Monday, February 22, 2010
In a new post, vaccine expert Dr. Meryl Nass shreds the FBI's case against Bruce Ivins:
Federal Bureau of Invention: CASE CLOSED (and Ivins did it)Indeed, both Lawrence Livermore National Labs and Sandia National Labs have already discredited the FBI's claims.
But FBI's report, documents and accompanying information (only pertaining to Ivins, not to the rest of the investigation) were released on Friday afternoon... which means the FBI anticipated doubt and ridicule. And the National Academies of Science (NAS) is several months away from issuing its $879,550 report on the microbial forensics, suggesting a) asking NAS to investigate the FBI's science was just a charade to placate Congress, and/or b) NAS' investigation might be uncovering things the FBI would prefer to bury, so FBI decided to preempt the NAS panel's report.
Back to Nass's article:
Here are today's reports from the Justice Department, AP, Washington Post and NY Times. The WaPo article ends,Indeed, a minute's reflection will show how silly the FBI's claims are.
The FBI's handling of the investigation has been criticized by Ivins's colleagues and by independent analysts who have pointed out multiple gaps, including a lack of hair, fiber other physical evidence directly linking Ivins to the anthrax letters. [Note by Washington's Blog: Indeed, handwriting analysis failed to link Ivins to the anthrax letters.] But despite long delays and false leads, Justice officials Friday expressed satisfaction with the outcome.
The evidence "established that Dr. Ivins, alone, mailed the anthrax letters," the Justice summary stated.
Actually, the 96 page FBI report is predicated on the assumption that the anthrax letters attack was carried out by a "lone nut." The FBI report fails to entertain the possibility that the letters attack could have involved more than one actor. The FBI admits that about 400 people may have had access to Ivins' RMR-1029 anthrax preparation, but asserts all were "ruled out" as lone perpetrators. FBI never tried to rule any out as part of a conspiracy, however.
That is only the first of many holes in FBI's case. Here is a sampling of some more.
FBI gave this report its best shot. The report sounds good. It includes some new evidence. It certainly makes Ivins out to be a crazed, scary and pathetic figure. If you haven't followed this story intently, you may be convinced of his guilt.
- The report assumes Ivins manufactured, purified and dried the spore prep in the anthrax hot room at US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID). His colleagues say the equipment available was insufficient to do so on the scale required.
- But even more important, the letter spores contained a Bacillus subtilis contaminant, and silicon to enhance dispersal. FBI has never found the Bacillus subtilis strain at USAMRIID, and it has never acknowledged finding silicon there, either. If the letters anthrax was made at USAMRIID, at least small amounts of both would be there.
- Drs. Perry Mikesell, Ayaad Assaad and Stephen Hatfill were 3 earlier suspects. All had circumstantial evidence linking them to the case. In Hatfill's case, especially, are hints he could have been "set up." Greendale, the return address on the letters, was a suburb of Harare, Zimbabwe where Hatfill attended medical school. Hatfill wrote an unpublished book about a biowarfare attack that bears some resemblance to the anthrax case. So the fact that abundant circumstantial evidence links Ivins to the case might be a reflection that he too was "set up" as a potential suspect, before the letters were sent.
- FBI fails to provide any discussion of why no autopsy was performed, nor why, with Ivins under 24/7 surveillance from the house next door, with even his garbage being combed through, the FBI failed to notice that he overdosed and went into a coma. Nor is there any discussion of why the FBI didn't immediately identify tylenol as the overdose substance, and notify the hospital, so that a well-known antidote for tylenol toxicity could be given (N-acetyl cysteine, or alternatively glutathione). These omissions support the suggestion that Ivins' suicide was a convenience for the FBI. It enabled them to conclude the anthrax case, in the absence of evidence that would satisfy the courts.
- The FBI's alleged motive is bogus. In 2001, Bioport's anthrax vaccine could not be (legally) relicensed due to potency failures, and its impending demise provided room for Ivins' newer anthrax vaccines to fill the gap. Ivins had nothing to do with developing Bioport's vaccine, although in addition to his duties working on newer vaccines, he was charged with assisting Bioport to get through licensure.
- The FBI's Summary states that "only a limited number of individuals ever had access to this specific spore preparation" and that the flask was under Ivins' sole and exclusive control. Yet the body of the report acknowledges hundreds of people who had access to the spores, and questions remain about the location of the spore prep during the period in question. FBI wordsmiths around this, claiming that no one at USAMRIID "legitimately" used spores from RMR1029 without the "authorization and knowledge" of Bruce Ivins. Of course, stealing spores to terrorize and kill is not a legitimate activity.
- FBI says that only a small number of labs had Ames anthrax, including only 3 foreign labs. Yet a quick Pub Med search of papers published between 1999 and 2004 revealed Ames anthrax was studied in at least Italy, France, the UK, Israel and South Korea as well as the US. By failing to identify all labs with access to Ames, the FBI managed to exclude potential domestic and foreign perpetrators.
- FBI claims that "drying anthrax is expressly forbidden by various treaties," therefore it would have to be performed clandestinely. Actually, the US government sponsored several programs that dried anthrax spores [Note by Washington's Blog: government labs in Utah and Ohio worked with dried anthrax]. Drying spores is not explicitly prohibited by the Biological Weapons Convention, though many would like it to be.
- The FBI report claims the anthrax letters envelopes were sold in Frederick, Md. Later it admits that millions of indistinguishable envelopes were made, with sales in Maryland and Virginia.
- FBI emphasizes Ivins' access to a photocopy machine, but fails to mention it was not the machine from which the notes that accompanied the spores were printed.
- FBI claims Ivins was able to make a spore prep of equivalent purity as the letter spores. However, Ivins had clumping in his spores, while the spores in the Daschle/Leahy letters had no clumps. Whether Ivins could make a pure dried prep is unknown, but there is no evidence he had ever done so.
- FBI asserts that Bioport and USAMRIID were nearly out of anthrax vaccine, to the point researchers might not have enough to vaccinate themselves. FBI further asserts this would end all anthrax research, derailing Ivins' career. In fact, USAMRIID has developed many dozens of vaccines (including those for anthrax) that were never licensed, but have been used by researchers to vaccinate themselves. There would be no vaccine shortage for researchers.
- Ivins certainly had mental problems. But that does not explain why the FBI accompanied Ivins' therapist, Ms. Duley (herself under charges for multiple DUIs) and assisted her to apply for a peace order against him. Nor does it explain why Duley then went into hiding, never to be heard from again.
- FBI obtained a voluntary collection of anthrax samples. Is that the way to conduct a multiple murder investigation: ask the scientists to supply you with the evidence to convict them? There is no report that spores were seized from anyone but Ivins, about 6 years after the attacks. This is a huge hole in the FBI's "scientific" methodology.
- FBI claims it investigated Bioport and others who had a financial motive for the letters attack, and ruled them out. However, FBI provides not a shred of evidence from such an investigation.
On the other hand, there are reasons why a conspiracy makes better sense. If the FBI really had the goods, they would not be overreaching to pin the crime on a lone nut.
JFK, RFK, George Wallace, Martin Luther King, all felled by lone nuts. Even Ronald Reagan's would-be assassin was a lone nut. Now Bruce Ivins. The American public is supposed to believe that all these crimes required no assistance and no funds.
Does the FBI stand for the Federal Bureau of Invention?
As I wrote in 2008:
A former director of the bacteriology division at Ft. Detrick said the anthrax sent to Daschle was "so concentrated and so consistent and so clean that I would assert that Bruce could not have done that part".
The chief biological inspector for the U.N. Special Commission from 1994 to 1998 - who describes himself as one of the "four or five people in the whole country" who could make the type of anthrax used in the 2001 attacks - noted in testimony to Congress:"I have maintained from the first descriptions of the material contained in the Daschle letter that the quality appeared to be such that it could be produced only by some group that was involved with a current or former state program in recent years. The level of knowledge, expertise, and experience required and the types of special equipment required to make such quality product takes time and experimentation to develop. Further, the nature of the finished dried product is such that safety equipment and facilities must be used to protect the individuals involved and to shield their clandestine activity from discovery."Similarly, a manufacturer of specialized anthrax equipment said:"You would need [a] chemist who is familiar with colloidal [fumed] silica, and a material science person to put it all together, and then some mechanical engineers to make this work . . . probably some containment people, if you don't want to kill anybody. You need half a dozen, I think, really smart people."The U.N. biologist mentioned above also said that the equipment to make such high-tech anthrax does not exist at Fort Detrick, where Ivins worked. People who work at Fort Detrick have confirmed this. In other words, a lone scientist couldn't have done it without the support of a whole government laboratory. And Fort Detrick was not one such potential laboratory.
I also noted in 2008:
Rather than proving Ivins' guilt as a lone nut killer, the FBI has only succeeded in proving the great lengths that the government will go to cover up a crime.
According to the FBI, Ivins made the killer anthrax in his lab at Fort Detrick all by himself in something like 12 hours ...
Is that plausible?
Well, one of the handful of people who actually can produce the kind of high-tech weaponized anthrax used in the attacks said:"In my opinion, there are maybe four or five people in the whole country who might be able to make this stuff, and I'm one of them," said Richard O. Spertzel, chief biological inspector for the U.N. Special Commission from 1994 to 1998. "And even with a good lab and staff to help run it, it might take me a year to come up with a product as good."In addition, scientists at Ft. Detrick say that no one there had the equipment or knowledge to make weaponized anthrax of the type used in the letters ....
If it would take one of the handful of people who have the know-how and a good lab with staff a year, and if no one at Ivins’ lab knew how to do it, how could Ivins have made it all by himself in 12 hours without the proper equipment?