Committee For Freedom Of The Press
July 15, 2008
Appellate court affirms summary judgment in Hatfill libel suit
A federal appeals court in Richmond, Va. (4th Cir.) on Monday upheld the dismissal of a libel suit brought by former Army scientist Steven Hatfill against the New York Times.
Hatfill alleged that a series of columns by Nicholas Kristof implicated him in the 2001 anthrax mailings that killed five people and sickened 17 others.
The court held that Hatfill was a public figure because he publicly discussed the threat of bioterrorism and the nation’s lack of preparedness for such an attack both before and after the attacks.
“Throughout his career, Dr. Hatfill was not only repeatedly sought out as an expert on bioterrorism, but was also a vocal critic of the government's unpreparedness for a bioterrorist attack, as evidenced by the topics of his lectures, writings, participation on panels, and interviews,” Judge Paul Niemeyer wrote for a unanimous panel. “Through these media Dr. Hatfill voluntarily thrust himself into the debate. He cannot remove himself now to assume a favorable litigation posture.”
As a public figure, Hatfill would have to prove that Kristof acted with actual malice to succeed in a libel suit against the Times. The court though found that Hatfill could not prove actual malice because Kristof had strong reason to consider the scientist to be the lead suspect in the crime.
The Times was able to support that point despite not being able to rely on two anonymous sources that provided Kristof background on the situation. Kristof refused to identify those sources and the district court judge barred the Times from relying on any information those sources provided.
This is the second of Hatfill’s string of suits revolving around the anthrax mailings to come to an end in the past several weeks. In late June, the Justice Department agreed to pay Hatfill a nearly $6 million settlement to drop his Privacy Act suit against the government for identifying him as a “person of interest” in the attacks.
— Matthew Pollack, 10:27 am
forensic guy from the FBI
Dr Bruce Budowle has been in the FBI for over 20 years, heading one of its forensic laboratories. He looks back to the mysterious and still unsolved case of the anthrax envelopes which followed 9/11 and which moved bioterrorism combat to a new level. Dr Budowle has come to Australia's Bond University to share techniques and learn from Professor Angela van Daal's use of genetics to profile human features—including hair colour and faces.
This transcript was typed from a recording of the program. The ABC cannot guarantee its complete accuracy because of the possibility of mishearing and occasional difficulty in identifying speakers.
Robyn Williams: The FBI—how many times have you seen movies or TV shows about that intrepid organisation? Hello, Robyn Williams with In Conversation, and this time with someone who heads one of the FBI's forensic labs...you'll be amazed how much science is required for their investigations.
The host for the FBI in Australia was Bond University: Professor Angela Van Daal, whom I've talked to before on the Science Show. Here she is on using genes, yes genes, to tell what victims or villains look like.
Angela van Daal: Our DNA also contains all the information that describes what we look like, whether we have blue eyes, brown eyes, or whether we're tall or short. And so what I'm interested in doing is decoding that information, finding out what it is that does make us look like what we look like. So that in the future when there's a crime scene, when there's no suspect—for example like the Wee Waa rape cases several years ago that police would be able to take that evidence item and do a DNA test and provide essentially an identikit picture of the person. So it's like having an eye witness at the crime.
Robyn Williams: Do you mean you can read off parts of the DNA and from it build up a picture of what that person looks like?
Angela van Daal: Yes.
Robyn Williams: That's astonishing.
Angela van Daal: Yes, but it will happen in the future. It's obviously a very complex thing but we've already made some progress. There are a few genes that we know of that are involved in, for example, red hair. We know there's a particular gene that if you have one or two changes at that gene you are very likely to have red hair. We also have found a gene that we have, again, have one or two changes where there's a much stronger association with dark colouring. So we are making progress but yes, it's a complex thing but down the track we will be doing that I think.
Robyn Williams: How much can be done now?
Angela van Daal: Now, very limited, but the test I just described—and there are a few genes as I said we know about involved in pigmentation. I'm also working on genes involved in height and in facial morphology but we don't know enough yet to provide very useful information. But I would say that within five years we might be able to provide much more information.
Robyn Williams: Within five years would you be able to tell whether it's me or whether it's my colleague Norman Swan, or whether it's...
Angela van Daal: I'm sure it wouldn't be you, Robyn.
Robyn Williams: You have no idea what we get up to.
Angela van Daal: I hate to think. Well even at this early stage we could—for example, I mentioned the gene that's associated with red hair and the one we've got with dark colouring, we could do those tests at this stage and predict whether a person might have red hair or be dark in colouring. So we could do that already.
Robyn Williams: The shape of sleuthing to come, Angela van Daal at Bond University in Southern Queensland. She has been looking after Bruce Budowle, an FBI veteran of 20 years who's head of their lab in Virginia and is sometimes called the FBI's top scientist. He's not only involved in forensics but also in the Bureau's extensive efforts in counter terrorism.
Robyn Williams: Bruce Budowle, could you take us back to a few years ago when there were mysterious envelopes arriving on desks in the United States that seemed to contain a strange powder—the anthrax mystery. Could you tell us what happened and what happened next?
Bruce Budowle: Well you've got to remember 9/11 had just occurred and the World Trade Center had collapsed and so of course we were already on high alert about terrorism and the issues and security risks that we had at the moment. And subsequent to that there were letters mailed through the postal service containing the bacterium called Bacillus anthraces which is the micro-organism that causes the disease in anthrax. And it was sent through the mail which became a rather effective way of disseminating the material to various news media and politicians' offices.
Robyn Williams: And then it was analysed, was it?
Bruce Budowle: Well there's a couple of things in it, the first person exposed to it there was no letters ever found, that was Robert Stevens in the AMI Building in Florida, he was discovered as having the disease by an astute physician who did a very good differential diagnosis and determined he had anthrax. After that, then people started to look into the building and did some searching and found spores, at the same time then the letters became apparent and very quickly identified as Bacillus anthraces.
Robyn Williams: Of what particular origin—because is it possible to look at the sort of anthrax you've got and then to trace back to see what its origins might have been?
Bruce Budowle: Well there's a lot of different things that can be done with micro-organisms in general, sometimes if you know the strain, although we talk about anthrax there are different strains and one strain may be found in one part of the country or one part of the world and another strain and spore may be something that is used in a weapons program in the past maybe 30/40 years ago and that can give you some suggestions of where to look.
Robyn Williams: And this can be done by analysing the sort of anthrax you've got, the DNA fingerprint if you like.
Bruce Budowle: Something like that, if you look into the DNA there are genetic signatures that can help identify the particular strain, that's very well established for many years.
Robyn Williams: Now as a matter of general interest that happened, as you said, some years ago. Was anyone ever arrested as a result of that inquiry?
Bruce Budowle: Well it's an ongoing investigation so I can't comment any further on it at this point.
Robyn Williams: You talked about fingerprinting—that was in itself something rather controversial way back, I think at the beginning of the 1980s. Sir Alec Jefferies I do believe in Britain was the pioneer of that—do you know him?
Bruce Budowle: I know him personally very well and of course I would never use the term DNA fingerprinting because I don't think it's a good moniker for what we do, but the concept there is that if you do enough and the right kind of genetic markers you can essentially identify an individual to the exclusion of all others—unless they have an identical twin.
Actually the technology wasn't as controversial as one thinks, but because of the legal systems that we enjoy both in Australia and the United States, the adversarial system, it is the duty of the defence to challenge the evidence and to vehemently represent their clients so they will take on any charge they can to try to at least mollify or at least discredit the evidence to some degree. And that became more of a controversy. If you look at what we actually did in all the work that was done, sometimes we did it correctly from the beginning.
Robyn Williams: But I suppose some of the arguments are that you don't necessarily get the entire genome lying there for you. What you get are bits and pieces and so the argument from the defence is that if you've only got something like 1% that section of it plus another little bit here how can you be sure that all of that stuff which is just a representation of the DNA can give you enough to be certain of what you've got.
Bruce Budowle: Well let me give you an analogy that might be a little bit different—but have you ever played poker before?
Robyn Williams: I have done way back.
Bruce Budowle: OK, way back, same here. I don't do it anymore because that would be unprofessional. If you took five cards out and said what's the chance of getting four aces and a king, you only have one tenth of the deck, right, so it's only a small portion of the deck—so what's the odds of four aces? Very remote. And so you don't need all of it to be able to identify something that's exceedingly rare.
The same thing with DNA; you choose genetic regions that are highly variable amongst people in the population and you put a series of them together. It's the same thing as pulling out cards from a deck and getting a specific hand—exceedingly rare. So you don't have to look at all the DNA and in fact if you looked at all the DNA you would be somewhat of an useless exercise cause over 99 plus per cent of all our DNA is exactly the same, that's what makes us all humans. So you only want to look at regions that are informative and not spend your time looking at things that would be uninformative.
Robyn Williams: Apart from that it takes so long to analyse all this stuff. I think one of the figures at the back of my head is that there's something like 200,000 examinations of DNA, particular cases as a backlog at any one time that the police or whomever are investigating; the same in the United States. So getting through all that, if you had to do the entire DNA you'd be working till doomsday wouldn't you?
Bruce Budowle: Well really it's not practically feasible or economically feasible to do that anyway but there's a couple of points in there to comment on. One is any one DNA case doesn't take long, if a sample came in you could actually in theory analyse is within a day or two if one wanted to do that. One of the reasons there's this backlog is the success of DNA is its own worst enemy, in a sense, because as you become more and more successful you look at more and more samples, to types that were not type-able before by other traditional or current needs at that time. So therefore the more and more you become successful the more and more likely you're going to be able to see more samples coming in and such.
There's another point to consider as well. It may not be best for society for us to look at all the DNA a person has and we've purposely tried to avoid things that would affect or impact the privacy of an individual so if I had the ability to look at all your DNA I might find that you have some genes that may give you a predisposition to a cancer, or heart disease, or something else and that wouldn't be appropriate for the police to have that kind of information. So in my mind we are better off looking at the DNA that we look at now, which does not have those kinds of signatures or information about the individual's personal features or disease predilections or something.
Robyn Williams: Fair enough, Professor Budowle, you're in charge of a major laboratory in the FBI in the United States looking at a whole range of investigations, give us an idea of the sorts of things that you are doing now, some years after anthrax, the way that the field has developed by 2008.
Bruce Budowle: Well what we did is we developed this field called microbial forensics, a field that's specific to looking at evidence that might come in from a bioterrorism or bio-crime act and try to develop all the kinds of tools and practices that could be used to help characterise that evidence to give investigative leads to the police and law enforcement FBI for people to identify those who perpetrate the crime. We also are building an infrastructure so that if there's another event we can rapidly mobilise and address the crime scene and analyse the evidence in a much more rapid manner than we ever could before.
Robyn Williams: And in what connection with bioterrorism?
Bruce Budowle: Well again, bioterrorism is using a micro organism, a toxin or other related products, or even material that's innoxious in the manner of a hoax to commit a crime. And when that occurs we use whatever evidence is found at the crime scene to be able to characterise it to hope to identify the person who committed that crime. So if there's a microbe, we have two types of situations, we can have an overt attack or a covert attack. An overt attack would be something like a package is found in a train station and written on it is the word anthrax, or there's a powder in it and people are concerned it may be real, it may not, we want to of course address those.
The other one is the covert attack where you don't know that it's been perpetrated and yet some people, animals, plants have become ill or dying and you wonder first if it's a natural disease, or if it's an intentional attack, we have to figure those things out. And then, same thing, can we use any of that evidence that the micro organism has, or the package or whatever it may be to help trace back to the one who committed that crime.
Robyn Williams: It's been interesting in recent times that with all the attacks that there have been using fairly conventional weapons there's been very little using bio weapons, presumably because they are so hard to control and may be you effect your own people, residents and so on, the general public over a longer time. Have you been surprised at how little this sort of weaponry has been used?
Bruce Budowle: Well being somewhat of a scientist, and scientists are somewhat historians as well if you look back over history, there's actually many examples of micro-organisms being used as bioweapons. As far back as the ancient Abyssinians to current day countries and individuals in the 20th and 21st century. So it's not the first time that we've heard this, and there's many examples of these; one-on-ones to large numbers of individuals being attacked. However, I do think that there's something about bioweapons that most scientists have an aversion too and that they do not have this desire to use them in that kind of manner. I think we're all trained with certain science ethics and such that it seems to be that people don't want to help do that, they look at it more as a use to make good not bad and therefore I think we are not going to see as much.
But your points about also is they may be easy to grow but they may be actually hard to disseminate and so that limits their use as well.
Robyn Williams: Absolutely, mind you, you still have to be vigilant and therefore you still have to have the equipment to go in on the mysterious package and find out fairly quickly, or if there is a disease in some town to check out whether this happens to be something that may have been perpetrated. I suppose it's fairly difficulty to tell on the face of it whether an outbreak is a natural one or something that's been planted by some villain.
Bruce Budowle: You're absolutely right and it depends on the situation. Some would be obvious for instance if there was an outbreak of smallpox no one would consider it being a natural outbreak today because it has been eradicated, it would automatically be thought of as a terrorist act. Others may be more difficult, they may look like the natural background and that's why it's so important for the government agencies to work together. For instance the FBI and our centres for disease control have a memorandum of understanding, we work these cases together so that if something starts out as a public health incident it may have been a true attack we're read into it immediately as they are into our works so that everybody knows what's happening so the best decisions can be made. If you only have your public health looking at things then they only treat it as a public health incident if you only have law enforcement looking at it you only treat it as looking as law enforcement. You need to two to work together to actually get the best effective interpretation of what may have happened.
Robyn Williams: You mentioned smallpox just now, and that goes back to a decision that was taken a few years ago as to whether to eliminate it from the face of the earth—and I think two stores remain; one in Russia and one in the United States.
Bruce Budowle: Yes, that's true.
Robyn Williams: Just to be able to identify something should it turn up later. Now there was a rumour that the Russians were unfortunately thinking of using the store to develop some sort of weaponry—is there any more information on that and the progress in 2008 as to whether they've done so or not?
Bruce Budowle: I actually don't know anything about that rumour so I couldn't comment on that, but it does bring up an interesting point. Prior to 2001 there was a projected date that these stores were going to be destroyed because there was no need for them any more. And because of the now concern about bioterrorism that has been put on halt for a while because we would need these materials potentially to produce a therapeutic or vaccine that would be used to prevent spread of disease. So climates change and you know dynamics change as events occur so it's another one of those areas of the effect of what happened in one event in recent years.
Robyn Williams: Professor Angela van Daal, you're with Professor Budowle and you're from Bond University, and you're his host, listening to these rather disturbing topics about terrorism and subterfuge and so on, how much relevance does that have to the Australian scene?
Angela van Daal: I think it does have relevance, obviously this is a global issue and one of the things that Bruce has mentioned I think it really important in this context, I think it's very important that we at an international level as well as domestic levels work together and Australia in fact has MOUs, for example, with the Department of Homeland Security and I think these things are important. We have micro-organisms here in Australia that are not present in other countries which potentially can be used for a bio-terrorism attack and so it's important for all of us to work together in being as prepared as we can for hopefully what won't happen. But yeah, I do believe that interaction internationally is a very important part of science now.
Robyn Williams: And your sharing techniques, you're sharing approaches are you?
Angela van Daal: Yes, we have a number of collaborations we are working on.
Robyn Williams: With the FBI?
Angela van Daal: Yes, we are specifically working on some aspects of the human DNR identification part of forensics with the FBI and with academic colleagues in the United States.
Robyn Williams: And during the time that Professor Budowle is here, what sorts of things will you be examining together?
Angela van Daal: We're actually looking at developing further interactions, so for example we have visited the Australian Federal Police in Canberra and talked about biosecurity issues with the relevant departments there. We've talked about some of the issues associated with the human DNA identification field—you talked about the backlogs that exist and the databases. Bruce has advised the Australian people here on some of those issues and helped them in developing our database
Robyn Williams: And of course there's the question of identifying victims of things like the World Trade Center bombing and various other examples of mass murder. In Bosnia for example a number of anthropologists have been looking at the buried corpses and then the identification of the DNA comes in. How much demand is there from families and others for that sort of thing, Professor Budowle?
Bruce Budowle: Well again for our cultures and societies we desire to identify victims of mass diasters and attacks and such so that's one of the first things that's thought about when there's a victim, is how do you identify them. Back in the United States we have thousands of missing persons where the vast majority of the human remains that we have of those have been due to some sort of nefarious act, usually they've been killed in some fashion that warrants investigation as well, and families are looking for their loved ones. And so we have an active program in the US and several crime labs in the FBI to identify these missing persons.
Robyn Williams: Even thousands involved with the World Trade Center disaster, it seems an almost impossible task with the bits spread over the city still to be looking into evidence for a particular person. Is that still going on?
Bruce Budowle: Well actually there's still a remnant of the program going on, no pun intended, but every once and a while you still here on the news that a few shards or fragments have been found and they continue onward. About half the people that went missing have been identified; at least a portion of them through the analyses that were done over the last few years but the other half probably will never be identified given the nature of the terrible event that occurred.
Robyn Williams: And I suppose the question is proving that someone was actually there rather than you know didn't turn up at the World Trade Center and went somewhere else and has gone missing.
Bruce Budowle: Well there are obviously issues there, I mean there have been a handful or less examples of people who tried to carry out some insurance fraud based on saying that they disappeared and were killed. But I think most of the cases are pretty well verified by lots of other means and they've been settled even without the human remains to identify them. But it's not so much the verification that matters, the verification for the people who are still alive and lost loved ones, to try and have something of their loved ones to take, hold, bury and have closure.
Robyn Williams: Whose role is that, is it the police role, the FBI's role or what?
Bruce Budowle: It varies depending on the particular situation. Now in New York City actually the role was of course under New York jurisdiction, so it became part of New York's responsibility, and then others were invited in, such as ourselves, to work on that. The one that occurred in the Pentagon bombing, obviously that's the federal government, and most of the work that was done for that analysis was done at the Armed Forces DNA Identification Lab, which does a lot of the kind of plane crashes and such analysis then others help in joining in. But the role, there may have been a role in leadership, but there are many, many organisations and institutions both private and public that worked on these that helped to contribute to address this massive task.
Robyn Williams: A question for both of you to end, how do you see this field growing in the future, what sort of techniques have we got to look forward to that will make the whole process even more efficient and accurate if you like. First Professor Budowle.
Bruce Budowle: OK, well there's a couple of areas and I'll lead off with what I'll defer to Professor van Daal here in a while about but there are various situations where we have samples that are very challenged, they've been exposed to the environment, a lot of heat, humidity, the bacterial fungal growth on them and they degrade so there are smaller and smaller amounts of DNA in there that are degraded and very difficult to analyse. So we are looking at other genetic markers that are more amenable to working on degraded samples and we call them snips which are just genetic markers that are scattered throughout our DNA. And one of the areas that we're working on is developing different classes of snips and one that Professor van Daal is working on is looking at snips that will actually allow us to decipher the features of the individual who was the donor or the owner of that particular sample. And I think within the next two to five years we're going to see a lot of success in that area. And the real value of that is that if you have a case where there's no suspect, police have no lead. In theory what we would like to do would be to extract the DNA from that sample and do a reconstruction of the person's physical features, the shape of their eyes, their nose, their mouth, ears, better than, let's say, an eye-witness account would ever be, and give them a better investigative lead than they have now.
The other areas we would like to work on is improving the technology, and you talk about backlogs, and backlogs are a serious issue because it takes a lot of work to do a case. Some cases it takes a lot of manpower, a lot of time and a lot of cost, and some of the methods we are looking at today we could reduce that time tenfold and the cost 20% to 15% of the cost we do now and that means we could do more samples in less time. That would be another tremendous value and advantage.
Robyn Williams: Angela van Daal we have talked about those feature investigations before and in the one minute that's left, how much can you identify someone's face say, their features?
Angela van Daal: Right now we don't have information to get to their face but we're working on developing those markers. But what we do have at this point that we're looking to implementing some kind of a product for the community is the ability to look at the pigmentation, so hair, skin and eye colour and if you think about missing person cases when you know everyone has seen on CSI kind of shows where they do the facial reconstructions, if we can add even pigmentation as a starting point to that description that I think will make a big difference.
Robyn Williams: Professor Angela Van Daal at Bond University in Queensland, with Bruce Budowle from the FBI's lab in Virginia. And next week at this time I shall be in conversation with two anthropologists who know all about babies, both from Cambridge. Karen Kramer is at Harvard in Cambridge Massachusetts and Marilyn Strathern is head of Girton College in Cambridge in England. Production today by Nicky Phillips. I'm Robyn Williams
No malice found in Hatfill case
Daily Record Legal Affairs Writer
July 21, 2008
Steven J. Hatfill’s attorneys have vowed to pursue his libel claim against the New York Times despite a federal appeals court’s refusal to reinstate the bioterrorism expert’s claim that the newspaper defamed him.
The New York Times published columns linking Hatfill to letters laced with anthrax that were sent to Congress and news organizations in late 2001. Five people died after handling the contaminated mail.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week that Hatfill, a former Army scientist, was a “limited public figure” with regard to news stories and editorials on bioterrorism, including the Times’ allegations that he made deadly use of his expertise.
To pursue his claim, Hatfill — as a public figure — would have to show that the New York Times published writer Nicholas Kristof’s accusatory editorials with “actual malice,” that is with a reckless disregard of the truth or knowing that the allegations were false, the 4th Circuit stated. Hatfill failed to show the existence of such malice, the appellate court added.
Hatfill attorney Mark A. Grannis said the 4th Circuit interpreted “public figure” too broadly. Hatfill’s expertise on bioterrorism should not enable the New York Times and Kristof to accuse him of having initiated the deadly anthrax attacks, added Grannis, a partner at Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis LLP’s Washington, D.C. office.
“If Steven Hatfill was a public figure when Kristof wrote about him, then so are we all,” Grannis said in a prepared statement. “We believe the court has misapplied the law of defamation, but if we are wrong about that, then the law of defamation is badly in need of revision. Either way, we intend to press on with the case.”
But media-law attorney Henry R. Abrams of Baltimore said the 4th Circuit correctly held that Hatfill, a former Army scientist who had spoken and written extensively and publicly about the threat of anthrax well before the attacks, was a “public figure” on topics related to the biological attacks, including the possibility that he was, in fact, the killer.
“He sought the spotlight on the very subject matter he was being investigated about” by the New York Times, added Abrams, a partner at Saul Ewing LLP. “That is the classic definition of a public figure.”
Extensive public statements
In its 3-0 decision, the 4th Circuit upheld a federal judge in Virginia who dismissed Hatfill’s defamation claim.
The 4th Circuit agreed that Hatfill was a public figure with regard to news stories on bioterrorism, due to his extensive public statements on the subject. The appellate court also affirmed that neither Kristof nor the New York Times had reason to doubt the truth of the columns, which pointed toward Hatfill as the prime suspect in the anthrax deaths that occurred just weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Then-Attorney General John Ashcroft called Hatfill a “person of interest” in the investigation, leading to stories and editorials about the case. Kristof, in a series of five editorials, criticized the FBI’s “lackadaisical” investigation and pointed to Hatfill as a suspect. Hatfill then sued the New York Times and Kristof.
Diana Huffman, who teaches separate courses on media law and ethics at the University of Maryland, said she agrees with the 4th Circuit’s decision that Hatfill, having spoken extensively and publicly on bioterrorism, is a public figure under Supreme Court precedent. But from an ethical standpoint, the New York Times went too far in aping the FBI by pointing toward Hatfill as the prime suspect, she added.
“My concern is just because the FBI says it, you don’t have to print it,” Huffman said.
Hatfill was never charged in the anthrax attacks. The mystery of who mailed the deadly letters remains unsolved.
Last month, Hatfill reached a $5.8 million out-of-court settlement with the Justice Department on his claim that the agency had violated his privacy rights by telling reporters he was a person of interest in the attacks. The government admitted no wrongdoing in agreeing to the settlement.
Posted on Fri, Aug. 01, 2008 12:10 AM
Anthrax suspect dies in apparent suicide
By DAVID WILLMAN
Los Angeles Times
One of the nation’s top biodefense researchers has died in Maryland from an apparent suicide, just as the Justice Department was to file criminal charges against him in the anthrax mailing assaults of 2001 that killed five, the Los Angeles Times has learned.
Bruce E. Ivins, 62, who for the past 18 years worked at the government’s elite biodefense research laboratories at Fort Detrick, Md., had been informed of the impending prosecution, people familiar with Ivins, his suspicious death and with the FBI investigation said.
Ivins’ name had not been disclosed publicly as a suspect in the case that disrupted mail service and Senate business three weeks after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The Maryland scientist had for years played a pivotal role in research to improve anthrax vaccines, preparing anthrax formulations used in experiments on animals.
Regarded as a skilled microbiologist, Ivins also had helped the FBI analyze the powdery material recovered from one of the anthrax-tainted envelopes sent to a U.S. senator’s office in Washington, D.C.
Ivins died Tuesday at Frederick Memorial Hospital after having ingested a massive dose of prescription Tylenol mixed with codeine, said a friend and colleague who declined to be identified out of concern, he said, that he would be harassed by the FBI.
The death -- without any mention of suicide -- was announced to Ivins’ colleagues at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, or USAMRIID, through a staffwide e-mail.
“People here are pretty shook up about it,” said Caree Vander Linden, a spokewoman for USAMRIID, who said that she was not at liberty to discuss details surrounding the death.
The extraordinary turn of events followed the government’s payment in June of a settlement valued at $5.82 million to a former government scientist, Steven J. Hatfill, who was long targeted as the FBI’s chief suspect despite a lack of any evidence that he had ever possessed anthrax.
The payout to Hatfill, a highly unusual development that all but exonerated him of committing the anthrax mailings, was an essential step to clear the way for prosecuting Ivins, according to lawyers familiar with the matter.
Federal investigators moved away from Hatfill -- for years the only publicly identified “person of interest” -- and ultimately concluded that Ivins was the culprit after FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III changed leadership of the investigation in late 2006.
The FBI’s new top investigators -- Vincent B. Lisi and Edward W. Montooth -- instructed agents to re-examine leads or potential suspects that may have received insufficient attention. Moreover, significant progress was made in analyzing properties of the anthrax powder recovered from separate letters that were addressed to two U.S. senators.
The renewed efforts led the FBI back to USAMRIID, where agents had first questioned scientists in December 2001, a few weeks after the fatal mailings.
By spring of this year, FBI agents were still contacting present and former colleagues of Ivins. At USAMRIID and elsewhere, scientists acquainted with Ivins were asked to sign confidentiality agreements in order to prevent leaks of new investigative details.
Soon after the government’s settlement with Hatfill was announced June 27, Ivins began showing signs of serious strain. One of his longtime colleagues told the Times that Ivins, who was being treated for depression, indicated to a therapist that he was considering suicide. Soon thereafter, family members and local police officers escorted Ivins away from USAMRIID, where his access to sensitive areas was curtailed, the colleague said.
Ivins was committed to a facility in Frederick for treatment of his depression. On July 24, he was released from the facility, operated by Sheppard Pratt Health System. A telephone call that same day by the Times verified that Ivins’s government voicemail was still functioning.
The scientist faced forced retirement, planned for September, said his longtime colleague, who described Ivins as emotionally fractured by the federal scrutiny.
“He didn’t have any more money to spend on legal fees. He was much more emotionally labile, in terms of sensitivity to things, than most scientists. ... He was very thin skinned.”
A spokeswoman for the FBI, Debra Weierman, said Thursday that the bureau would not comment regarding the death of Ivins. Last week, however, FBI Director Mueller told CNN that, “in some sense, there have been breakthroughs” in the case.
“I’ll tell you we made great progress in the investigation," Mueller added. “And it’s in no way dormant.”
Ivins, the son of a Princeton-educated pharmacist, was born and raised in Lebanon, Ohio, and received undergraduate and graduate degrees, including a Ph.D. in microbiology, from the University of Cincinnati.
The eldest of his two brothers, Thomas Ivins, said that he was not surprised by the events that have unfolded.
“He buckled under the pressure from the federal government,” Thomas Ivins said, adding that FBI agents came to Ohio last year to question him about his brother.
“I was questioned by the feds, and I sung like a canary,” Thomas Ivins said, referring to his efforts to describe his brother’s personality and tendencies. “He had in his mind that he was omnipotent.”
Ivins’s widow declined to be interviewed when reached Thursday at her home in Frederick. The couple raised twins, who are now 24 years old.
Anthrax survivor: Suspect's suicide `makes me feel secure'
Posted on Fri, Aug. 01, 2008
BY TANIA VALDEMORO
Ernesto Blanco, a North Miami mailroom worker at tabloid publisher American Media who inhaled anthrax but survived seven years ago, said the suicide this week of a biodefense researcher being investigated in the deadly anthrax attacks of 2001 shows the often-criticized federal probe of the attacks ``never stopped.''
''They've put a lot of hours into finding out who sent those letters. Sooner or later, they will catch the people involved. That makes me feel secure they are doing their job,'' Blanco, 80, said during a phone interview Friday.
In October 2001, 22 people became sick from the deadly bacterium found in letters sent to Boca Raton; Washington, D.C.; and New York City; five people, including Blanco's colleague, Bob Stevens, photo editor of the Sun tabloid in Boca Raton, died.
On Tuesday, Bruce E. Ivins, 62, a researcher who worked at the federal government's biodefense labs at Fort Detrick, Md., died of an apparent suicide. Federal prosecutors investigating the anthrax attacks were planning to indict and seek the death penalty against Ivins.
For more than a decade, Ivins worked to develop an anthrax vaccine that was effective even in cases where different strains of anthrax were mixed, which made vaccines ineffective, according to federal documents.
U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of ongoing grand jury proceedings, said prosecutors were closing in on Ivins. They were planning an indictment that would have sought the death penalty for the attacks, which crippled the postal system and traumatized a nation still reeling from the Sept. 11 attacks.
Authorities were investigating whether Ivins released the anthrax as a way to test his vaccine, officials said. The Justice Department has not yet decided whether to close the investigation, officials said, meaning it's still not certain whether Ivins acted alone or had help. One official close to the case said that decision was expected within days.
In July, the federal government settled a lawsuit with Steven J. Hatfill, another scientist who worked at Fort Detrick who was singled out as a ''person of interest'' by former Attorney General John Ashcroft.
Blanco said he did not know Ivins or whether the scientist was responsible for sending out the anthrax-tainted letters.
''But anything is possible,'' he said.
Neither Maureen Stevens, the widow of Bob Stevens, nor her attorney, Richard Schuler, could be reached for comment Friday.
In December 2003, Stevens filed two lawsuits, against the federal government and Battelle Memorial Institute, a private lab that works with the government. The lawsuit against the government alleged that security lapses at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick brought Bob Stevens in contact with anthrax. Stevens died on Oct. 5, 2001, of anthrax inhalation.
Schuler produced a memo from a separate case involving three former scientists who said that 27 specimens, including anthrax and ebola, were missing from the labs in 1992.
Stevens' lawsuit against Battelle alleges lax security and poor training of workers ultimately led to anthrax being mailed to American Media. The two lawsuits have been combined.
On May 5, the Florida Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case because a federal appeals court must decide whether the lawsuit should go to trial.
Lawyers for the federal government and Battelle argued that their clients ''could not foresee the material being used as a terror weapon because it had never happened before,'' according to the Associated Press.
Judges with the Florida Supreme Court did not indicate when they would make a decision.
This report was supplemented by the Associated Press.
Aug 1, 2008 01:27 PM
Government scientist accused of masterminding 2001 anthrax mailings dies in apparent suicide
Little more than a month after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist strikes, the nation was shaken by a new wave of attacks. Five people died--and 17 more people were sickened by--anthrax (an acute infectious disease caused by the spore-forming bacterium) sent to unwitting residents, reporters and government officials. Nearly seven years later, a microbiologist has died of an apparent drug overdose as prosecutors prepared to charge him in connection with the mailings.
Bruce Ivins, 62, who for the past 18 years worked at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), a federal biodefense research laboratory Fort Detrick in Maryland, died Tuesday at Frederick Memorial Hospital after ingesting massive amounts of prescription Tylenol with codeine. The Washington Post reports that the feds had alerted him that they planned to charge him with bioterrorism and were considering whether to seek the death penalty in the event of a conviction.
Ivins's death comes about a month after the feds forked over $5.82 million to scientist Steven Hatfill, 54, who worked with Ivins at Fort Detrick, to settle a lawsuit that he filed against former Attorney General John Ashcroft and other Justice Department officials for publicly naming him as a "person of interest" in their anthrax investigation, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Ivins, who analyzed samples from the attacks for the FBI, became a prime suspect when law enforcement agents came up dry in attempts to link Hatfield to the crimes. In addition to claiming lives, the scare also interrupted mail service, caused the evacuation of government buildings, and prompted congressional members and aides near and in offices targeted to take the powerful antibiotic ciprofloxacin (better known as cipro)--which may has a long list of possible side effects--as a precaution in case of accidental exposure to the lethal white powder.
To avoid leaks to the press (which occurred during the Hatfill probe), the FBI required that Ivin's colleagues at USAMRIID sign confidentiality agreements when interviewed by agents as part of the investigation, the L.A. Times reported.
Investigators first questioned USAMRIID scientists in December 2001. The Times reports that Ivins, employed as a civilian at Fort Detrick, attracted the Army's attention because of anthrax contamination in his lab that he initially failed to report.
The "Amerithrax" investigation (as the FBI calls it) is one of the most complex and comprehensive ever conducted by law enforcement, the FBI said in a statement released Friday. Over the past seven years, the Amerithrax Task Force, comprised of 17 FBI special agents and 10 U.S. postal inspectors, has executed about 75 searches and conducted more than 9,100 interviews in pursuit of the perpetrator of these attacks.
Among recipients of anthrax-laced mailings: then-Sen. Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.), Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), TV network news outlets in New York and American Media, Inc., the parent company of the National Enquirer among others, in Boca Raton, Fla. The dead included two Washington, D.C. postal workers, a photographer for American Media in Florida, a New York hospital worker and an elderly Connecticut woman.
Antibiotics can kill the anthrax bacterium, but time is of the essence. If the drug is not administered quickly enough, the toxin secreted by the bug may reach lethal levels in the blood before the medicine can kill it. Bacillus anthracis not only secretes toxins that irreversibly damage immune system cells but also forms a protective capsule and avoid detection as it spreads. Because the vaccine available at the time of the attacks targeted only part of the toxin released by Bacillus anthracis, scientists have been investigating new approaches.
Emergent BioSolutions, Inc. in Rockville, Md. announced last week that it has secured two grants totaling over $4.5 million from The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to fund the continued development of the company's Recombinant Botulinum Vaccine (rBOT) and Next Generation Anthrax Vaccine (NGAV) vaccine candidates. The company's BioThrax (Anthrax Vaccine Adsorbed), is the only vaccine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the prevention of anthrax infection.
A report published in 2003 by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences indicated that the U.S. was unprepared to deal with a widescale anthrax attack and that if a major city were hit it could lead to as many as 123,000 deaths. Concern over anthrax, or some other biological agent, being used as part of a terrorist attack led some to call for the government to install sensors that raised an alarm soon after spores appeared in the environment.
Anthrax scientist Bruce Ivins stood to benefit from a panic
The suspect in deadly mailings, who killed himself this week as the FBI closed in, could have collected patent royalties on an anthrax vaccine.
By David Willman, Los Angeles
Times Staff Writer
Bruce E. Ivins, the government biodefense scientist linked to the deadly anthrax mailings of 2001, stood to gain financially from massive federal spending in the fear-filled aftermath of those killings, the Los Angeles Times has learned.
Ivins is listed as a co-inventor on two patents for a genetically engineered anthrax vaccine, federal records show. Separately, Ivins also is listed as a co-inventor on an application to patent an additive for various biodefense vaccines.
Ivins, 62, died Tuesday in an apparent suicide in Maryland. Federal authorities had informed his lawyer that criminal charges related to the mailings would be filed.
As a co-inventor of a new anthrax vaccine, Ivins was among those in line to collect patent royalties if the product had come to market, according to an executive familiar with the matter.
The product had languished on laboratory shelves until the Sept. 11 attacks and the anthrax mailings, after which federal officials raced to stockpile vaccines and antidotes against potential biological terrorism.
A San Francisco-area biotechnology company, VaxGen, won a federal contract worth $877.5 million to provide batches of the new vaccine. The contract was the first awarded under legislation promoted by President Bush, called Project BioShield.
One executive who was familiar with the matter said that, as a condition of its purchasing the vaccine from the Army, VaxGen had agreed to share sales-related proceeds with the inventors.
"Some proportion would have been shared with the inventors," said the executive, who spoke anonymously because of contractual confidentiality. "Ivins would have stood to make tens of thousands of dollars, but not millions."
Two years after the contract was awarded to VaxGen, the pact was terminated when the company could not deliver its batches on schedule. The termination meant that VaxGen was not paid, nor were Ivins and his co-inventors.
Ivins also was listed as one of two inventors of another biodefense-related product that has won federal sponsorship.
According to their still-pending application for a U.S. patent, the inventors hoped the additive would bolster certain vaccines' capacity to prevent infections "from bioterrorism agents."
From December 2002 to December 2003, the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency committed $12 million for additional testing of the experimental additive. That research money was designated for Coley Pharmaceutical Group, which was developing the additive. The company was acquired last fall by Pfizer Corp.
Samuel C. Miller, a Georgetown Law Center professor who is a patent-law expert, said that the extent to which Ivins stood to gain from the two issued patents or the one that remains pending hinges on the terms of the related contracts.
"It will depend on the business arrangements that are in place," Miller said.
On Friday, colleagues and critics of Ivins pondered the mystery within the mystery: If Ivins did it, why?
One former senior official with Ivins' employer, the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, whom the FBI questioned at length about Ivins, said he believed his former colleague wanted more attention -- and resources -- shifted to biological defense.
"It had to have been a motive," said the former official, who suspects that Ivins was the culprit. "I don't think he ever intended to kill anybody. He just wanted to prove 'Look, this is possible.' He probably had no clue that it would aerosolize through those envelopes and kill those postal workers."
Of the five people killed by the mailings, two worked for the U.S. Postal Service in the Washington, D.C., area; one was a photo editor in Palm Beach County, Fla.; another was a hospital supply provider in New York City; and the last known victim was a 94-year-old woman in Connecticut.
Several letters were addressed to prominent people -- two U.S. senators and NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw, for example.
For nearly 30 years, Ivins served far from the limelight, a PhD microbiologist who drew a civil servant's pay while handling some of the most deadly pathogens on Earth -- live spores of anthrax.
The deadly mailings of anthrax-tainted envelopes transported Ivins from the backwater of government scientific research at Ft. Detrick, Md., to the center of the nation's fledgling war on terrorism. It also spurred multibillion-dollar national security initiatives.
Ivins was thrust into the federal investigation of the mailings as well. He helped the FBI analyze anthrax recovered from a letter addressed to then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.).
He also played a lead role in helping a private company, BioPort, win regulatory approval to continue making the vaccine required for U.S. service personnel deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and other regions.
From 2000 to early 2002, Ivins and two colleagues from USAMRIID helped BioPort resolve problems related to the potency of the vaccine. Because of those and other manufacturing difficulties, production had been suspended. The efforts of Ivins and his colleagues helped BioPort win FDA approval to resume production.
At a Pentagon ceremony on March 14, 2003, Ivins and two colleagues from USAMRIID were bestowed the Decoration of Exceptional Civilian Service, the highest honor given to nonmilitary employees of the Defense Department.
"Awards are nice," Ivins said in accepting the honor. "But the real satisfaction is knowing the vaccine is back on line."
The Times sought earlier this year to obtain annual financial disclosure statements filed by Ivins with his employer. USAMRIID spokeswoman Caree Vander Linden said last month that Ivins had filed financial reports exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.
Ivins' apparent suicide and the Justice Department's decision to bring criminal charges against him were first reported Thursday night by The Times. On Friday, Ivins' lawyer, Paul F. Kemp, defended his client and said that Ivins had cooperated fully with the FBI.
"We assert his innocence in these killings, and would have established that at trial," Kemp said, implicitly confirming that Ivins had been about to be formally charged. "The relentless pressure of accusation and innuendo takes its toll in different ways on different people. . . . In Dr. Ivins' case, it led to his untimely death."
Kemp did not respond to telephone calls and e-mails for this article.
was told to blame Anthrax scare on Al Qaeda by White House officials
BY JAMES GORDON MEEK
Saturday, August 2nd 2008, 6:32 PM
WASHINGTON - In the immediate aftermath of the 2001 anthrax attacks, White House officials repeatedly pressed FBI Director Robert Mueller to prove it was a second-wave assault by Al Qaeda, but investigators ruled that out, the Daily News has learned.
After the Oct. 5, 2001, death from anthrax exposure of Sun photo editor Robert Stevens, Mueller was "beaten up" during President Bush's morning intelligence briefings for not producing proof the killer spores were the handiwork of terrorist mastermind Osama Bin Laden, according to a former aide.
"They really wanted to blame somebody in the Middle East," the retired senior FBI official told The News.
On October 15, 2001, President Bush said, "There may be some possible link" to Bin Laden, adding, "I wouldn't put it past him." Vice President Cheney also said Bin Laden's henchmen were trained "how to deploy and use these kinds of substances, so you start to piece it all together."
But by then the FBI already knew anthrax spilling out of letters addressed to media outlets and to a U.S. senator was a military strain of the bioweapon. "Very quickly [Fort Detrick, Md., experts] told us this was not something some guy in a cave could come up with," the ex-FBI official said. "They couldn't go from box cutters one week to weapons-grade anthrax the next."
Indictment May Have Been Weeks Away
by Dina Temple-Raston
NPR.org, August 3, 2008 · Government investigators tell NPR that they were still several major legal steps away from indicting army researcher Dr. Bruce Ivins for the 2001 anthrax attacks when he killed himself this past week.
While they had written up the case and told officials at the Department of Justice they were prepared to go forward, the department had not yet approved the case. What is more, the evidence against Ivins had not yet been presented in its entirety to a grand jury and jurors had not yet been asked to vote on an indictment. That process could have taken weeks.
There had been some media reports saying that Ivins killed himself on Tuesday because he had been told that he was going to be indicted imminently. People close to the case told NPR that the FBI had a discussion with Ivins' lawyer and had presented him with some of the evidence in the case.
But the idea at the time was to convince Ivins' lawyer that it was in his client's best interest to admit to mailing envelopes with anthrax in the fall of 2001. People close to the investigation said it wasn't so much a plea discussion as the FBI making clear that they were steaming toward an indictment of Ivins.
The FBI is expected to provide a briefing on the evidence as early as midweek. The timing depends on a number of factors.
The case has to be formally closed before the FBI is no longer bound by grand jury secrecy requirements.
The bureau also has a blanket rule about not discussing pending cases. Normally, a case is closed by presenting evidence to the appropriate U.S. attorney and getting him or her to sign off on the case. Because the anthrax case is so high profile, officials said it is likely that Attorney General Michael Mukasey will have to sign off on closing it.
Once that happens, the FBI is expected to brief the anthrax victims who survived the attack and the families of the five people who died in the spate of anthrax mailings that took place in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
FBI Director Robert Mueller had promised the families that they would be briefed on the case and would not have to read about it in the papers. He is trying to make good on that promise, but can't do so until the case is closed and the grand jury restrictions are lifted.
Woman's ties to anthrax case unclear
August 3, 2008 - 9:28am
Ivins died Tuesday at Frederick Memorial Hospital, an apparent suicide.
Duley, 45, filed for a peace order against him July 24 in Frederick County District Court, accusing him of stalking, threats and harassment. A temporary peace order was granted that day.
Duley's fiance of seven years, Mike McFadden, spoke to The Frederick News-Post on Saturday from their home in Williamsport and provided a statement on her behalf.
"Jean is currently at an undisclosed location," McFadden said.
Duley had numerous meetings with the FBI in the past month, McFadden said, but he declined to provide specific information about those meetings.
He said Ivins had threatened Duley's life.
Court documents state that Ivins had made "homicidal threats, actions, plans, threats and actions towards therapist."
Duley, a social worker, led counseling sessions attended by Ivins.
The story of Ivins' death and investigation by the FBI broke early Friday. Since then, McFadden said, Duley has been hounded by the national press.
Someone broke into her car Friday night, McFadden said, though no police report was filed. "Nothing was taken," he said, "but everything was jumbled up."
Duley told the court she had been subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury Friday. She was reluctant to become involved in the FBI's investigation of Ivins, McFadden said. "She had to quit her job and is now unable to work, and we have spent our savings on attorneys."
McFadden would not provide any specific information about Duley's involvement with Ivins or the investigation.
"Jean is the kind of person who believes her life is insignificant in comparison with the kind of damage Dr. Ivins is capable of," he said. "She sacrificed all this stuff because she wanted to do the right thing. She'll soon reveal what many wouldn't because they didn't want to be involved with it."
At the request of her attorney, Duley is unable to say anything, McFadden said. "She'd appreciate some semblance of privacy."
With Ivins dead, the Justice Department is expected to decide within days whether to close what had been one of its most high-profile unsolved cases, according to the Associated Press. Prosecutors were mulling this weekend whether to tell a grand jury investigating evidence against Ivins to close the case. If that happens, court documents outlining the government's evidence are expected to be unsealed.
Two U.S. officials said victims and their survivors could be briefed as early as Tuesday, the AP reports.
Frederick Mayor Jeff Holtzinger told the News-Post he was briefed on the situation by Frederick Police Department Chief Kim Dine, but did not have any dealings with officials from the FBI or USAMRIID.
"It's a tragedy for the family," he said.
Despite the news that a Fort Detrick scientist may have been the source of the deadly anthrax attacks that killed five people, Holtzinger did not consider the base a harm to the surrounding community.
"Fort Detrick has an excellent safety record," he said. "I just don't think you can provide 100 percent safeguard from someone who intends to do harm."
Ivins shared two anthrax-related patents with other scientists. The first, filed in November 1994, was for a system to produce a protective antigen against bacillus anthracis. The second, filed in March 2000, was for making an anthrax vaccine. The other local inventors listed on the patents could not be reached for comment.
Maryland's chief medical examiner, Dr. David Fowler, confirmed Saturday that the cause of Ivins' death was found to be an overdose of acetaminophen, the active drug in Tylenol; and that it was ruled a suicide based on information from police and doctors, according to the AP.
Kimberly Thomas, a forensic examiner with the Maryland Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, would not comment Saturday on results from Ivins' autopsy or confirm Dr. Fowler's statement.
Despite the widespread publicity following Ivins' death, Keeney and Basford Funeral Home said Saturday that the family had made no changes to funeral arrangements announced Friday in his obituary. A memorial service is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church in Frederick, followed by a reception at the church parish hall.
Ivins' brother, Tom Ivins, said he had not spoken to Bruce Ivins since 1985, but acknowledged the possibility his brother may have been the anthrax mailer.
"It makes sense, what the social worker said," Tom Ivins said. "He considered himself like a god."
Ivins' wife Diane refused to comment today from the couple's home on Military Road in Frederick.
Their two children posted messages to their father on their Facebook pages Wednesday.
Daughter Amanda wrote, "forever my hero, forever in my heart, forever my daddy Ã‰ rest in peace I will always love you!!"
Son Andy wrote, "I will miss you Dad. I love you and I can't wait to see you in Heaven. Rest in peace. It's finally over."
News-Post reporters Nicholas Stern, Adam Behsudi and Sarah Fortney, and the Associated Press contributed to this story.
Los Angeles Times
Anthrax blend led FBI to Ivins
Its origins pointed to one conclusion: that only the government scientist could be behind the 2001 attacks.
By David Willman
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
August 4, 2008
Federal investigators cinched their case against alleged anthrax mailer Bruce E. Ivins after sophisticated genetic tests by a California firm helped them trace a signature mixture of anthrax spores, the Los Angeles Times has learned.
Well before the deadly 2001 anthrax mailings, Ivins, through his work as a government scientist, had combined anthrax spores obtained from at least one outside laboratory, people familiar with the evidence said.
With the help of leading outside geneticists and a fresh look at the evidence by a new team of street-savvy investigators, the FBI concluded in recent months that only Ivins could reasonably have perpetrated the crimes.
Ivins, 62, a senior microbiologist at the government's elite biodefense research institute at Ft. Detrick, Md., died last Tuesday in an apparent suicide as federal prosecutors prepared to bring murder charges against him.
Records reviewed by The Times and interviews with people knowledgeable about the investigation provide new details about the trail of evidence that finally led to Ivins.
Since 1980, Ivins had specialized in developing vaccines against anthrax and other biological weapons. He experimented with animals, including monkeys, rabbits and guinea pigs.
Ivins had mixed spores shipped to Ft. Detrick from the Army's Dugway Proving Ground in Utah, a facility operated by the Battelle Memorial Institute in Ohio, a private contractor that performs top- secret work for the CIA and other agencies.
By cross-referencing the dates when those spores were received and handled at Ft. Detrick, the FBI sharply narrowed the list of government employees with possible access to the material.
Instead of trying to trace anthrax that could have come from perhaps dozens of sources, investigators became convinced that it had to have originated at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, or USAMRIID, located within Ft. Detrick, about 50 miles north of Washington.
"Now, all of a sudden, you can put a time frame on this material," said one of the people familiar with the evidence. "By mixing the material from the separate institutions, [Ivins] provided what became a signature."
With new analyses showing that the admixture of anthrax could not have come from anywhere in the world but Ft. Detrick, FBI agents plunged deep into Ivins' history.
That history included a pattern of letter-writing to newspapers. In one he defended the safety of research conducted on anthrax at Ft. Detrick.
"The only way I can think of being seriously injured by anthrax or plague vaccine is to get plunked on the head by a vial of the stuff," Ivins wrote in a letter published April 12, 1997, in the Frederick (Md.) News-Post.
Immediately after the 2001 mailings, the FBI had turned to Ivins and his Ft. Detrick colleagues to help them with initial analyses of the anthrax evidence recovered in their investigation.
As the investigation ground on, authorities enlisted colleagues of J. Craig Venter, founder of a Rockville, Md., institute that had helped map the human genome. Based on analyses performed at the Institute for Genomic Research, Venter said the culprit "almost had to be a government scientist." The institute's analysis was completed under contract to the FBI and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Venter said federal investigators within the last two years retrieved the anthrax evidence from the institute.
"FBI came in and took freezers and all the samples," he said in an interview Sunday.
Ibis Biosciences, a company in Carlsbad, performed some of the most recent anthrax analysis. The company tells its clients, including the FBI, that its high-resolution anthrax genotyping kit provides analyses more advanced than any other technology worldwide.
In fact, the company's test results buoyed FBI and Justice Department officials.
"Their capability is very sophisticated; it is faster and more elegant than what had been available," said Randall S. Murch, a former FBI scientist who earlier served as an outside consultant to the bureau for the anthrax investigation.
Ibis provided its services to the anthrax investigation under a nondisclosure agreement with the FBI that bars company personnel from discussing their work without government authorization.
Ivins' government work with the separate batches of dry powder anthrax was not widely known at USAMRIID. Two former top officials there told The Times in recent weeks that they had no idea until being contacted by a reporter that USAMRIID had received anthrax in either powder or wet form from Dugway or Battelle, whose own anthrax testing is done in Ohio.
The former officials noted that USAMRIID typically supplies live anthrax spores for use at the two outside facilities, not the other way around. As part of his government job, Ivins, a microbiologist, grew spores used for experiments, called "challenges," on monkeys, rabbits and other animals at USAMRIID. He also occasionally prepared spores, in liquid or frozen form, for shipment to Dugway and Battelle.
The forensic analysis of the anthrax sent in the mailings had long posed a challenge to the FBI, whose in-house scientists were not equipped to decipher the potential origin of the material. Some of the first analysis was performed by Ivins and other scientists at USAMRIID; such efforts also were attempted at Battelle, but technicians there rendered some of the material forensically useless by first sterilizing it with steam, scientists told The Times. A spokesman for Battelle, T.R. Massey, declined earlier this year to discuss Battelle's role.
Six years ago, Ivins acknowledged to an Army investigator his use of "Ames strain" anthrax spores obtained from Dugway.
"We currently use Ames spores prepared at Dugway Proving Ground in 1997 for our challenges," Ivins told the investigator on May 10, 2002, as part of the Army's investigation of his failure to report what he described as accidental spillages of anthrax spores near or within his office and other nonlaboratory areas at USAMRIID.
After he bleached those areas, in December 2001, Ivins kept it a secret for five months, according to what he told the Army. It also was in December 2001 that FBI agents began questioning potential suspects at Ft. Detrick, a development that former colleagues say may have driven Ivins to panic regarding whether powder from the mailings could be traced to him.
When he acknowledged his stealth bleaching to the Army in April 2002, Ivins said that he had not wanted to "cry wolf" and distract his colleagues, who along with him were helping the FBI to analyze anthrax powder and other materials being gathered in the criminal investigation.
Until federal officials make public the details of the evidence that they say establishes Ivins' guilt, some former colleagues and outside skeptics say they will not be persuaded.
"The scientific community seems to be concerned that the FBI is going to blow smoke at us," said David R. Franz, a former Army commander who led USAMRIID during part of Ivins' tenure, in the late 1990s.
The FBI Sunday refused to comment on how it had focused on Ivins.
"As soon as the legal constraints barring disclosure are removed, we will make public as much information as possible," said FBI Assistant Director John Miller. "We will do that at one time, in one place. We will do that after those who were injured and the families of those who died are briefed, which is only appropriate."
Times researcher Janet Lundblad contributed to this report.
08/04/08 - Lake Tyler
Lake Tyler Man Explains Anthrax Connection
t was a connection one Lake Tyler man said he had no idea existed until this past weekend.
Dennis Holland began producing a first aid product back in 1991. A decade later, he wanted to know if his creation could kill anthrax.
He soon contacted Bruce Ivins at Fort Detrick, Maryland. Ivins helped test Holland's product against the deadly substance.
Little did Holland know that Ivins would later be linked to the anthrax scare, and the deaths of 5 people.
"We have company names, we have university names, Iowa...Texas Tech...Texas A&M...we contacted a lot of people to find out where we could get it tested. When Bruce Ivins' name surfaced, it was like a light bulb went off," Holland told KLTV 7 News today.
Bruce Ivins committed suicide last week as authorities began to suspect him as the possible mastermind behind the 2001 anthrax attacks.
Holland says he contacted the FBI this morning.
He hopes whatever information he can provide can help authorities with the investigation.
Layron Livingston, reporting. firstname.lastname@example.org
Inside the tent, the best bioterrorist money could buy?
By George Smith, Dick Destiny
Published Monday 4th August 2008 11:53 GMT
When Bruce Ivins, presumed psycho amateur juggler/church keyboardist/government scientist/bioterrorist, committed suicide by drug overdose, taking two days to die, everyone was taken by surprise by an FBI effort notable for almost complete information secrecy until the shoe was about to drop. In early July, many had commented, including this writer, on the huge payout to Steven Hatfill, a former "person of interest" in the anthrax investigation, assuming it meant that the case was all screwed up. Apparently, just the opposite!
Since 2006, the agency had refocused its investigation on Ivins. The story, broken by the Los Angeles Times (http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-anthrax1-2008aug01,0,2864223.story), was a major scoop. It outlined how the feds had placed the 62-year-old Ivins in an investigative vice, one which led to him being kicked out of the US Army's biodefense research facility at Fort Detrick for threatening to kill co-workers and himself. Ivins was then briefly admitted to a local psychiatric unit, where he continued to menace people. With a grand jury hearing witnesses and scientists sworn to secrecy, the government had notified Ivins' lawyer, Paul Kemp, that charges were coming down.
Stranger still, a peace order lodged against Ivins in the quiet town of Frederick, MD, the home to many of Fort Detrick's scientists, had put the information into the open on July 24.
Jean Duley, a therapist, had filed a petition (http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/years/2008/0801081anthrax1.html) requesting Ivins be compelled to stay clear of her. Ivins, Duley wrote, had been undergoing counseling and had been judged homicidal by his psychiatrist and "sociopathic with clear intentions." Duley continued that she had testified in a case involving Ivins and that he would "be charged with five capital murders." Anyone looking over the document at the courthouse on July 24 and noting that Ivins' place of employment was "Ft. Dietrick" [sic] would have immediately concluded that the Amerithraxer, whose mailings had killed five in October 2001, was about to be arrested. (A weekend report added that Duley testified that Ivins had attempted to poison people as early as 2000. How she knew this was not disclosed.)
At this point, we'll note that
Ivins' lawyer, alongside some scientists at Fort Detrick, maintains Ivins'
innocence, pointing out that it was pressure from the FBI and humiliation
at being kicked out of the biodefense lab that led to his suicide.
Ivins had worked at the facility for 18 years. Vexingly, the boffin's research was on an improved anthrax vaccine. The Los Angeles Times informed that Ivins' held patents on it. Farmed out to the the private sector, inefficiency and struggle wrapped production of it in failure, most notably at a San Francisco company named VaxGen, which never delivered on orders. Ivins, although entered into a royalty sharing agreement on future sales, had subsequently not made money off it. Various parties pointed out that even if the vaccine had gone into rapid production, the scientist, while possibly gaining some tens of thousands of dollars, would not have become fabulously wealthy through it. In 2003, Ivins had also received the Decoration for Exceptional Civilian Service, the highest award the military can award to a civilian employee, for helping to solve problems in the manufacture of the vaccine.
After the anthrax mailings, Ivins was also part of a team of scientists at Fort Detrick who consulted to the FBI while the facility was analyzing contaminated mail and the original powders. Readers are left to imagine the dilemma faced by the bureau, its agents working to map a scientific maze in which a sophisticated psychopath is tapped into the analysis of his own work.
Ivins also represents a major practical dilemma.
What do you do when the best bioterrorist money can buy is the one at the heart of the most trusted and sensitive biodefense facility in the country? Despite the constant received wisdom of bioterror, that jihadists from the dirt piles of Afghanistan or Pakistan would wield it against American cities, the enemy was someone in a state-of-the-art government lab in idyllic suburban Maryland. Not someone who wanted to do away with the American way of life, but a person who enjoyed its benefits; but who was still a fiend who'd send lethal germs in the mail right after 9/11, designing the attack to make it look like the handiwork of someone from the Muslim world.
In 2001, the panic over the anthrax mailings also inspired a desire to hang the attacks on Iraq.
The US military was engaged in bombing the Taliban out of power in Afghanistan when the newsmedia began reporting that an ingredient allegedly found in the anthrax, bentonite, pointed it toward the bioweapons program of Saddam Hussein.
Between the attacks in September/October 2001 until the end of the year, mainstream news organizations ran about 150 stories mentioning bentonite, the anthrax and Iraq.
'Obviously Saddam to blame!'
"One expert familiar with the investigation of the Senate anthrax said that a microscopic examination of the spores showed that they were surrounded by a tiny brown ring," wrote William Broad and Judith Miller for the New York Times. "This, he said, would be consistent with the use of bentonite."
And bentonite was a unique ingredient in Iraq's bioweapons program, the article informed. Of course, this was long before Judith Miller was tossed for bad reporting on WMDs in Iraq.
On the ABC evening news, Brian Ross furiously peddled Iraq and bentonite. "It's possible other countries may be using it, too, but it is a trademark of Saddam Hussein's biological weapons program," Ross told viewers of the evening broadcast on October 26.
"This news about bentonite as the additive is being a trademark of the Iraqi biological weapons program is very significant," added anchor Peter Jennings. "And some are going to be quick to pick up on this as a smoking gun."
Eventually bentonite faded from view. Who had pushed it? It's virtually impossible to tell with certainty. Almost all the stories attribute nebulous "experts" furnishing the information. Those scientists named were only those called upon to explain what bentonite meant in the context of biological weaponry.
In December 2001, Fort Detrick was busily engaged in analyzing contaminated mail. And it was during this period that a number of anthrax contaminations occurred at the facility, surprisingly reported by Ivins. At the time, the contaminations were attributed to minor negligence and complacency.
However, only in hindsight do they apparently point to something greater and one can speculate that this is what contributed to the FBI suspecting Ivins.
An Army report on the contaminations said that Ivins had indeed discovered anthrax contaminations but had not reported them. And he had started doing the unauthorized samplings in December 2001. The scientist said he had become concerned that anthrax from the investigation - the lab was processing tens of thousands of pieces of mail - was not adequately contained.
"I didn't keep records or verify the cultures because I was concerned that records might be obtained under the Freedom of Information Act," Ivins told the Army. "I was also afraid that reporting would have raised great alarm within the institute, which at the time was very busy..."
Ivins undertook the disinfection of contaminated surfaces with bleach. And he set about another round of unauthorized samplings, including his office, as late as April 15, 2002.
Col. David L. Hoover, the Army scientist who had prepared the report on contamination at Fort Detrick, could not determine where the anthrax came from. Many contaminations might have occurred from different sources, like various shipping containers used for anthrax samples.
The Army apparently asked Ivins to explain further unauthorized samplings in April of 2002. "[Ivins] said he again became suspicious of contamination April 8, 2002, when two researchers reported potential exposures after noticing that flasks they were working with had leaked anthrax, causing crusting on the outside of the glass," reported USA today two years ago.
News reports on the Ivins suicide have featured some sources who insisted Ivins had no access to dry anthrax. In retrospect and knowing that crusts are dry, this would seem to be a moot point.
Since the scientists of Fort Detrick are vaccinated against anthrax, the contaminations never posed a health hazard for them.
However, official samplings for anthrax contaminations at Fort Detrick determined spore counts, according to the Army report. In this way, the severity of contamination could be determined. Ivins' unauthorized sampling and disinfections may have circumvented this process.
Of course, perhaps this is all circumstantial and the news from the Army's report is not germane. Or maybe it pointed to someone attempting to feverishly cover their tracks.
If Ivins is incontrovertibly the culprit, the government will probably close the case. A press release issued by the Department of Justice implied that substantial news was in the offing.
Questions remain unanswered. What was his motivation? Money as a reason seems weak tea. Did anyone know Bruce Ivins was Dr. Evil and if they did, when did they know it? What is said about reliability at Fort Detrick and the ability to ensure it?
The anthrax attacks galvanized the bioterror defense industry in the United States. They caused a boom in the employment of more and more scientists with access to disease-causing agents in state-of-the-art research settings. It sparked a mad scramble among universities for the establishment of high security biocontainment labs. All things which seem counterintuitive, even radically unwise, upon considering the nature of a Bruce Ivins.
Anthrax was not the work of wishful but duff al Qaeda men or any other alleged mortal enemies of the American way. It was, as many always suspected, our own murderous nut, even if only one in a million, his motivations as yet still unexplained.
Bootnote: God save the FBI if they're wrong again. ®
George Smith is a senior fellow at GlobalSecurity.org, a defense affairs think tank and public information group. At Dick Destiny (http://www.dickdestiny.com/blog/dickdestiny.html), he blogs his way through chemical, biological, and nuclear terror hysteria, often by way of the contents of neighbourhood hardware stores.
Closed? Does Anthrax Suspect's Suicide Mean the Investigation Into 2001
Attacks Is Over?
Monday, August 04, 2008
Anthrax Suspect Bruce Ivins
This is a rush transcript from "America's Election HQ," August 1, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
HEATHER NAUERT, HOST: There is more breaking news today: The pieces of the nearly seven-year-old puzzle may be coming together. The 2001 anthrax attacks, the mystery may have been solved after all this time.
Today, we learned that a top Army microbiologist was the same scientist who is developing a vaccine against anthrax -- well, he, apparently killed himself just as prosecutors were getting ready to indict him for the worst bio-terror attack in United States history. The 2005 strike killed five people and sickened more than a dozen others. It crippled the U.S. postal system for weeks and weeks and sent an already-shaken America deeper into fear just after the 9/11 attacks.
Now, this guy's name was Bruce Ivins, he was 62 years old. And we're taking a picture -- a look at a picture of him right now. He once examined anthrax-laced letter that was sent to Senator Patrick Leahy years ago.
But we're going to kick off with a live report from our very own reporter, Catherine Herridge. She is the one who broke the news that scientists at Fort Detrick, were under suspicion in this case, months -- well, actually years ago.
Catherine, this has been a busy day for you. What all unfolded today?
CATHERINE HERRIDGE, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are several important developments really, Heather.
First of all, in March of this year, we were the first to report that the FBI had, in fact, narrowed their pool of suspects to four and we were able to confirm that all of them were tied to Fort Detrick, this is the Army's bioweapons research facility in Maryland and among that group was an Army scientist we now know that was Bruce Ivins.
The information about Ivins is very significant because independently, we were able to obtain an e-mail forwarded by Ivins in 2005 and that e-mail claims that the powder in the anthrax letter was virtually identical to powder that was being made at Fort Detrick.
Now, today, friends of Bruce Ivins told me that they believe Ivins was an honorable man and that he was one of the first people to draw attention to the Army base in Maryland as a likely source of the powder, also as the likely source of the base, if you will, for the person who sent those letters.
Others would say that all of Ivins' efforts were really an effort to deflect the suspicion away from him.
There are other developments today. We were able to obtain court documents from the state court in Maryland. These documents suggest that the last weeks of Bruce Ivins' life were very tumultuous and very tortured.
A restraining order was taken out against him by an individual we believe was his therapist. And in those court documents, it says that the therapist believes Ivins had homicidal tendencies, could be violent, and that he was under investigation by the FBI and would be charged with five capital murder offenses at some point this year. That's significant, because five Americans were killed in the anthrax attacks in 2001.
I think that the bottom line for people is that everything over the last seven years and now, especially in the last 24 hours, and in the last few months that we've been really honing in on this case, it shows that it was not some foreign extremist who launched the worst bioterror attack on U.S. soil, in fact, it now appears that it was an Army insider.
HERRIDGE: An Army insider who was responsible for this attack.
NAUERT: And, Catherine, I think, a lot of folks would agree that that's the most troubling thing of all. Catherine Herridge, thank you so much for bringing that to us.
HERRIDGE: You're welcome.
NAUERT: So, the question is now -- was Ivins the perpetrator that the feds have been looking for all this time?
With us now is Greg Esslinger. He's a former FBI special agent in counterterrorism.
Greg, thanks for joining us. Let me start by asking you.
GREG ESSLINGER, FORMER FBI COUNTERTERROR AGENT: No problem.
NAUERT: You know, the Army said that this guy exhibited very unusual behavior after the attacks. Of course, this was quite some time ago. So, why -- and he apparently was also testing some of these anthrax outside of what they considered the "safety zone" to be. So, why are we only hearing about this now? Why really only zeroing in on him and getting -- indict him at this point?
ESSLINGER: Well, you know, understand that these investigations can take a long time, even if there are some relative suspicions that the Bureau can follow up on, there's still a need to build enough evidence to the level where the prosecutors can actually file an indictment. So, a suspicion or suspicious activity or somebody doing something that looks unusual is only the first step in an investigation and to actually build a full case against someone, often takes more than a year or even years.
NAUERT: And it's hard for a lot of folks to imagine that this could potentially be an American who is responsible for this, let alone someone who pledged to protect his country in working for the United States Army. Any chance of this could all be a big mistake?
ESSLINGER: Well, I think, you know, with the person no longer alive to truly question and determine what the involvement was, it is going to be a question that may remain out there and whether or not this person did it by themselves, I think, is part of the biggest question in my mind or whether he was complicit, if he is guilty, with others. So, unless there's other evidence that can point in that direction, it may be really hard to solve this case.
NAUERT: And just quickly, what happens to the investigation now? He's gone. They're going to continue to talk to other people, I imagine, but are they going to want to pin this on him to just try to have this sewed up?
ESSLINGER: Well, I think they definitely want to close the investigation. I think it's been a very difficult investigation for the FBI. Obviously, a number of people were killed. So, this really -- it's a capital murder crime and the Bureau is very keen on getting some closure to it as anyone would be and all of America is.
So, they will continue to investigate so they can try to get some closure, but that closure, obviously, could be quite difficult now, given the fact that a prime suspect is no longer with us.
NAUERT: All right. Greg Esslinger, thank you so much for joining us.
ESSLINGER: You bet.
How Solid is the Anthrax Evidence?
Tuesday, Aug. 05, 2008
By AMANDA RIPLEY AND MASSIMO CALABRESI
While the FBI waits to formally release its evidence against Bruce E. Ivins, the microbiologist it claims to have linked to the anthrax mailings seven years ago who killed himself on July 29, the public is getting a sneak peek — by way of federal leaks to the media. The leaks are piling up almost too fast to keep track of. Some seem damning, others perplexing, but the pause is creating a strange void — in which leaks are followed by rebuttals from Ivins' colleagues and his attorney (who steadfastly denies his client had any role in the attacks) and then followed by more leaks. The result leaves neither Ivins nor the FBI looking good.
Most notably, unnamed federal officials are telling media outlets that the FBI used new DNA technology to link the anthrax that killed five people in 2001 to anthrax handled by Ivins in his federal lab. But scientists who knew Ivins — and some who didn't — tell TIME this is not a simple matter, technically speaking.
For one thing, a group of people have access to the anthrax at any given lab. "What you can do with all those forensic techniques is trace the anthrax to a lab, but you can't trace it to a person," says Meryl Nass, a Maine doctor who studies the anthrax vaccine and was a professional acquaintance of Ivins for over 15 years. What's more, Nass adds, the link is not accurate with 100% certainty. "You can't convict someone with that evidence."
Moreover, it is hard to understand why the match could not simply be explained by the lab's prominent involvement in the federal investigation, notes Randall Larsen, a retired Air Force colonel and a senior associate at the Center for Biosecurity, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
The FBI itself sent the anthrax letters to Ivins and his colleagues at the biodefense lab for analysis "almost immediately" following the attacks in 2001, confirms Caree Vander-Linden, a spokesperson for the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, where Ivins worked. An FBI spokesperson referred TIME to the spokesperson for the FBI's Washington Field Office, who did not return a call requesting comment.
Part of the confusion comes from the fact that bioterrorism cases do not generally produce stellar forensic evidence. "The nature of biological weapons is such that it is very difficult to figure out where something came from," says Larsen, author of a 2008 book on homeland security entitled Our Own Worst Enemy. "The FBI does a marvelous job with guns and bombs, but anthrax is extremely difficult."
In the face of this challenge, Ivins' lawyer says, the FBI stalked his client in pursuit of evidence he didn't have, driving him to drink and to depression. Ivins took at least two polygraph tests, says attorney Paul Kemp, and apparently passed both of them. "That certainly was our impression," he says. "That's certainly what he was told."
Contrary to previous media reports, Kemp says his client had not been negotiating a plea agreement at the time of his death. And indeed, contrary to some suggestions in initial reports, the grand jury investigating the case was at least a few weeks from handing down any kind of indictment. Kemp and Ivins met with the FBI four or five times beginning last December, after the bureau informed Ivins that "he could be a suspect," Kemp says. Most recently Kemp says he met with agents the day Ivins committed suicide, not knowing he was already dead.
Ivins was "totally responsive to every single question and never refused to answer," Kemp says. Over the past seven years, before he was a suspect in the case, Ivins had been interviewed 20 to 25 times in the case. He had cooperated fully and had his security clearances renewed, Kemp says.
Given that the government already had to pay a multi-million dollar settlement for linking an innocent government scientist, Steven Hatfill, to the attacks, FBI officials are clearly worried about their reputation for bumbling the anthrax case and are eager to share what they know. But they are waiting to proceed publicly until a judge unseals the evidence in the Ivins case and all the victims and their families have been briefed on the details. More information may become public in the next couple of days. Amid all the leaks and whispers over this grim episode in a grim case, some hard information will be a welcome development.
Not the FBI's proudest moment
The anthrax case may be the latest botched investigation by the bureau.
By Gabriel Schoenfeld
August 5, 2008
The FBI's investigation of the deadly 2001 anthrax attacks was the most complex and important in the bureau's history. Immense resources were invested in the search for the perpetrator, whose actions killed five people, sickened 17 others, sowed panic in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and caused taxpayers to spend extraordinary sums on a crash program to protect the nation against the danger of biological terrorism.
Yet for all that, the "Amerithrax" investigation, as the FBI dubbed the case, dragged on for seven years and, until quite recently, got nowhere. If Bruce E. Ivins, the Ft. Detrick, Md., microbiologist who died in an apparent suicide last week, was indeed the perpetrator, the prime suspect was directly under the FBI's nose for years, practically sporting a scarlet "A" on his forehead. If he was not the perpetrator, as many of his fellow scientists at Ft. Detrick are insisting, we're back at square one.
The investigation is sure to be scrutinized in depth by Congress, but its difficulties cannot be understood without a sense of the institutional context in which it began. The anthrax attacks came before the bureau at a moment when it was still quivering from a string of breathtaking debacles. On its website, the FBI celebrates its "top 10 moments." These are not among them.
First, in September 2000, came the culmination of the Wen Ho Lee espionage case. All the charges against the Taiwan-born scientist, who had been accused of stealing the crown jewels of Americannuclear secrets and passing them to China, were dropped that month, except one minor charge. An official Justice Department postmortem of the FBI's investigation called it "deeply and fundamentally flawed" in "virtually every material respect." It "suffered from neglect, faulty judgment, bad personnel choices, inept investigation and the inadequate supervision of that inept investigation," among other things.
That grave embarrassment was followed only months later by the stunning revelation, in February 2001, that Robert P. Hanssen, the FBI agent in charge of Soviet/Russian counterintelligence, was a Russian mole. As far back as 1990, Hanssen's brother-in-law, himself an FBI agent, had informed his superiors that Hanssen had a lot of unexplained extra cash on hand and of his belief that his in-law was spying for Moscow. At that juncture, the FBI could easily have apprehended Hanssen with some basic sleuthing. Instead, it did nothing except continue to promote him.
The internal shock over the Hanssen case had not worn off by 9/11. And only weeks later came news of the botched investigation of Zacarias Moussaoui, the Al Qaeda operative detained by the FBI in August 2001 while trying to learn how to fly a Boeing 747. After Moussaoui's detention, FBI field agents tried frantically to obtain a warrant to look at the contents of his laptop. But supervisors in Washington found groundless reason after reason to balk, until the crashing of planes into New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon interrupted their reveries.
The Amerithrax investigation, vitally important for reasons obvious to all, was thus, from the FBI's point of view, an opportunity to rehabilitate the bureau's standing. With a great deal of publicity, it threw itself into the fray. Hundreds of thousands of hours were devoted to the investigation, and more than 9,100 people were interviewed, 6,000 subpoenas issued and 67 searches undertaken by "dedicated investigators who ... worked tirelessly on this case, day-in and day-out ... to go the extra mile," according to the FBI.
But all to no avail. Drawing in part on a psychological-behavioral profile of the likely perpetrator, the FBI focused initially on Steven J. Hatfill, a biowarfare expert also at Ft. Detrick, named as a "person of interest" by former Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft back in 2002. But after hounding Hatfill for years, this probe proved to be a dead end. In June, Hatfill was effectively exonerated when he collected $5.8 million from the government to settle a suit contending that his privacy had been violated.
Only over the last year and a half did the bureau begin to focus on Ivins. Why it took the agency years to look in his direction is a central mystery. In late 2001,Ivins had been involved in an "accident" involving a spill of anthrax spores in his lab. He neither reported the breach nor reported his unauthorized cleanup. In 2003, Ivins showed up as a Red Cross volunteer to offer refreshments to investigators draining a Maryland pond in search of clues to implicate Hatfill; if he was indeed the perpetrator of the attacks, that's like an arsonist watching firefighters extinguish a blaze that he himself set.
Most damning, according to the recent court testimony of his psychotherapist, Ivins had a decades-long history of making homicidal "threats, actions, plans."
With every Ft. Detrick researcher on the list of suspects merely by virtue of their ready access to anthrax, it is baffling that the FBI missed any or all of this. The Justice Department has said it would release more information about the case later this week. Whether Ivins is conclusively shown to be the perpetrator, or whether he was an innocent man hounded by intrusive surveillance and public humiliation into suicide, questions about the FBI's performance are piling up.
The bureau's horrific track record before 9/11, and its single-minded focus on Hatfill after the anthrax attacks, raises the suspicion that, in the dramatic events of last week, we are glimpsing yet another monumental screw-up, one fully worthy of the FBI's inglorious recent past.
Gabriel Schoenfeld is the senior editor of Commentary magazine.
to reveal evidence in anthrax case
Information linking government scientist Bruce E. Ivins, who apparently committed suicide, to the deadly 2001 mailings is 'compelling,' a federal official says.
By Josh Meyer
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
August 6, 2008
WASHINGTON — After nearly seven years of investigating, FBI officials plan to present evidence today to the surviving victims of the 2001 anthrax attacks that they believe proves a Maryland scientist launched the deadly mailings that gripped the nation in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"The details of the FBI's scientific research and accomplishments will validate the government's decision regarding the origin of the anthrax mailings," said one federal law enforcement official familiar with the evidence.
It is to be presented this morning to the families of the five victims who died and nearly two dozen survivors, who have been brought to Washington for a closed-door briefing at FBI headquarters. Later, Senate officials who were among the targets and reporters will also be briefed.
"The unsealed documents should answer the outstanding questions regarding the findings in this case," the official said.
An FBI agent's affidavit seeking a search warrant for Bruce E. Ivins' personal property that is nearly 100 pages long and summarizes much of the information that the bureau had gathered against him for more than a year is expected to be released.
But some survivors, relatives and lawyers representing Ivins said they had a slew of questions.
Among them: Why did the FBI focus for years on another scientist, Steven J. Hatfill, before shifting gears and fingering Ivins, a Frederick, Md., husband and father of two? And if the FBI and the Justice Department had the evidence to prove Ivins did it, then why didn't they charge him before he apparently killed himself last week?
"What troubles me is that Mr. Ivins wasn't indicted, and if he wasn't indicted, how confidant are they that they had the evidence and the information that they needed?" said former Sen. Tom Daschle, whose office received one of the letters containing the deadly spores when he was Senate Democratic leader. "The only thing that has changed is that he has committed suicide."
Daschle, who has been critical of the FBI investigation, said he welcomed the release of the investigative documents.
"I think it's important to give all of us [victims] and the American people information that they can share and some appreciation of the overall state of the investigation," Daschle said. "But I also think it's important, given the mistakes made in the past, that they are not jumping to premature conclusions."
Even as the FBI lays out its case against Ivins, family members and colleagues at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Ft. Detrick, where Ivins worked for 28 years, will be gathering for a morning memorial service.
Dr. W. Russell Byrne, a friend and former supervisor of Ivins at Ft. Detrick, said that Ivins' colleagues were highly skeptical of the FBI's allegations but as scientists wanted to see what the agency had before making up their minds.
"All of us don't think he had anything to do with it," Byrne said. But he added: "I just have to see what they've got. You work mostly with scientists, and they say, 'Show me the data.' You look at what you've got, make a decision and then act on it."
Byrne said he was angry about what he described as overly aggressive FBI tactics.
Ivins "was being pushed to a breaking point. And it was attributed to the investigation, to the two searches of his house, taking his computer out," Byrne said. "I would hope that such actions by the FBI would be included in the reports" to be released today.
One of the nation's leading military anthrax researchers, Ivins, 62, died July 29 after taking an overdose of over-the-counter medication.
He had been told by authorities that they were preparing to seek his indictment on capital murder charges.
The federal law enforcement official said that even though no indictment was obtained, a federal grand jury had been hearing final testimony in the case and authorities had expected that Ivins would be charged within several weeks.
FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III plans to participate in the briefing of survivors and family members, the official and others said Tuesday.
After that, they said, the FBI and some Justice Department officials will participate in the congressional and media briefings.
All of them spoke on the condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to discuss the case.
FBI Assistant Director John Miller and Brian Roehrkasse, chief spokesman for the Justice Department, would not comment on the briefing plans or what kind of evidence authorities would present.
But both of them said that much of the media coverage since Ivins' death had been overly speculative and, at times, misinformed.
"What we have seen over the past few days has been a mix of improper disclosures of partial information mixed with inaccurate information and then drawn into unfounded conclusions," Roehrkasse said. "None of that serves the victims, their families or the public."
He did not specify which reports were inaccurate or misleading.
Much of the evidence that the FBI believes ties Ivins to the mailings is scientific, including advanced DNA fingerprinting techniques the FBI helped develop that matched unique sections of genetic code from Ivins' lab to the anthrax spores inhaled by the victims at a Florida tabloid newspaper, two TV networks and elsewhere in the fall of 2001.
"That will play prominently," a second federal law enforcement official said of the DNA evidence. That official said the evidence does not put the anthrax directly in Ivins' hands but traces it to a small circle of people with access to the same lab; he said other investigative information connects Ivins to the case even more strongly.
"Most people would find it compelling. That is the best word to describe it," said the second law enforcement official. Asked if the information would have been enough to convict Ivins, the official said: "It's hard to say."
The FBI also believes that Ivins borrowed freeze-drying equipment from a bioweapons lab that would have allowed him to take moist anthrax cultures and rapidly convert them into the kind of dry spores capable of being inhaled by humans, one source familiar with the investigation said.
Judge Unseals Documents In Anthrax Case
NPR.org, August 6, 2008 · Federal District Court Judge Royce Lamberth has unsealed court documents in the anthrax case, after prosecutors from the Justice Department went to his chambers Wednesday morning and argued for their release.
The public was not allowed into the hearing, but sources at the courthouse say attorneys asked Lamberth to unseal some of the evidence against microbiologist Bruce Ivins, who committed suicide last week. The FBI believes he killed five people through anthrax mailings in 2001, although his lawyer has maintained his innocence and friends and colleagues don't believe he could have committed the crime.
This morning, FBI Director Robert Mueller is expected to brief victims of the attacks, which also sickened 17 people. The bureau is expected to have a news conference Wednesday afternoon.
Attorney General Michael Mukasey told reporters Tuesday that the Justice Department "has a legal and moral obligation to make official statements first to the victims and their families, then the public. And that's the order in which we're going to do it."
After seven years of investigation, the FBI is expected to say that Ivins, a scientist who worked on anthrax vaccines at the U. S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md., was behind the attacks and worked alone.
This is a big day for the FBI — the first opportunity for investigators to answer publicly just how solid the case against Ivins really is. At this point, it appears the bits of the case that have leaked out are a mix of complicated science and circumstantial evidence.
The fact that Ivins committed suicide last week only complicates the FBI's task. Normally, they build a case with an eye toward convincing a judge and jury. This time, because Ivins is dead, the strength of the case will be decided in the court of public opinion.
Anthrax Linked To Lab
According to one source who has been briefed on the investigation, Ivins was one of fewer than a dozen people with access to the particular supply of anthrax they now believe was used in the 2001 attacks. In the seven years since the attacks, technology has improved and, sources say, investigators are now able to tie the anthrax bacteria to the Department of Defense lab in Maryland where the scientist worked.
Investigators now believe the anthrax used in the attacks was actually a mixture of spores with slight genetic variations, which gives it a specific signature and, more important, links it almost exclusively to the lab where Ivins worked.
One source familiar with the case against Ivins says the FBI has amassed an exhaustive report of times Ivins entered and left the lab in the days and weeks before the deadly letters were sent. The source says the logs show Ivins using the lab where the anthrax was present at times that could be viewed as suspicious, including late at night when he was there alone.
Ivins also had access to a sophisticated freeze-dryer, which could have been used to turn the wet bacteria into a dry form. Ivins' co-worker Jeff Adamovicz says he remembers the unit, called a lyopholizer, in the hallway and says it was used to dry protein samples for vaccine work. Adamovicz said the dryer was signed out to Ivins. Adamovicz remembers FBI agents testing the dryer, but they never hauled it away, a sign that it most likely came up clean. An additional piece of equipment would also have been required to mill the dried spores into a powdered form.
Cleaning Up A Spill
Ivins regularly worked with one of the more generic strains of anthrax suspected in the attacks, like many people in the lab. Ivins authored dozens of papers relating to vaccine work. He ran into some trouble after he admitted to secretly cleaning up an apparent anthrax spill in or around his office, according to a 2002 Army report investigating anthrax contamination at the lab.
Ivins said he secretly bleached the area in December 2001, but didn't report it because he didn't want to "cry wolf" about a possible spill.
The bleaching took place at the same time FBI investigators first started looking at the lab as a source of the anthrax. At the time, the bureau had its sights set on one of Ivins' colleagues, Steven Hatfill, whom the bureau recently paid nearly $6 million to settle his lawsuit against the FBI and the Justice Department.
One source said there is much about Ivins' personal life that is "messy." Ivins reportedly had a history of alcohol abuse and some difficult family relationships — including one estranged brother who told NPR he isn't sorry Ivins is dead. Bruce Ivins also kept a post office box under an assumed name in Frederick, Md., though the source says it is not related to the anthrax investigation.
That investigation even led to the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority. On Tuesday, the group's executive director said investigators had questioned them about any contacts Ivins had had with some of the sorority's chapters and members, dating back more than 30 years.
But the FBI investigation appears, at least so far, to be largely circumstantial. A source who has been briefed on the case says the bureau has been unable to place Ivins in Princeton, N.J., or anywhere near the mailboxes where the letters were mailed at the time they were post-stamped. The source described the case as one based on "access and opportunity," not direct evidence or even eyewitnesses.
FBI investigators tested Ivins' house but were unable to find any trace of the deadly bacterium, a source says. Ivins was also able to keep his top secret security clearance, and, one source says, passed at least one lie detector test in the years since the attacks.
'A Homicidal Plan'
Over the past couple of months the investigation was clearly taking a toll on Ivins. A therapist who was treating Ivins obtained a restraining order against him, telling the court Ivins made her fear for her personal safety. The counselor, Jean Duley, testified that she only knew Ivins for six months, seeing him sometimes in a group and sometimes individually. But in one of the last group counseling sessions he joined just last month, Duley testified, Ivins was visibly agitated when he arrived.
"He proceeded to describe to the group a very long and detailed homicidal plan," Duley testified, "that he had bought a bulletproof vest, had obtained a gun, a very detailed plan to kill his co-workers."
Duley testified that Ivins felt he was about to be indicted on five capital murder charges and planned instead to go out in a blaze of glory. She said she got in contact with Ivins' attorneys and ended up getting him committed to a hospital. After he was committed, Duley said, Ivins left her voice mail messages that she found disturbing in which he told her she had ruined his life.
Friends and colleagues of Ivins say that image of an angry, violent man doesn't in any way match the person they knew. They say if anything he was cracking under the pressure of the investigation, one in which agents brought all of his family members in for questioning.
Ivins' coworker Adamovicz told NPR the agents told his children disturbing things, alluding to the idea that their father was a murderer.
Under Constant Surveillance
Several sources says Ivins was under constant surveillance, as government SUVs crawled up and down his neighborhood streets. Neighbors would sometimes go and knock on the SUV doors and ask what they were doing. One source says the agents would simply reply, "We're on official business."
Ivins' 1964 high school yearbook from Lebanon, Ohio, shows a smiling honors student who was involved in a half-dozen school activities including the National Honor Society, current events club, hall monitor, boys' glee club, science fair and even the class play, in which he played the villain.
David Danley, who worked with Ivins at Fort Detrick to develop a new anthrax vaccine for almost 10 years until 2003, says he has a hard time believing Ivins could be the anthrax killer. He remembers a cute gesture he would make to his daughter when they would see Ivins at their church.
"My daughter was involved in a little theater in Frederick," Danley said. "And whenever she was in a musical, she would walk into church, and [Ivins] would be at the piano. And he would start playing a tune from the musical she was in ... just as a quiet sort of hello."
Most people who know Ivins say they are waiting to see the evidence. Officials and people close to the case say the release had been delayed because the FBI has come across new leads just in the past week.
The FBI has also promised victims' families they will be briefed on their investigation first, before the case is made public.
Victims' Families Remain Skeptical
The family members said that after so many years and so many wrong turns, however, they remain skeptical that the FBI has in fact solved the case.
For now, Ivins' family and his co-workers are left wondering and in some cases replaying the past.
Ellen Byrne, a wife of one of his colleagues, remembers talking to Ivins at a party. It was just after the anthrax had been sent through the mail, and after the authorities forwarded the material to USAMRIID, the Army research facility, for analysis. She said he told her he was fascinated by how perfect the powder is.
"He was sitting there," Byrne said. "He was leaning over the table, and I was on the other side of the table. And he leaned forward and was just really excited at how finely milled the powder was."
She said Ivins gestured with his hands like he was trying to weigh it on a scale. He had long fingers, big knuckles.
Ivins excitedly told Byrne: "It couldn't even be weighed — it just hovered," Byrne remembers Ivins saying. "That was the word he used — 'hovered.' "
This story was reported by NPR staffers Dina Temple-Raston, Ari Shapiro, Laura Sullivan, David Kestenbaum, Nell Greenfieldboyce, Allison Keyes, Tom Bowman and Katia Dunn. It was written by Dina Temple-Raston.
Ross Responds to "Vital Questions" About Anthrax Report
The ongoing anthrax case appears to be over, as more information is revealed following the suicide of the leading suspect, Army scientist Bruce Ivins.
But with the end of the case comes a small but vocal group who still want answers from ABC News for their 2001 report that implicated Iraq (Salon's Glenn Greenwald has written the most about the issue).
On Monday, Jay Rosen of New York University and Dan Gillmor of the Center for Citizen Media identified, "Three Vital Questions," ABC News should answer.
TVNewser spoke with ABC's Brian Ross today, the lead reporter on the anthrax stories in late 2001. He explains in detail, what happened then and what it means now.
"In the end, you're only as good as your sources," he said. "My sources were good, we just got information that became outdated before they could update. My point of view is viewers of World News knew early that week we had been wrong to say bentonite."
The particulars of the story go back to October 26, 2001, when Ross reported, "three well-placed but separate sources" said the chemical in the anthrax was bentonite, linking it to Iraq. That same day, the White House denied it was bentonite. ABC's Terry Moran reported the White House denial that night. Several days later, on November 1, Ross reported:
The White House said that despite initial test results which we reported suggesting the presence of a chemical called bentonite, a trademark of the Iraqi weapons program, a further chemical analysis has ruled that out. The White House says there are chemical additives in that anthrax including one called silica.The three vital questions raised related to: 1. was ABC News lied to, 2. who were the sources and 3. what will ABC News do to correct it?
Taking the second question first, Ross tells us, "Our sources were current and former government scientists who were all involved in analyzing the substance in the letter."
He also makes clear that Ivins was not one of those scientists. "No he was not. If it was Ivins, I would report that in a second," Ross said.
Ross described why it was first reported as bentonite, and explains why ABC News was not lied to. "Their initial conclusion, based on microscopic examination was a brown substance that initially was reported as bentonite. We went back immediately after the White House told us it was not the case. We were told after further chemical analysis it was determined it was a silica, but not bentonite — something they had never seen before but had a brownish color."
Ross says he was told it was not bentonite not just by the White House, but by the same sources from the original report. But by not telling viewers, some have questioned whether Ross' sources were simply lying to ABC News to begin building a case against Iraq.
"It wasn't meant to read that way," said Ross. "From my point of view it gave national credibility to have on the record attribution and not some anonymous scientists."
He also described the last-minute scrambling before and after his initial October 26 report. "About a minute before we went on air the White House called and said it was not bentonite. That's all they said," Ross tells TVNewser. "I spent the weekend going back to all the sources saying, 'What's going on here guys?'"
He said the chemical analysis, more complex than the microscopic examination, showed the bentonite conclusion was incorrect. As for the third "vital question," the November 1 report was to make that clear.
"I talked to people directly involved with the analysis," said Ross. "What they said was accurate at that point in their point of view."
The idea the ABC report contributed to the White House's case for war with Iraq was dismissed by Ross. "The people who say the White House lied to us to build a case on Iraq or something doesn't hold," he said, citing it was the White House who denied it was bentonite from day one.
Looking back, Ross concludes: "The whole anthrax case is one of the things that would make for a good journalism class."
August 7th, 2008
GRASSLEY SEEKS ANSWERS TO FBI’S AMERITHRAX INVESTIGATION
WASHINGTON – Senator Chuck Grassley today began asking tough questions of the Department of Justice and the FBI following the release of documents implicating Dr. Bruce Ivins as the only suspect in the Amerithrax investigation.
“This has been a long investigation full of missteps and mistakes. There’s been too much secrecy up to this point and it deserves a full and thorough vetting,” Grassley said. “There are clearly a lot of unanswered questions and it’s time to start a dialogue so we can get answers.”
Here is a copy of the text of Grassley’s letter.
The Honorable Michael B. Mukasey
The Honorable Robert S. Mueller,
Dear Attorney General Mukasey and Director Mueller:
Thank you for ensuring that Congressional staff received an advanced briefing yesterday of the information released to the public in the Amerithrax investigation. The three affidavits provided represent an important, but small first step toward providing Congress and the public a full accounting of the evidence gathered by the FBI.
At yesterday's briefing, Justice Department and FBI officials invited follow-up questions after there had been time to read the affidavits. Indeed, there are many important questions to be answered about the FBI's seven-year investigation, the basis for its conclusion that Dr. Bruce Ivins conducted the attacks alone, and the events leading to his suicide. To begin this inquiry, please provide complete and detailed answers to the following questions:
1. What is the date (month and year) that the FBI determined that the anthrax came from a specified flask in Ivins’s lab ("RMR-1029")?
2. When (month and year) did the FBI determine that Dr. Hatfill never had access to the anthrax used in the killings?
3. How did the FBI determine that Dr. Hatfill did not have access to the anthrax used in the killings? Was that because the FBI determined that Dr. Hatfill no longer worked at USAMRIID when the powder was made?
4. Was Dr. Hatfill or his counsel informed that Dr. Hatfill had been cleared of any involvement in the anthrax killings before the Department of Justice offered a settlement to him? Was he informed before signing the settlement agreement with him? If not, please explain why not.
5. Was Judge Walton (the judge overseeing the Privacy Act litigation) ever informed that Dr. Hatfill had been eliminated as a suspect in the anthrax killings? If so, when. If not, please explain why not.
6. Was Dr. Ivins ever polygraphed in the course of the investigation? If so, please provide the dates and results of the exam(s). If not, please explain why not.
7. Of the more than 100 people who had access to RMR 1029, how many were provided custody of samples sent outside Ft. Detrick? Of those, how many samples were provided to foreign laboratories?
8. If those with access to samples of RMR 1029 in places other than Ft. Detrick had used the sample to produce additional quantities of anthrax, would that anthrax appear distinguishable from RMR 1029?
9. How can the FBI be sure that none of the samples sent to other labs were used to create additional quantities of anthrax that would appear distinguishable from RMR 1029?
10. Please describe the methodology and results of any oxygen isotope measurements taken to determine the source of water used to grow the spores used in the anthrax attacks.
11. Was there video equipment which would record the activities of Dr. Ivins at Ft. Detrick on the late nights he was there on the dates surrounding the mailings? If so, please describe what examination of the video revealed.
12. When did the FBI first learn of Dr. Ivins’ late-night activity in the lab around the time of the attacks? If this is powerful circumstantial evidence of his guilt, then why did this information not lead the FBI to focus attention on him, rather than Dr. Hatfill, much sooner in the investigation?
13. When did the FBI first learn that Dr. Ivins was prescribed medications for various symptoms of mental illness? If this is circumstantial evidence of his guilt, then why did this information not lead the FBI to focus attention on him, rather than Dr. Hatfill, much sooner in the investigation? Of the 100 individuals who had access to RMR 1029, were any others found to suffer from mental illness, be under the care of a mental health professional, or prescribed anti-depressant/anti-psychotic medications? If so, how many?
14. What role did the FBI play in conducting and updating the background examination of Dr. Ivins in order for him to have clearance and work with deadly pathogens at Ft. Detrick?
15. After the FBI identified Dr. Ivins as the sole suspect, why was he not detained? Did the U.S. Attorney’s Office object to seeking an arrest or material witness warrant? If not, did anyone at FBI order a slower approach to arresting Ivins?
16. Had an indictment of Dr. Ivins been drafted before his death? If so, what additional information did it contain beyond the affidavits already released to the public? If not, then when, if ever, had a decision been made to seek an indictment from the grand jury?
17. According to family members, FBI agents publicly confronted and accused Dr. Ivins of the attacks, showed pictures of the victims to his daughter, and offered the $2.5 million reward to his son in the months leading up to his suicide. These aggressive, overt surveillance techniques appear similar to those used on Dr. Hatfill with the apparent purpose of intimidation rather than legitimate investigation. Please describe whether and to what degree there is any truth to these claims.
18. What additional documents will be released, if any, and when will they be released?
Please provide your responses in electronic format. Please have your staff contact (202) 224-4515 with any questions related to this request.
mailer feared his life's work was over, prosecutors say
By James Gordon Meek
Thursday, August 7th 2008, 12:10 AM
WASHINGTON - Accused anthrax mailer Bruce Ivins was scared his life's work - a vaccine to protect U.S. troops from the deadly bug - was doomed, prosecutors alleged Wednesday.
Saving the controversial military vaccine program may have motivated the Fort Detrick germ expert to mail anthrax powder to media outlets and to a senator directly involved in the effort to end his beloved research, prosecutors and sources said.
"A possible motive is his concern about the end of the vaccination program," U.S. Attorney for D.C. Jeffrey Taylor said yesterday. "One theory is that by launching these attacks, [Ivins] creates a situation, a scenario, where people all of a sudden realize the need to have this vaccine," Taylor explained.
Documents obtained by the Daily News - which show President Bush's deputy chief of staff Karl Rove viewed the mandatory vaccinations as a "political problem" shortly before the anthrax attacks - establish Ivins had reason for his concern.
Troops were refusing to take the shots over fears they were unsafe and ineffective. Rove asked Paul Wolfowitz, then No. 2 at the Pentagon, in an April 2001 letter to deal with the "anthrax vaccine problem," which he said may have caused Gulf War syndrome from the 1991 Persian Gulf War. "They are political problems for us," Rove wrote.
Documents also show that staffers for then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) were pressing the Pentagon that summer to kill Ivins' vaccine.
On Aug. 10, 2001, David Chu, a top lieutenant to then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, ordered the vaccinations continued only at "a minimum level."
On Oct. 15, 2001, Daschle's office received an anthrax letter.
Mark Zaid, a lawyer who represented the troops refusing the vaccine, said Ivins was at the center of the fight, which a newly unsealed FBI affidavit supports.
"Dr. Ivins was well aware that efforts we undertook between 1998 and 2001 to challenge the legality of the vaccination program was potentially on the verge of stopping it," Zaid said.
Just before the 2000 election, records show, Ivins fretted in an e-mail, "Apparently Gore (and maybe even Bush) is considering making the anthrax vaccine for the military voluntary, or even stopping the program."
The FBI alleged Ivins was "under pressure" in 2001 due to the vaccine controversy. "That was going on ... in his mind at that particular time," Taylor said.
On Oct. 16, 2006, the vaccinations were resumed by the Pentagon, which cited the 2001 anthrax letters as a reason.
'confident' Ivins was anthrax attacker
13:25 07 August 2008
US federal law officials have released a catalogue of evidence they say points to Bruce Ivins, a senior anthrax researcher for the US army, as the perpetrator of the 2001 anthrax attacks. It depends crucially on genetic matches between the posted anthrax and bacteria in a lab where Ivins worked, but no scientific details were released.
In a press briefing just after the release, Jeffrey Taylor, US attorney for the District of Columbia, admitted the evidence was circumstantial, but says had Ivins gone to trial, "we would have proved him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."
Ivins worked on anthrax for the Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) in Fort Detrick, Maryland. Because of his death on 29 July, which was ruled a suicide, the case will not now come to trial.
In September 2001, then again in October, envelopes of dried anthrax powder were posted to media outlets and two US Senators from a mailbox in New Jersey.
The evidence released Wednesday by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and Postal Inspection Service is a series of largely identical requests for warrants to search Ivins' home and cars this year and last, which outline why the agents suspected Ivins.
Crucially, they say Ivins was
"sole custodian" of a single batch of spores of the Ames strain of anthrax,
produced at the army's Dugway facility in Utah in 1997 and stored in a
containment lab at USAMRIID.
Sixteen labs assisting the investigation sequenced more than 1000 Ames samples from the US, Canada, Britain and Sweden, and found only eight that contained the same four mutations as the attack anthrax.
The documents say these were all "directly related" to the batch stored at USAMRIID, but not that they came from it. Taylor said more details must await publication in scientific journals.
The documents say little about the most difficult step in the process – producing a fine, dry spore powder. They say Ivins simply grew fresh bacteria from the batch for each round of mailings, then dried them.
Their only basis for this claim is that two envelopes addressed to the media also contained a common soil bacterium, which they say got in during culture.
There are other ways such a contaminant
could get in, however. The Dugway material should already have been powdered,
and the attacker could simply have packaged it, which would have required
The documents also detail two- and three-hour late-night sessions Ivins spent in the lab just before each mailing. As the high-containment lab required an electronic pass, they had records from 2000 and 2001 of when Ivins worked late, and the only notable sessions are immediately before the dates of the two mailings. Ivins could not explain the late work, they state, nor did it fit research Ivins was doing at the time.
The agents also detail several inconsistent statements from Ivins during the investigation. Print inconsistencies showed envelopes used in the mailing came from a post office near USAMRIID. They mention a "silicon signature" for the anthrax in the envelopes with no further comment. Silica may be used to weaponise spore powders.
Paul Kemp, Ivins' lawyer, called the documents "heaps of innuendo and a staggering lack of real evidence; all contorted to create the illusion of guilt by Dr Ivins".
The documents do not explain why other people who had access to the lab were not equally suspect. Taylor did not explain why the searches the warrants enabled turned up nothing.
The documents are more detailed about Ivins' emails to friends just before the attacks, in which he described serious mental health problems, including paranoia and delusions. He had been receiving psychiatric treatment since 2000.
The emails also describe Ivins' fears that the USAMRIID anthrax programme would be axed after problems with the potency of the army's anthrax vaccine, and accusations that it caused Gulf War Syndrome. The investigators felt this provided the motive for the mailings. After the attacks raised awareness of anthrax, the army's vaccine contracts were renewed.
The Adventures of Jimmyflathead
The Internet postings of Bruce Ivins.
By Timothy Noah
Posted Thursday, Aug. 7, 2008, at 7:00 PM ET
Also in Slate, Farhad Majoo examines alternative theories about the anthrax case.
The documents released by the Justice Department on Aug. 6 contain no direct proof that Army microbiologist Bruce Ivins, who killed himself last week, was the anthrax killer. But they contain ample evidence that Ivins was a ubiquitous presence on the Web, frequently posting bizarre or angry comments under such aliases as "jimmyflathead," "kingbadger7," and "goldenphoenix111." Herewith, a first pass at compiling them.
Kappa Kappa Gamma. Ivins had a
bizarre obsession with this sorority (or, rather, "women's fraternity"),
and investigators deem significant the presence of a Kappa Kappa Gamma
chapter near 10 Nassau St. in Princeton, N.J., where the anthrax letters
were allegedly mailed. One manifestation of this obsession was that Ivins
spent a great deal of time battling with Wikipedia and other Web sites
over what they wrote about Kappa Kappa Gamma:
Dec. 21, 2005:
It's a common
misconception that "Kappa Kappa Gamma" stands for "Key
Feb. 9, 2006:
I have reinstated
Historical Miscellaneous Facts—In the late 1800s, the Kappa Call, Ai Korai Athenes! (The Maidens of Athena!), was introduced. It is still practiced in some chapters today.
If you remove it again, I will request you to be blocked. Furthermore, I suggest that you sign in with a name. If my additions to this page continue to be removed, then I will begin to add things such as the hazing incident at DePauw, the Kappa chapter being kicked off the University of Maryland campus for drugs, the fact that a member of the Symbionese Liberation Army was a Kappa. I hope that I have made myself clear.—jf
July 25, 2006:
It is correct to assume that other fraternal organizations have "Other Facts" that they would rather people not know. For example, Symbionese Liberation Army member and confessed murderer Emily Harris was a Chi Omega. Charles "Tex" Watson, mass murderer and member of the Charles Manson "Family," was a Pi Kappa Alpha. Many organizations have been cited for hazing violations. If people want to add such information to other Wiki pages, please do so. If these pages are intended to be honest and provide a look at a bit of the negative (as well as a lot of the positive) information about organizations, then good for honesty. If they're meant solely to be commercials or advertisements, then that should be made clear, so that individuals reading the pages will know that what they read has been carefully crafted to present the organization in a totally favorable light.—jf
Aug. 4, 2006:
You have removed true and verifiable information from the Kappa Kappa Gamma page. Please do not remove content from Wikipedia. It is considered vandalism. If you would like to experiment, use the sandbox. Thank you.jimmyflathead
July 8, 2007:
Eelmonkey, I'm not a member of KKG, but at one time I had a copy of the Book Of Ritual. I'm familiar with their secrets and rituals, but I don't think that the organization would want them revealed. I would respectfully suggest you ask the opinions of some of the Kappas who have posted here. jimmyflathead
Dave Twigg. On May 26, 2006, a man named Dave Twigg got entwined in a misunderstanding with a law enforcement officer of Virginia's Department of Natural Resources while driving his truck in Tuscarora. The officer drew a gun on Twigg, searched his truck, and issued a citation stating (incorrectly) that Twigg had gotten caught "spotlighting," an illegal form of hunting in which deer are blinded with bright lights. (In fact, Twigg had been looking for the top to his trash can, which had fallen off the truck.) Nothing came of it, but to Ivins it was the Dreyfus case all over again. Although his original postings to the Frederick News-Post are no longer available, on Aug. 7 the paper retrieved and reported on them. Here they are:
I've known Dave Twigg for a long time, and he's a great, honest, law-abiding guy. The DNR agent was more than a bit over-reactive and (testosteronal) in what he did to Dave. ... Dave should sue the DNR and the officer involved for what happened.
Great ... that's all that night predators need to know: That they can stop anybody, anywhere, for practically any reason and say that they're 'DNR.' Dave Twigg wasn't running from anybody, so the 'attempting to flee' charge is completely bogus—What's next? Arresting kids who have flashlights and are looking in their yard for nightcrawlers?"
[Y]ou can go online and purchase 'police car' lights for your vehicle. Scary, huh? Knowing that, how many of us would tell our loved ones to stop at night on deserted roads when unmarked, supposed police cars flashed their lights? As to comment in the previous post about 'salivating lawyers,' I think that the DNR officer's actions would cause many reasonable people to consult an attorney.
The Da Vinci Code. Unlike most film critics, Ivins liked the Tom Hanks movie and reviewed it in a series of postings on the Frederick News-Post site (also not available anymore, but retrieved by the paper in that same Aug. 7 story):
Just as 'Ben Hur' and 'Touched by an Angel' were fictional, so The Da Vinci Code is fictional. It's not theology or history, it's a fictional suspense thriller. We were taught in gradeschool that Jesus was 'a man like us in all ways but sin.' So Jesus being fictionally given a wife would make him sinful? Please!
I just finished watching the first showing of The Da Vinci Code at the Westview theaters. It was a good, fast-paced, suspenseful movie. I recommend it, but people should read the book first, so that they can follow it more easily. (It moves VERY fast.) I didn't see any protesters, thank goodness.
I saw it also, Erika, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. People forget that the movie and the book are FICTION. The Da Vinci Codes's supposed blasphemy is that Jesus was a Jewish man with a Jewish wife and she bore him a child. Did Jesus sweat? Did he have cavities or get sick? Did he 'go to the bathroom?' We were taught that he was (a) person like us in all ways but sin, so having sexual relations with one's spouse doesn't seem sinful.
Family Origins. The Washington Post found an entry in GreekChat.com from Aug. 2006 in which Ivins (posting as "Prunetacos" ) bemoaned real or imagined "skeletons" in his family closet:
The skeletons are all out, 33girl. I'm having a devil of a time rounding them back up. Let's see...how about mom who was an undiagnosed paranoid schizophrenic, a brother who was a wife-beater, who left her shortly before their baby was born - didn't want to pay child support - and who was fired from several jobs for stealing? Is that bones enough? Oh...by the way...a few years ago he went to an SAE [Sigma Alpha Epsilon?] house and tried to get into it, saying that he was a member. When they found out he was lying, they kicked his butt to the curb. Just like my brother....
The Mole. This is a reality TV series on ABC that someone the same age as Ivins who identified himself as "bruceivi" commented about on YouTube just one month ago. (The posts were found by True Crime Report.)
Maybe something really dreadful will happen to Kathryn Price. If so, she will richly deserve it! The least someone could do would be to take a sharp ballpoint pin or letter opener and put her eyes out, to complete the task of making her a true mole!
With that he should have taken the hatchet and brought it down hard and sharply across her neck, severing her carotid artery and jugular vein. Then when she hits the ground, he completes the task on the other side of the neck, severing her trachea as well. The "Blind" mole is dead and Steve is a hero among heroes! I personally would have paid big money to have done it myself.
Steve had a great chance to Kill Kathryn that would go down as the primo moment in reality TV.
After the fake fainting he'd say, "Kathryn, do you know what a mole is? It's a blind useless, animal that humans hate. And do you know what we do to moles? We kill them!"
Sorry if my comments offended people. This occurred several years ago. It was meant as a macabre twist to a pretty lame reality show.
Juggling. This was one of Ivins' hobbies. Five months ago, the poster "brucivi" was tickled to find an acquaintance named Deb demonstrating her juggling on YouTube. (This, too, was found by True Crime Report.)
Way to go, Deb!!!! You probably don't remember me but I'm your sister Jen's Godfather, Bruce. Where did you learn to do all that great stuff? Did you ever try two in each hand? Start with doing two in one hand, then do two in the other, then you can put them together, either alternating throws or throwing at the same time. I used to juggle as stress relief—it's hard to think of other things when you're tossing stuff in the air and trying to keep gravity from winning!—bruce
As we now know, Bruce Ivins was experiencing quite a lot of stress at that time.
Updated: 8/7/2008 11:27:02 PM
Anthrax case link to Wisconsin examined
MADISON (AP) - The fictitious return address left on some envelopes during the 2001 anthrax attacks may have been a reference to a Wisconsin school, investigators say.
The significance of the address used in anthrax mailings to Capitol Hill in October 2001 - "4th GRADE, GREENDALE SCHOOL" - has long puzzled investigators.
But suspect Bruce Ivins may have been referring to the Greendale Baptist Academy in Greendale, a suburb just south of Milwaukee, U.S. Postal inspector Thomas Dellafera said in a court filing unsealed Wednesday.
Ivins was a member of the American Family Association, a conservative Christian ministry that pursued a high-profile 1999 lawsuit involving a fourth-grader at the school, the affidavit noted.
"What a strange twist," said lawyer Steve Crampton, who represented the Tupelo, Miss.-based association in the case.
Ivins, a brilliant but troubled government scientist, committed suicide last week as prosecutors were preparing to charge him in the attacks. Prosecutors said Wednesday they believe he was the only person responsible for the attacks that killed five and injured 17.
The "GREENDALE SCHOOL" return address was used in letters sent to the Capitol Hill offices of U.S. Sens. Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy. It listed Franklin Park, N.J., as the location for the school.
The dispute that may have caught Ivins' attention started in 1998 when Milwaukee social workers began investigating whether the school's corporal punishment policy was leading to abuse of students.
Social workers showed up at the school demanding to interview a boy who had been spanked. They didn't have a warrant or the boy's parent's consent and the principal objected.
The workers got the interview after they called in police and cited a state law allowing government officials to interview children without consent.
Backed by the American Family Association, the school and the boy's parents filed suit, alleging the interview was a violation of their constitutional protection against unlawful searches and seizures.
The association publicized the case in its monthly journal, which Ivins received at his Maryland home for years, according to the affidavit. Ivins and his wife donated money to the group one month after the article was published in October 1999, their first donations to the group in two years, it said.
Association general counsel Patrick Vaughn said the two donated $335 in small gifts over nine years. The association cooperated with authorities looking into Ivins - but was unaware its name was "entangled in a terrorism investigation" until Thursday, he said.
Ex-colleague questions government’s case against anthrax suspect
By ANDREW SCHOTZ (email@example.com)
GREENCASTLE, Pa. — A former Fort Detrick employee is among those questioning the government’s case against Bruce Ivins, who authorities say was behind the post-9/11 anthrax letters.
Melanie Ulrich of Greencastle, Pa., who teaches at Hagerstown Community College, on Wednesday challenged circumstantial evidence against Ivins that has been made public.
Ivins killed himself last week. News reports have said prosecutors were preparing charges against him.
Court documents unsealed Wednesday shed more light on the case as the government declared it solved.
Authorities say advanced DNA testing matched anthrax spores in Ivins’ laboratory to those that killed five people in 2001, according to The Associated Press.
Erratic behavior, unexplained late-night lab work, “paranoid, delusional thoughts” and obstruction with the government’s investigation are cited as further evidence against Ivins.
“We are confident that Dr. Ivins was the only person responsible for these attacks,” U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Taylor said, according to the AP.
Ivins’ attorney, though, has said the government hasn’t proven its case.
Ulrich said she worked with Ivins at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Frederick, Md., for about six years. The person she knew doesn’t match the troubled past Ivins is alleged to have had, she said.
Ulrich said other elements of the case don’t add up, including:
# Whether psychological instability in Ivins’ past could have lingered for years. Ulrich said that in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, anyone at USAMRIID who had access to certain biological agents, such as anthrax, had to go through an intensive, all-encompassing review as part of a Personnel Reliability Program, which trumped, for example, privacy rules for health records.
# A flask in Ivins’ custody that contained anthrax said to be the “parent” to powdered anthrax sent through the mail. Ulrich said different anthrax samples were genetically identical, so that flask can’t be proven to be the “parent” sample. Also, the flask was for aerosol use, which would have been done in a different building than the one in which Ivins worked, she said.
# Ivins’ alleged use of a lyophilizer to make powdered anthrax. Ulrich said Ivins signed out a SpeedVac, but not a lyophilizer, which is too large to fit in a containment hood, or secure protective area.
She said it would take about an hour to dry one milliliter of wet anthrax spores in one vial in a SpeedVac. It would have been impossible for Ivins to have dried more than a liter, which would have been required for the amount of anthrax sent in the letters, in the time frame they were mailed, Ulrich said.
Ulrich was a principal investigator in the diagnostic systems division at USAMRIID.
She said Ivins was a “geeky scientist” who wrote poems and was sensitive and unintimidating.
He had been to her home for USAMRIID social activities, including a barbecue and a party.
She said Ivins was upset the FBI was watching him, but handled it as well as he could. “I’ve never even seen him angry,” Ulrich said.
Ulrich left USAMRIID in 2007. She now teaches at HCC and coordinates the year-old biotechnology program.
Ulrich said the FBI interviewed
her within the past year as part of its investigation. She said she can’t
talk about what was discussed, but the points she expressed in this story
didn’t come up during the interview.
The United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases prepared the following summary to help answer questions about the anthrax investigation and the suicide of scientist Bruce Ivins.
USAMRIID has made significant progress in developing and implementing the requirements of the U.S. Army’s biosurety program. The safety of the USAMRIID staff and the security of the biological agents on which it works have always been top priority, even before the events of 2001 and the institution of the formal biosurety program.
Dr. Bruce Ivins, the scientist who committed suicide July 29, played a key role in the anthrax vaccine research and development program at USAMRIID. The Institute’s mission is to conduct research that leads to development of medical countermeasures — vaccines, drugs, diagnostic tools, and information — that protect U.S. troops from biological threats.
In addition to conducting anthrax research, Dr. Ivins assisted the FBI with its investigation following the anthrax mail attacks of 2001. He and his colleagues also were interviewed several times as part of that investigation. Recent news reports indicate that Dr. Ivins was about to be indicted by the FBI for the 5 murders resulting from the anthrax letters of 2001.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Q1. How long did Dr. Ivins work at USAMRIID and what were his duties?
A1. Dr. Ivins was employed by USAMRIID for more than 28 years as a Research Microbiologist. As a senior biodefense researcher working with the anthrax research program, he designed and conducted experiments to advance the understanding of bacterial pathogenesis and develop improved medical countermeasures to bacterial pathogens.
Q2. Did Dr. Ivins stand to profit from the anthrax mail attacks because he held a patent for a new anthrax vaccine technology?
A2. Dr. Ivins was a co-inventor on two U.S. patents for Anthrax vaccine technology, U.S. Patent 6,316,006 and U.S. Patent 6,387,665 At the time of his death, Dr. Ivins and his co-inventors were each receiving $2,000 per year in royalty payments. Under Federal law and DoD regulations, each inventor is entitled to 20 percent of the royalties or other payments, up to $150,000 per year per person. (Licensing of federally owned inventions: 35 U.S.C. 209 and 37 CFR 404.1. Distribution of royalties received by federal agencies: 15 U.S.C. 3710c. Army regulation AR 70-57 and USAMRMC Regulation 70-57. DoD 5535.8)
Q3. Was Dr. Ivins forcibly removed from his workplace?
A3. On Thursday, July 10, Frederick City Police requested permission to enter Fort Detrick to execute an Emergency Medical Evaluation Petition. Fort Detrick police officers escorted the Frederick police unit to USAMRIID, where the officers contacted Dr. Ivins and subsequently escorted him out of USAMRIID and off Fort Detrick.
Q4. Was Dr. Ivins banned from Ft. Detrick?
A4. Following his July 10, 2008, removal from Fort Detrick pursuant to the EEP order, the Fort Detrick U.S. Army Garrison Directorate of Emergency Services was directed to be on the look out for Dr. Ivins. The U.S. Army Garrison Commander provided a verbal order to the police to notify Dr. Ivins that he was barred from the installation, if he arrived on the installation prior to the time a written bar order was presented. The Directorate of Emergency Services maintained contact with outside authorities to ascertain when Dr. Ivins was scheduled to be released. Upon learning of his pending release, a written bar order was signed (by) the U.S. Army Garrison Commander on July 24, 2008. Prior to the time that bar letter was presented to Dr. Ivins, the Command learned of Dr. Ivins’ hospitalization. Dr. Ivins’ death eliminated the need for the bar order.
Q5. Did USAMRIID revoke Dr. Ivins’ security clearance?
A5. On 1 Nov 2007, USAMRIID removed Dr. Ivins’ access to the laboratories where biological select agents and toxins (BSAT) are used and stored.
It is important to note that a security clearance alone does not grant access to any of the laboratories at the Institute. Access is authorized only after an individual satisfactorily completes laboratory safety training, physical examination screening, appropriate immunizations, a favorable security background investigation by the FBI, and biosurety program clearance.
Q6. When did USAMRIID institute the biosurety program?
A6. The program was formally adopted in 2003. With the initiation of the formal biosurety program, USAMRIID put into place a Personnel Reliability Program that includes background investigations, medical screening, and mental health and behavior screening. All individuals with access to areas in which biological select agents and toxins (BSAT) are stored or used must be enrolled in the PRP.
Q7. What measures did USAMRIID have in place before the biosurety program?
A7. Before the institution of the formal biosurety program, the Institute had programs in the four areas that comprise biosurety: physical security, agent accountability, biological safety and personnel reliability. With regard to personnel reliability, the Institute conducted background checks on personnel who worked in the biocontainment laboratories, as well as medical screening.
Q8. What kind of measures are in place to address mental health under the personnel reliability program?
A8. In addition to a current Personnel Security Investigation (PSI), enrollment into the PRP requires reviews of personnel records, medical evaluation, and an interview with the Certifying Official (CO) highlighting the individual’s responsibilities within the PRP, reliability standards, and self reporting requirements.
A personnel security section at USAMRIID is dedicated full time to documenting and coordinating staff security investigations with the DoD, CDC, and the FBI. All investigators at USAMRIID have to be cleared by the CDC and the FBI to work with biological select agents and toxins (BSAT).
Q9. Is an individual’s mental health status monitored on a continuing basis?
A9. The PRP provides for a system of continuous evaluation. This includes evaluations by supervisors, fellow workers, Certifying Officials and support staff, in addition to self reporting of any potentially disqualifying information to the CO. Potentially disqualifying information would include the employee’s being charged with or convicted of a crime, as well as prescription medications being taken and/or outside medical treatment being received.
Supervisors at USAMRIID have the ability to make a day-to-day judgment call as to whether an employee should work with BSAT. To avoid laboratory mishaps, if a supervisor observes that an employee is under a great deal of stress, seems unusually distracted, or is exhibiting other signs of strain, the employee's entry privileges can be temporarily suspended until the situation is resolved. This is done for the safety of both the employee and the other laboratory personnel. In the case of Dr. Ivins, his biocontainment laboratory access was restricted on 1 November 2007, meaning that he would have had no access to BSAT from that date forward.
Q10. What was the reaction at USAMRIID to the announcement by the DOJ today?
A10. It has always been considered possible that a U.S. government employee could have been responsible for the letters. For that reason, USAMRIID leadership and staff cooperated fully through every phase of the investigation, while continuing to carry out the Institute’s core mission. USAMRIID also significantly increased its physical security and personnel screening processes and standards. USAMRIID implemented the Army’s biosurety program in 2003 and has enrolled all of its employees who work with BSAT in the Personnel Reliability Program. USAMRIID continues to cooperate with the FBI investigation and to conduct research that leads to the development of medical countermeasures for biological defense.
Q11. Is USAMRIID’s research program classified?
A11. No. USAMRIID research is widely published in the open scientific literature. The program is unclassified and scientists are encouraged to publish in peer-reviewed journals and to present their findings at national and international scientific meetings.
While USAMRIID’s primary mission is to protect the troops, its research often has civilian applications as well, as evidenced by many Cooperative Research and Development Agreements and other partnerships established with industry, academia and other government agencies.
Q12. How does USAMRIID ensure the safety of its workers and the surrounding community? Have any illnesses or deaths ever resulted from a laboratory mishap at USAMRIID?
A12. The Institute has a comprehensive safety program that emphasizes safety training, risk management, environmental surveillance, and occupational health screening. In the past 34 years, there have been only five confirmed cases of laboratory-acquired infection, all involving USAMRIID employees — not persons outside the Institute. Moreover, safety records for the past 3 years have documented a steady decline in the annual rate of potential exposures from about 16 to 4 per 1,000 personnel in the program. A culture of safety and risk management is encouraged at the laboratory in order to maintain a safe and secure environment for the workforce and the surrounding military and civilian communities.
BIOLOGICAL SURETY AT USAMRIID
Q1. What does the biosurety program consists of?
A1. The USAMRIID biosurety program consists of 4 key areas: physical security, safety, personnel reliability, and agent accountability
Q2. What does Physical Security at USAMRIID consist of?
A2. The physical security program at USAMRIID allows only authorized individuals access to the areas in which the select agents are stored or used. Access is authorized only after an individual satisfactorily completes laboratory safety training, physical examination screening, appropriate immunizations, and a favorable security background investigation by the FBI. Before an individual enters the laboratory unaccompanied, a laboratory supervisor mentors the individual on laboratory-specific tasks. Redundant security measures use identification badges and personal identification numbers to ensure that access is limited to authorized personnel.
Q3. What does the safety element consist of?
A3. The USAMRIID commander’s primary objective is to provide a safe and secure environment for the workforce and the surrounding military and civilian communities. The institute has a comprehensive safety program that emphasizes safety training and mentorship, risk management, environmental surveillance, and occupational health screening.
Q4. What type of safety training does USAMRIID require?
A4. At USAMRIID, every new laboratory employee attends a safety workshop on laboratory operations. Annual refresher training is also required. Safety-related Laboratory Essential Training tasks are specified for every laboratory employee. Supervisors are held accountable for the safety of their subordinates, and a safety standard must be included in the performance objectives of all USAMRIID employees.
The safety committee, composed of the institute’s division chiefs and division safety representatives, meets regularly to review safety data and to propose methods to prevent accidents. Safety concepts are emphasized by the publication of institute-wide safety messages and intranet-based institute-wide Laboratory Essential Training tasks for every employee. The entire workforce receives risk management training. Environmental monitoring for the presence of biological agents takes place inside and outside containment laboratories on a weekly basis.
Q5. What is being done to ensure Personnel Reliability as it relates to the biosurety program?
A5. The personnel reliability program is designed to ensure that each person who has access to sensitive materials meets the highest standards of reliability. USAMRIID currently requires all individuals with access to areas in which select biological agents are stored or used to receive extensive laboratory safety operations training, participate in a laboratory mentorship program, and satisfactorily pass a background investigation. In addition to a current Personnel Security Investigation (PSI), enrollment into the Personal Reliability Program (PRP) requires reviews of personnel records, medical evaluation, and an interview with the Certifying Official (CO) highlighting the individual’s responsibilities within the PRP, reliability standards, and self reporting requirements.
Q6. What is the Personnel Reliability Program (PRP)?
A6. The PRP provides a system of continuous evaluation. This includes evaluations by supervisors, fellow workers, Certifying Officials and support staff, in addition to self reporting of any potentially disqualifying information to the CO. Potentially disqualifying information would include, but is not limited to, the employee’s being charged with or convicted of a crime, as well as prescription medications being taken and/or outside medical treatment being received.
Q7. Who oversees staff security investigations?
A7. A personnel security section at USAMRIID is dedicated full time to documenting and coordinating staff security investigations with the DoD, CDC, and the FBI. All investigators at USAMRIID have to be cleared by the CDC and the FBI to work with biological select agents and toxins (BSAT).
Q8. Are employees evaluated on a day to day basis?
A8. Supervisors at USAMRIID have the ability to make a day-to-day judgment call as to whether an employee should work with BSAT. To avoid laboratory mishaps, if a supervisor observes that an employee is under a great deal of stress, seems unusually distracted, or is exhibiting other signs of strain, the employee’s entry privileges can be temporarily suspended until the situation is resolved. This is done for the safety of both the employee and the other laboratory personnel.
Q9. How do you account for biological agents used in the labs?
A9. To secure select agents at USAMRIID, agents are stored in controlled access areas that are monitored via closed circuit television system. To have access to any given agent in storage, personnel must pass numerous access control points before the agent can be obtained.
August 8, 2008 7:22 PM EDT
Four years after FBI raid, Dr. Berry moving on with life
By Daniel LeBlanc
WELLSVILLE - Federal investigators have declared the 2001 anthrax attacks a closed matter, but four years ago this week they swarmed the Southern Tier after a supposed suspect in the case.
FBI agents searched Dr. Kenneth Berry’s East Pearl Street home, his former apartment and his parents’ summer home on the New Jersey shore.
The investigation made national headlines less than three years after the 2001 anthrax attacks. Dr. Berry, a former emergency room physician in Wellsville’s Jones Memorial Hospital as well as at a Pittsburgh, Pa.-area hospital, had built something of a reputation as an expert in domestic response to bioterrorism attacks anthrax. He had been training medical professionals to respond to chemical and biological attacks since 1997. He later developed a system to respond to an anthrax attack after letters laced with the deadly substance were circulated to government officials.
Despite the search of Dr. Berry’s homes and property, the FBI never issued any charges. Indeed, the agency never commented on any aspect of the investigation of Dr. Berry.
The FBI’s recent investigation of a former government scientist may further vindicate Dr. Berry, according to a friend, the Rev. Richard Helms of Wellsville.
“He was publicly vilified,” Rev. Helms said in a phone interview. “They picked someone at random so they could tell people they were doing something.”
Rev. Helms said there were television crews that showed up outside of Dr. Berry’s home before the FBI began its raids.
“There were a bunch of guys wearing biohazard suits, but the rest of them weren’t wearing protective gear,” he added. “They could have done it quietly and gotten the same result.”
Shortly after the raid on his parents’ summer home in New Jersey, Dr. Berry had an altercation with his wife, Tana Leucken-Berry and step-daughter, leading to his arrest.
In November of 2004, Dr. Berry did plead guilty to two charges of simple assault resulting from an incident at a borough hotel in Point Pleasant Beach, N.J., reported the Ocean Star of Point Pleasant Beach.
In entering his guilty plea, he agreed to drop similar charges brought against his wife and step-daughter. He was sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine.
The Rev. Helms said in a 2005 article that a medication Dr. Berry was taking at the time may have contributed to his outburst.
Dr. Berry, age 47, had moved to Wellsville in 1996. He became a member of the Jones Memorial Hospital medical staff, working in the emergency room. He left the hospital in June 2001.
In March of 1999, State Police charged Dr. Berry with two counts of second-degree forgery after he allegedly signed the forged will of Dr. Andrew Colletta, who owned a doctor’s office in the area, according to previously published reports.
Dr. Berry later pleaded guilty to a disorderly conduct charge.
In the case of former Army scientist Bruce Ivins, the man who the FBI now says committed the attacks, he committed suicide before agents could arrest him, according to an Associated Press article printed in Thursday’s Olean Times Herald.
“The Justice Department said it was confident it could have convicted the scientist, who spent his career developing anthrax vaccines and cures at the bioweapons lab at Fort Detrick, Md.,” the Associated Press wrote.
The article also pointed out another scientist, Steven Hatfill, had been investigated and later won a $5.8 million lawsuit against the Department of Justice to clear his name.
An Aug. 8, 2004, an Associated Press article quoted Dr. Berry’s father, William Berry, as saying “his son knew Steven Hatfill,” who had been declared “a person of interest” by the FBI at the time. A later story in the Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger quoted William Berry as having “made a mistake and his son never met Hatfill.”
With the FBI never issuing charges against Dr. Berry, Rev. Helms said the agency owes him an apology.
“They destroyed a man’s life for three years and cost him a small fortune,” Rev. Helms said. “When you have no evidence, you don’t do a major media event and destroy a man’s life.”
Dr. Berry could not be reached for comment this week. Rev. Helms was asked to forward a message to Dr. Berry, seeking comment for this article, but there was no response.
Four years after the investigation, Dr. Berry “has his life back in order,” Rev. Helms said, but he did not elaborate.
(Contact Daniel LeBlanc at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Anthrax investigation should be investigated, congressmen say
Sen. Charles Grassley and Rep. Rush Holt want hearings into the Justice Department and FBI's handling of the case.
By Josh Meyer, Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON -- After seven long years, the FBI and the Justice Department say they are closing the books on the anthrax investigation.
But the investigation into the investigation is only beginning, and it will focus on what Congress members described Thursday as apparent missteps by authorities that dramatically prolonged the probe, unfairly maligned an innocent government scientist, and raised questions about whether federal agents had conclusively ruled out other suspects besides microbiologist Bruce E. Ivins.
Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Rep. Rush D. Holt (D-N.J.), frequent critics of the FBI, demanded a far more detailed release of documents by the bureau and the Justice Department to support the government's case, as well as congressional hearings into the investigation.
Grassley sent a three-page letter Thursday evening to Atty. Gen. Michael B. Mukasey and FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, giving them two weeks to respond to 18 questions that raised concerns about virtually every aspect of the probe.
Holt, who represents the district from which the anthrax-laced letters were mailed, said in an interview that he was reaching out to other House members to discuss a combined inquiry of sorts by the judiciary, intelligence, science and technology, and government oversight committees.
"We don't want this to be another Lee Harvey Oswald case where the public says it is never solved to their satisfaction," said Holt, referring to conspiracy theories surrounding President Kennedy's 1963 assassination. "Somebody needs to finish the job that would have been finished in a court of law."
Other than Congress, he said, "I'm not sure where else to do it."
Ivins, a researcher at the government's biodefense lab at Ft. Detrick, Md., apparently killed himself last week as authorities were preparing to charge him with murder. The 2001 attacks killed five people, sickened at least 17 others, and sparked one of the largest and costliest criminal investigations in U.S. history.
On Wednesday, senior officials in the Justice Department and the FBI gave private briefings to those affected by the attacks and to members of Congress; released a trove of previously sealed documents; and held a news conference, all in an effort to convince the public that they could have proved in court that Ivins was the lone culprit -- if they'd had the chance to charge and prosecute him.
But by Thursday, a chorus of skeptics had taken to talk radio shows and the Internet. They homed in on government admissions that at least 100 other people may have had access to the particular batch of anthrax that was ultimately linked to the deadly mailings, and that Ivins had never been conclusively placed near the mailbox in New Jersey from which the letters were sent. They also questioned why the FBI and the Postal Inspection Service allowed the public to believe that another researcher at Ft. Detrick, Dr. Steven Hatfill, was the sole culprit for more than a year after they apparently began to believe he was innocent. Hatfill recently received a $5.8-million settlement from the government.
Maureen Stevens, the widow of Robert Stevens, a Florida photo editor who was the first victim of the attacks, held a news conference Thursday calling on the government to admit to faults in its investigation and pay additional millions to her and possibly to other victims.
And numerous scientists and legal experts questioned the reliability of the evidence presented by the government, particularly the novel genetic tests that the FBI said proved that Ivins alone carried out the attacks. One of them was Holt, a physicist turned congressman, who said he wanted to see some level of independent inquiry that involved a wide array of experts who could deconstruct the scientific aspects of the investigation.
In his letter, Grassley also wanted to know how exactly the government zeroed in on Ivins, whether he had taken a lie-detector test, what was known about his deteriorating mental condition, and how investigators could be sure that no one else might have helped him in preparing or mailing the letters.
"The FBI has a lot of explaining to do," said Grassley, whose staff has already started consulting experts and collecting information.
"They have been less than forthcoming with Congress throughout this entire process, and it deserves a full and thorough vetting."
of Oregon's primate lab says she was stalked by anthrax suspect
Nancy Haigwood says she was stalked by Bruce Ivins, the FBI's suspect in the 2001 deaths
Friday, August 08, 2008
When microbiologists were asked in 2002 to consider whether one of their peers had mailed anthrax spores nationwide, the current director of the Oregon National Primate Research Center was quick to call the FBI.
In September 2001, a government scientist -- who Nancy Haigwood, director of the Hillsboro center, says stalked her for decades -- sent Haigwood and other acquaintances a photo of himself working with anthrax at the U.S. Army's Fort Detrick research center.
The scientist, Bruce Ivins, 62, killed himself last month as the FBI was building a case that he sent anthrax-tainted letters that killed five people in 2001.
"I'm sorry that he died. I'm sorry that this happened," said Haigwood, 56, who moved from Seattle last year. "On the other hand, there are no winners here. He was not a nice guy."
Some of Ivins' co-workers and his lawyer have questioned whether the mentally ill scientist was capable of the attacks. However, a counselor who treated Ivins filed for a restraining order against him, and one of Ivins' brothers publicly said Ivins felt godlike and superior.
Haigwood agreed with the brother's assessment. She said Ivins was deceptive, obsessive and "an OK scientist who . . . did, I'm sure, adequate work."
Haigwood said Ivins' obsession with her began in the 1970s when the two worked in different labs at the University of North Carolina. Haigwood said they chatted and she tried to be collegial. But Ivins fixated on her membership in the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority.
"This was just a slight social interaction that I think he would have liked to see as a long-term friendship, and I didn't," Haigwood said.
Ivins stepped up his attentions in 1982, when he was at Fort Detrick and Haigwood worked at a nearby company in Maryland. One day, Haigwood said, she found her sorority's Greek initials spray-painted on the back window of her fiance's car -- carefully, so they could be removed without damaging the paint job. Her fence and sidewalk also had been spray-painted, Haigwood said. She reported the vandalism to police and accused Ivins when she bumped into him.
"He denied it, but there was no question it was he," she said. "He was really good at snooping, even in the 1980s."
After that confrontation, Ivins continued to send Haigwood e-mails that made her uncomfortable.
"He knew quite a lot about me without me telling him," she said. "He knew my sons' names and their years in school."
Haigwood, who researches HIV transmission and vaccines, said she contacted the FBI shortly after the American Society for Microbiology asked its members in 2002 to think of possible suspects in the anthrax case. Agents soon interviewed her and have stayed in touch off and on ever since, she said.
FBI officials told her of their plans to accuse Ivins and of his suicide before the news broke, and they will debrief her more in the coming weeks, she said.
Haigwood said FBI agents were "very ethical and above board." And reading their case files convinced her they have the right suspect. "The evidence was compelling," she said.
"I have a tremendous sense of relief, I must say," that Ivins is gone, she said. "But also tremendous sadness. Because I always hoped I was wrong."
Andy Dworkin: 503-221-8271; email@example.com
Interview With Ivins' Attorney Paul Kemp
by Laura Sullivan
Ivins, who committed suicide July 29, 2008, was a prime suspect in the 2001 anthrax mailings that killed five people.
Laura Sullivan, NPR correspondent: The main piece of evidence seems to be this idea that they could link the anthrax specifically to government microbiologist Bruce E. Ivins. What are your thoughts on that, do you think that's possible?
Paul Kemp, attorney for Bruce Ivins: I think it's certainly possible. If it was done, it apparently was done in 2005, and that's my understanding, both from the affidavits that were released [Wednesday, Aug. 6] and I think implied from the news conference in which [Jeff Taylor, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia] spoke.
The issue it raises is, all that does is establish that the anthrax that originally was in that beaker, excepting the science, and I'm not challenging that now, I would if I were in court.
It doesn't change the fact that it was virtually an open-access facility. There's no security. It had a key-entry pass the way that we have in this commercial office building. That's the extent of their security. No security guard, no guest registration, no surveillance cameras, this is as of 2001. That's all changed now. So that the scientists who would use it, dozens of them at Fort Detrick, they could withdraw samples, use it for their experiments. They may not use it all. What happened to the spare portions of that beaker, RMR-1029, the specimens that were used that weren't done if there had been, God forbid, someone up there who was planning to do this, then they have ready access to it for legitimate purposes, the development of anthrax vaccine.
So Wednesday, Taylor called the flask, the tube that contained the anthrax, the murder weapon. Do you believe that?
I believe that he has reasonable evidence, assuming the science is right, to show that the anthrax in question came from the beaker. I can't say that that anthrax that's ultimately used in the anthrax attacks wasn't subsequently changed, or that it didn't come from places that had received portions of that anthrax around the country — the University of New Mexico, Battelle Labs in Ohio. And there are dozens, if not hundreds, of scientists, contractors, students, professors, who used that same anthrax, the very anthrax that would have the same genetic components as RMR-1029
They say he was the "custodian" of the parent anthrax.
He was responsible for mixing the batch that became known as RMR-1029. He was one of the primary scientists, and had, since 1977, dozens of people working for him, all of whom had access to it. Plus, other people from other labs at Fort Detrick requested samples of it. Plus, these contractors off the base got samples of it. And nobody knows the quantities, how much, when they took it, what they did with what that they didn't use. So what is the significance, in terms of identifying the killer of these people from 2001, if all you've done is establish the beaker from an unspecified time, some sample that may have been withdrawn to prepare the anthrax that was done? You have no idea who did it. And in this country, we prosecute people, not beakers.
One of the things that came out of this idea that they can link the spore sample exactly to Ivins was that he also misled the FBI. There was this big thing in Wednesday's press conference about how they had asked for a sample from him, and that when they went out themselves and took the sample, that in fact it was different from what Ivins had given them.
So many problems with that statement. It's hard to know where to begin. No. 1, I'll try and be organized in this, he provided a sample in 2002, the month of February of 2002. He provided it in a way that he thought matched their directions that at that point were orally given.
There really were, I believe, two different vials or preparations, slides, I think they're called, and he did it in a way that ultimately matches their written protocol for the preparation of these slides. One of them is delivered to the government, and they either lose it or destroy it. The second one is sent to a well-known scientist, somebody on a caliber with Dr. Ivins, in terms of this kind of thing. Paul Keim is his name, now at the Northern Arizona State University, at that point from the University of New Mexico. And he has it, maintains it. It's available for analysis, and when the government loses their slide or destroys it, they do go to the slide that Dr. Keim has, and are able to make the analysis from that.
So, that's the story, as to the February one. Not only did he not falsify the submission of samples, this is a government screw-up, for the February sample.
In the April sample, here's what they contend is wrong. They contend that the nature of the slide he prepared was improperly taken from RMR-1029, that they wanted him to prepare a smear sample of the entire set of cultures in the beaker. What they say he submitted is what's called a "pure culture" sample. And to understand that, you have to know what these things look like.
If you examine grossly, meaning with the naked eye, the anthrax that is prepared in a petri dish, an open glass petri dish, you might extract some of this stuff from the beaker — you can't really work with the beaker because it has a narrow top — so you take it out and put it in a wide petri dish and you let it grow in an agar substance.
And it ferments and grows upon itself. There will be little globules of anthrax in a harmless form, it's like wet oatmeal or something like that, and you can dip down and take each globule, or a representative set of globules — that's called taking a "pure culture" sample.
What they wanted him to do with that open petri dish was to take a smear across them all. And that's what he did the first time. He submitted a smear sample, it was properly done.
The second time, he did the pure culture sample and sent it in. That should have been readily apparent to them, as soon as it was received. They don't get to it for a long time. RMR-1029 was there. It has never been adulterated. It has never been tampered with. Why didn't they go back and say, "You took a pure culture sample, can you take a smear sample?" Why didn't they go back and take a smear sample themselves? So that's a long-winded way to the first point.
Second point, he's polygraphed twice, during the same year. They ask him, you know, "Have you told us all you know about this? Are you hiding any evidence?" as part of these normal polygraphs, but also that are directed by the investigators here.
They now discount the reliability of his passing in the polygraphs because it was conducted by the Defense Department, not by the Justice Department. And so we're left with this disparagement of the Defense Department, the same way Mr. Taylor disparaged the Defense Department yesterday during his news conference, saying, in a backhanded way, "Well, that's a matter for the Defense Department," namely, why was he allowed to continue working at the lab, with full access to these pathogens, right up to the end of the investigation?
So in your mind, this idea that the FBI came to him and said, "We need this specific sample," and that it was some kind of test and that he sent in something different, it just has no credence?
It is unbelievable to me that in, I guess the second-highest-profile case going on at the time, the first highest-profile case being the Sept. 11 attacks, in this time frame, that they wouldn't go take the sample themselves or direct him to do it while one of their agents watch him.
The final point, the biggest point: He doesn't get the written protocol as to how to submit the samples until May 24 of 2002. The sample was submitted at their direction on April 10 of 2002. They'll say, in defense of that screw-up, that he was present at a meeting at which they think it was discussed, that, "We want you to take smear samples."
That to me is inconceivable. It's part of an investigation of a case of this significance. All of that is beside the point. He'd already submitted a proper sample at the beginning of February, I forget the exact date, in February of 2002. And they lost the slide, or destroyed it. I don't know which. But [U.S. Attorney Ken] Kohl can tell you.
Was Ivins aware that the anthrax that he possessed in his own particular area in the lab was the same as the anthrax that was used in the letters?
He contended, and I'm not telling you what he discussed with me because that's privileged material and I can't discuss that, but if you look at the search warrant affidavits, he contended he was told by agents that they thought it was the same anthrax. And that's as of mid-, late 2002, I believe. The affidavit will correct me on that. So they have information six years before he's represented by me, that he was aware of the fact, and was told by an agent.
Now this agent doesn't have a recollection of telling him that, or disputes it. I forget which.
And I can understand how the agent might forget since the affidavit's not even prepared until Oct. 31 of 2007, again that's from memory, but I think that's right. So that's five years later, and I can't expect the agent to remember those kind of details. He doesn't say that Ivins is lying. He's saying, "I just don't remember having said that to him." OK, that's reasonable to me.
The passage of time, especially where my client has partnered with the FBI, is directed by them to review the ([ormer Senate Majority Leader Tom] Daschle spores, and other forensic evidence that's submitted, is helping them all along, passing polygraphs, doing everything they direct, submitting slides, not adulterating RMR-1029, not taking a portion of it. …
You know, I mean, if you're the anthrax killer, and you're this evil genius that knows all about anthrax, and know that some sort of forensic testing can be done, why would you leave it in precisely the same genetic state one year later, one month later, seven years later, as it was in at the time of the killings, that makes no sense.
When did he go from being someone who was helping in the investigation to being the target of the investigation? When was he aware of that?
Well those are two different questions. In the FBI's mind, or, it's not just the FBI, it's the postal inspectors and others, but in law enforcement's mind, and this is repeated yesterday, they say what keys them to him is their ascertainment with this breakthrough science that the anthrax at least came from RMR-1029. Whether it was removed from it and made from that or removed from another set of anthrax, they don't know, but that is [what] was parented from that beaker. That's in March of 2005. He is brought before the grand jury and goes down there willingly without a lawyer and testifies in May of 2007, and I wasn't there.
And I could not have gone into the grand jury even if I were there because lawyers, no one's permitted into the grand jury. But he testified, he didn't take immunity, he didn't even invoke the Fifth Amendment, as he had done dozens of times beforehand, [he] answered every question they had.
Now they're saying, even though they have had their suspicions about him and attach all of this cosmic significance to the fact that it comes from RMR-1029, they've known that for two years and two months. He nevertheless goes there and answers all of their questions. And I think it's fair to say by then they had fully focused on him as a suspect.
At that point, how did he start reacting to the idea that he was the suspect in this case?
With me? I would never tell you that. That's a privileged matter.
When did he learn that he was the target?
To this date, a target letter has never been issued.
They make a big deal about what they call a "spike" in his late-night work, in the weeks before the anthrax letters were sent, that he was in the office at suspicious times, alone, in a particular part of the lab, that they questioned. They say this is not characteristic of his long-time work patterns. Is that true?
My understanding of it is different, that it was characteristic of his long-time work patterns and that he often went there. They're saying that he went more often at this time, at the times leading up to the two different mailings.
No. 1, they never verified for us the exact date of the mailings. No. 2, we never knew what the exact records were, but he'd been questioned about this, was questioned about it in the grand jury, gave them his best recollection, that he was having various family problems, both in his marriage, and concerning one of his children, at the time. And because of that, was having trouble getting work done during the day, went over there, was doing work at night, as he always did. And they had a chart showing he was always going in there, he just went more frequently during September and October, and then continued to do so right through the end of the year.
So it wasn't that he was in there like a mad scientist, whipping up an anthrax concoction, late at night?
To them, he certainly denied that, and presumably that would've come up on the polygraph test, and I don't know what the questions are. They refused to show me the polygraph questions and the polygraph protocols, meaning the response tapes. But I would assume the operator asked him a question something like, "Have you told law enforcement the truth concerning your activities around this time?" and that that would have generated a negative response.
In terms of the envelopes, they make a big deal about being able to tie defects in the envelopes that were used in the attacks to envelopes that they believe were sent to a post office box belonging to Ivins. Do you believe that the envelopes that Ivins purchased matched the envelopes in the anthrax attacks?
I have no information and I don't think there is any information of Ivins' purchasing envelopes. They didn't talk about that. They're saying, it was misstated yesterday, I guess it was properly stated in the affidavits, the person, [U.S. Attorney] Taylor, who spoke yesterday, garbled it or just got it wrong, and I'm not saying that's malicious, I think he just had a lot of detail to learn and didn't learn this detail.
They have a Secret Service document examiner who examined the stamps on these pre-franked envelopes [envelopes with prepaid postage] that contained the anthrax in the anthrax attacks. And because of microscopic defects, you're correct, he was able to tie those to lots or a set of envelopes that were mailed to three post offices that are listed in the search warrant affidavits, that are listed in all three search warrant affidavits: Elkton, Md., Cumberland, Md., and Fairfax, Va., the main post office in Fairfax, post offices that service the entire width of the state of Maryland and then the biggest post office in the state of Virginia.
Yesterday, Mr. Taylor says they came from a post office in Frederick, and that's just, if that's true, then maybe they misrepresented something to three different federal judges in obtaining these search warrants, or he just got it wrong, and I choose to believe it's the latter.
And so there's no connection to any post office that Ivins has ever had an account with and there's no evidence he ever purchased these envelopes in the search warrants that they executed.
They don't find anything incriminating, and in particular, they don't find any envelopes or tape that's used in his house, that are similar or have anything to do with this case, or even similar in the sense that they're pre-franked.
So they're just saying the envelopes that were used in the anthrax attacks were sold in Maryland. That's the extent of it?
They were sold in Maryland or Virginia. If you read the search warrant affidavits, the stuff that was released yesterday, it's Fairfax, you know, a jurisdiction of a million people, that anybody in the Washington metropolitan area could use. Or Cumberland, or Elkton, and Elkton is 10 miles from Wilmington, Del.
I don't know why I had it in my head from somewhere that he had purchased these envelopes and they were mailed to his post office box.
I think you had it in your head because it is something that was implied by Mr. Taylor yesterday when he said that they think these envelopes were purchased in Frederick, and he just got that wrong. And no reporter picked it up and no one asked him about it.
Speaking of post office boxes, he had a couple of post office boxes that he used under different names, two, that he used under different names?
I don't know about two. I know about one, and it was in a name they say, of Carl Scandella, and this is not privileged because he talked about this with me, but in front of the agents — and he readily admitted that to them.
And he did, he was very open with that?
Absolutely, told them about that, told them about the stuff concerning Kappa Kappa Gamma, and this other embarrassing information, personally embarrassing but totally irrelevant information.
So he offered that up to them, this isn't something that they stumbled upon?
No, no. I think they had information enough to question him about it without consulting with me and saying, "I think I better talk to you outside. We need to go over this." He went, "Yeah, that's correct, I had a post office box there and I had received this kind of information."
They say he was using this post office box to pepper 68 letters to the media and to Congress about issues that he was concerned about?
That's not quite correct, because 68 letters were the letters that were unmailed, they found in his house. I think other letters were letters they contended he had sent going back 30 years.
I see. So he was a prolific letter writer. They paint this very darkly, that he had real issues with the media, and with Congress, and that this was a dark side of him, that he was angry and he was using these to send, to fire off letters.
It is frightening to me, as a citizen, and certainly as a defense attorney, for people to characterize citizens who have trouble or questions or disputes with members of Congress or public officials, as having a dark side. That's the only thing I can comment to that. That does not prove a thing.
So he would write letters, but they were not in any way angry or targeted toward specific people, or he didn't fire off any letters to [Sen. Patrick] Leahy saying, you know, "Look out"?
To my knowledge, there is no threatening letter sent, there is no troubling letter sent, there are letters that may have taken issue with positions that individual legislators have had over the years.
But these post office boxes weren't to hide that, weren't to hide behind some other identity?
No, no. Not at all.
They brought up this idea that he had some sort of obsession with the sorority Kappa Kappa Gamma, what is this about? Was this something that was in some way dark?
Again, as he readily admitted, at a time ending, up from like 1978 to 1981, he had had this obsession with the rites and rituals of a particular sorority and had visited several sorority houses at different campuses, never Princeton — Princeton doesn't have any sorority houses, as you probably know — and admitted to having this preoccupation with Kappa Kappa Gamma.
He contended that it had come from the fact he had attempted to date a young lady, in his undergraduate time at the University of Cincinnati, and that she had rejected him ultimately, and so that was the springboard for his sort of preoccupation with Kappa Kappa Gamma. But nothing about that had occurred since 1981.
It hadn't come up at all? They posted something online that I guess he had written about his knowledge of Kappa Kappa Gamma.
But he never visited any chapters of Kappa Kappa Gamma or anything like that. It had been a subject of therapy for him, as he explained to the FBI and to the U.S. Attorney's Office, readily, fully. And had gone over that with them, and what he may or may not have written about that, I think is in line with what he readily disclosed to the law enforcement officers over the last seven years.
One of the things that comes up in this is his mental state. They make a point of saying that he was troubled, that he wrote e-mails that suggested he may even have a split personality, that he wrote poems that were disturbing in some way. What can you say about his mental state and the actions that he was taking?
Anything that I would say would inevitably be based on my impressions of him, as his lawyer, or therefore would be based on his communications with me and mine with him, so I can't comment on that.
I will say that based on the evidence that existed, and then what is known externally, apart from any such communications, it's clear he had a history of it. It's clear he was forthright with them about it. It's clear they knew about it when they were questioning him, and that it is not something he ever lied about, tried to hide, mischaracterized, or withheld from them.
Was it something that he was seeking help for?
Absolutely. Absolutely, repeatedly, just this year.
What was his relationship with psychiatrist Jean Duley? And is she the one who ended up getting him committed? And do you know if the FBI pressured Duley into getting him committed?
I have no knowledge of the FBI pressuring Duley. I think Duley, according to press accounts, I only know this part from press accounts, that Duley was cooperating with the FBI and had provided them with statements. Ms. Duley — I believe that's her name now, that did not used to be her name apparently — is training to become a social worker or some sort of a counselor. She is not certified. And she worked for a counseling firm that's based in Frederick, to whom Dr. Ivins was referred to after his discharge from the Massey Center at the state hospital in Cumberland, for alcohol abuse in May of this year, and that's how their relationship began.
That was when she was saying he wasn't one of her group therapy patients?
Correct. And there was follow-up treatment for that which he attended regularly, in which he was encouraged to talk about problems he was having, feelings of anger, feelings of rage, this kind of stuff. And I had no idea about her identity, her problems with addiction, her own personal problems, and the fact that she was not credentialed. And that's all come out since then.
She got up on the stand and gave this whole thing about how she knows, from other people, that he threatened, that he was going to be charged with five capital murders, and that she knows that he had some psychiatrist by the name of Dr. Irwin. Does any of this ring any bells with you?
Well, I know he was treated by a Dr. Irwin nine years ago, and I don't know if he had discussed that with her in their sessions or not. I wasn't there.
And I guess we were wondering if maybe she had sat down with the FBI and they said, "This guy has done this, this, this and this, and we need you to get up there and ask for a restraining order."
I would only be speculating on that. I can't give you any hard data on that, they're not going to tell me about it. When I had learned of this, he had already died.
Do you have any information about the idea that the FBI is coming down really hard on him. Has it been tough on the family? Was it tough on him to have the FBI putting him under constant surveillance?
P: Yes. It was very difficult for him, but again there I'd be getting into relating to you things he had told me, and I'm not going to do that.
But I know from the family they were very upset about their description of what occurred at the execution of the search warrant. And on November 1 of 2007, they were all taken from their homes and taken by the FBI to a hotel in the Frederick area.
I do want to add that [authorities] had called me and said they were doing it after they had removed the Ivins family from the home. So it's not as if they removed him incognito. And this was at the direction of Mr. Kohl and [U.S. Attorney Rachel] Lieber, that they contacted me so that I could go there, at 10 o'clock at night, on the first of November. And I did go there, and went there and met with them and calmed them down, and things of that sort. And the FBI was in the process of really a 24-hour search of the house and all the cars of the family.
And they split the family up?
They did. They put them in different rooms so that they couldn't, I suppose, get some statement together. But then while I was there, they let him consult with his wife and talk with his wife.
Did you find out anything about how the interview went with the kids?
I did, from the children. And they complained of their treatment from the agents. And I understand from the statement from Mr. Taylor that the agents denied that there were any problems, whatsoever. And I can't comment on the credibility of the agents vs. the children. I only know what I was told by the children.
What did they tell you?
The daughter indicated that the agents who came to see her and got her at her apartment in Hagerstown, Md., indicated that her father had killed five people and had tried to kill many more, and that they wanted to make sure that he could not kill anybody, anymore.
And she had a terrible reaction to that. And this is the same daughter who was upset in 2001, at the time he was under stress, Dr. Ivins was under stress, and, as he contended, was going and visiting the office, staying in the office at that time, just so he could do some work there because he was dealing with the problems with the daughter who, at that point, was in high school.
The son was told by the agents that there was a $2.5 million reward and that he could purchase a really nice car with that, and that's what the son had contended to me.
That's what the son told you?
And how were the two of them — were they upset by these interrogations?
How did they feel? What did they tell you they felt?
"How can they say that about our father? What do they think we are?" And, you know, "This is just wrong." They were very upset and angry.
The big motive in the case, according to the Justice Department, is that on the one hand, NBC had sent a FOIA to him that upset him greatly, in 2000, and that that's why he fired off an anthrax letter to NBC. And then the other motive was that he was trying to raise alarm, somehow, about the threat of anthrax because one of the private companies manufacturing an anthrax vaccine with the military was losing its FDA approval for the vaccine. The theory is Ivins wanted to drum up some anthrax interest in the world and get the contracts back in action.
All I can say is it sounds like mere speculation. They don't have anything that ties that to anything that Dr. Ivins actually did when he is under the tutelage and eye of the base commander, the scientist at Fort Detrick, continuing to work on these projects. Nobody there thought he should be stopped from working on it, as was testified to yesterday, or not testified, but given testament to yesterday, by the base commander and his supervisors, and the lieutenant colonel, who runs the program at Fort Detrick, that he, that Dr. Ivins was in charge of research for.
He was a model scientist who always had good humor, who was open and candid and did his work. All I know is that the FDA approved the extension of an already existing vaccine. And this speculation about the vaccine's license being terminated, the first I've heard about this is since the death of Dr. Ivins, so I've never checked that out and I've never had the opportunity to discuss it with him.
Do you think that Dr. Ivins had a motive to send anthrax through the mail and kill five people?
There is no motive that has been suggested to me that makes any sense. The answer to that is no.
Do you think he had a problem with NBC?
No. I don't think he had a problem with NBC.
What were your impressions of Ivins, personally? What kind of man was he?
My impressions of him were based on my communications with him so I can't give you that.
Have you heard from his colleagues at all at the memorial service? How was he described?
Absolutely. He was described in just very praiseworthy tones, and terms as being a "model scientist," "a great father," "a wonderful co-worker," and in particular, "a mentor of young scientists." One of whom gave a very eloquent and emotional eulogy for him after the base commander and after both civilian supervisor and military supervisor, all of whom got up and spoke, all of whom broke down crying. These were all soldiers and scientists. And it's held at the same time that the FBI is doing this release of these search warrant affidavits.
Is it troubling to you at all that in his death he's going to be painted as sort of this mad scientist killer?
Yeah, very much so. I know one of the New York tabloids calls him "Dr. Doom," like it's a joke, like it's funny. And the last thing it is is funny, for the families that suffered this, for the people who were injured by the anthrax, and certainly for the Ivins family. It's the last thing it is.
It seems like it must be difficult to try to defend him, at this point.
Well, I believe in what I'm saying. That's not difficult. But it's difficult because I don't have the ability to do what I can do for any other client, which is to test this case and to show the absence of any evidence that he did this, in a court of law, with all the rules of our Constitution and the rules our country holds dear. And now, I've lost that opportunity.
The Justice Department says that they feel like, without a doubt, they have found the anthrax killer. How do you feel? What does that make you think?
Based on what? Can they point to any evidence that shows he actually did anything that constitutes these anthrax attacks? Was present at the place where these letters were mailed? Ever admitted it to any single person, or to himself in a journal or diary entry? Or discussed it with another person?
We don't convict people on the idea that they may demonstrate eccentric behavior. Or that they had the opportunity to commit a crime, or had the knowledge to commit a crime, and that's what the government is saying.
They don't know what he did. He's never confronted by the FBI about what [he was] doing. The first question that the police ask in any case: "Where were you on Oct. 7 or 8?" He's never been asked that question by any law enforcement agent in the world, at any time. Or on the date of the September mailing, which, I frankly forget right now, whatever date that is.
So, at a time when he might remember it and get a restaurant receipt or a gas receipt or something that shows he was in Maryland or North Carolina, they say he was in New Jersey. Nobody saw him in New Jersey. They don't have any restaurant receipts or gas receipts or surveillance tapes or witnesses.
You know, where is a witness that can put him in New Jersey or put him on the way to New Jersey or put him on the way back from New Jersey, or having in his car a New Jersey Turnpike toll receipt?
They can show that the envelopes came from Maryland or Virginia. They can show that the anthrax came from Fort Detrick or from Battelle Labs in Ohio, or from the University of New Mexico, and that hundreds of people had access to it. That's what they can show. And that's all they can show.
So where was he on those dates that he could've been up in New Jersey?
I didn't learn of the dates until after he had died. So I never got a chance to ask him.
But there's no proof that he was up there at all, that you've seen?
The government admitted yesterday, they have no proof that ever at any time places him in the state of New Jersey, or in the state of Pennsylvania or the state of Delaware on the way to New Jersey, or however you can drive up there, you can go a couple of different ways.
So I can't; it is nothing but speculation in the government's case. And Mr. Taylor, for those portions of it that he got correct, yesterday, in terms of the details, didn't offer any evidence.
The most important thing the government did yesterday was show that there were three search warrants issued, and then what they offered as a result of those search warrants being issued, which are intended to get evidence, search warrants are not evidence. They are intended to obtain or procure evidence.
They didn't offer one single thing that came from those search warrants being executed. Not a single thing. Not one. They offered 68 letters that were not mailed, in Albert Camus' book, The Plague, that's what he chose to comment on, that's supposed to be significant.
That's supposed to be proof that a citizen is guilty of mass murder beyond a reasonable doubt.
Something that we didn't hear at the press conference is that a possible motive could have been that he was a fanatic, a pro-life person, and that he was angry, and he was using his mailboxes to fire off pro-life letters and that he was angry with Daschle and Leahy for their stance. Have you seen anything like that?
No, ma'am. They questioned him about that and he denied that that had ever been something that he was ardently involved with.
If that were going to actually be a part of his case, would you have ever have expected to see it in these documents yesterday?
I certainly would've expected to see it yesterday. And I certainly would've expected them to be able to develop it through people who know him, who would've engaged in similar activities. But they have had seven years to question and bring forth one human being to substantiate their theorizing.
OK, final question: Is there any part of you at any time, during this, that thought Ivins could've mailed these letters?
My job, in this case, is to serve as his defense attorney. And in that regard, it's not appropriate for me to ever comment on how I feel about any client and I never would. And I'm certainly not going to do it for Dr. Ivins.
Having said that, you know, the best way to answer that is this example. I went to this memorial service yesterday with 250 or 300 people that really know him a lot better than I do and have known him for a lot longer than I have in a normal setting, in a work place, a personal place. These are military people and scientists, people who don't take the word of somebody. They require proof. They're tough people, good people, and successful people. These are great scientists and medical people.
And they, to a person, they just, were in support of him. It was a very moving experience. And that's the best way I can respond to that question. If anyone had been at that memorial service and had seen it, they could not believe Bruce Ivins had engaged in this conduct.
Sounds like you liked him.
Well, that's immaterial.
Thank you so much.
to Probe Security of U.S. Laboratory That Handles Anthrax
By Justin Blum and Larry Liebert
Aug. 9 (Bloomberg) -- The Army, confronted by congressional criticism, said it will assess security at the Maryland biodefense laboratory that employed the scientist the government now blames for the anthrax attacks of 2001.
``The Army has a proven track record of protecting biological agents and takes the responsibility of handling and safeguarding these agents very seriously,'' Army spokesman Paul Boyce said in an e-mailed statement yesterday announcing creation of a special review team.
Five people died after handling anthrax-laced letters. The Justice Department said this week that Bruce E. Ivins, 62, a scientist at the Army lab in Fort Detrick, Maryland, was responsible. He died July 29 after taking an overdose of Tylenol in what police are treating as a suicide. Members of Congress urged President George W. Bush to investigate security at national laboratories that handle deadly viruses.
``If these allegations are true, the FBI has identified serious weaknesses in the security at one of our nation's premier laboratories for the study of some of the most deadly pathogens in the world,'' Representatives John Dingell and Bart Stupak said yesterday in a letter to Bush. ``Their allegations also raise equally troubling security concerns about the thousands of other scientists and technicians who work at hundreds of labs across our country with `select biological agents' such as anthrax.''
Dingell is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Stupak is chairman of the panel's investigative subcommittee. The lawmakers, both Michigan Democrats, said in a statement that the committee is expanding an investigation of biodefense labs to include personnel security.
The laboratories research highly infectious viruses and other biological agents, such as anthrax, foot-and-mouth disease and the Ebola virus, according to Dingell and Stupak.
Anthrax spores were anonymously mailed to news organizations and members of Congress in the weeks following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Since then, the FBI's investigation had come under criticism. The agency agreed in June to pay a multimillion- dollar settlement to another government scientist who said he was unfairly identified as a ``person of interest'' in the case.
Ivins's lawyer has asserted the scientist's innocence, and some of his co-workers expressed doubts in published reports.
Government officials have said Ivins had a history of mental illness even as he handled supplies of anthrax, telling a co- worker in an e-mail that he had ``incredible paranoid, delusional thoughts.''
``Our nation is at serious risk if one of our government's most prominent scientists could have had a decade-long battle with mental illness without anyone noticing,'' Dingell said in the statement.
To contact the reporters on this story: Justin Blum in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org; Larry Liebert in Washington at email@example.com
waits for anthrax answers
By Sam Hemingway
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said Friday the FBI has not produced convincing evidence to explain why he was targeted to receive a lethal, anthrax-laden letter in the days after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
“There are snippets that have turned up during the investigation, but many will regard these as only capable of producing educated guesses,” he said in a statement provided to The Burlington Free Press. “Maybe we will never know, but I continue to hope that we will.”
“The motive behind these crimes is one of many lingering questions, and for the victims and their families and those of us who were targeted, it’s also more than an academic question,” Leahy’s statement concluded.
Leahy issued the statement one day after meeting behind closed doors with FBI Director Robert Mueller in Burlington to receive a confidential briefing on the findings from the FBI anthrax probe.
The FBI director was in Vermont to tour a Joint Terrorism Task Force center in Williston and the Vermont Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force operation in Burlington.
The seven-year, FBI investigation recently zeroed in on an Army defense lab scientist at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md., as the man who sent letters to Leahy, Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and three news organizations in September and October of 2001.
The scientist, Bruce Ivins, committed suicide last week as the government was preparing to have him indicted for sending the anthrax letters, which killed five people and sickened 17.
In documents released this week, the FBI speculated Leahy was targeted by Ivins because Leahy was a Catholic who supported abortion rights and had doubts about the Patriot Act and the appointment of certain conservative judges. Ivins and his wife were active Catholics involved in several anti-abortion groups.
The affidavit, however, did not indicate that the FBI had actually found any proof in Ivins’ home, car or computers that referred to Leahy or Daschle, who is also Catholic.
Instead, the FBI speculation in the affidavit appeared to be based largely on interviews with a Leahy aide discussing what might have motivated someone to target Leahy.
David Carle, Leahy’s press secretary, said Leahy would not discuss what else Mueller told him during their private meeting at the FBI’s offices in Burlington on Thursday afternoon.
“For now, he’s not commenting,” Carle said.
The letter to Leahy never made it to his office. It was mistakenly sent to a State Department mail facility in Sterling, Va., because a misread ZIP code and was discovered in an impounded mail bag there Nov. 16, 2001.
Leahy, speaking at a news conference with Mueller in Williston on Thursday, said he has continued to be troubled by the fact someone wanted to kill him by sending him the anthrax-laden letter.
“People died who handled the envelope that I was supposed to open,” Leahy said. “That focused my attention. It put everyone in my office at risk.”
The letters sent to Leahy and
Daschle contained a more lethal version of the anthrax than what was sent
to the media outlets.
Leahy, at Thursday’s news conference, said he understood that the letter sent to him was particularly valuable to the FBI because it was the only one that had not been opened prior to being examined by investigators.
“That was the one place they were able to get anthrax that had not been opened and had not been dispersed,” Leahy said. “I mean, this stuff is like having an envelope full of smoke.”
Mueller told reporters Thursday the most convincing evidence that Ivins was the person behind the anthrax letters was the fact that anthrax found in the lab where Ivins worked matched what was found in the letters, according to a DNA analysis.
Leahy’s Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to eventually convene hearings to review the FBI findings about Ivins.
Contact Sam Hemingway at 660-1850 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted on Sun, Aug. 10, 2008
Chester man wants his name cleared in anthrax case
By Dan Hardy
From the day in November 2001 when FBI agents looking for the anthrax killers battered in the door of his Chester house and held his wife at gunpoint, Asif Kazi has steadfastly maintained two things.
He is completely innocent, and he doesn't blame the U.S. government for what it was doing to him.
Kazi, 44, an American citizen born in Pakistan, was an assistant finance director for Chester when the raid took place.
Two of Kazi's childhood friends, Chester Health Commissioner Irshad Shaikh and Shaikh's brother, Masood, a Health Department employee, also were the subjects of a search of their homes and offices.
The three men were never charged with a crime, though they were questioned several times. Because the warrant outlining the reason for the search was sealed, no explanation has been given for why they were targeted.
Now the government has placed the sole blame on the anthrax mailings that killed five people and hospitalized many others on Army scientist Bruce Ivins, effectively exonerating all other suspects.
But Kazi wants more. He wants his name cleared so he can fully restore his reputation and get on with his life.
"As it stands, the investigation is still open," he said. "If I go and look for another job, they will check my record, and who knows what would happen?"
For almost seven years, even as he was routinely pulled out of line while boarding domestic flights and searched, had his luggage swabbed, and was questioned for hours whenever he left the United States and returned, Kazi refused to give in to bitterness.
"What happened to us, I cannot forget it," he said. "But at the same time, if I was working for the federal government, I would have done the same thing to save the country, with what was going on at the time."
State Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R., Delaware), the mayor of Chester at the time of the raid, supports Kazi's request.
"I think it would be appropriate to have some official statement that the case is closed and there is no wrongdoing found so there is some public closure to the case," he said.
Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said he was not aware of any plans to issue such a statement, but would "relate the request to people here."
"We're confident that Bruce Ivins was the only one involved in this attack," Boyd said.
After the 2001 raid, Pileggi and the Chester City Council stuck with Kazi and the Shaikh brothers, leaving them in their jobs and proclaiming their trust in them.
"They were not charged or arrested. What happened was a highly publicized search," Pileggi said. "Their integrity and service to the city had been exemplary."
Kazi remains in the same job. "God forbid if they would have kicked us out," he said. "Our careers were destroyed. Nobody would have employed us. They stood by us, from day one to today."
Irshad Shaikh, who also was born in Pakistan, now works for the World Health Organization in Cairo, Egypt, and has worked on public-health projects in Afghanistan and Iraq. He finally was granted citizenship in the spring, after his request for naturalization was delayed for years.
Masood Shaikh had to leave the country in 2006 when his work visa was not renewed. He now works with the United Nations in Kenya, Kazi said.
Kazi's wife, Palwasha, has worked since 2006 as a translator for the U.S. Army in Afghanistan, where she was born.
"She was working for the Army with a clearance and her husband was being interrogated," Kazi said. "I would tell her, 'Next time I travel, you have to go with us and show your badge.' "
Although he can joke about it now, Kazi still gets visibly upset as he recalls the indignities he and his wife suffered.
On one occasion, while returning with his wife from a visit to relatives in Canada, a scan of his passport triggered an alert. "Three agents came from here, three agents came from there, almost unbuckling their guns, literally - it was an X Files movie scene, a Hollywood movie scene." Kazi said.
"They pulled me out of the car, spread me on the boot [trunk] of the car, and said, 'Spread your legs. Do you have any weapons?' This was happening to me for the first time in my life. People were looking at me. It was a pretty embarrassing situation."
He and his wife were questioned and held for several hours before being released, he said.
They got through the ordeal, Kazi said, because "we were clear in our hearts. [We] let them do what they wanted to do. We knew we were innocent."
He added: "We were just waiting for the real guy to get caught. That was what we were hoping for. . . . Thank God, justice and the laws still prevail in this country."
Contact staff writer Dan Hardy at 610-627-2649 or email@example.com.
Posted on Sun, Aug. 10, 2008
is just anthrax clue, not clincher
By Faye Flam
DNA evidence alone wasn't a smoking gun in the case against Bruce Ivins as the perpetrator of the 2001 anthrax attacks, say microbiologists and other experts who have read details of the investigation released last week.
Genetic sleuthing was useful in narrowing the list of suspects, they say, but it wasn't conclusive since DNA from bacteria doesn't often carry a unique genetic fingerprint the way human DNA does.
At first, prosecutors seemed to suggest that forensic DNA had solved the case. U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Taylor said science had enabled the government to link the anthrax spores in the 2001 attack to a flask "created and solely maintained by Dr. Ivins" in his federal lab.
But at least eight other anthrax samples gathered from researchers in the investigation carried the same genetic signature as Ivins' batch at Fort Detrick, Md., court documents say.
Investigators used other lines of evidence, including his e-mails, to bolster their case against Ivins, who committed suicide July 29.
Randy Murch, a former FBI expert on bioforensics, said investigators hadn't relied on DNA alone. "Rarely does a case get solved by only forensic evidence," he said. "Here the science is highly informative, but it's also limited."
Some scientists now want more details before they can feel satisfied that the FBI identified the right person.
Dean Boyd, a national-security spokesman for the Department of Justice, said, "Obviously, we anticipated that we would have had to defend the reliability of our scientific findings at trial, and we're confident we would have been able to do so."
When the attacks killed five people just days after 9/11, hundreds of researchers in the United States and abroad were working with anthrax, making them potential suspects.
But the techniques used to connect DNA from crime scenes to human subjects wouldn't work in bacteria.
"Anthrax spends the majority of time as a spore. That's why we don't see diversity in the genome that we see in [other] organisms," said Ted Hadfield, a biologist at the Midwest Research Institute in Kansas City, Mo., and former head of microbiology for the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology.
As spores, anthrax bacteria can exist for years in suspended animation without undergoing the cell divisions that allow mutations to crop up.
With human DNA, investigators can connect an individual to a crime sample by examining repetitive areas called STRs, or short tandem repeats.
Experts liken these to little stutters in the code. Counting the number of times these pieces repeat distinguishes one person's DNA from another's.
Anthrax DNA has far fewer such stutters, scientists say, making it much harder to distinguish one sample from the next.
Until recently, it was hard even to divide anthrax into distinct strains.
In 2000, microbiologist Paul Keim of Northern Arizona University published a landmark paper on repeating regions called VNTRs, or variable number tandem repeats, that occur in anthrax.
Keim, one of the country's top genetics experts, declined to be interviewed, but in several scientific papers he described how he and colleagues developed a system of distinguishing anthrax strains using these VNTRs.
That was one tool the investigators had in 2001. It took them less than a month after the attacks to identify the spores as belonging to an anthrax strain called Ames.
But that still left them with an overwhelming number of potential suspects, since the Ames strain was stored in labs around the world.
The name comes from Ames, Iowa, where veterinarians at the National Animal Disease Center isolated it from sick cattle in 1981. Because this strain was seen as particularly deadly, it became the most common one for laboratory studies, and was used to test the anthrax vaccine given to military personnel.
In the 1980s, a Virginia company called American Type Culture Collection kept samples of Ames anthrax and sent them to labs around the world - including ones in Iraq, which the United States was helping at the time.
Faced with an enormous haystack and an elusive needle, the FBI investigators requested that every U.S. researcher with access to anthrax send in samples of all possible strains. They ended up with 1,000 samples, according to FBI documents released last week.
The one hope they had for solving the case came from the fact that anthrax DNA can occasionally develop single spelling errors called SNPs.
These errors occur in only about one in a million bacteria as they're grown in culture, microbiologist Hadfield said. That could create tiny but recognizable differences among samples.
Finding those spelling errors isn't easy, researchers say. Such a feat would likely require a complete reading of the genetic codes of various samples and comparing them.
In 2001, biologists had just completed the Human Genome Project, for which they sequenced a small sample of human DNA.
At that time, sequencing an organism's entire genetic code would have taken $1 million and months, Hadfield said. But this technology has advanced rapidly, so now it takes just days and about $25,000.
"As we got better at sequencing, we got a better feel for what the SNPs were and where the occurred," Hadfield said.
Investigators eventually found four such SNP-type mutations that distinguished bacteria used in the attacks from samples of the original Ames strain.
Those four mutations were found in only eight of the 1,000 samples under investigation. This subgroup was labeled RMR-1029.
According to the FBI, all the people with positive samples said they had obtained them from Ivins.
But the sample Ivins initially provided in 2002 tested negative for the four key mutations.
In 2004, the documents say, investigators entered Ivins' lab and seized samples, including the "parent" flask that had allegedly supplied the other positive RMR-1029 samples.
The bacteria in that flask allegedly carried the four telltale mutations.
That analysis alone, however, doesn't rule out researchers who worked with the eight samples.
The documents cited other evidence against Ivins, including the source of envelopes used in the mailings and his inability to explain the unusually long hours he spent in his lab before the fall of 2001.
Investigators also presented e-mail messages, allegedly sent by Ivins to colleagues, revealing his struggle with depression and other emotional problems.
Many scientists want more information than the FBI has provided so far - on how it is so sure that Ivins was the right suspect and worked alone, how he carried off the deadly attacks, and why.
Richard Spertzel, a bioweapons expert who worked at the same army lab as Ivins, said the perpetrator had used a sophisticated process to turn the spores into the deadly powder used in the attacks.
He said the machine in Ivins' lab known as a lyophilizer is a common piece of equipment used to dry spores and would not by itself allow someone to create the 1.5- to 3-micron particles used in the attacks.
"He must have used some other new technique that we don't know about," he said.
Spertzel said he found it unlikely that someone acting alone could have created the anthrax used in 2001. "I'd like to see the details behind the hype."
Contact staff writer Faye Flam
at 215-854-4977 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
resident recalls time at Fort Detrick; worked with suspected anthrax terrorist
By CAITLIN HEANEY
Evening Sun Reporter
Article Launched: 08/10/2008 07:01:16 AM EDT
Ten years have passed since Fairfield resident Luann Battersby crossed paths as a coworker with a man the government said was the lone person responsible for deadly anthrax attacks, but Battersby said she never would have suspected him.
Battersby worked for eight years as a microbiologist for the government at Fort Detrick in Frederick County, Md., in the same department as Bruce Ivins, the Army scientist who committed suicide last month amid an FBI investigation. The Justice Department said Wednesday Ivins was the "only person responsible" for anthrax attacks that killed five people in the weeks following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The FBI spoke to Battersby in 2001 about the situation, she said, and the incident involved a polygraph. The field agents she dealt with were "reasonable," Battersby said.
"They knew I wasn't a reasonable suspect," she said. "But then again, I wouldn't have suspected Bruce (Ivins) to be a reasonable suspect."
But investigators were preparing to charge 62-year-old Ivins with murder for the attacks that killed five people. The newly unsealed documents describe the government's attempt to link Ivins to the attacks.
Details about the case were revealed to victims' family members Wednesday during a private briefing at FBI headquarters in Washington following U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth's order to release documents from the federal investigation.
The documents reveal Ivins had custody of highly purified anthrax spores with "certain genetic mutations identical" to the poison involved in the attacks. An affidavit a government investigator filed also showed Ivins could not give investigators "an adequate explanation for his late laboratory work hours around the time of" the attacks.
The more than 200 pages of documents also show the FBI searched Ivins' home, cars and safe-deposit box and traced the type of envelopes used in the attacks to the lab where Ivins worked. Ivins also submitted false anthrax samples to the FBI and sought to frame an unnamed co-worker, according to an affidavit.
Senate Sergeant at Arms Terence Gainer attended Wednesday's briefing for the victims' families and said FBI agents told the group there was no evidence anyone else was involved in the attacks.
Battersby described Ivins as "more bottled up," which she said was not unusual for a scientist. He was weird, she said, but "not any weirder than a typical scientist."
"He was not the weirdest by far I worked with down there," Battersby said.
Battersby would be surprised at anyone committing suicide, she said, but she never saw Ivins as a "strong person."
"I would say he was milquetoast," Battersby said. "The fact that he was a terrorist doesn't really square with my opinion with who he was."
Battersby left her government job in 1998 to pursue another career path, long before the 2001 terrorist attacks and subsequent anthrax incidents.
"I'm amazed at all this," Battersby said. "I assume there's evidence and that it's true, but I certainly never would have suspected (Ivins)."
Battersby and Ivins worked in the same division but in different parts of the Fort Detrick complex: Battersby in bacteriology, doing work with immunology, and Ivins in biocontainment. Their similar employment meant Battersby and Ivins endured the same dreary Friday-afternoon meetings, Battersby said. She knew Ivins a little professionally, seeing him in the lab from time to time, but did not know much about his personal life.
"I thought he was completely harmless, if you ask me," Battersby said of Ivins. "Maybe I didn't know him that well."
In the attacks, anthrax-laced mail was found in two Senate offices, news media offices and in mailing equipment that had processed the contaminated envelopes. DNA analysis matched the anthrax involved in the attacks to a specific batch Ivins had controlled.
"Seven years is a long time to do DNA fingerprinting to figure this out," Battersby said. "It seems like an awful long time."
Genetic mutations made the strain of bacteria distinct, and sophisticated tests matched it to a batch stored at Fort Detrick. Ivins was the "sole custodian" of the batch since it was first grown in 1997, according to an affidavit.
Ivins named other researchers as people possibly behind the mailings and claimed the substance used in the attacks resembled that of another, unnamed researcher at the same facility, according to an FBI document.
Ivins knew what he was doing professionally, Battersby said, adding that she did not know if he was capable of committing the crimes of which he was accused. Battersby said she was not aware of any weaponization of anthrax taking place.
"Any competent microbiologist can grow up a culture of anthrax," she said. "It's not tough. Weaponizing it is a different issue."
Battersby said she was amazed the person behind the anthrax attacks was someone who worked there. Instead, she said, she thought it was someone who had traveled to the United States. And while there were foreigners working at Fort Detrick, she said, she does not remember any working for the anthrax program.
Ivins' lawyer has maintained his client, had he lived, would have been proven innocent. Some friends and coworkers of Ivins' have doubted not only whether Ivins could have converted the bacteria into a fine powder without anyone at the Fort Detrick biological warfare laboratory noticing but also whether he could have released it.
The Justice Department is confident Ivins was the only person responsible for the attacks and that it could have proven Ivins' guilt to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt, U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Taylor said Wednesday. Language used in an e-mail Ivins sent days before the anthrax attacks resembled messages in anthrax-laced letters to Democratic Sens. Patrick Leahy and Tom Daschle.
Investigators identified two possible motives for Ivins' alleged involvement in the attacks: Ivins, who shared in a patent for an anthrax vaccine, wanted to bolster support for the vaccine he helped create and targeted two pro-choice Catholic lawmakers. Ivins was an anti-abortion Catholic.
The letters involved in the attacks were sent from a mailbox in Princeton, N.J., but investigators cannot place Ivins in the town. The mail was allegedly sent down the street from the office of Kappa Kappa Gamma, a sorority with which Ivins had been obsessed for more than 30 years, authorities said.
Mental-health problems had troubled Ivins for years. He told an unnamed co-worker he had "'incredible paranoid, delusional thoughts at times' and 'feared that he might not be able to control his behavior,'" according to an affidavit filed by postal inspector Charles B. Wickersham.
A mental-health worker involved in Ivins' treatment revealed last month that she sought a court order recently to keep Ivins away from her because she was so concerned about his behavior. Ivins had a history of homicidal and sociopathic thoughts, according to his therapist. Ivins said "he was not going to face the death penalty but instead had a plan to kill co-workers and other individuals who had wronged him," according to an affidavit.
Ivins also was said to have received immunizations against yellow fever and anthrax in September 2001, weeks before the first envelope with anthrax was received in the mail. Battersby said she too had been immunized while employed at Fort Detrick, but not everyone was immunized.
Battersby said she had to have a monthly blood test to show she was not pregnant in order to receive a vaccine. She said she could not reveal for what she was immunized.
While civilians like Battersby work at Fort Detrick, the site has military management, she said. And some people, such as those who want to advance their careers, have stayed quiet about their experience there, according to Battersby.
But the few people not worried about talking about their experience with the government should talk, she said.
"It's painful to me on a whole bunch of levels," Battersby said. "I feel like I should tell my story because I know I can."
Posted on Mon, Aug. 11, 2008
For anthrax victim, suicide opens questions
By Jennifer Lin
For years, Patrick O'Donnell didn't know who was behind the 2001 anthrax attack that sickened him and three coworkers at the postal distribution center in Hamilton, Mercer County.
Now, not only does he know the name of his attacker, he sees his face.
And it haunts him.
"I'm still trying to absorb what just happened," said O'Donnell, 42, who lives in Levittown and has worked for the postal service for 20 years. "I went for almost eight years not knowing what was going on and then - wham!"
"This opens up a whole new can of worms," he said. "There's a face now behind the crime and I'm freaked out."
In October 2001, O'Donnell was working at the big distribution center in Hamilton Township when tainted letters, whipping through sorting machines, released anthrax spores. O'Donnell, who had a nick on his neck from shaving, became infected and was quarantined at a Bucks County hospital.
Eleven days ago, O'Donnell got a call from an FBI agent, telling him of the suicide of Bruce E. Ivins, a 62-year-old government scientist at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md.
"They said, 'We got our man,' " O'Donnell said.
The FBI brought O'Donnell and about a dozen other anthrax survivors to Washington Wednesday for a closed-door briefing with 40 agents.
"I felt like Paris Hilton," he said of all the attention from reporters pressing to find out what was said.
O'Donnell said he felt the FBI spelled out a credible case against Ivins.
"It's all circumstantial evidence, but they have so much stuff on this guy," O'Donnell said.
In total, 22 people across the country were sickened by the October 2001 anthrax attack, with five dying. O'Donnell was unable to work for years.
He returned to the postal service in late 2005, but works in a different annex building, a quarter of a mile away from the main distribution center, where he used to work.
"I requested not to go back to my old building," O'Donnell said.
The Hamilton center, a hub for sorting letters and packages, was closed for four years while being refitted with about $100 million worth of bioterrorism detection equipment. It has 700 workers.
O'Donnell said the information coming out in the wake of the suicide has provided answers, but not necessarily closure, for victims like him.
"I'm frustrated," O'Donnell said. He wonders if the FBI had moved in earlier on Ivins, he would be alive to answer the biggest question: Why?
"I feel good that I know who it is," O'Donnell said. "But I feel upset that I couldn't see justice."
O'Donnell said he asked the FBI agents at the briefing why they didn't take all their accumulated evidence to arrest Ivins. He said their answer was vague.
The FBI disclosed that Ivins, whose military job involved handling anthrax supplies, was battling depression and had been hospitalized for mental illness.
Right before anthrax-laced letters were mailed to journalists and politicians in October 2001, Ivins made late-night visits to his Army lab that went undocumented.
"He told agents he was having problems at home," O'Donnell said. "But there were no notes for what he was doing in the biological room."
"If that guy was so messed up in his head, why were they letting him play with biological weapons up until last year?" O'Donnell said. "Some one has to take the blame. Until then, it's not the end for me."
Contact staff writer Jennifer Lin at 215-854-5659 or email@example.com.
FBI sows doubt
OUR OPINION: ANTHRAX CASE EXPOSES WEAKNESSES IN AGENCY
Posted on Mon, Aug. 11, 2008
The FBI's announcement last week that it has solved the 2001 anthrax-poisoning case that took the lives of five people was less than reassuring. After seven years, the FBI now blames Army microbiologist Bruce E. Ivins, and the Justice Department says that if the evidence were presented to a jury, Mr. Ivins' guilt would be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Feel better now? Don't.
Justice and the FBI are merely making the best of the information they have and the case they're left with. Mind you, the evidence -- all circumstantial -- does present a strong case that Mr. Ivins was responsible for the attacks. But the manner in which this case was handled -- by the nation's premier investigative agency, no less -- is cause for concern about the FBI's efficacy and for doubt about the conclusions reached in this case.
Mr. Ivins committed suicide on July 29 after FBI agents told him he would be charged in the attacks. The FBI's evidence included: a unique batch of anthrax spores that only Mr. Ivins had custody of; a pattern of late-night activity in the lab by Mr. Ivins only days prior to the mailings; hundreds of letters Mr. Ivins wrote in the 1980s and '90s to senators and the media that were eerily similar to those sent by the killer.
Put it all together and Mr. Ivins looks guilty. But Justice and the FBI were just as certain of their evidence when they charged another Fort Detrick scientist, Steven Hatfill, only to drop those charges and pay $5.8 million in settlement. Nor was Mr. Hatfill the only person to suffer from the FBI's initial bumblings. Others who came under suspicion lost jobs, had their reputations damaged and saw their lives destroyed.
The anthrax scare cost businesses millions of dollars and caused many Americans to lose faith in government's ability to protect them. America needs an FBI that is more sure-footed and less prone to stumbling.
News-Post - Opinion
Originally published August 12, 2008
In the wake of the death of Bruce Ivins, USAMRIID microbiologist and now the FBI's prime/sole suspect in the 2001 anthrax mailing case, there was some criticism of Ivins' mental health counselor, Jean Duley.
Duley figured prominently in the story surrounding Ivins' death on July 29, apparently by his own hand. Shortly before he died, Duley testified in court during a hearing for a peace order against Ivins. At that time, she said he had threatened her and others and that she was desperately fearful of him. She also related that Ivins' psychiatrist had described the scientist as psychotic and capable of acting on his threats.
When Duley's actions were made public, some in the Frederick community responded negatively, questioning her motives and suggesting that she had violated the sacrosanct code of counselor/client confidentiality.
At that time, the FBI's case against Ivins had not been made public, and many who worked with him were totally incredulous that their friend and/or fellow employee could have committed the awful crimes for which he was a suspect. To them, Ivins was a kind, compassionate -- though somewhat sensitive --researcher and resident of Frederick. The accusations against Ivins, on top of his sudden death, were emotionally overwhelming to those who knew, liked and respected him.
It's not surprising, then, that some of Duley's actions were met with criticism. However, if what she reported about Ivins was true, her decision to alert authorities about his behavior was correct. The understandable fears she had for her own and others' safety trumped the counselor/client code of confidentiality.
This kind of confidentiality is required of other providers as well, including attorneys, physicians, and members of the clergy. Its purpose is a useful one, as it provides a framework in which those in difficulty can trust and confide in another individual. That sense of confidentiality encourages the distressed or troubled party to be honest and open, which is often the first and most important step in addressing the issue at hand.
But reason, ethics and the law agree that there are times and circumstances in which such confidentiality must be set aside. From what we know of the Ivins case at this point, it appears to have been one in which a trusted mental health provider breaking faith with a client was justified -- his guilt or innocence in the anthrax mailings aside.
This story has been a traumatic one for Frederick, USAMRIID and Ivins' friends, family and associates. It has also been a harrowing and trying experience for Duley. Because of her professional relationship with Ivins, she not only experienced anxiety and fear for her own and others' safety, but also was required to break a sacred contract with a client.
Some may continue to find fault with Duley's decision, but under the circumstances, there was little else she could do.
with the widow in Boca anthrax killing
Palm Beach Post Editorial
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Since the federal government believes that researcher Bruce Ivins carried out the anthrax attacks in 2001, the federal government should settle the lawsuit filed by the widow of Ivins' first victim.
In making the criminal case posthumously against Ivins, who killed himself two weeks ago - before the FBI could arrest him - government investigators also made the civil case filed in December 2003 by Maureen Stevens. Robert Stevens worked at American Media Inc. in Boca Raton as a photo editor. In October 2001, just weeks after the 9/11 attacks, Mr. Stevens opened the first letter containing anthrax that someone had reduced to powdered form and sent in the mail. Other letters went to Capitol Hill, news organizations in New York City and a home in Connecticut. The anthrax killed four others and sickened 17 people, including Ernesto Blanco, who sorted and delivered mail at AMI.
Ms. Stevens' lawsuit turns on one issue: The government or a private lab in Ohio, both named as defendants, failed to protect the public. The likeliest source of the anthrax was the Army medical research center at Fort Detrick, in Maryland just outside Washington. Through DNA research, the government has confirmed that the anthrax in the letters came from Fort Detrick. As Richard Schuler, Ms. Stevens' West Palm Beach attorney, noted in an interview, Ivins had "major access to, and control of" that anthrax.
Mr. Schuler noted several points in news stories about the government closing the case and placing all blame on Ivins, who worked at Fort Detrick for 28 years. The scientist had homicidal thoughts as far back as 2000. As Ivins' supervisor told The Washington Post, "The system is supposed to catch and report that sort of information." But he and Ivins' former supervisors knew nothing about it.
In addition, researchers now must undergo annual drug and psychological evaluations, but no one knows whether Ivins had any such tests. They were added after the anthrax attacks. And as a consultant told the Post, while there are many security guidelines for labs that handle the deadliest bioterror substances, the only requirement is the lab doors have locks.
Mr. Schuler also noted that the government "violated every prosecutorial procedure" by letting word of Ivins' indictment get out without first making sure he could be arrested. In late June, the government announced a roughly $5 million settlement with Steven Hatfill, the former Fort Detrick researcher who had been wrongly suspected. At that point, Mr. Schuler said, "I knew an indictment was coming and that an arrest was relatively imminent." The government, he suspects, wanted to quickly finalize the settlement before another arrest, which could have made Mr. Hatfill hold out for more money.
Not surprisingly, Mr. Schuler said his case against the government rests on alleged "negligent hiring and negligent retention." The case now is before the Florida Supreme Court, where the government argued in May that it didn't have a duty under Florida law to protect Mr. Stevens. Presumably, the court will decide that a federal facility had a responsibility to protect all Americans. "I hope that someone will step back" and conclude that it would be wrong to keep contesting the suit.
Writing in The New York Times, a former colleague of Ivins' questioned the government's method for determining that the anthrax in the letters came from Fort Detrick. One way to end that suspicion would be for the government to release all of the records, which Mr. Schuler favors. But the government has concluded officially that the deadly anthrax came from a government facility, and there is no question that the government failed to adequately monitor that facility. The most compelling evidence to support Maureen Stevens' lawsuit comes from the target of that lawsuit.
The Anthrax Case: From Spores to a Suspect
By Martin Enserink
The scientific evidence against Bruce Ivins, the 62-year-old Army scientist who killed himself while about to be indicted for the anthrax murders, is finally emerging. Last week, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) laid some of its cards on the table. One key document, scientists say, now enables a reconstruction of the trail that led the FBI from the deadly letters back to Ivins's lab at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) in Fort Detrick, Maryland.
The investigation relied heavily on outside labs such as The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) in Rockville, Maryland, which sequenced a large number of anthrax samples; it also required the development of new genetic tests. Although none of the steps was revolutionary or particularly inventive, researchers say, combining them to solve a criminal case was. Surprisingly, many past speculations on the forensic science were wrong on one point: Sophisticated fingerprinting techniques for Bacillus anthracis developed at Northern Arizona University (NAU) in Flagstaff, widely rumored to be crucial, didn't play a significant role.
Scientists say they need many more details to decide the merits of the case against Ivins. But despite the bureau's widely ridiculed mistakes--including an early focus on Ivins's former colleague Steven Hatfill--"the scientific evidence is probably really strong," says Steven Salzberg, a former TIGR researcher now at the University of Maryland (UMD), College Park. "They've got some very good people," Salzberg says. "The impression that they're not good may just come from their style. They never tell you anything."
The main document unsealed last week is an October 2007 affidavit by Thomas Dellafera, a postal inspector. Filed in support of a warrant to search Ivins's home, cars, and a safety box, the 25 pages of text didn't spell out the details of the evidence. But a close reading of the four paragraphs about the FBI's genetic analysis helps clarify how the bureau approached the problem, says microbiologist Jeffrey Miller of the University of California, Los Angeles.
The key to understanding the investigation is that the anthrax used in the attacks didn't have a single, uniform genetic makeup, a source close to the investigation says. Each of the envelopes likely contained many billions of spores; within such a population, there are always subpopulations of cells bearing mutations that set them apart from the majority. The same minorities would presumably have been present in the "mother stock” of anthrax from which the spores were prepared.
However, standard sequencing--which would require the DNA from thousands of spores--would have resulted in a "consensus sequence" for the spores, in which such rare mutations were simply drowned out. To find them, researchers used a different technique: They grew spores from the envelopes on petri dishes, generating hundreds or even thousands of colonies per dish, each the progeny of a single spore. They then searched for colonies that looked different from the majority; the affidavit mentions variations in "shape, color, texture." (Those colonies might have been rough instead of smooth, or much smaller than most, Miller says.) Next, they set out to find the mutations that made those colonies different.
To do that, the FBI used a brute-force approach: It had the entire genomes of the bacteria in the minority sequenced. TIGR--which merged into the J. Craig Venter Institute in 2006--sequenced "probably somewhere between 10 and 20" such genomes in the years after the attacks, Salzberg says. TIGR could not handle live anthrax cells itself; the FBI gave the lab purified DNA produced by Paul Keim's lab at NAU, Salzberg says. Claire Fraser-Liggett, who led TIGR at the time and is now also at UMD, declines to discuss details of the investigation. But two other sources confirm TIGR's role.
Comparing the sequence of the variant colonies to an original B. anthracis strain called Ames, widely used in research, identified a number of mutations, says Salzberg; they included single-nucleotide polymorphisms, a change of a single base pair, and tandem repeats, in which a short piece of DNA is repeated a variable number of times.
The FBI then had scientists at other labs develop tests that allowed them to screen any anthrax sample for four of these mutations. Such assays "are very easy to design," for instance, using a polymerase chain reaction-based strategy, says evolutionary biologist Richard Lenski of Michigan State University in East Lansing; molecular biology labs do it all the time.
Armed with the four tests, the FBI examined more than 1000 anthrax isolates, collected from 16 labs that had the Ames strain in the United States and several more in Canada, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. In only eight of those samples, they found all four mutations seen in the envelope samples; and each of these eight, the affidavit says, was "directly related" to a "large flask" of spores, identified as RMR-1029, which Ivins had created in 1997 and of which he was the "sole custodian."
That still leaves many questions open, researchers say. One thing that needs to be explained, says Miller, is whether the eight isolates that were "directly related" to RMR-1029 were all found at USAMRIID, or whether some came from other laboratories. In the latter case, it's unclear why the FBI ruled out those labs as the potential origin. (One clue that the affidavit offers is that USAMRIID is the only lab in Maryland or Virginia, the states where the particular envelopes used in the attacks were sold.)
It's also unclear how many of the 1000 samples had fewer than four, but more than zero, of the mutations. "If a whole bunch of them had two or three," that would increase the odds that the perfect match at USAMRIID was just a false positive, Lenski says. Another key question, he adds: Where in the anthrax genome did the four mutations occur? If they were in hypervariable regions, that would also probably make the case against Ivins weaker.
Whether the analysis would hold up in court seemed to be front and center in the FBI's thinking, says Salzberg. For instance, when researchers from TIGR and NAU published a comparison of two anthrax strains in Science in 2002 (14 June 2002, p. 2028), a top FBI researcher named Bruce Budowle encouraged them to include a statistical analysis to estimate the data's accuracy, Salzberg says. "Budowle felt it would be useful to have it all go through peer review, in case it went to court," he says.
The FBI has invested heavily in microbial forensic expertise since 2001, and Budowle has co-authored many papers on the topic. But the bureau farmed out much of the scientific bench work, in part because the Marine Corps doesn't allow bioweapons agents at its base in Quantico, Virginia, where the FBI Laboratory is located. The work was "highly compartmentalized," says a source close to the investigation: Most labs didn't know exactly what the others were doing.
The affidavit is very unclear about whether the spore preparations might have undergone physical or chemical treatments to make them disperse more easily--still a point of major confusion, says Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, a bioweapons specialist at Purchase College in New York. Scientists at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology reported in October 2001 that the spores sent to U.S. Senator Tom Daschle's office had been mixed with silica to make them more easily dispersible. However, in congressional briefings and in a paper published in the August 2006 issue of Applied and Environmental Microbiology, FBI officials described the powder as a simple spore preparation without additives.
The affidavit reports that there was "an elemental signature of Silicon within the spores" in all four letters that were recovered. This silicon signature is later cited as part of the evidence linking the mailed anthrax to the flask of spores that Ivins had access to. But what the silicon was for, or whether other samples were tested for the signature, remains unclear.
Science aside, the affidavit relies heavily on circumstantial evidence. For instance, it notes unexplained spikes in Ivins's nighttime lab activity right before the two waves of letters were sent. It also claims that he tried to mislead investigators to hide his involvement. In April 2002, he submitted samples from his lab that tested negative for the four mutations, according to the affidavit; but on 7 April 2004, an FBI agent seized the RMR-1029 flask, which tested positive for all four. Ivins insisted he had given agents RMR-1029 the first time around, however.
One of the weak points in the affidavit is Ivins's motive, says Gregory Koblentz, a biodefense specialist at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. The FBI suggests that Ivins was afraid of losing his job if the government ended a project he was working on that was trying to solve regulatory issues around the so-called AVA anthrax vaccine. It "seems a bit of a stretch" that Ivins would have thought his job hinged on that project, says Koblentz. His group "would have had plenty of other anthrax vaccine-related work to keep them busy." A glaring omission, meanwhile, is any evidence placing Ivins in Princeton, New Jersey, on any of the days the envelopes could have been mailed from there.
A spokesperson for the FBI's laboratory declined a request to interview Budowle and referred scientific questions to the FBI's Washington, D.C., field office. "In the near future the FBI will determine the best way to address the science involved in the anthrax case," she e-mailed Science. Many suspect that with so many burning questions, a full account of the evidence--including the scientific details--is now just a matter of time.
With reporting by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee.
Our own worst bioenemy
The U.S. bioweapons program has grown so large that it has become a threat to Americans.
By Wendy Orent
August 13, 2008
'Whatever you can say about the Soviet bioweapons scientists," a Bush administration official once told me, "they never killed anyone."
We can't say the same about our bioweapons scientists. Someone, most likely Bruce Ivins, at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Ft. Detrick, Md., turned powdered anthrax spores into a deadly weapon. It's ironic that the Soviet scientists were making offensive weapons. Our people, since 1969, have worked strictly to defend us.
One of those defenders killed five people, sickened 17 others and plunged the nation into hysteria for weeks in the fall of 2001. After a seven-year investigation by the FBI, the source of the deadly anthrax strain has been identified -- our own biodefense program at Ft. Detrick. That is the real legacy of the FBI investigation.
Since the anthrax-laced letters were mailed in September and October of 2001, U.S. biodefense has blown up out of all proportion to any rational assessment of the bioweapons threat. Earlier this year, an article in the journal Biosecurity and Bioterrorism, analyzing government biodefense spending from 2001 to 2008, stated that $49.66 billion has been allocated for civilian biodefense. According to microbiologist and longtime biodefense critic Richard Ebright of Rutgers University, actual spending is even higher, amounting to $57 billion.
In 2005, he and 757 other microbiologists sent a stinging open letter to Elias Zerhouni, director of the National Institutes of Health, protesting the government's preoccupation with "priority pathogens" -- germs such as anthrax that could be used in a bioweapons attack. But Zerhouni and Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, would have none of it. In a letter published in the journal Science, they disagreed: "The United States has experienced an anthrax attack, and security experts repeatedly express concern that future attacks with biological weapons are likely, if not inevitable."
But we didn't actually experience an anthrax attack. The whole incident amounted to a snake eating its own tail. No ingenious biowarrior from Al Qaeda sent the lethal envelopes through the U.S. postal system. An American scientist did. The FBI and its genetic analyses leave no doubt: Though 16 laboratories had access to the "Ames strain" of anthrax used in the letters, only the samples that came from Ivins' laboratory at Ft. Detrick matched the genetic fingerprint of the attack strain.
In the sorry aftermath of the anthrax investigation, it's clear that the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have to rethink the priority-pathogens list, which includes anthrax, smallpox, plague, tularemia, Ebola and other germs that rarely, if ever, threaten American lives. It's the "non-defense-related" germs that are killing us. Randall Wolcott of the Southwest Regional Wound Care Center points out that 500,000 Americans a year die of biofilm infections -- such as diabetic ulcers -- that are almost impossible to treat by conventional means. That's almost twice as many as die of cancer.
According to the CDC, infections caused by methicillin-sensitive Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, kill 19,000 people a year. Still, staph itself isn't considered a priority pathogen, despite the emergence of highly resistant and increasingly virulent strains. Only one of 40 staph toxins is on the priority list.
There's another problem created by the priority-pathogens list. The ballooning of the biodefense program, according to Ebright, means that about 14,000 individuals are now considered qualified to work with priority pathogens.
It hasn't always been easy to find qualified people for this research. In the days when the FBI was pursuing former "person of interest" -- and now exonerated -- Steven J. Hatfill, one senior government scientist said of Hatfill's background, "You take what you can get -- not many people with his abilities show up very often." So where do 14,000 suddenly qualified biodefense experts come from? And how can they be vetted? As biodefense expert Leonard Cole, author of "The Anthrax Letters," told me: "There are 15,000 to 16,000 people now working in labs on select agents -- that's many more possibilities of another bizarre individual doing illicit work."
The lesson of the anthrax letters isn't that we're in danger of a bioweapons attack from terrorists. It's that U.S. biodefense itself has become a threat: We have met the enemy -- and it is us.
The next administration should pull the plug on the biodefense excesses of the Bush administration and put most of the thousands of microbiologists to work on the germs we really need to worry about.
Wendy Orent is the author of "Plague: The Mysterious Past and Terrifying Future of the World's Most Dangerous Disease."
Talk Back: Do you believe Bruce Ivins was responsible for the anthrax attacks?
Originally published August 13, 2008
By Pam Rigaux
The Frederick community is reacting skeptically to the FBI's claim that Bruce E. Ivins, a Fort Detrick scientist and leading anthrax researcher, was solely responsible for the 2001 anthrax mailings that killed five people, according to the results of The Frederick News-Post's online poll posted last week.
Thirty-four percent of 128 voters responding said Bruce Ivins was not responsible for the anthrax attacks. Twenty-seven percent of them said "more investigation is needed," 26 percent said he is responsible, and 13 percent voted they were "not sure."
On the streets of Frederick on Tuesday, more than a week after Ivins apparently committed suicide, questions concerning the case, and even reactions to the community's reaction against the FBI's investigation were expressed by residents.
# George Broski, a Frederick resident, said: "No, because I don't know all the evidence supposedly they have. They already went after one person, didn't have the right evidence, and ended up paying dearly for that one. It's evident that somebody in that office did it because it traced back to the lab -- that particular strain of anthrax."
# Vickie Marashall, a Frederick-area resident said: "It's suspicious he took his own life. But some people just don't handle pressure well. You can't say for sure that implies guilt. I work at Fort Detrick. When you're hired, you're told flat out you can't develop anything for your own financial gain. I think that's weak to suggest he did it for his own gain. I just haven't heard enough about him to convince me."
# Kevin Hays, a Frederick resident, said: "Actually, I think he's more suspect than the last person they had. I personally knew the last person. I was very surprised when the charges were placed on him ... With the evidence I've heard personally, I think it has pretty much put the blame on him, especially with the suicide."
# Jackie Williams, a Frederick resident, said: "I really don't know what to say. I don't know what the FBI knew that we don't know -- what evidence they were basing their report on. I feel sorry for the family. I read a lot about it. My gut reaction? Maybe the FBI was a little zealous."
# Daryl Hann, a Thurmont resident, said: "Just because of the overwhelming evidence against him -- so yeah, I think he's guilty, that he did it ... Just that he had access to everything that was involved in it. He had all the access to the anthrax. Everything just points right to him."
# James Morris, a Brunswick resident, said: "I don't even know much about the man myself, so I don't know whether he could have done it or not."
# Dee Grimmett, a Frederick resident, said: "No."
Daschle tells reporters about briefing on anthrax investigation
Posted by Mike Carney at 10:57 AM/ET, August 13, 2008
Former Senate majority leader Tom Daschle says the evidence against the government scientist accused of carrying out the 2001 anthrax attacks was "complete and persuasive."
USA TODAY's Kathy Kiely reports that the Justice Department briefed Daschle yesterday on the federal government's investigation into the origin of the deadly letters.
Bruce Ivins, a veteran microbiologist, committed suicide last month after learning that prosecutors were preparing to charge him with mailing anthrax-laced letters to Daschle, a Democrat, and other targets.
Daschle says investigators told him that Ivins couldn't explain why he spent so much time in the secure "vault" near Frederick, Md., before the letters were mailed from Princeton, N.J.
"He said he liked to hang out there," Daschle says.
Update at 11:19 a.m. ET: Daschle, who spoke during a meeting at the USA TODAY bureau in Washington, says he was "very dubious" about the government's case before the briefing.
Here's what changed his mind:
• the ability to identify the DNA of the anthrax: "It's like a fingerprint," Daschle said.
• the flask used to make the anthrax. "That's as close to a smoking gun as I think you're going to get," Daschle said.
• the limited number of people who were authorized to enter the laboratory. (Here's a chart that shows the spike in Ivins' late-night visits to the laboratory.)
Daschle says investigators came up with three possible reasons that Ivins targeted his office and that of Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat who also received one of the anthrax-laden letters.
Those motives include Ivins' concerns about abortion, the USA Patriot Act and waning support for an anthrax vaccine.
Army Review of Anthrax Access May Yield Changes
by Mickey McCarter
Investigation of procedures at Fort Detrick could result in new checks on individuals with access to deadly biological agents
Army officials began a process of conducting a review of regulations and procedures at the bioweapons lab where Amerithrax suspect Bruce Ivins worked immediately after the FBI disclosed documents in its investigation last week, an Army spokesman told HSToday.us.
Army Secretary Pete Geren ordered the surety review, which began last Thursday, to investigate whether the Army has appropriate physical security, safety, personnel reliability, and agent accountability in place at the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) in Fort Detrick, Md., to permit access to deadly biological materials, spokesman Paul Boyce explained.
The review is ongoing with no set deadline for delivery of recommendations to the Army secretary, who may order changes in procedures or oversight as a result of the review. Army officials are conducting the surety review to ensure that appropriate individuals have access to materials such as deadly anthrax cultures in light of FBI allegations that Ivins had a history of mental illness.
"The review will include any information that may be available to the surety team, including information from the FBI," Boyce commented. "The results of the review will determine if USAMRIID followed procedures for granting access to materials such as anthrax or if a change in those procedures are required."
The Army established the surety program for biological and medical review in 2003 but finalized regulations for the process only this year, Boyce stated. Its goal is to ensure maintenance of proper access of material such as anthrax at USAMRIID. Army surety programs overall date back to 1992.
Ivins, a longtime Army research microbiologist, killed himself July 29 after the FBI signaled its intent to charge him in the 2001 mailings of anthrax powder that killed five victims.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell has called for a similar investigation at every US laboratory authorized to handle infectious viruses or biological agents.
"If these allegations are true, the FBI has identified serious weaknesses in the security at one of our nation's premier laboratories for the study of some of the most deadly pathogens in the world," Dingell wrote in a letter to President Bush on August 8. "Their allegations also raise equally troubling security concerns about the thousands of other scientists and technicians who work at hundreds of labs across our country with 'select biological agents' such as anthrax."
Dingell noted that his committee has discovered serious shortcomings at the high-security biological labs, including "poor training, sloppy security, and very little, if any, oversight by the government agencies who are supposed to be responsible for protecting our community."
The Department of Homeland Security has such a biosafety lab in need of review at Fort Detrick, adjacent to USAMRIID, Dingell said.
The Government Accountability Office is conducting an investigation of physical security at the nation's five top biosafety labs, rated as level 4, with interim results expected in September.
Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2008
Nagging Questions in the Anthrax Case
By Laura Fitzpatrick
As probable bioterrorists go, Bruce Ivins was a near-perfect suspect. Among the hundreds of pages of evidence that the FBI had mounted against him and released last week, there were electronic records documenting Ivins' late-night sojourns in the lab, e-mails revealing a mind wracked by paranoia, and an inventory of a November 2007 FBI search of his home, which turned up a paperback copy of Albert Camus' novel, The Plague.
The FBI says the government biodefense researcher acted alone in the 2001 anthrax mailings that killed 5 people and sickened 17. But as anthrax experts begin seeking hard data behind the eerie and suggestive details of the case, they are left with nothing but questions. For one thing, the FBI says its anthrax evidence is based on "new and sophisticated scientific tools" — new DNA technology that the agency says is more accurate than older methods — which investigators have used to trace the anthrax from the deadly mailings back to Ivins. The FBI began with 1,000 distinct samples of the Ames strain of anthrax, the type used in the attacks, from 16 laboratories that handled the bacterium. From there, investigators whittled their way down to a match: a single spore batch taken from a beaker in Ivins' laboratory. No scientist has ever been able to accomplish a feat of such precision before, not even those familiar with the subtle variations of the anthrax genome — but the FBI won't reveal its methods.
Now, scientists and some members of Congress are calling for the FBI to release details about the new DNA technology, so that its validity can be confirmed. "It's a general rule," says Donald Henderson of the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Biosecurity, and head of the federal Office of Public Health Preparedness. "When you develop a new test for something, it usually has to go through a fairly rigorous examination: does it really do what it claims to do?"
Anthrax experts interviewed by TIME point to the peculiarities of anthrax research that underscore why it is critical that the FBI's methodology be evaluated. Most important is that anthrax has historically been shuttled freely around the world — a fact that the FBI has not explicitly accounted for. Until the security crackdown that followed the 2001 attacks, most labs readily sold anthrax strains — including the type linked to Ivins — to scientists doing research in other parts of the world. "Bruce, like most people in the lab, derived most of his strains from outside sources," says Jeffrey Adamovicz, a former bacteriology chief who worked with Ivins at Fort Detrick's U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) for 12 years. If the FBI has not investigated every one of those possible sources, in other words, it can't be certain that the path to Ivins is solid. No one but the FBI knows for sure.
Equally troubling, scientists say, is the complete lack of forensic evidence in the FBI dossier. Documents reveal, for instance, that investigators swabbed Ivins' home and cars for anthrax DNA and spores, but they don't say whether the subsequent lab tests linked those samples to the 2001 envelopes. "Until we see the details, who knows?" says Richard Spertzel, a bioweapons expert who worked at USAMRIID with Ivins. "There are too many loose ends."
Scientists also say that the FBI's recent bungling of certain high-profile investigations throws doubt on federal investigators' ability to understand scientific evidence. The most obvious and recent example is the agency's unwarranted fingering of Steven Hatfill in 2001 as a "person of interest" in the same attacks for which Ivins is now believed responsible. Hatfill's reputation was irreparably damaged by the accusation, which was never supported by concrete evidence — the government officially absolved Hatfill this month and awarded him $5.8 million in damages. "You have less confidence in how much [the FBI is] really sharing and how accurate this might be," says Henderson, who would like to see the FBI release its data to a neutral body, such as the National Academy of Sciences or the National Institute of Medicine, for review.
While even the staunchest critics of the FBI acknowledge that publicizing details about new technology may pose a national security risk, others insist that doing so and hastening a firm conclusion to the "Amerithrax" case would only make the country safer. "To know what challenge you're defending against is terribly important," says Henderson. Further, the FBI's technology may prove useful for other "benign reasons," such as in vaccine research or in legal investigations involving poisoning, says Adamovicz.
Scientists' best hope to budge the FBI may be through Congress. Iowa Senator Charles Grassley and New Jersey Congressman Rush Holt — whose district is home to the Princeton, N.J., mailbox from which the FBI says Ivins mailed the anthrax letters — are pushing for a government inquiry into the FBI investigation. In an early indication of what Grassley may seek to accomplish, the Senator has composed 18 questions for the FBI and the Justice Department. Chief among them is a request for clarification of the timing of the FBI's scientific discoveries. In tandem with other facts of the case, Grassley says, that timeline could help determine how definitive the FBI's data is. "If top FBI officials knew in 2005 that the anthrax used in the attacks came from Dr. Ivins' lab, then why didn't they clear Dr. Hatfill until [Aug. 8]? Either they were unsure of the scientific evidence against Dr. Ivins, or they knew long ago that Dr. Hatfill was not the killer," Sen. Grassley said in a statement to TIME. "Both possibilities are disturbing."
Rep. Holt says his goal is to uncover enough physical evidence to satisfy those who doubt the FBI's conclusions about Ivins. "I don't want it to reside in the court of public opinion. Then we'll end up with something like the Lee Harvey Oswald case," says Holt in reference to the conspiracy theories that still dog the John F. Kennedy assassination. "There [will be] too many people in whose minds the case is never closed."
Congress is unlikely to begin hearings until it reconvenes in September. Holt, a former assistant director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory and the only scientist to sit on the House Intelligence Committee, expects the hearings to spark broader debate about the way the government handles certain scientific issues, including policy questions — such as how to ensure lab security — and a general attitude regarding the scientific method. "[The FBI] try to confirm their hunches, whereas a scientist tries to refute his or her own conclusions," says Holt. "The whole point of science is to publish it, so that other people can tear it apart."
Yes, this might have been a real government conspiracy
By Alexander Cockburn
Published: Aug 14 2008, 11:05 PM · Updated: Aug 14 2008, 11:07 PM
A significant number of Americans have a profound belief in government conspiracies. Against all the evidence, the conspiracy buffs feel that the incompetent bozos collectively known as “the government” have superhuman powers of organization and cunning.
I’m not talking here about identifiable conspiracies, like taking away our money in the form of taxes or death duties, or fixing the inflation indicators to exclude energy costs, thus heading off otherwise mandatory Social Security increases. I’m talking about truly elaborate plots.
The conspiracists believe that Bush and Cheney masterminded the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon. The 10,000 or so government employees supposedly in on the secret have kept their mouths shut ever since.
Now, just shy of the seventh anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, a mystery linked to those attacks has burst once again into active life, prompting a hail of speculation about just how far Bush and Cheney were prepared to go in inflaming public fears.
The mystery concerns the envelopes of white powder containing anthrax spores that were mailed out to prominent Americans, starting on Sept. 18, 2001. In the post-Sept. 11 mailings, five died. The crudely written notes accompanying the anthrax spores said “Death to America, Death to Israel, Allah is Great.”
Within hours, the Bush administration was leaking stories to the effect that analysis of the anthrax in the envelopes disclosed the presence of bentonite and this chemical footprint — so the anonymous sources insisted to their favored outlet, Brian Ross of ABC News — was characteristic of products from the bio-terror Labs of Saddam Hussein. (Bentonite is widely used in the U.S. in applications ranging from oil drilling to clarifying wine.)
ABC’s stories about bentonite-laced anthrax spores were hugely effective in helping prep public sentiment for passage of the Patriot Act, giving the White House dictatorial and thus unconstitutional powers. Longer range, the stories helped justify the attack on Iraq.
The lead government agency investigating the anthrax envelopes was the FBI, and the Bureau was under huge pressure to come up with a suspect. It duly did so, and its suspicions ran athwart the pointers to Baghdad. Soon, a fresh tide of leaks to the New York Times and a few other sources fingered Steven Hatfill, who had worked, at the end of the 1990s, as a civilian researcher at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, the Department of Defense’s medical research institute for biological warfare defense at Fort Detrick, Md.
The U.S. Department of Justice disclosed that in March this year it had taken Hatfill off its suspect list and was compensating him for false allegations, giving the 54-year-old $5.8 million, with a down payment of $2.825 million in cash and $150,000 a year for 20 years.
The FBI had another suspect, Bruce E. Ivins, a career anthrax researcher at Ft. Detrick. With Hatfill out of the picture, the heat was on Ivins and he buckled. On July 29, he died from a mix of Tylenol and codeine, diagnosed as a suicide.
Exactly like Hatfill when the FBI had him in its sights, Ivins in the aftermath of his death has been the target of a torrent of disobliging stories, many of them apparently inspired by the FBI, to the effect that he was a drunk and a time-bomb of resentments. The inference, as with Hatfill, is that with his alleged dispatch of the anthrax-filled envelopes he was setting up Muslims as the originators of the anthrax attacks.
Those — I count myself among them — who most emphatically do not believe that George Bush and Dick Cheney masterminded the 9/11 attacks on the Trade Towers and Pentagon have much less difficulty in agreeing with those who suggest the U.S. government played a sinister role in setting up ABC News with its inaccurate reports, acting — as one critic, Glen Greenwald has written — as “fabricators and liars who purposely used ABC News to disseminate to the American public an extremely consequential and damaging falsehood.”
Will ABC’s Ross ’fess up to who fed him the stories? I doubt it. He’s been a useful conduit for government leaks on matters such as the utility of water-boarding as a vital weapon in the war on terror. He’ll keep his mouth shut, even as public cynicism about government and the press soars.
Alexander Cockburn is a nationally syndicated columnist, author and co-editor of the muckraking newsletter, Counterpunch. He lives in Petrolia.
August 14, 2008
The Real Bioterror Threat
Richard Ebright, a chemistry professor at Rutgers University, has emerged as one of the leading critics of the U.S. bioterror defense program. I spoke with him earlier this week about the government’s “lone madman” theory.
GoozNews: Could Bruce Ivins have done this alone?
Ebright: It was done on the kiloton scale in the U.S. weapons program in the 1960s through 1990s. To do it on the gram scale in a location that was part of a previous offensive weapons program by a person who had access to the information about how they are prepared . . . would not be difficult. This is routine technology used to prepare products daily in the pesticide and pharmaceutical industry with approaches that are far more sophisticated and easier to procure than what was available in the 1960s through 1990s.
GoozNews: Yet some accounts insist that this anthrax preparation was so fine that it must have required access to the more sophisticated technology than what was available in Ivins’ lab.
Ebright: There’s been just one semi-official comment on that. Douglas J. Beecher, who works in the FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia, published a paper in 2006 where he called that a “misconception.”
[Here’s the full quote:It remains entirely open if this person operated alone or in concert with others. But the idea that he didn’t have the means to do it is absurd.
GoozNews: Do you think he did it?
Ebright: Any number of individuals in that laboratory had access to means to carry this out . . . alone. Did someone suggest this to the perpetrator? Did someone assist the perpetrator? This is something that you can’t get from a technical analysis.
GoozNews: Who benefited from this crime?
Ebright: The administration has milked this for all it is worth by allowing the misperception to remain that this was an external attack, possibly from Iraq. That was useful to the administration in building a case for any number of actions, including the intervention in Iraq. The vaccine industry, particularly BioPort and its successors, have exploited this misperception. The drug industry has benefited. The academic-industrial complex that has arisen from this incident has exploited it. I don’t think they did it, but they certainly benefited.
GoozNews: You’ve said it has distorted infectious disease research priorities. Explain.
Ebright: About half the resources in bacteriology and about a third in virology were shifted to biodefense. We’ve spent $57 billion in biodefense since 2001. The annual budget for NIH is only $30 billion. The spending has been disproportionate to the level of threat.
GoozNews: You’ve also said the spending on bioterror defense has made us less safe. How?
Ebright: The moment it was known that it was internal threat rather than a product of Islamic terror, which became clear in the spring of 2002 with the publication of the genetic information, an effort should have been made immediately to curtail the number of individuals with access to bioterror materials, and put in enhanced controls on those who had access. Just the opposite was done. There are now 14,000 individuals authorized to handle bioweapons materials. And this was done without an enhancement of security, or an enhancement that was perfunctory at best. There isn’t even video surveillance of work areas. The Bush administration with characteristic stupidity expanded the sector and therefore expanded the risk of attack.
GoozNews: Can we put the genie back in the lamp? If we curtail the program, won’t there been thousands of scientists with bioterror experience looking for work, just as there was in Russia?
Ebright: There is plenty to do in legitimate biomedical research. Most of them would once again be eager to work on those programs. These persons weren’t created out of air. They were shifted from other areas of scientific research into this area when the funding shifted. If the funding shifts to scientific priorities instead of military and political priorities, most of them will return happily to research on scientific and medical priorities like tuberculosis for a bacteriologist, like the diseases that kill people in the U.S. like MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), which now kills more people than AIDS each year, and AIDS itself. Most researchers would prefer to work on subjects that actually matter.
Posted by gooznews at August 14, 2008 05:45 PM
FBI mishandling of anthrax case leaves many questions unanswered
Last updated August 14, 2008 3:57 p.m. PT
DAN K. THOMASSON
WASHINGTON - The FBI's mishandling of the anthrax case and its rush to claim it solved not only have made it doubtful the truth of the matter ever will come out, but it has turned this nightmare into a conspiracy freak's dream.
It is safe to predict that every nut case who believes in the New World Order already is preparing his contention that Bruce Ivins, the microbiologist tagged as the "real" culprit, a) didn't act alone, b) was the fall guy for a plot devised by an official government either foreign or domestic, c) actually was President Bush's plot to get rid of the then Senate Democratic Leader, Thomas Daschle, who was one of those sent the lethal bacteria, or d) all of the above.
It is not difficult to imagine a whole new multigazillion dollar cottage industry of theories in print, TV and movies will pop up to rival that of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Before it is over, one would not be surprised to find that this hideous biological attack on America could be directly linked not only to Kennedy's death but also to that of Abraham Lincoln.
A more prudent approach would have spared us much of this speculation. But the FBI is nothing if not imprudent, as has been demonstrated time and again. From the start, the bureau seemed to believe the case was a test of its manhood and with every passing year that it failed to solve the mystery, it became more frantic and uneven in its efforts. Its profile culture led it down one wrong path after another, causing ruined careers, broken marriages and ultimately the suicide of one of its targets.
Dr. Steven Hatfill, the renowned "person of interest" wouldn't be intimidated, fought back and won a $5.8 million out-of-court settlement from the taxpayers while a pouting Justice Department refused to apologize for his enormous discomfort even though "investigators" presumably had decided on Ivins. Hatfill finally received a clearance letter to go along with the money and the years of harassment and the broken career.
Three Pakistan-born city officials in Chester, Pa., two of them doctors, weren't so lucky. The FBI, acting on a tip that turned out to be from a disgruntled employee, began a barrage of interrogation and search and seizure that ended tragically for their targets, who had never worked with anthrax. Two of the brothers were forced to seek work outside the country because their visas ran out and the third, an American citizen, was embarrassingly on the watch list until a year ago. Another "suspect" was so publicly harassed that he drank himself to death. And still another, a doctor, lost his wife and much of his practice.
The bureau justifies its approach as necessary in such a high-profile threat. But in its heavy handedness, it appears literally to have hounded its most promising suspect to death, leaving us to accept - or not - the highly circumstantial evidence based on new technology that Ivins was the sociopath who murdered five people and sickened 17 others because of some vague unhappiness over his job. Everyone else can now breathe a sigh of relief. The FBI in peace and war has got its man finally after seven years. There is no doubt that Ivins was in a deteriorating mental state, but how much of that could be attributed to the constant surveillance, interrogation and obvious harassment - agents reportedly told his family and others in his presence that he was a murderer and even offered to pay his son cash and buy him a new car to rat on his father - and how much to conscience we never will know. He was drinking heavily and his addiction counselor - herself a longtime addict - wants us to believe she got so frightened of him she called the FBI and asked for their help. She claims their response was to tell her to file a restraining order, which she did, maybe tipping him over the edge.
So the day they were to arrest him, he swallowed enough pills to kill himself and left the world to wonder was he truly the madman of the Army's bio-defense lab as the FBI contends? A number of his fellow scientists argue convincingly otherwise, pointing to holes in the technology used by the bureau. Without the public examination of the evidence in court and the opportunity for him to defend against the allegations, how can anyone say for certain? For the time being, at least, and perhaps forever, the answer unfortunately may be left up to those for whom conspiracy is a religion.
E-mail Dan K. Thomasson, former editor of the Scripps Howard News Service, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Los Angeles Times
Anthrax scientist Bruce Ivins slipped under the radar because of FBI obsession
Records show agents overlooked a series of early clues pointing to Ivins as the source of the 2001 deadly anthrax mailings and that the investigation remained locked on a former Army researcher.
By David Willman
WASHINGTON — As federal authorities pursued the wrong suspect in the deadly anthrax mailings of 2001, they ignored or overlooked a series of early clues that pointed to Army scientist Bruce E. Ivins, a review of investigative records by the Los Angeles Times shows.
Law enforcement documents unsealed by a federal judge last week, along with other materials reviewed by The Times, show that within a few months of the mailings, FBI leaders were positioned to know important details spotlighting Ivins, who killed himself last month and has now been identified as the government's prime suspect.
The information available to investigators in those early months included:
* Security records generated by swipes of magnetized plastic access cards revealing that Ivins -- alone among the handful of anthrax researchers at Ft. Detrick, Md. -- had spent hours in a fortified "hot suite" during late nights and weekends leading up to and surrounding the mailings. The research suite is protected by a maze of controls designed to prevent the escape of deadly biological agents.
* Genetic analysis by outside scientists published in May 2002 reporting that anthrax powder recovered from the mailings most likely came from Ft. Detrick or was grown from a sample that originated there.
"I would have felt very confident at the time that the top place to look was at Ft. Detrick," said Jonathan A. Eisen, a UC Davis biologist and former colleague of the scientists at the Institute for Genomic Research in Rockville, Md.
* Ivins, recruited to assist the FBI, had failed in February 2002 to provide an anthrax sample, known as RMR-1029, as requested by a bureau agent. The FBI did not obtain the RMR-1029 from within the Ft. Detrick laboratory complex where Ivins worked until two years later, when an agent took possession of a flask holding that material.
* An Army report revealing that Ivins had not told his Army superiors in December 2001 about a possible anthrax spill around his workstation that he had privately cleaned up. In sworn statements to an Army investigator in May 2002, Ivins conceded that he should have reported the matter immediately. His omission occurred when the FBI was beginning to question scientists who had worked at Ft. Detrick.
Yet even when Ivins told the Army that he had erred, FBI officials continued to rely on him for scientific assistance in their investigation of the mailings. And for several more years, FBI supervisors ordered agents to stay locked on a different target, Dr. Steven J. Hatfill, a former Army researcher who had never handled anthrax.
The long delay in focusing on Ivins and solving the case also left elected officials guessing about the origin of the threat that had traumatized the nation as they debated multibillion-dollar policies intended to counter bioterrorism. In the end, the FBI and the Justice Department concluded that the mailed anthrax came not from a foreign state or a terrorist group -- but from someone within the U.S. government.
The mailings -- which killed five people and injured 17 soon after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks -- crippled deliveries of U.S. mail and shut down a major Senate office building for cleanup. The mailings also prompted private companies nationwide to invest in costly preventive measures.
Ivins, employed by the Army since 1980 as a civilian microbiologist, had routine access to anthrax because his research focused on developing a better vaccine for troops who might face anthrax on the battlefield.
The discovery of anthrax spores outside restricted areas at Ft. Detrick prompted an Army investigation, ending with a 361-page report in May 2002 that described Ivins' earlier, undisclosed cleanup efforts. In sworn statements to the Army, Ivins suggested that a sloppy lab technician may have spread anthrax from a hot suite to other work spaces, including Ivins'.
An Army officer who had firsthand knowledge of the events told The Times last week that Ivins' sworn statements and all other investigative details gathered for the report were available at that time to the FBI.
Army officials had regarded the anthrax contamination at Ft. Detrick as accidental and non-life-threatening. They called for improvements in safety and lab practices but recommended no discipline against Ivins or anyone else.
Viewing the circumstances found by the Army report alongside the other evidence that was brought into public view last week, the Army officer concluded that Ivins' stealth bleaching of his work area was related to the anthrax mailings.
"Of course I think it was a coverup," said the officer, who did not want to be identified because external reviews are pending. "He was trying to clean up the material" that may have been used in the anthrax mailings.
Ivins, 62, died July 29 in what Maryland health officials have ruled a suicide. His lawyers have said that they believe Ivins would have been acquitted if he had lived to stand trial on murder charges.
A spokesman for the Justice Department, Dean Boyd, said Thursday that uncertainty about the origin of the anthrax used in the mailings had prevented investigators from narrowing their search earlier. Boyd said that years of "analysis and review" led to Ivins. Officials were not prepared to respond to detailed questions posed for this article, he said.
Investigating the mailings presented a steep challenge for the FBI, which was not equipped to analyze the recovered anthrax in a way that might yield a DNA "signature" identifying the source of the material. Indeed, in fall 2001, the FBI immediately turned to Ivins and others at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, within Ft. Detrick, for scientific assistance.
When they unveiled their evidence against Ivins last week, federal law enforcement officials did not mention the bleaching that Ivins had performed in the aftermath of the mailings, nor did they discuss any of the other conduct described by the Army in its May 2002 report.
The federal officials who spoke publicly last week also did not specify when the FBI first examined the access-card records at Ft. Detrick that documented Ivins' string of late-night visits to the hot suite.
Another crucial aspect of the investigation, the genetic analysis of the powder, was first performed in 2002 and suggested, but did not prove, that Ft. Detrick was the most likely source. Federal officials say proof came with refined testing capabilities available more recently.
Relying on the new technology and conventional police work, officials believe that they have conclusively tied the material gathered from the mailings to a single flask under Ivins' control -- the flask with the RMR-1029 spores that agents had first sought from him in early 2002.
As for Hatfill, the former Ft. Detrick researcher with no record of access at any time to anthrax, FBI and Justice Department officials have declined to say why the investigation stayed focused on him for so long.
Several officials told reporters last week that they did not turn to Ivins as a suspect until last year because they had lacked the breakthrough scientific data and other recently gathered evidence tying him to the mailings.
"In an investigation of this scope and complexity, the task is to follow the evidence where it leads," Jeffrey A. Taylor, U.S. attorney for Washington, D.C., told reporters last week.
In his first public remarks regarding the evidence amassed against Ivins, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III told reporters last week in Vermont: "I do not apologize for any aspect of the investigation that was undertaken over the years." Mueller said it would be "erroneous to say there were mistakes."
Investigators conducted the first of several searches of Hatfill's residences in June 2002. Later that year, a Justice Department official forced Hatfill's firing from his newly won faculty post at Louisiana State University.
By contrast, authorities waited until last November to conduct their first searches of Ivins' vehicles and his home, in Frederick, Md. Taylor and other officials who addressed reporters declined to say if they knew whether Ivins had bleached any of his personal possessions in the six-year period between the anthrax mailings and the searches, which found no spores.
The government in June agreed to pay Hatfill $5.8 million to settle a lawsuit in which his lawyers elicited sworn testimony from law enforcement officials who admitted they had leaked investigative information about him to the news media.
The investigation's years-long fixation with Hatfill angered some FBI agents who believed that, as a result, other potential leads and suspects received inadequate attention. The agents formally complained to the bureau's inspection division about Richard L. Lambert, the official who directed the probe from late 2002 through the summer of 2006, people familiar with the matter said.
Results of the inspection division's review, first reported by The Times on June 29 of this year, have yet to be made public. In late August 2006, Mueller transferred Lambert from the anthrax investigation, naming him special agent in charge of the bureau's field office in Knoxville, Tenn.
conclusions in anthrax probe meet skepticism
Robert Roos * News Editor
Aug 15, 2008 (CIDRAP News) – The Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI's) recently revealed conclusion that the late anthrax researcher Dr. Bruce Ivins committed the anthrax letter attacks of 2001 has been greeted with skepticism by many in the scientific community.
The FBI reported its conclusions and published a collection of documents about the long-unresolved case last week. The revelations came on Aug 6, only 9 days after Ivins, whom the FBI was about to charge in the case, died from an overdose of painkillers. In the anthrax attacks in the fall of 2001, five people died and 17 others were sickened after envelopes containing anthrax powder were mailed to two US senators and several media offices.
Ivins had worked at the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) for many years, doing research that included work on anthrax vaccines. Early in the investigation, he analyzed some samples of anthrax from the 2001 attacks, according to media reports.
The FBI's case against Ivins is mostly circumstantial. But at its core is a claim that FBI experts and other scientists developed a new DNA fingerprinting technique that enabled them to match the letter anthrax to a batch of anthrax that was in Ivins' custody at USAMRIID in Frederick, Md.
"That science—creating a DNA equivalent of a fingerprint—allowed investigators to pinpoint the origins of the anthrax," the FBI said in its Aug 6 statement. "The FBI laboratory, in conjunction with the best experts in the scientific community, developed four highly sensitive and specific tests to detect the unique qualities of the anthrax used in the 2001 attacks. This took several years to accomplish, but in early 2005 the groundbreaking research successfully identified where the anthrax used in the mailings had come from."
But expert observers have said it's not possible to evaluate the FBI claims about the DNA evidence implicating Ivins because the agency has not published the details.
Dr. Martin Hugh-Jones, an anthrax expert at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, told CIDRAP News, "As others, including D.A. Henderson [who led the fight to eradicate smallpox], have said, we only have their word on this until they publish the details of this study."
In addition, some have argued that because Ivins was involved in analyzing the anthrax used in the attacks, cross-contamination in his work area might account for the match between the letter anthrax and the batch of anthrax that was in his custody.
Also, reports early in the investigation indicated that the mailed anthrax was a highly sophisticated preparation that Army scientists were unable to duplicate, which has caused observers to voice doubts about Ivins' ability to make the material on his own.
Aside from the DNA fingerprinting link, the evidence cited by the FBI is circumstantial. As summarized in FBI documents and a recent Associated Press (AP) report, clues included the following:
* In the days
before the mailings, Ivins worked alone at night and on weekends in the
lab where the anthrax spores and production equipment were stored, something
he had not often done before.
A DNA fingerprint
One of these says that the mailed anthrax was the Ames strain, which was first isolated in 1981. "As a whole, the collection of all of the genetic mutations found in the anthrax used in the 2001 mailings, serve to provide a 'DNA fingerprint' which can and has been used to investigate other Ames isolates collected from laboratories possessing the Ames strain."
"Four individual, highly sensitive, and specific molecular assays capable of detecting four of the genetic mutations discovered in the Bacillus anthracis used in the mail attacks have been developed and evaluated," the affidavit states.
In the investigation, the FBI used these four assays on more than 1,000 samples of Ames strain B anthracis obtained from 16 US labs and from others in Canada, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, the document states. Only eight of these samples were found to contain all four mutations.
"The . . . investigation has determined that each of the eight isolates . . . is directly related to a single Bacillus anthracis Ames strain spore batch, identified as RMR-1029," the affidavit says. After noting where this batch was kept, it adds, "RMR-1029 was compiled in 1997 by Dr. Ivins, the sole creator and custodian."
However, the document doesn't explain exactly how the eight isolates were linked to the anthrax Ivins had, other than having the same four mutations, nor does it give any details on the mutations or how they were identified.
That bothers Dr. C. J. Peters, a veteran virologist at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, who worked at USAMRIID from 1977 until 1990 and had considerable contact with Ivins there.
"I want to see the data. I want to see the valid scientific links made," Peters told CIDRAP News. He said forensic microbiology, unlike the use of human DNA in crime investigation, is a new area that has undergone little scientific scrutiny or testing in court cases.
"I just think it's a really unsatisfying conclusion," Peters said of the FBI claims. "I don't deny that Ivins might be the guy, and given his alleged psychiatric history, I would believe it even, but I don't see any evidence that really ties it down."
Referring to the four mutations reported by the FBI, he said, "They're talking about a substrain of the Ames strain. Well, where did that substrain arise? It arose during the preparation of the Ames strain. If Bruce Ivins propagated it and got this strain, and someone else propagated it, how do we know they didn't get the same substrain?"
Peters said the FBI should publish its analysis in a scientific journal so that people who work in bacterial genomics can examine it. "I think it's something that can be done and must be done. If they don't do it, nobody's ever going to believe it," he said.
The FBI didn't return phone messages asking if the agency plans to publish the details of its DNA analysis.
Gerry Andrews, a University of Wyoming microbiologist who was a friend and colleague of Ivins', made this point in a New York Times opinion piece on Aug 9. Andrews said Ivins worked on analyses of the letter anthrax for years. "Might that explain why the anthrax used in the attacks was later found to have the same DNA footprint as the other anthrax preparations in Dr. Ivins' lab?" he wrote.
Hugh-Jones agreed that this was a possibility. "[Given] that Bruce was involved in the early investigations on the letter contents and knowing its [anthrax's] great ability to fly, it's not at all unlikely that there may have been some laboratory contamination," he said.
If it is established that the anthrax in Ivins' custody matched what was used in the attacks, the FBI's case still requires acceptance of the proposition that he was the only person who had access to it. Some critics aren't buying that.
Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, PhD, who has closely followed the anthrax investigation and has criticized the FBI's efforts in the past, told CIDRAP News via e-mail, "Even if the evidence is perfect, it is not incriminatory because something like 100 others also had access to the same stock."
Rosenberg, a former cancer researcher and retired professor of natural sciences at the State University of New York at Purchase, added, "Record-keeping was not reliable at USAMRIID. If the FBI could really eliminate all the others of the 100, how come it took so long to 'eliminate' Hatfill and focus on Ivins?"
What was in the powder?
Peters said anthrax is relatively easy to grow, but growing it in quantity and turning it into a powder that is easily aerosolized is much harder. "The details of that powder have never really been divulged. The real analyses of the powders in the letters to [Sen. Tom] Daschle and [Sen. Patrick] Leahy have never been made public, so we don't know how good they were," he said.
News reports based on the FBI information released last week said Ivins worked with lyophilizers, or freeze-drying devices, which can convert anthrax to powder form. However, Peters said it wasn't clear to him whether Ivins ever worked with powdered anthrax. In Peters' time at USAMRIID, anthrax preparations used to "challenge" animals in vaccine tests always involved liquid aerosols, not powders.
"The fact that he's the guy who made the materials to challenge the animals has absolutely nothing to do with making the powder," Peters said.
Various press reports early in the investigation indicated that the mailed anthrax was a highly sophisticated preparation; Rosenberg traced some of these in an article titled "Gaps in the FBI's Anthrax Case," which she circulated through an e-mail forum of the Geneva-based Bio-Weapons Prevention Project.
For example, in 2002 the FBI asked the Department of Defense's Dugway Proving Ground in Utah to try to reproduce or "reverse engineer" the mailed anthrax. Close to a year later, in 2003, an FBI official acknowledged that this effort had failed, which convinced the agency that the culprit had special expertise, according to Rosenberg.
Richcard Spertzel, former head of the biological weapons section of the UN Special Commission and a member of the Iraq Survey Group, added support for this view in an Aug 5 opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal. He said information released by the FBI over the years pointed to "a product of exceptional quality," with particles just 1.3 to 3 microns in diameter.
"Apparently the spores were coated with a polyglass, which tightly bound hydrophilic silca to each particle," Spertzel wrote. "That's what was briefed (according to one of my former weapons inspectors at the United Nations Special Commission) by the FBI to the German Foreign Ministry at the time."
Spertzel asserted that USAMRIID does not have the equipment to produce such a substance and that, in any case, it could not have been made there without many other people being aware of it.
By e-mail, Rosenberg told CIDRAP News that the FBI in recent years has tried to downplay the idea that the mailed anthrax was a very sophisticated product. This effort included an article published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology in August 2006 in which the FBI called the idea "a widely circulated misconception." Rosenberg said the FBI's effort seems to have worked, "since no one is questioning the assumption that the spores were merely purified and dried."
Hugh-Jones summed up the issue this way: "We are getting all sorts of stories now on the nature of the letter product, from claims that it was naked to a highly sophisticated coating and additives. It is said that it took some 18 months to not be able to replicate it at Dugway, which, if true, would indicate that something had been added. Confusion. All in all this would seem to have been beyond Bruce's [Ivins'] experience and capabilities. But if he couldn't make it, who at Detrick could have?"
Proposing a 'court of science'
"Now we have to find a way for that case to be completely shared within the scientific community in such a way as to create a court of science as opposed to a court of law," said Osterholm, who is director of the University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, publisher of CIDRAP News.
"At this point I for one am completely open-minded as to whether or not the FBI data are sufficient to provide a convincing scientific argument that he [Ivins] was the source," he said. But he added that he has seen people becoming polarized on the issue, despite the incompleteness of the available information.
"I think the next step will be a critical one for the FBI, and that is finding a proper venue for a comprehensive scientific review of the information," Osterholm said. "I would suggest, for example, that the Institute of Medicine or a special advisory committee to the attorney general, made up of scientists who have expertise in these areas and who have no obvious conflicts of interest. That's the process I hope happens soon."
Senate could grill FBI on anthrax investigation in September
Originally published August 16, 2008
By Justin M. Palk
Congress is out of session until Sept. 7, so a regularly scheduled Sept. 17 hearing may give legislators their first chance to publicly question the FBI about its decision to name Fort Detrick scientist Bruce Ivins as the sole suspect in the 2001 anthrax mailings.
On that day, the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold an oversight hearing on the FBI, and Director Robert Mueller III is scheduled to attend.
It is a regularly scheduled oversight hearing, not one called specifically to examine the anthrax investigation, and will likely cover several topics, depending on the interests of the attending senators, said Susan Sullam, a spokeswoman for Sen. Benjamin Cardin, who sits on the committee.
Cardin, a Democrat, likely will attend the hearing, and there is a strong possibility that the anthrax case will be one of the issues the committee asks Mueller about, she said.
Ivins, who spent three decades as a civilian microbiologist at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, committed suicide July 29, and shortly afterward, media reports revealed that authorities were preparing to charge him in relation to the 2001 anthrax mailings that killed five people and hospitalized 17 others.
Last week, the Department of Justice released affidavits and search warrants detailing its case against the scientist, though it admitted it had only circumstantial evidence linking him to the crime.
Ivins' coworkers and attorney have maintained that he was innocent.
The DOJ is moving to close its investigation into the anthrax mailings "soon," but could give no specific timeline beyond that, said Dean Boyd, a spokesman for the department.
He said the department had not determined what additional information from the case it might ask the courts to unseal after the case is closed.
The Army announced last week it was assembling a task force to look into lab security and safety practices at USAMRIID. The Army's public affairs office was unable to provide any information Friday afternoon regarding what progress had been made in setting the task force's membership and outlining its scope.