier, in 2003, the FBI interviewed Ivins twice on February 12, and again on March 3, April 15, April 17, August 13, September 3 and December 12. On November 1, 2007, the period of interrogations had long passed. The FBI had the killer, it was just a matter of taking the evidence to a Grand Jury.
The intensive search came up with no evidence linking him to the killer anthrax
The search led to Ivins being observed trying to destroy evidence by throwing out the "smoking gun" book and magazine which explained how Ivins had put a "hidden message" in the media letters, a message which when decoded referred to the two female associates with whom Ivins was fixated.
Though he was never charged with a crime or brought before a grand jury, the FBI identified him as the anthrax killer.
Ivins was brought before a Grand Jury twice as the DOJ prepared to indict him, and several times previously as a witness to be questioned about aspects of the investigation. Ivins own lawyer told him to be prepared to face a trial involving the death penalty. Ivins' lawyer, Paul Kemp, got himself certified to handle death penalty cases so that he could continue working as Ivins' lawyer.
Without a scientific basis for tracing the killer anthrax to Ivins's lab, the FBI's case against him was reduced to inferences from his behavior.
There was a solid scientific basis for tracing the killer anthrax to Ivins' lab. It just wasn't enough to get a conviction by itself. So, the case against Bruce Ivins also involved a lot of additional evidence based upon Ivins' attempts to destroy evidence, intimidate witnesses, mislead the investigation, etc.
This injustice was made even worse, as Mr. Willman shows, by the ways in which the media, fed by leaks from FBI files, created myths about Mr. Hatfill that made him a pariah. The author tells how New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof published damaging fictions about the scientist based on tips from interested parties. Of course, in such cases, journalists are only as good as their sources.
The media was being fed nonsense information about Hatfill by Barbara Hatch Rosenberg for eight months before the FBI did their first search of Hatfill's apartment. Rosenberg was Kristof's source. During those eight months, the FBI kept insisting that what Rosenberg was preaching was nonsense. See the Hatfill Timeline for details.
The only fault I find with "The Mirage Man" is that it does not take sufficient account of the National Academy of Science report, which concluded that the anthrax in the letters could have as easily come from the Dugway Proving Ground as Ivin's lab. So it's possible that someone at Dugway, or elsewhere, stole a minute sample of anthrax any time after 1997 and, as in any classic espionage operation, delivered it to another party, foreign or domestic, who used it in September 2001.
Tests done by the University of Utah determined that Dugway was the one laboratory that could be ruled out as the source for the attack anthrax based upon isotopes in the water used to create the spores. (See Batch 1, Module 9, page 34 on the NAS CD files.) The NAS report merely stated that it was not possible to totally rule out Dugway because it wasn't totally impossible for Dugway to have independently created a supply of spores with the same moropological variants (and, presumably, using water from some East Coast location).
But so long as the source of the killer anthrax remains in doubt, the crime remains unsolved.
The source of the killer anthrax isn't really in doubt. It just isn't universally agreed upon. The crime has been solved. It's just that there isn't any standard, accepted way of putting someone on trial after he's committed suicide. (If there were, we'd have had a trial of Adolph Hitler, who committed suicide to avoid being put on trial.) So, as a result, people with their own theories about the case, like Edward J. Epstein, can claim the case is not solved and that their fantasies might still be valid. But, unlike the case against Bruce Ivins, they have no meaningful evidence to support their theories. All they have are disbeliefs about the evidence which shows that Bruce Ivins was the anthrax killer.
September 15, 2011 (B) - Today, New Scientist magazine has a brief review of Jeanne Guillemin's book "American Anthrax," with the provocative title " Did research funding lead to the anthrax attacks?" From the review:
As Guillemin relates in exhaustive detail, the ensuing investigation found no Al-Qaida connection. Instead, the perpetrator was most likely an American named Bruce Ivins, a civilian microbiologist at an army medical institute whose career was threatened by cuts to funding for anthrax research early in the Bush administration. Ivins committed suicide before the case went to trial.
Meanwhile, also today, the British newspaper The Guardian also has an article with a provocative title, "The anthrax scare: not a germ of truth." It's about all the "experts" with impressive credentials who tried to connect the anthrax attacks to Iraq in order to justify that war. The final two paragraphs sum up the article nicely:
The person the FBI finally named as responsible for the anthrax letters had no link to Iraq. He was Bruce Ivins, a disgruntled scientist working at the Army's biodefence labs at Fort Detrick, Maryland. He committed suicide in 2008 before he could be brought to trial.
An anthrax scare that should have been a freak sidebar to 9/11 had been successfully manipulated to cement the case on Saddam Hussein's "weapons of mass destruction", make military action against Iraq compelling and isolate opponents of the war.
An opinion piece by Jim Lacey dated yesterday on the National Review's web site, however, gives the Right Wing point of view. It has this title "Saddam: What We Now Know" and says:
When American tanks smashed into Baghdad, Saddam had already completed construction of an anthrax production facility, which was a week away from going live. If it had been permitted to go into production, this one facility could have produced ten tons of weaponized anthrax a year. Experts estimate that anthrax spores that infect the skin will kill 50 percent of untreated victims. Inhaled anthrax will kill 100 percent of untreated victims and 50 percent of those receiving immediate treatment. That means that a mere 1 percent of Saddam’s annual production (200 pounds) sprayed by crop-duster over New York City would have killed upwards of three million people.
So, according to Lacey, it appears that going to war with Iraq saved America from disaster (confirming that there's no idea so stupid that you can't find some "expert" with impressive credentials to support it). Lacey uses the claim above as "evidence" that it was a good idea to go to war, but he provides no source information to support his "evidence."
September 15, 2011 (A) - FWIW, I did some "housekeeping" today. First, I updated my supplemental web page about books related to the anthrax attacks of 2001 to include the new books by Willman, Guillemin and Garrett. Then, I updated my copy of the Docket for the Stevens vs. USA lawsuit. Maureen Stevens' lawyers are filing an opposition and reply to the government's motion to dismiss, and they asked to be allowed to file more than the maximum number of pages. Judge Hurley granted them permission to file 47 pages for one document and 25 for another. Yawn. After the documents are filed, and after Judge Hurley has read both sides of the issue in the motion to dismiss, he will presumably issue a ruling. That ruling will likely be something worth reading in detail.
Meanwhile, Dr. Nass was apparently on vacation for a week, and her web site wasn't updated during that time. But, now she's back, and the argument I was having with Richard Rowley is going again. The current discussion is about opinions vs. facts. Is there a difference between arguing only opinions and arguing opinions about facts? Yes, there is. In a comment Dr. Nass just posted, I discuss that difference.
September 14, 2011 (B) - I find myself still thinking about Doug Copp's "Triangle of Life" earthquake theory and why it continues to get traction with some people, even though it's been disputed by virtually every other expert on surviving earthquakes. There doesn't appear to be any conspiracy theory involved. And it's not about True Believers. So, why do people continue to latch onto this erroneous theory that could be dangerous for them to accept? It could be argued that it seems to be the effect of some kind of "anti-authority gene" which sends the brain instructions to say, "If the authorities want me to believe X, I'll believe Y. No one's going to tell me what I should believe or not believe." Maybe it should be called "The teenage-rebellion gene" Or, conservatives might call it "The Freedom Gene," implying that it's a gene that causes one to rebel against obeying any law except "survival of the fittest."
It's probably not a gene at all. Maybe it's just some psychological effect of logic being overruled by anger, or some aspect of "motivated reasoning." But, there could still be a gene behind the psychology. It shouldn't be called the "Governments are Dangerous" gene, since it isn't just about governments. It's about authority. So, maybe calling it "the anti-authority gene" is most appropriate. Whatever it might be called, I evidently do not have that gene, since I'll be waiting for the gene experts to figure out exactly what it is, and then I'll evaluate their reasoning to see whether I accept it or not. I won't be automatically rejecting (or accepting) what they find.
September 14, 2011 (A) - This morning, NPR's web site has a positive review of Jeanne Guillemin's book "American Anthrax." I found this to be a very interesting and thought-provoking comment:
Guillemin recaptures the climate of fear that made it impossible for the government to strike a balance between informing and alarming the public.
NPR also has a long excerpt from Guillemin's book HERE.
September 12, 2011 (C) - Hmm. A family member who lives on the East Coast just sent me an email about Doug Copp's earthquake theory. I'd never heard of Copp's theory before - that the safest place is NEXT to a desk or bed, NOT UNDER a desk or bed. But, I lived in Japan for almost three years and went through many earthquakes, including one while I was in a movie theater. So, Copp's theory simply did not seem logical to me. It seemed to be about TRULY MAJOR earthquakes, which are probably less than one in a thousand, not the "normal" earthquakes where the greatest danger is from falling objects, not collapsing buildings. That's how I responded to the email.
Then, I did some research. It turns out that Doug Copp stated his beliefs in 1996, and his claims resurface in viral emails every time there's an earthquake. To my pleasant surprise, I learned that The American Red Cross and just about every other "expert" in the world also disagrees with Doug Copp. Wikipedia even has an article discussing Copp's theory and how it doesn't apply to most earthquakes or most places in the world. The appropriate thing to do in an earthquake in America (or almost any other developed country) is "Drop, cover and hold on." Get under something solid to protect yourself from falling debris. According to an article in the Journal of Seismology and Earthquake Engineering, 12,000 times more people are affected by "small" quakes than by major quakes.
I just LOVE it when one "expert" says something based upon his personal beliefs and experiences, and a thousand other "experts" jump in and tell him that his personal beliefs don't govern the universe.
The connection I see to the anthrax attacks of 2001 is that some "expert" can disagree with what all the science says, and there will be a lot of people who will just nod and accept that "the official findings must be wrong." Otherwise, why wouldn't all "experts" agree? Or, they might even say that, if some "experts" disagree, that means that no "expert" really knows anything for certain. So, it's okay to believe whatever you want to believe, because some "expert" somewhere will agree with you.
What do I think you are supposed to do when an "expert" says something that contradicts what you've previously been told? I'd say, if it's important, check the facts. If it's not important, remember that there are differing opinions on the subject, and check the facts if it ever becomes important. If it's important, but the facts are too complex to bother understanding, don't make any decisions for anyone else, and make sure your insurance premiums are paid.
September 12, 2011 (B) - Today's Arizona Daily Sun contains an article titled "NAU researcher thrust into the maelstrom." The article primarily recalls how the FBI asked Dr. Paul Keim of Northern Arizona University to identify the anthrax strain that had infected Bob Stevens in October of 2001. But, it also provides a tidbit of new information about a more recent case of anthrax:
Recently, a man [from] Florida almost died [in Minnesota] after somehow inhaling anthrax on a summer vacation.
Keim's lab examined a sample to determine that it was a strain no one had ever seen before, making it unlikely to have been an attack.Anthrax Truthers, of course, could argue that, because it was a strain that no one had ever seen before, that would make it more likely that it was some kind of attack. I'm not sure what their reasoning would be, but it would probably begin with deciding that if the government says it's unlikely, then it must be very likely.
September 12, 2011 (A) - Yesterday's Fort Wayne Journal Gazette repeats science writer Laurie Garrett's claims that the Ames strain was found in caves in Afghanistan and in the body of one of the 9/11 hijackers. Her comments are used to start an article that is mainly about Representative Mike Pence from Indiana's 6th District, who is another font of misinformation about the anthrax case.
Pence, who is running for governor, said in a recent interview he “expressed our frustration periodically” with the anthrax investigation. But he is not ready to try to name a suspect.
“I don’t know where the weaponized anthrax bacillius came from,” Pence said. “I don’t know who sent it.”So, almost ten years after it was determined that the attack anthrax was NOT weaponized, many people still believe it was weaponized - including some politicians. Can any facts change their minds? Probably not. David Willman's book "The Mirage Man" reminds us that, on June 11, 2002, Pence sent a letter to then Attorney General Ashcroft stating that the attack anthrax was not only "weapons grade," but that it was also "genetically modified to increase its virulence." Pence also read some of it into the Congressional Record. Total bullshit then, total bullshit now. But Pence may still believe it. (In 2002, I dissected the letter thoroughly on my web page "Other Theories About The Anthrax Mailings".)
September 11, 2011 - I'm somewhat at a loss regarding what to write this morning. It's the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, and I feel I should at least start by mentioning something about that day.
I recall turning on CNN Headline News that September morning in 2001 - as I do nearly every morning - to see what's happening in the world as I have breakfast. The first plane had already hit the North Tower. They were saying it was a small plane, and it appeared to be some kind of accident. As I recall, I was watching as the second airliner hit. As with nearly everyone else, it became clear to me at that instant that it wasn't any kind of accident. I spent nearly the entire day watching TV. At some point in time, probably close to an hour after first turning on the TV, I put a blank tape in my VCR and began recording the events. I recorded about 9 hours on three tapes. However, I also managed to make my regular trip to the health club. I recall calling the club first, to make sure they were open. They were. So, the world hadn't totally stopped, as I was thinking it might have. My VCR continued recording the news while I was doing my workout. And, of course, the news was on the TVs at the club.
I've never replayed the tapes. I didn't need any video tapes to help me remember those horrific events. When I switched from tape to DVDs, I never made DVD copies of the tapes. I think I still have the tapes somewhere, but I haven't seen them since I moved in August of 2010. I still have a VCR, but I haven't used it in at least two years.
Today, about the only time I think about 9/11 is when some "9/11 Truther" starts some screwball argument about how it must have been some kind of CIA plot because "big buildings don't collapse that way," "fires cannot soften steel beams," "the owner of Building 7 said 'pull it' shortly before the building's collapse," "Building 7 collapsed even though it hadn't been struck by any airliner," "a guided missile struck the Pentagon, not an aircraft," yada yada yada.
Does anyone still believe a guided missile struck the Pentagon instead of American Airlines flight 77? Of course. True Believers appear to be incapable of changing their minds. If it's what they believed then, it's what they still believe today. To True Believers, all the facts proving otherwise are just misinformation distributed by the government, and the only "real truth" is the "truth" voiced by other True Believers who also claim a missile struck the Pentagon - plus comments by eye witnesses on TV at the time who talked about what they thought had happened.
I also remember making reservations on September 10, 2001, to fly to Texas for the Austin Film Festival ("the screenwriters' film festival"), after paying the attendence fee for festival. So, that was on my mind as I watched TV the next day, on 9/11. Should I cancel my trip to Austin? Would I be able to cancel? Could I get my money back?
The news about Bob Stevens anthrax infection broke on October 4, and it probably became big news after he died on October 5, but I wasn't paying that much attention. I remember nothing about it.
On Wednesday, October 10, I flew to Austin for the Festival. While I was in Austin, the news about the Brokaw letter broke on October 12, but I don't recall if I heard about it or not. I returned home the following Sunday, October 14. I'd set my VCR to tape the TV show "Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher" while I was gone.
The next day, October 15, I posted this message to the Politically Incorrect newsgroup:
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
like he seemed to want to
It seemed to me to be the
thing he's ever said on
He wants to drop an atom bomb
some caves in mountain
Can anyone really be so
to want to drop atom bombs
Someone named "David" responded at 12:47 pm that same day:
Ever since Bill was publicly attacked last month he has undergone a cowardly
180-degree turn into what we see today. I say this more about his attitude than
his particular content. How disappointing!
(Bill Maher had been "attacked" because he made this comment:
“We have been the cowards. Lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away, that’s cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it, not cowardly.”I responded to David's message with this at 4:50 p.m:
— ABC’s Bill Maher on Politically Incorrect, September 17, 2001.)
I think he was frightened by
public thrashing he got, and
And he keeps ranting about
anti-American "nearly all" of
All these anthrax "cases"
be hitting people on the
I evidently forgot about the entire subject for awhile, since it wasn't until over a month later, on November 17th at 11:45 am, that I posted this to the same thread:
Another letter from Trenton, postmarked the same day as the the anthrax
letter to Tom Daschle, was found yesterday. It was sent to Democratic
Senator Patrick Leahy. The evidence mounts that all the anthrax letters
were sent by someone with a private grudge against Democrats and the
liberal media - probably an American.
Details: [a Daily News
that no longer works]
This one nut case has cost
BILLIONS of dollars!
EdSomeone called "TVsHenry" posted this at 12:48 pm:
Such a person believes the NY Post and Fox News to be part of the "liberal
media" however... I don't think there is any convincing evidence of who is
And I responded at 6:23 pm:
Fox News? Tom Brokaw is
NBC news, and he is fairly
liberal. And then
There's no convincing
who is doing it, but there
is a growing
Someone named "Barry" responded at 7:10 pm:
And none of this profile precludes an aQ/ObL cell. Doesn't preclude
domestic loonies either.
And, TVsHenry responded to me by posting this at 7:45 pm:
Judging by what the tabloids have covered lately, I don't think so. Unless
you're talking about the Bush twins but if that were the case, People and Talk
would have received anthrax long ago.
And after quoting what I had written about what the profilers think, TVsHenry added
Yes but that doesn't really point towards any particular cause. There is
circumstantial evidence on both sides of the equation.
The next morning, on November 18th, 2001, probably because Barry seemed to require something conclusive to prove that his beliefs were false before he'd consider any other possibility, I posted this at 10:48 am:
But that's the thinking of a
conspiracy theorist. No
amount of evidence or logic
Maher and others seem to be convinced that the flight
that crashed in Queens
If you weigh the evidence,
anthrax letters are almost
certainly from some
And this at 10:55 am:
I agree that we won't know
did it until we catch the
guy. And the FBI is
good bet that a lot of people will not believe it
was a lone domestic
scare the crap out of people, and they just
can't get their minds
It will be interesting to see
this all plays out.
I'm not sure what "Barry" wrote that made me start writing about conspiracy theorists. But, today it's interesting to be reminded about the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 in Queens on November 12, which was such a big factor in some people's thinking at the time.
Barry quoted what I'd written about "If you weigh the evidence, the anthrax letters are almost certainly from some domestic terrorist," and he posted this at 12:00 pm:
That is not evidence. That is
speculation. It might turn
out to be so but
If you look at the Fla
letter: I can't think of why
But yes that is pure
speculation and, IMHO, logical, but
But around and around we go. At this point we're just rehashing
differing points of view.
And I responded at 6:14 pm:
"evidence" is the letters and
the anthrax spores contained
therein. The deductions
the letters in the possession
of the authorities appear -
according to experts in such
But I agree, we can argue all
want without resolving
anything. We'll just have to wait
Barry responded that he still believed that al Qaeda did it, and TVsHenry quoted from the Drudge Report:
"A deadly Taliban anthrax factory was found in Kabul, a British
newspaper will claim on Monday... Developing..."
and I responded:
I think Drudge only claims 75
percent accuracy in his reports.
If an anthrax factory is found, it will help clarify whether or not the US
anthrax scare is domestic or foreign. I'll bet any anthrax found in
Afganistan proves to be of a different strain and unrelated to the US
And 4 days later, we were all still arguing when I posted this:
It's not that these Senators
from "obscure states".
It's that Leahy
Terrorists and serial killers choose their victims very carefully. And WHY
they choose particular victims is key to tracking them down.
And TVs Henry posted lengthy details about anthrax in Afghanistan and the anthrax letter from Chile. He posted anything and everything about anthrax if it involved another country or some connection to al Qaeda.
At 11:53 am on November 23, 2001, I posted this in response to a post from TVsHenry:
putting together a web page on
the anthrax matter.
It clearly shows that
The web page is here: http://extra.newsguy.com/~detect/anthrax.html
going to try to put together in
a meaningful way all I can
find on the
Maybe it will help you sort
all the extraneous
And, we continued to argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue. Others joined in. And, ten years later, we are still arguing. From my point of view, all the evidence found in the past ten years confirms what I concluded back then. To the Anthrax Truthers, that's only because the FBI refuses to look for "the real evidence," i.e., evidence which supports the beliefs of the Anthrax Truthers.
That original web site lasted for about a month and a half, until Scott Shane, a reporter then with the Baltimore Sun, sent me this email on January 4, 2002:
Mr Lake -- I'm a reporter for The Baltimore Sun and want to speak with youThe article titled "Everyone has an anthrax theory" was published on January 6. It seemed clear to me that, if reporters were going to be interviewing me, I needed a regular name for my site. My first choice, anthraxcase.com was taken, so, on January 13, 2001, I purchased anthraxinvestigation.com and moved everything from the old site to the new site.
And, the rest is history - probably well over a million words of history that I've personally written on this web site.
& Changes: Sunday, September 4, 2011, thru Saturday, September 10,
September 9, 2011 - As if to prove the point I tried to make yesterday about reporters who know virtually nothing about the anthrax attacks of 2001 being asked to write about it, today Emergency Management magazine has an article titled, "How Far Has the Nation Come Since Anthrax Attacks 10 Years Ago?" It begins with this:
The first death attributed to bacterium anthrax in 25 years occurred just one week after 9/11, striking even more fear into a traumatized nation. On Sept. 18, 2001, five people died from anthrax spores leaked from letters sent through the mail.
In reality, of course, the first letters were postmarked on September 18, and the first death didn't occur until October 5.
September 8, 2011 - It appears that one big problem we're going to have during the next few weeks is seeing articles in the media by "reporters" who haven't been following the anthrax case, but who were asked by their editors to write a few hundred words about it anyway, perhaps by interviewing some "source" with impressive credentials who knows even less. A reporter at the Journal Register (a Pennsylvania paper) wrote yesterday:
The anthrax was eventually traced to a lab in the Washington, D.C. area. The powder was transported in a letter sent to the Sun. Speculation is the photo editor, Robert Stevens, contracted inhalation anthrax after opening it and reading the letter close to his face.
The criminal case remains unsolved and would be the first incident of several, although unrelated, anthrax-laced letters sent to U.S. politicians and major media outlets.
“It’s been 10 years and they still don’t know,” says [CEO of JFK Medical Center in Atlantis, FL, Philip D.) Robinson about the first bioterrorism event.
Anthrax Truthers just love that kind of "reporting." To them, it verifies all their claims about the evidence against Bruce Ivins being unclear. The evidence is not unclear. It's just that many reporters do not bother to look at the evidence. Instead, they just write reports based upon faulty recollections and ignorance, not facts. It's easier.
September 6, 2011 (B) - While hunting around for the source of the information about Flight 93 that the NAS mentioned in their report (see my (A) comment for today), I found several reports (Batch 3, Document 1, pages 237 & 245) which state that the New York Post powder consisted of 6% agar. That would appear to be solid evidence that the spores used in the New York Post powder were grown on agar plates and not in flasks. (The unusual silicon content would indicate that all the other attack spores were grown the same way as the New York Post spores.) I view this as additional evidence that Ivins used spores from plates left to grow in autoclave bags as his primary source for the spores used in the attacks. (See my August 31 comment.)
Using a different approach, I found another statement on page 35 of Batch 3, Document 1 which says:
During the week of 7/8/02 UMD [University of Maryland] also detected the presence of agar in the NY Post evidence and a trace of agar in the Leahy evidence.
This is further evidence that all the attack powders were grown on plates. That page also says that 80% of the world's agar is produced and marketed by a single company, Becton Dickinson in Sparks, MD.
September 6, 2011 (A) - It's been pointed out to me that Laurie Garrett's claim that the body of one of the Flight 93 hijackers tested postive for anthrax (see my September 4 comment) probably came from the report by the National Academy of Sciences. The NAS report said:
Finally, in the new materials provided to the committee it is noted that PCR analysis was performed on human remains from United flight 93 on 9/11/2001 that were identified as those of the hijackers (B3D1). Analysis was performed at USAMRIID and at AFIP for sequences diagnostic of B. anthracis. One assay at USAMRIID gave positive results, but these results were believed by the FBI to be due to laboratory contamination. All other results were negative.
Laurie Garrett evidently decided it was not lab contamination.
September 5, 2011 - I've finished reading Jeanne Gullemin's book "American Anthrax." There's a lot more evidence showing Ivins' guilt in the final chapters of the book, probably enough to convince a typical unbiased reader that Ivins was definitely the anthrax mailer, even though the author points out that many believe otherwise - including dedicated conspiracy theorists. However, Guillemin thoroughly shoots down any remaining claims that the attack spores were "weaponized" or that they couldn't have been made by Ivins at USAMRIID. On page 241, she writes:
[In an August 5, 2008, Wall Street Journal op-ed piece, Richard] Spertzel refused to believe that Ivins could work alone there [at USAMRIID] for hours. And despite common knowledge about the use of a centrifuge to make pure spore powder, Spertzel still refused to believe that USAMRIID had the equipment to create "essentially pure spores."
Others at USAMRIID, certainly John Ezzell and Art Friedlander, knew better but remained silent and let the Spertzel claim stand. Adding to the confusion, on August 4, a USA Today interview with former USA commander Dave Franz misquoted him, making it seem he agreed with Spertzel. Franz quickly emailed the reporter: "We [at USAMRIID] absolutely had, and they still have, the equipment to produced dried anthrax spore preps ... as do many laboratories in academe, industry and the rest of the government."
And, on page 220, Guillemin writes:
Ivins no doubt had the skills. But was this technically possible with existing equipment, in that lab context, and within those time periods? The Bureau consulted with over a dozen experts with experience in this area and the answer came back a unanimous affirmative.
There are "pre-publication" reviews on Amazon.com's site and elsewhere, but I'll be very interested in seeing what media book reviewers (New York Times, Washington Post, etc.) think of "American Anthrax." I haven't seen any so far, so I assume they are withholding comments until after the book officially goes on sale on September 13. While I thoroughly enjoyed both Jeanne Guillemin's"American Anthrax" and David Willman's "The Mirage Man," I wonder if some book reviewers won't find the sympathetic details about the suffering of Ivins' victims in "American Anthrax" more interesting than the damning details about Bruce Ivins and his crime as described in "The Mirage Man."
I'd worried that Guillemin's book might tell the same story my new book tells. That's no longer a concern. And, while I'll definitely be using a lot more new details from Willman's book than from Guillemin's, my book I won't be telling the same story that Willman tells, either. Jeanne Guillemin is a medical anthropologist, and a professor of sociology. David Willman is a journalist and an investigative reporter. I'm an analyst. The "primary function" of an analyst is "a deep examination of a specific, limited area." My "specific, limited area" is much more narrow than the areas covered by Guillemin and Willman, and my book examines facts that aren't easily seen if you don't specifically hunt for them.
September 4, 2011 - I'm still reading Jeanne Guillemin's book "American Anthrax." I'm through page 178, with less than 90 pages of text left to go. On Friday I wrote a comment about how Jeanne Guillemin's book is very different from David Willman's book. They each write from different perspectives, using different sources, emphasizing different things. They even seem to have different FBI contacts. But, interestingly, they don't seem to disagree on anything of substance - as far as I can tell. Willman clearly accepts that the evidence shows beyond any reasonable doubt that Bruce Ivins was the anthrax mailer. Guillemin doesn't say Ivins wasn't the anthrax mailer, and she doesn't point to anyone else, so her view can probably be described as: neutral, but inclined toward accepting Ivins as the anthrax mailer.
That stands in sharp contrast to Laurie Garrett and her book "I Heard the Sirens Scream," which claims that the FBI was totally wrong and that al Qaeda was behind the anthrax attacks. I haven't yet read all of Garrett's book, I've only read the parts that are freely available on Amazon.com, but it appears that the only reason I might want to read her book is to count and list the number of errors in it. (In my comment for August 20, I showed just one paragraph from her book which contained about a half dozen errors.)
While reading Guillemin's book yesterday, I came across an interesting passage that directly contradicts a claim made by Garrett.
On a National Public Radio interview on August 26, Laurie Garret said,
We now know, for example, that one of the hijackers of Flight 93, the jet that was crashed into Pennsylvania, tested positive for anthrax, his body did.
Who "knows" this besides Garrett? I have been searching news stories for nearly ten years for any indication that the 9/11 terrorists possessed anthrax. I never found any evidence of it. And, neither did the FBI. Furthermore, Jeanne Guillemin's book says just the opposite of what Laurie Garrett says. On page 170, "American Anthrax" says,
Still, to pursue the lead, FBI investigators had gone to the site of the Flight 93 crash in Pennsylvania, where, unlike the New York City and Pentagon sites, the FBI was still in full charge of the crime scene and of identifying those who died. [.....] Investigators again searched for signs of al Qaeda anthrax, this time by excavating the cockpit, buried 90 feet below ground, and taking samples from the remains of the terrorists, including from a severed leg. They also sampled the rest of the plane and the surrounding field. The results, tested by the U.S. Army, eventually proved negative.
David Willman's excellent book "The Mirage Man" is filled with fascinating details about the FBI's investigation that cannot be found anywhere else, and he mentions this particular issue in a very different way with greater detail. Willman thoroughly deconstructs the erroneous beliefs of people like Tara O'Toole and the false claims in the media about how Ahmad al Haznawi supposedly had an anthrax infection on his leg. On page 128 of his book, Willman discusses how the May 1, 2002 issue of JAMA (the Journal of the American Medical Association) falsely described the attack anthrax as "weapons grade" and that it had been "treated to reduce clumping." The lead authors of the JAMA article were O'Toole and Thomas V. Inglesby, who were also behind all the nonsense about al Haznawi having an anthrax infection. That information on page 128 in Chapter 13 leads to Note #36 on pages 385 and 386 where Willman thoroughly dissects the O'Toole-Inglesby nonsense further and totally shoots down Laurie Garrett's mistaken beliefs:
In addition to scouring locations in Florida where September 11 hijacker Ahmad al Haznawi was known to have lived or visited, the FBI sought traces of anthrax from his remains and those of the other three terrorists who hijacked United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania. According to the author's interviews with investigators, after body parts and bits of tissue were painstakingly recovered from the crash site, investigators were able to assemble partial remains for the four hijackers. On May 15, 2002, FBI lab chief Dwight Adams informed Robert Mueller that twenty-two pounds of the hijackers' remains were recovered [...]. At the FBI's lab in Washington, techicians probed the dehydrated materials, including sawing into the foot of one of the hijackers, and sent tissue samples to USAMRIID and the Armed Forces Institute of pathology. No anthrax was found.
Willman's book goes into much greater detail about evidence in the case and how initial reports in the media were totally wrong and led to the current beliefs by Anthrax Truthers, while Guillemin's book tends to focus on other aspects of the anthrax attacks, primarily how victims were affected and how various agencies handled matters.
So, where did Laurie Garrett get her misinformation? I may have to read her book to find out, but, chances are she won't say. The erroneous information probably came from claims by other Anthrax Truthers.
Anthrax Truthers clearly have a very different view of what is evidence and what is not evidence. To most, if something supports their beliefs, then it's evidence. If it doesn't support their beliefs, then it isn't evidence. Here's what what one True Believer says:
The Amerithrax Investigative Summary is an unsourced and unmitigated crock — not supported by citation to any documentary evidence for good reason. An analysis sourced to the documentation tells a quite different story.
Isn’t the country sick and tired of the CYA motivation of federal officials potentially putting the country at peril?
What does he consider to be evidence? Apparently, it's stacks and stacks of documentation he's obtained via FOIA requests. How is it evidence? It's evidently evidence because he believes it's evidence.
Meanwhile, on Dr. Meryl Nass's web site, I've managed to get at least one person to stop posting as "Anonymous," so that I can tell one Anthrax Truther from another. (I'm now posting as "Evidence Examiner" in that thread to illustrate that there are unique names that can be used intead of just clicking on the "Anonymous" option.) I've also decided to give up on a debate over the meaning of "material evidence" versus "relevant evidence." Over the years I've learned that arguing over the meaning of words almost always turns counter-productive after the third or fourth day. In this debate, I pointed out that I'm using law dictionary definitions, and the Truther pointed out that "consulting a legal dictionary to define the word won't suffice," because there are precedents and procedures involved in the law which "determine how and by whom a a judgment of 'what is relevant' is made." There's no way that kind of argument is going to go anywhere useful.
I'm also in another argument with that same Anthrax Truther about how circumstantial evidence is viewed. A couple days ago, I stated that there may be no direct evidence that Ivins drove to Princeton to mail the anthrax letters, but the circumstantial evidence says that Ivins must have driven to Princeton to mail the letters. I wrote that that's the way circumstantial evidence works. Here's how I explained it:
If A can be proven to be true, and
if B can be proven to be true, and
if C can be proven to be true, and
if D can be proven to be true, and
if A, B, C and D say E must be true, and
if there is no evidence saying E is false, then
E can be viewed as true beyond a reasonable doubt.
The Anthrax Truther's response is that would assume that E is true, and jurors must never assume anything. Now, I've got to figure out some way to respond without getting into another endless argument over the meaning of a word -- in this case "assume." You do not assume E is true, you conclude that E is true, because all the facts say that E is true.
I suppose the Anthrax Truther might argue that jurors should never conclude anything, either. But, then what is the purpose of a jury if it is not to conclude whether or not the evidence is conclusive beyond a reasonable doubt?
Hmmm. Maybe the word "decide" would be better. It should be very difficult for the Anthrax Truther to argue that jurors should never decide anything. I'll give that a try.
Now, if there were only a hundred hours in every day, I might be able to find the absolutely perfect words to settle lots of other arguments. But, the facts also say that arguments with Anthrax Truthers are never settled. So, it's just an exercise to see how the Anthrax Truther will counter an argument that jurors must decide if a person is guilty or not guilty based upon the circumstantial evidence.
And then I've got to finish reading Guillemin's book. And then I've got to get back to work on my book. One nice thing I got from reading Willman's, Guillemin's and parts of Garrett's book is that there is plenty of room for a very different fourth perspective. Uh, oh. The GAO's report is supposed to be coming out this month. It'll probably be book-length and will view the anthrax investigation from a fourth perspective, making mine the fifth perspective. Maybe, by the time I'm finished, my book will be from the seven hundred and eighty-third perspective. I hope not.
& Changes: Thursday, September 1, 2011, thru Saturday, September 3,
September 3, 2011 - The McClatchy/ProPublica/Frontline crusade for the advancement of "yellow journalism" is at it again. Yesterday's Kansas City Star (a McClatchy newspaper) contained an article titled "Sen. Grassley asks Justice Department to explain contradictory acts on anthrax." The Grassley letter is HERE and HERE. The letter shows Sen. Grassley's misunderstandings, which evidently resulted from the McClatchy "yellow journalism" reports on a filing in the Stevens vs USA lawsuit. The filing seemingly contradicted facts in the case against Bruce Ivins. But, in reality, it was just a simple, single sentence error that was quickly corrected. The judge even wanted the government to "show cause" for why they needed to correct such a minor mistake. So, the judge's request was also distorted by McClatchy to suggest that Judge Hurley also saw something significant in the mistake. And now we have Sen. Grassley calling the case an "unsolved crime," and asking for an explanation for the error. And, as if to demonstrate that he's totally out of touch with the facts of the case, Grassley also wants to know if anyone has been punished for leaking information about Steven Hatfill to the media, since those leaks cost the taxpayers five million dollars.
Sen. Grassley is certainly within his rights to ask for an explanation. Hopefully, the public will get a report on the FBI's explanation. Too often, the media makes headlines out of simple errors and then ignores the explanations for the simple errors, because in the world of "yellow journalism," mistakes sell newspapers because human errors can be distorted to mean all sorts of terrible things, while simple explanations just bore people.
September 2, 2011 - I've been reading Jeanne Guillemin's new book "American Anthrax," which I received on Tuesday, even though it doesn't come out officially until September 13. I'm only on page 102, because I'm reading it while also using highlighters to mark key passages - a yellow highlighter to mark interesting passages and/or new items, and a blue highlighter to mark information which I may want to use in my own book.
The book is very readable and extremely well researched. What fascinates me most is that it's very different from David Willman's book, "The Mirage Man," even though both books are technically about the same subject.
While Willman's book was mostly about Bruce Ivins, Guillemin's book is (so far) mostly about the victims and how various local, state and federal government institutions reacted to the anthrax mailings. Guillemin uses a very dramatic way to present the facts, and the Bob Stevens case reads almost like a novel about a family tragedy. Bob Stevens is introduced on page 16 as he becomes sick while on vacation, then they return home and he becomes more sick and has to be taken to a hospital. Then, doctors have to go about figuring out the nature of his problem. Then, when it's found to be inhalation anthrax, various government agencies start rushing around trying to figure things out, even to the point of having to question Stevens' family members whose attention is mainly focused on Bob Stevens' plight. Then the media finds out about the case and goes into a feeding frenzy, even paying neighbors to let photographers climb onto their roofs to photograph members of the Stevens family. One "journalist" poses as a doctor in an attempt to get into Stevens' hospital room. Then, the public reacts, and a nut case calls Maureen Stevens to proclaim her husband's illness is the work of the Devil. Stevens' death is on page 37. Then, in the aftermath, the grieving family is required to move quickly to get the body out of the morgue to a funeral home and then into a crematorium. The aftermath of Stevens' death continues to page 49 when Erin O'Connor's case moves to the front and center.
Perhaps the biggest point made in the first 100 pages is that nearly every government agency was working with bad information about anthrax at the time of the attacks. The most serious piece of bad information was the belief that a person couldn't contract inhalation anthrax unless they inhaled at least 8,000 viable anthrax spores. Here's a paragraph from pages 89 and 90:
The CDC did not communicate any great urgency about disease risks to either [Brentwood mail facility manager] Haney or other USPS officials -- nor was the New Jersey CDC team changing its risk assessment. Like Stephen Ostroff in New York, the CDC's lead officer in Washington, Rima Khabbaz, promoted the fictitious threshold of 8,000 anthrax spores, which was the received wisdom in Atlanta. "Spores might have been leaking from envelopes," Khabbaz later told the Washington Post, "but it was unlikely that the totals reached 8,000. That is the number that decades-old studies with monkeys had suggested was the threshold for inhalation anthrax." Those old Detrick studies, often cited and seldom read, contained no evidence whatsoever for the existence of a threshold for inhalational anthrax. Nor were they designed to set safety standards, but rather the opposite: to calculate munitions requirements for Air Force attacks on targeted enemy cities.
In other words, the 8,000 spore figure was the number of spores that could be expected to kill the average person. It's an "LD50" number, meaning it's the Lethal Dose that would be fatal to 50 percent of those who inhaled 8,000 spores.
It also means that, in theory, every person who died could have inhaled less than 8,000 spores. For all we know today, every inhalation anthrax victim in the 2001 attacks and every one of the 66 deaths in Sverdlovsk incident in 1979 could have resulted from inhaling less than 8,000 spores. 8,000 is not a minimum of any kind. It's just a certainty number. Fewer spores per person might kill fifty percent, but 8,000 per person will definitely kill fifty percent of a population.
Because so many people believed that 8,000 was a "threshold" for infection, no one was initially very concerned about the relatively small amounts of spores investigators found in the postal facilities and the AMI building.
Jeanne Guillemin also points out very clearly that all sorts of clues were missed that showed spores could leak out of letters before they were opened, probably because it was generally believed to be impossible, and people needs lots of new facts before they'll start to question their beliefs. The New York Post letter had infected Joanna Huden, even though the letter hadn't been opened. Also, Ernesto Blanco's mail van was contaminated, which could only have happened it the letter was leaking spores as it was carried to the AMI building. The same with contaminated post offices along the way. But, in the confusion and anxiety of the time, people didn't put two and two together and realize what the clues meant regarding dangers to postal workers.
Guillemin isn't particularly critical of the government agencies - at least not so far. She just points out what happens during times of crisis. People miss things that with 20/20 hindsight should have been obvious. People can also begin with incorrect beliefs. And, if it's a rare type of crime, they can use dangerously bad data.
All this makes me wonder if the case in Minnesota would have been diagnosed correctly if people were still as ignorant of anthrax today as they were in September of 2001. And, of course, one has to wonder how many spores 61-year-old Dan Anders inhaled. He almost died. Does that mean he inhaled about 7,999 spores? Or was it significantly less? We'll never know, but, today, only a ignorant fool would assume that it must have been 8,000 spores or more.