Tuesday, February 15, 2011
As I pointed out last year:
National Academies of Sciences Slams the FBI
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.
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.***
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.
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:
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?
In December, the FBI tried to get the National Academies of Science to delay their anthrax report, because it was not flattering to the Bureau.
But the final National Academies of Sciences report has just been released, and confirms much of what Nass and I have been saying for years: the FBI's case against Ivins doesn't hold up.
As Raw Story reports today:
The Rest of the Case Is Not So Hot, Either
An independent panel of scientists has determined that the FBI did not have enough scientific evidence to produce a conviction in the case of the 2001 anthrax attacks that killed five people.
The National Academies of Sciences released a review Tuesday of the science used in the investigation. The $1.1 million report, which was commissioned by the FBI, concluded that the man accused in the case, Bruce Ivins, could have carried out the attacks, but the science alone did not prove it.
***The report released Tuesday questioned the link between a flask of anthrax found in Ivins' office and the letters.
"The scientific link between the letter material and flask number RMR-1029 is not as conclusive as stated in the DOJ Investigative Summary," the report said.
The panel added that another explanation for the link "was not rigorously explored" by the FBI.
"This shows what we've been saying all along: that it was all supposition based on conjecture based on guesswork, without any proof whatsoever," Paul Kemp, a lawyer who represented Ivins, told The Washington Post.
"The FBI has long maintained that while science played a significant role, it was the totality of the investigative process that determined the outcome of the anthrax case," the Justice Department and the FBI said in a joint statement. "Although there have been great strides in forensic science over the years, rarely does science alone solve an investigation."
Congressman Holt has previously pointed out that the FBI's entire case was based upon flimsy, circumstantial evidence. Today, Holt said:
It would take a credulous person to believe the circumstantial evidence that the FBI used to draw its conclusions with such certainty. The FBI has not proven to me that this is an open and shut case.The FBI has made a number of ridiculous claims (and see this), and when it was pointed out that the FBI's timeline made no sense, the Bureau simply changed it without explanation.
As Dr. Nass has previously pointed out:
In fact, the "totality of the investigative process" proves that the case against Ivins is incredibly weak. As Dr. Nass writes today:
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 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 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.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.
There is no getting away from the NAS report conclusions, as reported worldwide: the science does not support FBI's claims that Ivins was the anthrax perpetrator.Nass was also quoted today by the Washington Post:
See articles from the AFP, NPR, AP, Science, and a later WP article.
The FBI responded that their case was based on a totality of the evidence, not just the science. But when the rest of the FBI's evidence is examined, one finds only smoke. There has been no physical evidence tying Ivins to the case. The totality of the FBI case against Ivins rests on colorful and sometimes exaggerated personal quirks and odd habits. The FBI has presented no convincing evidence that Ivins had the means, a motive, or the oppportunity to commit the letters crime.
"This report entirely undercuts the conclusion that RMR-1029 was the source and that Ivins was the perpetrator,'' said Meryl Nass, an anthrax expert and physician at Mount Desert Island Hospital in Maine. "That evidence was totally critical to their case,'' said Nass, who added that hundreds of people had access to the flasks in Ivins's lab.And yet - in a bizarre, Soviet-style move - the White House threatened to veto the intelligence budget unless everyone accepted the FBI frame up of Ivins.
Why would the government be so adamant about pushing the FBI version of events?
I don't know. But remember that - when Congress was originally asked to pass the Patriot Act in late 2001 - the anthrax attacks which occurred only weeks earlier were falsely blamed on Arabs as a way to scare Congress members into approving the bill. Specifically:
- The FBI was actually told to blame Anthrax scare on Al Qaeda by White House officials
- High-level government insiders pointed towards Iraq as the source of the anthrax, even though there was absolutely no reason to think that the anthrax had come from Iraq
- The anthrax letters attempt to link 9/11 and the anthrax attack and pretend to be from radical Muslims and be anti-America and anti-Israel
- Would Arab terrorists have targeted only Congress men who were likely to oppose the Patriot Act and other tyrannical measures? Would they have gotten that specific in their targeting? In order to terrorize America as a whole, wouldn't real Arab terrorists have sent anthrax to the Congressional leaders of both parties, regardless of their political postures towards particular legislation? Shouldn't it have been obvious to the FBI that the killer was pro-tyranny, rather than being simply Anti-American? The "war on terror" and Iraq war were largely based on the claim that Saddam and Muslim extremists were behind the anthrax attacks (and see this and this)
- Senator Patrick Leahy said:
And I think there are people within our government -- certainly from the source of it -- who know where it came from. [Taps the table to let that settle in] And these people may not have had anything to do with it, but they certainly know where it came from.
- The FBI gave its consent in October, 2001 for the remaining samples of the Ames anthrax strain to be destroyed, thereby permanently destroying crucial "genetic clues valuable to the criminal inquiry". Why would the FBI allow the Ames samples to be destroyed, other than to prevent fingers from being pointed toward the real killer, someone who worked for the U.S. government and had access to U.S. bioweapons?
- The American bioweapons expert who actually drafted the current bioweapons law (the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989), who holds a doctorate of law magna cum laude and a Ph.D. in political science, both from Harvard University, and teaches international law at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, served on the Board of Directors of Amnesty International (1988-92) and represented Bosnia-Herzegovina at the World Court, and who "advised the FBI in its initial investigation of the anthrax letters", is convinced that the anthrax attacks that killed five people were perpetrated and covered up by criminal elements of the U.S. government. The motive: to foment a police state by killing off and intimidating opposition to post-9/11 legislation such as the Patriot Act and the later Military Commissions Act. He has said:
Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy were holding it up because they realized what this would lead to. The first draft of the PATRIOT Act would have suspended the writ of habeas corpus [which protects citizens from unlawful imprisonment and guarantees due process of law]. Then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, come these anthrax attacks.