Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Anthrax investigation still yielding findings: Chemical composition of spores doesn't match suspect flask.

Nature article by Roberta Kwok discusses the American Society for Microbiology's Biodefense and Emerging Diseases Research Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland on February 24, 2009. Excerpt:
Joseph Michael, a materials scientist at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, presented analyses of three letters sent to the New York Post and to the offices of Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy. Spores from two of those show a distinct chemical signature that includes silicon, oxygen, iron, and tin; the third letter had silicon, oxygen, iron and possibly also tin, says Michael. Bacteria from Ivins' RMR-1029 flask did not contain any of those four elements. . .

64 comments:

Ed Lake said...

It's been known since August that the RMR-1029 flask didn't contain the silicon found in the attack spores. It was said at that time that it was a virtual certainty that the spores were grown from a sample taken from RMR-1029. The spores used in the attacks were NOT taken directly from RMR-1029.

The presence of tin and iron is new information.

It was the DNA that led to RMR-1029, not trace elements.

BugMaster said...

How could the spores from RMR-1029(which came from LIVE LIVING BACTERIA) not contain ANY oxygen or iron?

Something has gotten lost in translation here.

Anonymous said...

All of the real evidence points away from Ivins, not at him. Why do we need to try to make a circumstantial case against him? What are we hiding? Who are we protecting?
“Randy Atkins: The chemical element silicon is in spores from the letters, but not in the flask. This means the spores used in the attack weren’t taken directly from the flask, but grown elsewhere…in the presence of silicon. But Serguei Popov, a George Mason biologist and former Soviet bioweapons researcher, says the levels of silicon are too high to be an accident – that it was either purposely added to weaponize the spores or…”

Quoted from:
Anthrax Close-up, Part 2
12/14/2008
National Academy of Engineering (NAE)
http://www.nae.edu/nae/pubundcom.nsf/weblinks/NKAL-7M9KTU?OpenDocument

Ellen Byrne said...

"The chemical mismatch doesn't necessarily mean that deadly spores used in the attacks did not originate from Ivins' RMR-1029 flask",says Jason Bannan, a microbiologist and forensic examiner at the FBI's Chemical Biological Sciences Unit in Quantico, Virginia.

A man's life and his family's life have been ruined and this is the best the Feds can come up with?! They were ready to indict him when he committed suicide but they still can't prove he did it?

Anonymous said...

If Ivins did not mail the attack spores, then the FBI is guilty of perhaps the most egregious mistake in the history of crime and punishment. They didn't take Ivins into the back room and beat a confession out of him. Maybe not literally. Following the numerous other well-documented errors of the past one-half generation, it might be the end of the FBI. This is a damage control operation, I'm afraid.

Ross said...

In W.G. Murrell's Chapter 7 of the treatise The Bacterial Spore, the maximum Fe of all the spores tested was .40.

Anonymous said...

" Following the numerous other well-documented errors of the past one-half generation, it might be the end of the FBI."

Give me a break -- what hyperbole! Individuals are accountable for their actions. Do you think a bureaucratic organization and renaming would make crimes any easier to solve? The FBI did not act as an organization when some long individual told the NYT there was a unique chemical signature in the water -- a specific individual did. And perhaps that issue can be resolved by clarification as to how the misunderstanding resulted. Miscommunication does occur in life -- even when journalists are involved. At the very least, the Administration should require candor in the making of the correction. A letter to the editor of New York Times would serve nicely.

Moreover, generally, the FBI is damned if they do and damned if they don't. I think the FBi has done a far better job at understanding things and leaving no stone unturned than any of the pundits or journalists I know (and I know everyone). Mr. Lake just misunderstood the plain language about 8 versus isolates. Drop Ed's mischaracterization of the FBI's thinking, and overlook the statements by Taylor, Mueller and Persichini, and the FBI is doing a fine job. Okay, Taylor and Persichini should resign if they don't make a course correction. But don't fault the institution or the agents, most of whom are not fully read into the case.

Finally, the investigation is not closed. When you see the scientists use phrases like "probably" and "most likely", the next thing to wait for is the evidence that the FBI has not disclosed. We have not yet seen any evidence implicating Ivins.

Hug an FBI agent today and start rooting for the US, the American people, and Obama Administration to succeed on this tough issue.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I'm troubled at the suggestion I've heard that representatives of the United States government would engage in brazen lying.
People instead should focus on obtaining data or evidence. For example, perhaps Dr. Hatfill was just mistaken about his credentials.


Thursday, February 26, 2009
"Robin"

PROF. BRENNER: We'll now hear from Dr.
Steven J. Hatfill. He's been connected with the National Institutes for Health for some time, working on child health development and the laboratory for cellular and molecular biophysics. He's a medical doctor with certification in hematology and pathology. He has a
Ph.D. degree in molecular cell biology [Lie #1]. He has diploma in aviation medicine [Lie #2]. He has a diploma in diving and submarine medicine [Lie #3] . He has served with the U.S. Army Special Forces [Lie #4] . He was on a 14-month [Lie #5] duty
as medical officer and science team leader [Lie #6] at the Antarctic research station. He also conducted research while there for the NASA Johnson Space Center Solar System Exploration Division [Lie #7]. He's been involved in research involving serious problems such as Lyme disease, Ebola and the Marburg virus. Dr. Hatfill.

Barry Kissin said...

I attended the "biodefense meeting" on Feb. 24 reported upon in the Nature article. As soon as I find the time, I will submit a further comment about my experience of this meeting. For now, permit me to dash off some questions. Part of what I seek is recollections of others who attended this meeting.

Before I pose some questions, I will make one comment about a fundamental underpinning of the
science behind the Amerithrax investigation. The "biodefense meeting" of Feb. 24 reminds us of this: The entire scientific investigation has been focused upon looking for a match between the attack anthrax and the samples of Ames strain anthrax that were collected about seven years ago, numbering 1070 samples. These samples were collected as the result of an FBI request for "voluntary submissions" of Ames strain samples made to laboratories all over the world (with the greatest majority of course being American laboratories).

The scientists spoke to us on Feb. 24 about all of the expensive and time-consuming rigor that went into producing results that would be admissible in a court of law. What renders all of it inadmissible is the (tacit)underlying assumption that the laboratory that generated the attack anthrax would produce a sample of the same anthrax in response to an FBI request for "voluntary submissions." Apologists for the FBI will protest(as they did at the Feb 24 meeting) that some of the samples were collected by search and seizure. Of course no one has any details about that. I will comment in my next submission about how weak is this attempt to legitimate the illegitimate process that is the science behind Amerithrax.

I must also mention (once again) that even if the above underlying assumption made any sense, that all that the science behind Amerithrax does for us is to narrow the number of suspects to those with access to RMR-1029 since 1997 (when RMR-1029 was created). This number is much greater than the 100 number the FBI is fond of repeating. This 100 number certainly does not include all of the individuals at Battelle and Dugway with access to RMR-1029 -- the FBI will not even admit the fact that Battelle and Dugway had RMR-1029. And the DOJ-FBI never say anything about how anyone with access to RMR-1029 was excluded, except for perfunctory references to polygraph results. Polygraph results are inadmissible in a court of law for good reason. And Bruce Ivins passed the two separate poygraph examinations he was subjected to.

My questions: 1.) Joe Michael sought to soften the impact of the fact that there was no silicon in Bruce Ivins' RMR-1029 flask by asserting that there was silicon in the RMR-1030 prepared by Dr. Ivins. Is this true? Given that RMR-1029 was a mixture of Ames strain grown at Dugway and RMR-1030, does not this asserton by Joe Michael appear dubious?

2.) Joe Michael presented photographs which, I believe, demonstrated that the presence of silicon in the attack anthrax spores was located on the coat (underneath the exosporium). Is this not congruent with all of the evidence that has previously been presented on this blog that dispersability of the attack spores was enhanced by the technology that situates a polyglass on the coat of the spore?

3.) It seems that the goal of the science behind Amerithrax to incriminate Bruce Ivins is also thwarted by the presence of Bacillus subtilis in the attack anthrax. The scientists on Feb 24 resorted to claiming that B. subtilis, though not present in Dr. Ivins' RMR-1029 flask, was present in other anthrax samples prepared by Dr. Ivins. Is this true? My understanding was that Dr. Ivins' expertise was in avoiding such contamination.

Anonymous said...

Feds Subpoena Anthrax Samples
February 28, 2002

Ed Lake said...

"Something has gotten lost in translation here."

Bugmaster,

Definitely. Bacillus anthracis requires the presence of free oxygen in order to form spores. Oxygen is not important in this.

When AFIP detected the elements silicon and oxygen in the attack spores, they assumed it meant there was silicon dioxide in the spores, i.e., silica, which is often mixed with spores in weaponization processes. So, many people have been talking about silica ever since - even though there was NO silica mixed with the spores. And, of course, there was no silica coating on the spores.

It's the element silicon alone which provides the somewhat unusual signature. The reading for oxygen could have many explanations.

The point Dr. Michael was trying to make about the iron and tin was that it was inside the spore coat, just like the silicon. It was there in only very small amounts, too small to be detected by an EDX doing a bulk analysis. It was only detected by cross-sectioning spores and doing a detailed STEM analysis. (The presence of iron and tin was verified with time-of-flight Secondary ion mass spectrometry.)

The iron and tin are just other elements which come from the growth materials (media, water, chemicals). It's a clue toward what type of growth materials were used. And it shows that spores tend to accumulate silicon, iron and tin inside the spore coat much more than anywhere else.

Anonymous said...

For example, on March 11, 2002, the Brandeis General Counsel sent an email advising that the federal authorities had subpoenaed records in connection with the investigation of the anthrax crimes.

To: All Faculty/PIs/Scientists/Postdocs/Research Staff in Biology,

Biochemistry, Chemistry, Physics, Rosenstiel and Volen

From: Mel Bernstein, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs

Judith R. Sizer, General Counsel

Date: March 11, 2002

Re: URGENT: Response to Federal Grand Jury Subpoena

A federal grand jury in Washington, D.C. has recently issued subpoenas to a number of research universities, including Brandeis, in connection with the ongoing investigation by the Department of Justice into possible illegal use of bacillus anthracis (anthrax).

In its response to the subpoena, the University must disclose information concerning every present and former faculty member, employee or other person affiliated with Brandeis (e.g., post-doctoral fellows, visiting scholars) who has maintained or worked with anthrax at Brandeis in the last twelve years (or in the last twenty years, if the anthrax, or an anthrax simulant, was in dry form).

In order to ensure the University's timely response to this subpoena, please advise us by Friday, March 15, 2002, whether or not you, or anyone else to your knowledge, has ever maintained, handled, stored, destroyed or transferred any strain of anthrax in any Brandeis laboratory or facility on or after January 1, 1990 (or, in the case of dry, powdered, dry aerosolized or weaponized anthrax or anthrax simulants, such as bacillus thuringiensis, bacillus globigii, bacillus cereus and bacillus subtilis, any use,production or manufacture or on or after March 1, 1982).

PLEASE BE SURE TO RESPOND TO THIS INQUIRY, EVEN IF JUST TO CONFIRM THAT YOU HAVE NO KNOWLEDGE OF ANY USE OF ANTHRAX OR ANTHRAX SIMULANTS AS DESCRIBED ABOVE. You are welcome to respond to this message by reply e-mail, if you wish. In order to provide a comprehensive response to the grand jury, we need to hear from all members of the Brandeis community who have received this message.

If you have any questions or comments, please contact Ms. _____ at XXXX@brandeis or XXXXXX. Many thanks for your cooperation.

Ed Lake said...

"they still can't prove he did it?"

Ellen,

They can prove he did it. Things are being taken out of context here to create false arguments.

All Jason Bannan said was that the fact that there were chemicals in the attack spores that weren't in flask RMR-1029 does NOT mean that the starter bacteria used to create the attack anthrax didn't come from flask RMR-1029.

All it means is that the attack anthrax spores were grown in a different way than the spores in RMR-1029. One would expect that the culprit would use different techniques to create the attack spores and would try to avoid leaving evidence that would point directly back to his lab and his processes.

He just didn't know about the mutations. That's what led back to him.

Ed Lake said...

Barry Kissin wrote: "Given that RMR-1029 was a mixture of Ames strain grown at Dugway and RMR-1030,"

Is that true, or is that an assumption on your part?

From the roundtable discussion on August 18:

RMR-1029 is a conglomeration of 13 production runs of spores by Dugway, for USAMRIID, and an additional 22 production runs of spore preparations at USAMRIID that were all pooled into this mixture. It is a total of over 164 liters of spore production, concentrated down to about a liter.

RMR-1030 is presumably something that Ivins created at some other time all by himself. If it contained silicon in the spores, that's NEWS. It would be further proof of Ivins' guilt.

We need to find out exactly what was in RMR-1030 and when it was created.

Ed Lake said...

Barry Kissin wrote: "Is this not congruent with all of the evidence that has previously been presented on this blog that dispersability of the attack spores was enhanced by the technology that situates a polyglass on the coat of the spore?"

Barry,

The point is: There was no evidence for those claims. All the NONSENSE printed in the media about silica or "polyglass" coatings on the spores has been PROVEN to be total nonsense. That's the point here. It was all based upon FALSE ASSUMPTIONS and MISINTERPRETATIONS. It's been known for years that is was all false assumptions. I even included a chapter in my book about the false assumptions made at USAMRIID and AFIP. The chapter is titled "To Err Is Human" and can be read by clicking HERE.

Ed Lake said...

Barry Kissin wrote: "The scientists on Feb 24 resorted to claiming that B. subtilis, though not present in Dr. Ivins' RMR-1029 flask, was present in other anthrax samples prepared by Dr. Ivins. Is this true?"

Wow! Right! Is this true??

If so, it's a virtual "smoking gun" as further proof of Dr. Ivins' guilt.

It wasn't in RMR-1029 because that was a special preparation created to be the "gold standard" used in vaccine tests. A great deal of care was done to prevent any contamination.

So, if the same Bacillus subtilis strain found in the NY Post letter was found in other samples created by Dr. Ivins, that's a virtual smoking gun.

Is it true? Why isn't it making headlines?

Anonymous said...

The new Iron and Tin issues definitely require further discusssion, analysis, and consideration. But putting those aside for the moment, it's clear that silicon remains a major issue.

I'm beginning to believe that silicon is a 'make or break' issue, all by itself, and not because of 'conspiracy' considerations, but because of the fundamental nature of the FBI's case that Dr. Ivins was the lone culprit. In essence, the FBI's case boils down to (i) Scientific evidence shows that Dr. Ivins could have done it; and (ii), FBI claims that it will be able to show that no one else with access to RMR-1029 could have done it. Such a case is inherently weak because there are so many different points that must be proven -- and the FBI hasn't even attempted to prove part (ii) yet. But it seems to me that the silicon issue actually has the potential to completly undercut, all by itself, the validity of part (i) and hence the entire case against Dr. Ivins.

There seems to be general agreement that the significant silicon spike in the attack spores was highly unusual. If indeed normal anthrax produced by any of a myriad of methods doesn't have an equivalent or comparable silicon spike, and if the FBI can't come up with some reasonable explanation for how Dr. Ivins could have, even accidentally, incorporated comparable levels of silicon into the anthrax, then the FBI really can't show that Dr. Ivins could have produced the attack anthrax. The FBI has exhaustively catalogued everything in Ivins' lab and home, but apparently found no silicon source. Consider the FBI statement at their science briefing to the effect that water in New Mexico has a high silicon content -- But Ivins neither lived or worked in New Mexico.

The silicon content just begs for an explanation if one is to believe that Ivins could have done it. And given that the FBI's case is inherently weak to begin with, and subject to question on numerous other independent bases, the silicon question increases in importance. Unless the FBI can give a reasonable scientific explanation for the silicon, it thus seems to me that the FBI's proof that Ivins could have made the attack anthrax fails in its entirity.

Anonymous said...

This is an attempt to address Barry Kissin's Question 2 regarding the dispersability-enhancing effects of silicon coating applied to the spore coat, beneath the exosporium.

I don't know that anyone has yet shown that such coatings have in fact been used to enhance dispersibility (I might have missed it), but fundamental electrical principles do suggest that they could. Specifically, the electrical properties of a surface will necessarily impact the electrical properties of any other closely adjacent surface. Thus a capacitor functions because of two closely spaced conductive plates. A charge on one of the plates is compensated by accumulation of the opposite charge on the other plate. In the case of a capacitor the plates are separated by a dielectric material which constitutes a nearly perfect electrical insulator. If the dielectric fails then the electrical charge on either plate will jump the gap between the plates and dissipate the charge on the other plate causing the capacitor to fail.

In the case of anthrax spores, there is apparently evidence to the effect that individual spores can be prevented from clumping together by applying electrostatic charge to the individual spores, via an appropriate surface modification, causing the spores to repel each other and hence not clump together. It stands to reason that if one could change the charge of a spore coat surface closely adjacent the outer exosporium surface, one would inherently modify the electrostatic surface properties of the exosporium. Alternatively, a silicon coating could function as a dielectric between the spore nucleus and exosporium surface and thereby promote accumulation of charge on the exosporium. In any event, one would expect a spore coat coating, having different electrical properties than the electrical properties of the exosporium, would have an impact on the electrostatic properties of the exosporium.

Ed Lake said...

It's been hours since I posted my last comment, and it hasn't yet appeared. I can't remember exactly what I wrote.

But, I've been talking with people at Sandia, and they tell me that the spores in RMR-1030 did contain silicon in their spore coats. It just wasn't an exact quantity match to what was in the attack anthrax.

So, Ivins DID create spores with silicon in the spore coats. He just didn't create spores the same way every time.

The idea that RMR-1030 was used in some way to create RMR-1029 is just plain wrong - as I recall stating previously.

The B. subtilis found in the New York Post letter AND NBC letter was not found in any samples taken at USAMRIID, but that doesn't mean it isn't there. It's just impractical to test every possible location.

They DID find B. subtilis contamination at USAMRIID. It just wasn't an exact DNA match to what was in the TWO letters.

BugMaster said...

Up to this point, I believed the forensic evidence presented was credible, with only the assumptions and conclusion based on the evidence (Ivins being responsible) being wrong.

However, I at this point I feel that Michael's conclusions regarding tin and iron as irrational, flawed, and based on ignorance.

Here is a link to a version of the periodic table of the elements. I am assuming Dr. Michael has used one of these sometime in his career.

http://www.chemicool.com/

Note the location of tin (SN, element #30). It is in column 14, under carbon AND SILICON. Elements in this group have similar electron cloud characteristics (# of free electrons in the outer shell, same / very close in valence number, etc). That's why they are grouped together!

Since the analysis of the material is an ELECTROMAGNETIC ANALYSIS, is it not plausable that the presence of tin (which serves vitually no purpose in metabolism) is an artifact? How well can these techniques differentiate between silica in the multiple forms of silicic acid (bound to 2, 4, or 6 oxygen molecules, which are electron-dense themselves) and tin?

The statement that iron was not present: This is not a scientifically valid statement! And to say that oxygen wasn't present is even more absurd. The correct wording is "below the level of detection". Iron that is present in virtually all biological material, (as is oxygen) so concluding they were below the level of detection in the case of the RMR-1029 spores raises serous doubts about the validity of these assays.

Iron is element #26 NOTE WHAT IS IMMEDIATELY TO THE LEFT, ELEMENT #25, MN, MAGANESE!

In many cases maganese is added to bacillus cultures to promote / trigger sporulation. It is reported to be 100X more potent that another trace element, iron, that is also required for sporulation. If Ivins routinely used maganese in his protocols for spore production, it would have been found in both materials (and used as evidence against him).

And what about the conclusion of "possible tin"?!!? As far as I know, there is no scientifically valid definition for the element "Possible Tin".

So what was done here? Signals obtained from the attack material were compared with signals from RMR-1029. Because of the silicon present in the attack material, there was a signal consistent with silicon and an artifact that was incorrected interpreted as tin.

As a microbiologist, I can say that tin present in microbially derived material, without the presence of iron or oxygen is an absurd conclusion. One couldn't obtain that even if they put toothpaste in the attack material!

A large signal in the attack material was more likely from maganese, and incorrectly interpreted as iron. (IRON HAD TO BE IN BOTH SAMPLES!)

Inconveinent conclusion for Dr. Micheals and his team:

If in fact Maganese was detected, it is incriminating evidence against others besides Bruce Ivins!

And the presence of Tin and "Possible Tin" in the absence of iron and oxygen?

This work submitted by Sandia must be subject to further scrutiny.

This is pathetic! Someone from Sandia needs to come forward and explain themselves here!

Anonymous said...

Ed Lake said, "[The FBI] can prove [Ivins] did it."

To the extent that Lake is asserting that publicly released evidence proves that Ivins did it, the claim is simply untrue. The evidence released by the FBI to date shows, at best, that Ivins could have done it, and that is even questionable at this point. Without proof that all others with access to RMR-1029 could not have done it, at best all the FBI can show is that Ivins is one of many who could have done it. Case not solved.

To Ed Lake I would say this; the real problem with what you call a True Believer is that such a person has already made up their mind and is no longer capable of being objective. To me it seems that your remarks consistentlly demonstrate a lack of objectivity. Clearly the FBI has not, to date, released evidence sufficient to prove Ivins' guilt, and I don't think even the FBI would dispute that.

Ed Lake said...

"Someone from Sandia needs to come forward and explain themselves here!"

BugMaster,

Someone from Sandia presented the facts at the ASM meeting. Were you there? Or are you simply confused by all the nonsense being posted by people who were NOT there? Mr. Kissin who was there must seems to have misunderstood nearly everything.

I have no problem getting answers to questions from people at Sandia. If you have questions, try asking them. Why ask people on this forum who clearly do NOT have answers?

The Tin Man said...

THE TIN MAN

The journal Nature summarized:

"At a biodefence meeting on 24 February, Joseph Michael, a materials scientist at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, presented analyses of three letters sent to the New York Post and to the offices of Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy. Spores from two of those show a distinct chemical signature that includes silicon, oxygen, iron, and tin; the third letter had silicon, oxygen, iron and possibly also tin, says Michael."

Ivins flask did not contain tin. Dr. Michael reportedly has speculated it might have been in the water. But Ft. Detrick water did not have tin, did it? Former Russian bioweapons expert Sergeui Popov comments:

"Although the tin and iron may have come from the water used for cultivation, their amount, in my opinion, far exceeds the levels commonly present in the water used in a laboratory. Another possibility to consider is that the suspect used a primitive but a sturdy and a widely-available container to dry the spores, namely a tin can. It would explain a simultaneous presence of both elements. This suggestion is easy to test in experiments."

Dr. Popov reports: "I don’t remember the exact levels from the presentation, but it spikes out like hell."

Dr. Popov walks me through the scenario:

"Let's do a hypothetical spore prep in the simplest way and try to suggest something to prepare a dry powder. You cultivate the bacteria and end up with a wet paste (doesn't matter if you used a fermenter, flasks, or plates). Now, you have to dry it and make it dispersable. The lyophilization is out of question (slow, unproductive, visible, requires equipment, generates powder in the flasks with narrow necks, difficult to dispose or decontaminate the flasks). Plastic is out of question either (disposable, but not heat resistant, comes mainly as awkwardly capped tubes or jars with poorly sealedlids). A tin is perfect, unbreakable, easy to seal and heat up (if necessary). Many of them are lying around. You first try a slow evaporation with a low heat. In order to agitate a dry residue you can use a spatula, then put the powder in the envelope. It doesn't work good, the brown powder is too coarse (Florida anthrax). A desiccation is quiet, can be done in the same container, simple, does not produce any contamination, and produces better powder. Just open the lid, put a can into a bigger jar and forget about it for a few days. Then put a few glass beads into the container, close the lid. Shake it and the beads will make a powder. No contamination, no aerosols, everything in the same container, and no traces."

Even those "tin cans" nowadays made of aluminum are commonly plated with a thin layer of tin. For example, some Heinz products in 2001 involved contamination of a spaghetti product in tomato sauce with high levels of tin.

Sergei first described use of such a tin container in September 2008 in discussing the possible drying method used and Professor Rosenbergs opinion addressing the drying method.

"Prof. Rosenberg

One of those methods, azeotropic drying, was used recently at Dugway-the only US laboratory that has admitted to making dry anthrax—for drying pelleted anthrax spores that were intended to simulate closely the spores used in the attack. The azeotropic method used is “proprietary.” Bill Patrick said in 1996 that he had taught Dugway to use an azeotropic drying method developed at Fort Detrick in the 1950’s. [...] Knowledge of appropriate azeotropic drying methods is esoteric, and methods developed for anthrax spores are classified. Expertise and experience of this sort is another discriminator that could be used to screen the list of 100+ potential suspects.

Comment

It is nice that the method have been classified, but the knowledge cannot be a discriminator of guilt. Scientists can do things right without a direct knowledge but with a sufficient background. My internet search turned out several articles on ambient drying without heating, based on the properties of the water-organic emulsions. Drying is a key to the successful preparation of the spore powder, and a poor quality of Florida anthrax demonstrates that the person made several small-batch attempts to discover an appropriate procedure. Therefore, we may conclude that the person experimented without a preliminary knowledge of a previously established protocol. In my opinion, the requirement to conceal the experiments was extremely important for the perpetrator in the choice of cultivation approaches as well as the drying procedure. The perpetrator had to use minimal amount of medium and equipment; produce minimal amount of suspicious waste, including the organic solvents. Ideally, the cultivation, sporulation, as well as drying would be performed in the containers routinely used in the lab, which could be unsuspiciously dumped into trash for autoclaving.

Here is the most interesting part, but you don’t have to take it seriously. During my internet research, I also came across a procedure for the preparation of fungal spores. The author described how to buy all necessary equipment at Wal-Mart. He used a desiccant in a small jar to dry the spores. Here is a hypothetical scenario based on my experience (please, don't consider it as an indication of my guilt). Take a small amount of spores and inoculate several agar plates (this is a part of a microbiological routine). Nobody will notice the “missing” amount of bacteria. Forget about the plates for several days in order to let the culture grow and sporulate. If somebody finds the plates and asks questions, say “sorry, I forgot to dispose of them” (it happens all the time). If not, scrape the spores, which are now almost “theoretically” pure, and put a paste into an unsuspicious container. It may be an empty vial left after a used reagent. Plenty are lying around. Attach a cap loosely and put a vial into a bigger container with some desiccant in it. These tin or plastic containers come with many reagents and protect the content from moisture. Close the lid and put the container aside, and it will look like somebody forgot to dispose of it. Again, if somebody asks, say it is trash. Two days later, stay late in the lab, take the vial out, use a spatula to disperse the dry stuff, and put it into an envelope. Next time, you may try to add a drop of silicate to the spore paste before drying. All these procedures will take minutes to accomplish. Everything is disposable, and there will be no traces left behind. Now, try to criticize this scenario, and maybe we will get a little bit closer to what really had taken place."

Ed Lake said...

BugMaster,

I've talked with Joe Michael. Why don't you? Here's what I suspect he'll tell you:

He didn't use electromagnetic analysis (whatever that is). He did energy dispersive x-ray microanalysis of the materials. That has nothing to do with whatever you are talking about. They look at the x-rays given off when the sample is illuminated by a focused beam of electrons. It is very well accepted and highly utilized technology.

Dr. Michael never said there was no iron in the spores in RMR-1029. He said there was no iron or Oxygen or Silicon or Sn detected in the spore coat of those spores.

Anonymous said...

-> Ed Lake

Last time I looked X-rays were still electromagnetic radiation (as they always have been). Has something changed?

BugMaster said...

A tin can as the source of the contaminant makes more sense than the FBI'a conclusion, that the tin came from water or media components.

There is another plausable explaination.

The tin was absorbed from the toner present in the letters (they were copies).

When the powdered material was suspended in acetone and introduced into the "pharmaceutical folded" letters, some tin was absorbed from the toner. The acetone may also have absorbed some tin from the container it was packaged in.

Wasn't it Ed who made a point of the small cuts in some of the letters? Perhaps a small cut into the folded letter so a needle could be introduced?

Somehow, the powdered material would have had to be introduced into the letters, this is one method by which this could be accomplished without releasing the spores into the immediate environment.

As scientists, we are taught to reject illogical conclusions. In physics or engineering, one has to often reject illogical answers, such as solving problems involving the quadratic equation (one of the two answers to the equation is usually wrong, containing a negative volume or dimension).

To conclude that the tin came from water or media, using analysis that resulted in either "tin" or "possible tin" is absurd and illogical.

If a reasonable explanation for the FBI's scientific findings can't be presented, then it is appropriate for experts in the field to view such findings with extreme skepticism, or reject them entirely.

P.S. They also haven't presented a reasonable explanation for the silicon signature.

They weren't able to produce material that duplicated it, either.

Ellen Byrne said...

Ed Lake said...
"Ellen,

They can prove he did it."

Ed, Ed, Ed it was this type of zealous behavior that led the FBI to zero in on Bruce.

Here is a link to a post by Dr. Nass over five months ago. "If The Case Is Solved Why Isn't It Solved?"

http://anthraxvaccine.blogspot.com/2008/09/if-case-is-solved-why-isnt-it-solved.html

Anonymous said...

They took samples and picked up several distinct morphological variants from every sample (because a change in morphology indicates mutations). These variants from different samples were sequenced, 12 mutations were found. Only the Bruce flask sample contained all mutations found in the letters, so all other samples turned out to be distinct and therefore irrelevant to the letters. I guess they took as many samples as they could (or believed that these 8 were representative). Don't be confused by the same number of morphs in 8 samples. Only real mutations in the DNA sequence but not the colony morphology are important. Two isolates with the same morphology may have different mutations.

Ed Lake said...

BugMaster wrote: "As scientists, we are taught to reject illogical conclusions."

Then why don't you reject your own suggestion that the tin could have come from the toner? The tin was inside the spore coat. It wasn't on the exosporium. So, isn't your suggestion illogical?

Wasn't it Ed who made a point of the small cuts in some of the letters?

No, that wasn't me. That was one of the "Anonymi" who believed that the spores were static charged and, when the letters were opened, the charged spores would burst from the letter like from a burst balloon. He had this ridiculous theory that the spores were put into the letter via a hypodermic needle. I'm the guy who said that was ridiculous.

P.S. They also haven't presented a reasonable explanation for the silicon signature.

Have you been paying any attention at all? There are numerous studies showing that spores readily absorb silicon into the spore coats. No one has bothered to determine the exact sources (except Rouf in 1964, who determined it came from the water). But, since NONE of the spores were weaponized, it's known that the sources had nothing to do with weaponization.

One study by Murrell that's been published in book form analyzed over a dozen instances of silicon being found in spores. No attempt was made to determine the sources, but the amount of silicon in the spores was over 1 percent of the dry weight in some instances.

And Dr. Ivins own processes put silicon in the spores in flask RMR-1030. That flask contained the Ames strain of Bacillus anthracis. He used Leighton-Doi media in shaking flasks to create the contents of RMR-1030.

So, distorting the facts and playing with words like "possible tin" just shows a blindness to the facts. Detecting silicon in spores is not uncommon, but only one known study has bothered to try to find the source. It's never been important before.

Ed Lake said...

Ellen Byrne wrote: "Ed, Ed, Ed it was this type of zealous behavior that led the FBI to zero in on Bruce."

Since when is looking at the facts considered to be "zealous behaviour?"

On my web site I have a list of 20 FACTS which point to Dr. Ivins' guilt. I added a new one just yesterday when it was learned that the AMES anthrax spores in flask RMR-1030 contained silicon, and those spores were created by Dr. Ivins.

Zealous behavior would be ignoring the facts, which is what you seem to be doing. The case IS SOLVED, it just isn't CLOSED.

Closing the case would prevent the FBI from spending more time and effort on wrapping up details.

Ed Lake said...

They also haven't presented a reasonable explanation for the silicon signature.

Here's a VERY important fact that hasn't been discussed before:

The "silicon signature" they are trying to re-create is a percentage of spores that have silicon in the spore coats. It is NOT - repeat NOT - an amount of silicon in an individual spore.

Only 65-75% of the attack spores had silicon in their spore coats. The rest had NO silicon.

So, in any given sample you have some spores with no silicon, no oxygen, no iron and no tin in their spore coats.

Flask RMR-1030 created by Dr. Ivins had the silicon signature in just 6% of the spores.

A test done at Dugway with Ames anthrax and the same brand of media as used for RMR-1030 (Leighton-Doi) showed the silicon signature in 30% of the spores.

It appears that if there is soluble silicon in the environment when Bacillus anthracis is forming spores, the bacteria will either absorb a certain amount or none at all.

The trick in trying to duplicate the "signature" is to get the right percentage.

But, it seems totally possible that two presumably identical tests could produce different percentages of spores with silicon due to some unknown factor.

Barry Kissin said...

Forgive me for quoting myself (from ninth comment above): "What renders all of the science behind Amerithrax inadmissible is the underlying assumption that the laboratory that generated the attack anthrax would produce a sample of the same anthrax in response to an FBI request for 'voluntary submissions.'" So far, there has been one response to this on this blog. Anonymous points out that some subpoenas were issued. This of course does not dispose of the problem. A subpoena is a piece of paper that commands the production of evidence within a certain period, like one month. There is hardly more reason to believe that the laboratory that generated the attack anthrax would produce a sample of it in response to a subpoena than it would in response to a request for voluntary submission.

As for unannounced searches and seizures, I expect there were a few of those. For this to add to the validity of the science, one underlying assumption is that one of these unannounced searches would have occurred at the guilty laboratory. The other assumption is that the guilty laboratory would have left laying around a batch of anthrax matching the attack anthrax.

The "underlying assumptions" I am identifying are not just insupportable. What is being assumed to be true is almost certainly false. There is every reason to expect that immediately after perpetrating the anthrax attacks, the guilty parties hid/disposed of the anthrax remaining in their custody that could connect them to the crime. This would be especially easy to do in a facility shrouded in layers of secrecy.

The FBI might as well have asked for everyone's samples of dried Ames strain, concentrated to the degree of one trillion spores per gram, containing particles between 1 and 4 microns in size, with the presence of silicon in the spore coat,etc.

Bottom line: The FBI's claim is erroneous that the science behind Amerithrax narrows the possible sources of the attack anthrax to eight labs (seven of which were at USAMRIID, and one of which was at an "institution" the FBI refuses to identify). The science behind Amerithrax is being used by the DOJ-FBI to imbue groundless conclusions with the aura of scientific authority and precision.
The science is also being used to occupy (distract, confuse) us with esoteric matters that cannot contribute to real insight into the origin of the anthrax letters.

February 27, 2009 2:11 PM

Old Atlantic Lighthouse said...

Now that the FBI has identified RMR1029 as the flask, and they still have the anthrax from the letters, they should try to see if there are additional indels or markers that identify or distinguish the DNA.

They selected 4 indels and then did a big search. Now they have the letter anthrax DNA and RMR1029 they think are the same. So they should do the entire DNA sequence of each and see if they are the same not just on the 4 indels chosen for the big search but now the entire DNA molecule of letter and RMR1029 should be compared.

Of course, RMR1029 is not a single DNA strand. But they should try to figure out as much as they can, including the list of DNA molecules variants and the frequence of each.

They should also try to distinguish RMR1029 from what Dugway and Battelle have.

When the FBI thinks they have the source, that should let them do more tests than are practical in time and cost in the big search through 1000 or more possible sources.

They have a sequence in time of samples sent from RMR1029 and other places. They should try to identify when these 4 indels came into existence and when. There were the 160+ liters of source material for RMR1029. When in time and where in space did the indels and other DNA changes happen?

They should think in terms of a space time map of the history of this DNA and the mutations large or small.

Colleague said...

I have a question for Ed Lake. Since you mentioned RMR 1030 (which I agree was solely made by Dr. Ivins) can you tell us if RMR 1030 had any of the mutations that were used to finger RMR 1029. Since it is likely that the source of the Ames strain Dr. Ivins used to make RMR 1030 is identical to the material he added to RMR 1029 to bring it up to 1000 ML it becomes a critically important question because the bulk of material in RMR 1029 was grown at Dugway and only a very small fraction of it was made by Dr. Ivins. Oh, and do you also know about RMR 1028?

Anonymous said...

Ed Lake wrote

Here's a VERY important fact that hasn't been discussed before:

The "silicon signature" they are trying to re-create is a percentage of spores that have silicon in the spore coats. It is NOT - repeat NOT - an amount of silicon in an individual spore.

Only 65-75% of the attack spores had silicon in their spore coats. The rest had NO silicon

etc.



This is getting frigging ridiculous! It's the most amateurish thing I've ever seen. The FBI releases technical findings -- bit by bit -- with no supporting data -- via a blogger named Ed Lake.

It's absolutely crazy if it's true.

They were ready to go to trial eighth months ago. Yeah right. They didn't even have the mailing dates straight at that point. Then they held a science briefing. Now they're changing that via a blogger named Ed Lake.

Oh! I'm absolutely convinced these professionals have solved the case!

Anonymous said...

A good indication of the fact that the FBI are desperately in damage control mode is the very fact that they leak information to a person with the status of Ed Lake (I'm being polite here, just Google Ed Lake to find out what his other "hobbies" are).
It seems the FBI are avid readers of this blog and others. Whenever they anonymously leak new information they go to the blogs to see how it goes over. If it gets trashed and they have been busted once again, they simply change the story or deny it. Such is the beauty of anonymous leaks.
From the Postscript in today's New York Times it seems that Scott Shane is on to them.

His reference to Utah and Ohio tells us what he is beginning to suspect at last.

The water signature aspect was thoroughly discredited previously on this very blog.

It should be fascinating to read here what the next amateurish and pathetic leak Lake's "FBI scientist contact" will say next.


New York Times Postscript: February 28, 2009

A front-page article on Jan. 4 about Bruce E. Ivins, the late Army scientist who the Federal Bureau of Investigation says was responsible for the anthrax letter attacks of 2001, reported that F.B.I. scientists had concluded in 2004 that out of 60 domestic and foreign water samples, only water from near Fort Detrick, Md., where Dr. Ivins worked, had the same chemical signature as the water that had been used to grow the mailed anthrax. That information, provided by a former senior law enforcement official who did not want to be named in the article, suggested that the anthrax could not have come from military and intelligence research programs in Utah and Ohio, as some defenders of Dr. Ivins’s innocence had speculated. The F.B.I. declined to answer questions for that article, which said that the evidence against Dr. Ivins was circumstantial and that many of his colleagues believed the F.B.I.’s conclusion was wrong.

On Tuesday at an American Society for Microbiology conference in Baltimore, an F.B.I. scientist, Jason D. Bannan, said the water research ultimately was inconclusive about where the anthrax was grown. An F.B.I. spokeswoman, Ann Todd, said on Wednesday that the bureau “stands by the statements” of Dr. Bannan. The case will be reviewed this year by the National Academy of Sciences.

Ed Lake said...

"What renders all of the science behind Amerithrax inadmissible is the underlying assumption that the laboratory that generated the attack anthrax would produce a sample of the same anthrax in response to an FBI request for 'voluntary submissions.'"

Mr. Kissin,

Your argument assumes that everyone who worked in the same lab as the culprit was involved in the attacks.

You assume that they all knew that they were responsible, so they would all conspire to cover up their involvement.

Or is it just the management who you assume knew about the crime?

If the crime was committed by a lone culprit, why wouldn't everyone else who would all want to help catch the killer fully participate in sending in samples?

And since sending in samples would be a group effort by the lab, how could the culprit prevent them from sending in samples of the source? And if the culprit felt he had covered his tracks, why would risk doing anything to prevent anyone from sending in the samples?

If you set aside your conspiracy theory that everyone must have been involved, you'll get a very different picture.

Ed Lake said...

Colleague asked: "can you tell us if RMR 1030 had any of the mutations that were used to finger RMR 1029."

Colleague,

Someone else asked me that. So, I asked my source at the FBI and a source at Sandia, and neither knew the answer. I also asked a DNA expert who gave a presentation on Tuesday, but he's out of town until March 2. I thought it was a critical question, but now I'm not so sure. What difference does it make? RMR-1030 had silicon in only 30% of the spores versus 65-75% in the attack anthrax?

Oh, and do you also know about RMR 1028?

Not directly. All I was told by Joe Michael at Sandia National Laboratories is that, in addition to the attack anthrax, he analyzed just TWO other Ames anthrax samples that contained silicon - RMR-1030 and a sample created at Dugway to see if the 65-75% signature could be duplicated. I think that implies that no other sample at Ft. Detrick included silicon, since Sandia was involved in testing hundreds, if not thousands of samples.

Ed Lake said...

One of the Anonymi wrote: "This is getting frigging ridiculous! It's the most amateurish thing I've ever seen. The FBI releases technical findings -- bit by bit -- with no supporting data -- via a blogger named Ed Lake."

No, scientists involved in the investigation released the information at a meeting of the American Society for Microbiologists on Tuesday of this week.

All I'm doing is mentioning what was said at that meeting. Debora MacKenzie of New Scientist magazine has also reported on this, although she got things a bit wrong. She wrote,

"Joseph Michael of the Sandia National Lab in Albuquerque, New Mexico, used specialised electron microscopy to show that 75 per cent of the attack spores had incorporated silicon into their coats while growing"

That's not what Joe Michael said. In forums where this is being discussed by people who were there they point out that Dr. Michael said 65-75%, not just 75%. And Dr. Michael has confirmed this to me personally.

At least one journalist I know was involved in these discussions, so I assume that he's writing something about the meeting. It just hasn't been printed yet.

The fact that the "silicon signature" is a percentage of spores with silicon and NOT an amount of silicon in individual spores is a mind-boggling piece of information that seems to destroy virtually all the "weaponization" conspiracy theory arguments.

I can see why it's taking main stream media journalists time to figure out how to write about it. I'm hoping that there will be news about it in the Sunday editions tomorrow.

Or maybe the MSM won't even bother to write about it, since they would have to distort it to create something sensational to bring in readers and to sell newspapers.

However, I can understand your frustration over the fact that the release of the information in printed form where everyone can study it is being held up by the peer review process and the queue for publishing in scientific journals. That's driving me up the wall, too.

Ed Lake said...

One of the Anonymi wrote: "It should be fascinating to read here what the next amateurish and pathetic leak Lake's "FBI scientist contact" will say next."

Are you sure you read that postscript correctly?

Back on Jan 4, The New York Times reported:

By early 2004, F.B.I. scientists had discovered that out of 60 domestic and foreign water samples, only water from Frederick, Md., had the same chemical signature as the water used to grow the mailed anthrax.

My FBI source told me that was incorrect. The water evidence was inconclusive. I said so on my site and on this site.

Now The New York Times has published a correction. They are saying that their reporter misinterpreted a statement by some anonymous official that the anthrax couldn't have been made in Ohio or Utah to mean that the water somehow pointed to Ft. Detrick. The water had nothing to do with eliminating Ohio and Utah.

The New York Times is confirming what my FBI source told me.

Ed Lake said...

I wrote: "The water had nothing to do with eliminating Ohio and Utah."

That's a misstatement. It may be true, but I don't know for a fact that it's true.

It's possible that the water evidence eliminated Ohio and/or Utah, and that's what the NY Times' source told their reporter. But the water evidence did NOT point specifically to the Ft. Detrick area, which is what the Times published.

Anonymous said...

Ed Lake wrote: The "silicon signature" they are trying to re-create is a percentage of spores that have silicon in the spore coats. It is NOT - repeat NOT - an amount of silicon in an individual spore.


"Silicon signature" definitely did mean the silicon in individual spores when Sandia discussed the subject at The FBI's Science Briefing. See, for example the following comment by Dr. Michael of Sandia

DR. MICHAEL: ... Again, in the letter materials the silicon and oxygen were co-located on the spore coat, within the spore. In fact, we found some vegetative cells that were going through the sporulation process and the spore within the mother cell had this same signature.

BugMaster said...

from Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organotin

"Diorganotins have no antifungal activity, low toxicity, and low antibacterial activity, except for diphenyltins. They are used in polymer manufacturing, as PVC heat stabilizers, catalysts, in the manufacturing of polyurethane AND SILICON CURING" (emphasis mine)

Perhaps a residual component from the silicon-based antifoam?

Also, Mr. Lake: You have put forward the possiblity on your blog and in other postings that the silica signature was a characteristic of spores produced using Leighton-Doi medium.

Leighton-Doi is a modification of another media formulation. The modification is the addition of very high (compared with normal trace element requirements) levels of maganese, not the addition of any silica. As previously mentioned, maganese promotes spore production, especially in liquid culture.

It is PERHAPS plausable that the maganese may have had a small amount of contaminating silica and was therefore the source, but here is the problem:

Had Leighton-Doi been used in the production of the attack material, the high levels of maganese present would have easily and almost immediately been detected (ionically bound with the electronegative silaic acid residues in the peptidogycan layer of the cell membrane, not the spore coat).

Such a discovery would surely have been presented as evidence of Ivin's guilt, since he used Leighton-Doi in his spore production runs (as described in your latest posting on your website), yet no such forensic evidence has ever been put forward.

Tin in the attack material, in addition to silica, is a real puzzler. Because both materials are so poorly soluable, water as a source can be ruled out.

Media components are another possibility, but there is a real problem here as well....

Ed Lake said...

Anonymous,

There was an email in my inbox this morning from Dr. Michael cautioning me on my use of the word "signature."

The percentage of spores with silicon is just one part of the "signature". Obviously, the location of the silicon within the spore is also an important part of the signature.

Plus, there are the other elements - oxygen, iron, tin - which are parts of the "signature".

I was just trying to point out that the amount of silicon in a spore seems to be either zero or some common amount. The "signature" apparently does NOT involve varying amounts of silicon within all spores in a sample as previously thought. But, again, I could be wrong about that. If so, I'm sure Dr. Michael will soon tell me.

So, the error in the use of the word "signature" is mine, not Dr. Michael's.

Ed Lake said...

BugMaster,

The revelations at Tueday's ASM meeting have boggled my mind. I'm having a hard time getting my brain around all the implications.

Two samples made with Leighton-Doi media contained silicon. That doesn't necessarily mean that the attack anthrax was made with Leighton-Doi -- but it probably was.

The impression I get is that manganese is commonly found in spores, so it's not something that raises any questions. The Stewart et. al paper from 1980 had two maps of manganese locations in spores. And it appears to be evenly spread throughout the spores.

Because both materials are so poorly soluable, water as a source can be ruled out.

I think that's a self-defeating argument. Being water soluble is key. Silica is not soluble, but there can be soluble forms of silicon in water.

Silicone based anti-foaming agents can be ruled out because they do not used a soluble form of silicon.

Anonymous said...

Ed Lake, who is contaminating this blog like a virus, boasting about his email conversations with scientists at the FBI and Sandia, continues to post utter nonsense demonstrating his total lack of understanding about science. His latest illiterate ravings are pasted below:

"The impression I get is that manganese is commonly found in spores, so it's not something that raises any questions. The Stewart et. al paper from 1980 had two maps of manganese locations in spores. And it appears to be evenly spread throughout the spores.

Because both materials are so poorly soluable, water as a source can be ruled out."


He seems to have invented a new word this time - "soluable" whatever that means. If he even had a clue what he was talking about he would know that Manganese Sulfate (MnSO4) is highly soluble in water and is deliberately added to anthrax preparations along with many other metals.

This was all previously discussed on this blog during the "water signature" debunking thread:

http://anthraxvaccine.blogspot.com/2009/01/nyt-portrait-emerges-of-anthrax.html

Same holds for other necessary chemicals such as NH4SO4, MgSO4, MnSO4, ZnSO4, CuSO4, FeSO4, CaCl2.2H2O, K2HPO4.

I'll try saying it one more time in language even Ed Lake's email buddy Joe Michael of Sandia National Labs can understand. There are certain elements that are deliberately added to anthrax spore preparations. They include all the elements listed above such as Manganese (Mn), Zinc (Zn), Copper (Cu), Iron (Fe), Calcium (Ca) and Potassium (K). Silicon is not a metal and it is NOT deliberately added to anthrax spore preparations because it is not needed (asides from possible antifoaming used in large scale fermentor reactors).

I seriously question if Joe Michael of Sandia National Labs ever actually attended any chemistry courses when he was at school.

For Joe Michael to resort to swapping emails with the likes of Ed Lake shows just how far downhill our National Labs have gone. It's an embarrassment that we taxpayers are actually paying money to support these contracts.

BugMaster said...

Ed:

Antifoam as the source of silica WITHIN THE SPORE COAT is quite unlikely. The silica that penetrated the spore coat would have to be in the form of a monomer (silicic acids as an example) or low molecular weight polymer. That rules out antifoam as the source of the silica within the spore coat, but does not rule out antifoam as one of the sources of silica in the attack material as a whole.

Silicic acids are POORLY soluable in water. Interestingly, a solution containing a high concentration of a certain compound can contain much more solubilized silicic acid that just water itself. If the solution is diluted out, the silicic acid precipitates out of solution (or perhaps becomes associated with a spore?!).

The possibility that the tin detected could be from a organo-tin catalyst used to polymerize silicon is quite disturbing.

I have never bought into the theory that the attack material had undergone any specialized treatment to enhance dispersability.

Now I am having some doubts.

The presence of silica and now tin has been revealed, with no reasonable explanation for their presence put forth so far.

BugMaster said...

Mispelling "soluable" was my mistake.

There is no doubt that maganese is present in virtually all microbial media formulations. What defines Leighton-Doi media is the extra amounts of maganese added to enhance sporulation.

Trace element analysis will reveal not only which elements are present, but also their RATIOS.

So, a high amount of maganese relative to other divalent cations would determine if the spores were produced using Leighton-Doi or a similar media.

As far as producting the attack material, since no such findings have been mentioned, we can assume it wasn't.

Ed Lake said...

One of the Anonymi wrote: "I seriously question if Joe Michael of Sandia National Labs ever actually attended any chemistry courses when he was at school."

Clearly Dr. Nass has no problem with allowing attacks upon scientists who disagree with regulars to his forum.

She has refused to post my messages because what I wrote seemed impolite to her.

I didn't misspell "soluable." I was quoting the person who did.

The fact that manganese is deliberately added to spore preparations should have been pointed out to BugMaster who question why it wasn't used as evidence.

For Joe Michael to resort to swapping emails with the likes of Ed Lake shows just how far downhill our National Labs have gone. It's an embarrassment that we taxpayers are actually paying money to support these contracts.

For Dr. Nass to allow people to post such comments shows just how far downhill this blog has gone.

Ed Lake said...

Bugmaster wrote "The presence of silica and now tin has been revealed, with no reasonable explanation for their presence put forth so far."

Why aren't the nutrients a "reasonable explanation," even if it hasn't been verified?

The question seems to be: Is there any justification for spending time and money to find the exact source of the silicon, tin and iron in the attack anthrax if there is plenty of other evidence showing that Dr. Ivins is the culprit?

Ed Lake said...

BugMaster,

I think it's really BAD reasoning to assume that because something isn't mentioned in a scientific report that it wasn't done or wasn't present. The report may just have emphasized something else that the author felt was more important.

BugMaster said...

Ed:

"Is there any justification for spending time and money to find the exact source of the silicon, tin and iron in the attack anthrax if there is plenty of other evidence showing that Dr. Ivins is the culprit?"

Yes.

Evidence and information that shows Dr. Ivins ISN'T the culprit.

Evidence such as the presence of silicon, tin and iron in the attack anthrax, as well as the presence of other compounds that have been hinted at, but not publically disclosed.

"I think it's really BAD reasoning to assume that because something isn't mentioned in a scientific report that it wasn't done or wasn't present."

Ed! I am not talking about something that wasn't mentioned in a scientific report, I am talking about what WASN'T presented as evidence!

Ellen Byrne said...

Ad nauseum, ad nauseum, ad nauseum...

They can't prove he did it, not to a jury of his peers.

Bruce had NO motive

NO means - the lypholizer had not been used

NO opportunity - it would have been impossible not to be observed by colleagues or cameras

He was a good and decent man who served his country well.

Anonymous said...

Ed Lake said "...there is plenty of other evidence showing that Dr. Ivins is the culprit."

Ed Lake THE True Believer strikes again.

No, there is actually NO EVIDENCE showing that Dr. Ivins is the culprit. There is only evidence showing that Dr. Ivins could be the culprit (and a great deal of that is questionable). It was for this reason that the Department of Justice made it a point to assert at The Amerithrax Investigation Press Conference "We thoroughly investigated every other person who could have had access to the [RMR 1029] flask and we were able to rule out all but Dr. Ivins."

Without that evidence, the case against Dr. Ivins boils down to he is one of many who might have been the culprit. To date, not one shred of this critical evidence has been released; not a single bit.

Ed Lake said...

Bruce had NO motive

Ellen,

Dr. Ivins had MULTIPLE motives. The top two are (1) the fact that he was very concerned that his vaccine program might be shut down and (2) the fact that America had just been attacked by terrorists, many scientists assumed that a bioweapons attack would be next, and no one in the government or in the public seemed to care that America was not prepared for it. The letters were clearly intended to awaken America to the danger.

Motivation is something that goes on in a person's mind. We don't know and can never know exactly what was in Ivins' mind. He had MULTIPLE motives. That's all we need to know.

NO means - the lypholizer had not been used

There are MANY ways to dry anthrax into powders. The powder was almost certainly not dried with a lypholizer anyway, regardless of who did it.

NO opportunity - it would have been impossible not to be observed by colleagues or cameras

He had plenty of opportunity, and he was undoubtedly observed during many of those opportunities. The point is: His co-workers assumed he was doing normal work. He wasn't.

Plus, he worked alone in his lab very long hours at night and on weekends during the periods before the attacks.

From Missouri said...

Mr. Lake,

It has been 9 months since Ivins committed suicide.

The science led to conclusions like "most likely" from the flask. And "probably" in the culture medium (but we don't know how or why). And there was no scientific evidence specific to Dr. Ivins.

Is not being able to convict a dead guy sort of like losing an election to a dead guy? When is the case going to be closed? If they don't think they need evidence indicating his guilt but want to close it now, then by all means, there is no reason to wait. And if they have undisclosed evidence showing his guilt, by all means disclose it now and close the case. Publication in support of what they presented ("most likely"... "probably" etc.) does not advance things and so there is no need to wait for the journal articles.

Ellen Byrne said...

Now Ed is reading minds:
"His co-workers assumed he was doing normal work. He wasn't."


...Meanwhile, back on earth, there is no proof, absolutely NONE that Bruce Ivins was the creator, sender of the anthrax. The case has not been solved.

Ed Lake said...

From Missouri,

Unless my calendar is running slow, it's been just over 7 months since Ivins committed suicide on July 29.

When is the case going to be closed?

When they've decided that there is no use in gathering any further evidence, I suppose.

I wonder if the current physical inventory taking place at USAMRIID isn't related to the case. After all, they keep saying that one big problem with keeping an accurate inventory is that people leave and no one knows what they left behind.

The scientific journal articles will totally and forever debunk the nonsense that the attack anthrax was "weaponized," which some conspiracy theorists still believe to be true. And the articles should give more details about how RMR-1029 was determined to the the "unique" parent of the attack anthrax.

Ed Lake said...

Ellen Byrne wrote: "Meanwhile, back on earth, there is no proof, absolutely NONE that Bruce Ivins was the creator, sender of the anthrax."

1. He was in charge of the RMR-1029 flask containing the "mother" spores which produced the attack anthrax "daughter" spores.

2. The FBI investigated everyone else who had access to the RMR-1029 flask and eliminated all of them as suspects. Eliminating potential suspects is routine police procedure.

3. He had worked with Bacillus anthracis for over 20 years and had all the necessary expertise and equipment to prepare the spores in the anthrax letters.

4. He accessed the locked room (lab B3) where the RMR-1029 flask of spores was stored at the times the attack anthrax would have been prepared.

5. He worked alone and unsupervised in his lab for long hours at night and on weekends during the time the attack anthrax would have been prepared.

6. He had no scientific reason or verifiable explanation for working those hours or at those times.

7. In December of 2001, Dr. Ivins secretly swabbed and bleached more than 20 areas in his lab that he said he suspected were contaminated by a sloppy lab technician. He didn't tell anyone about it until April of 2002.

8. Investigators examined another flask of Ames anthrax spores created by Dr. Ivins for his own use in his work and found that a percentage of the spores in flask RMR-1030 contained silicon similar to what was in the attack spores, but not in an exactly identical percentage to the attack anthrax.

9. It was not commonplace for him to work long evening hours in lab B3 before the anthrax attacks or in the months after the anthrax attacks. His long hours in B3 at that time broke his normal work pattern.

10. He had multiple motives for sending the anthrax letters.

11. He tried various ways to mislead investigators when they started to suspect him.

12. He had no verifiable alibi for the times when he could have driven to New Jersey to mail the letters.

13. He was known to drive long distances and to use various methods to mail letters and packages so they could not be traced back to him.

14. He had various connections to the New Jersey area where the anthrax letters were mailed.

15. He had serious mental problems, which appear to include murderous impulses.

16. The pre-stamped envelopes which were used in the attacks had print defects, and one of the post offices which sold those envelopes was a post office which Dr. Ivins used.

17. His wife ran a day care center at the time of the attacks, Ivins had many contacts with children, and the facts indicate that a child of about 6 was used to do the actual writing on the anthrax letters.

18. Investigations found no evidence that someone other than Dr. Ivins sent the letters.

19. There is no evidence that Dr. Ivins could not possibly have sent the anthrax letters.

20. People commit suicide to escape justice. People who are unfairly accused sue their tormenters.

Ross said...

Ed writes:

"1. He was in charge of the RMR-1029 flask containing the "mother" spores which produced the attack anthrax "daughter" spores."

The record shows he gave virulent Ames to a former Zawahiri associate on the DARPA-funded project and that anthrax was grown by the method suspected by the FBI to have been used in the attack anthrax.
http://www.anthraxandalqaeda.com

Ed writes:

"2. The FBI investigated everyone else who had access to the RMR-1029 flask and eliminated all of them as suspects. Eliminating potential suspects is routine police procedure."

The FBI has not closed the case. The investigation is an ongoing national security investigation. Experienced prosecutors (such as Leahy and Specter) have been privately briefed and saw no evidence that would be sufficient indicating he is guilty. They were stunned at US Attorney Taylor's conclusion.

"3. He had worked with Bacillus anthracis for over 20 years and had all the necessary expertise and equipment to prepare the spores in the anthrax letters."

The drying procedure did not require great expertise.

"4. He accessed the locked room (lab B3) where the RMR-1029 flask of spores was stored at the times the attack anthrax would have been prepared."

You assume that the flask was in the one building when it in fact reportedly was in the other building according to the gagged RIID people. But no matter. There was no need to access the flask at the time. It could have been accessed at any time prior to that. The flask was at his workplace and so it is to be expected he was there where his flask was stored.

"5. He worked alone and unsupervised in his lab for long hours at night and on weekends during the time the attack anthrax would have been prepared."

You work alone and unsupervised also.

"6. He had no scientific reason or verifiable explanation for working those hours or at those times."

It is to be expected he could not recall 4 years after the fact. We do not have his polygraph question and answer. The FBI should now release that.

"7. In December of 2001, Dr. Ivins secretly swabbed and bleached more than 20 areas in his lab that he said he suspected were contaminated by a sloppy lab technician. He didn't tell anyone about it until April of 2002."

What is your authority he did not tell the ethics person sooner than April 2002? That he did not tell him at the time, while later telling Army investigators in April 2002. All his colleagues and supervisors say his motivation was very clear and honorable.

"8. Investigators examined another flask of Ames anthrax spores created by Dr. Ivins for his own use in his work and found that a percentage of the spores in flask RMR-1030 contained silicon similar to what was in the attack spores, but not in an exactly identical percentage to the attack anthrax."

(See No. 1)

"9. It was not commonplace for him to work long evening hours in lab B3 before the anthrax attacks or in the months after the anthrax attacks. His long hours in B3 at that time broke his normal work pattern."

It was not commonplace for others to work long evening hours either. In October 2001, he was submitting a revision to the Syrian hamster article. Here, his long hours extend back to August and for a couple months after October. The misleading picture at the August conference was part of the deception.

"10. He had multiple motives for sending the anthrax letters."

He had no motive to kill. His financial motive was for the Bioport vaccine to fail, not succeed.

"11. He tried various ways to mislead investigators when they started to suspect him."

Yes, this is their theory. But he in fact provided the correct sample to party who was capable of genetically identifying (Paul Keim).

"12. He had no verifiable alibi for the times when he could have driven to New Jersey to mail the letters."

He had 3 adults who provide him an alibi, with his wife's written confirmation that she knew he did not have anything to do with the anthrax mailings.

"13. He was known to drive long distances and to use various methods to mail letters and packages so they could not be traced back to him."

And unlike Dr. Ivins, many married people have affairs. They sneak around and mislead their spouse as to their whereabouts. They take affirmative steps to cover their tracks.

"14. He had various connections to the New Jersey area where the anthrax letters were mailed."

His connections were no greater than 600 million other people.

"15. He had serious mental problems, which appear to include murderous impulses."

He was on medication for anxiety and depression, such as one would experience upon being accused of murder, losing his job and professional status etc.

"16. The pre-stamped envelopes which were used in the attacks had print defects, and one of the post offices which sold those envelopes was a post office which Dr. Ivins used."

So were hundreds of others -- and so even accepting Maryland and Virginia as the places they were sold -- that fits millions of others including all 100-300 who had access to the flask.

"17. His wife ran a day care center at the time of the attacks, Ivins had many contacts with children, and the facts indicate that a child of about 6 was used to do the actual writing on the anthrax letters."

This is where the casual reader has an "aha!" moment and realizes that your previous 16 points are equally specious.

"18. Investigations found no evidence that someone other than Dr. Ivins sent the letters."

The FBI has not closed the case. The investigation is an ongoing national security investigation. Experienced prosecutors (such as Leahy and Specter) have been privately briefed and saw no evidence that would be sufficient indicating he is guilty. They were stunned at US Attorney Taylor's conclusion.

"19. There is no evidence that Dr. Ivins could not possibly have sent the anthrax letters."

Hehe. That's right. And the scientific evidence, like Dr. Bannan says, does not necessarily mean he could not have done it. You have seriously misconceived the nature of evidence and judgment in such a case.

"20. People commit suicide to escape justice. People who are unfairly accused sue their tormenters."

No, unfortunately people who are unjustly accused, lose their job, lose their reputation commit suicide quite often. His life's work and his good name had been taken away from him. He had been walked from his workplace by armed escort. Besides, it is not clear he did not commit some chargeable offense (far removed from participation in a murder plot) -- such as permitting an unregistered transfer.

http://www.anthraxandalqaeda.com

Ellen Byrne said...

Bruce was doing his job.

Ed, thanks for outlining just how feeble the FBI's is.

Is your contact's last name Madoff?

Old Atlantic Lighthouse said...

Ed Lake states at his blog

"Yesterday, I quoted this sentence from a scientific paper written by Dr. Ivins in 1995:"

"The virulent Ames strain of B. anthracis, obtained from the US Department of Agriculture, Ames, IA, was cultured with shaking in Leighton-Doi mediumx2 for 4 days at 30°C."

Ed goes into other issues to the 4 days point. Ivins used 4 days. Ivins never had a 4 day period to use such a shaker method in Aug, Sep and Oct 2001 in Suite B3.

A shaker big enough to do the job will not fit into the glovebox in Suite B3.

See posts in thread with links to photos of incubators and run sizes needed and to the small glove box in the Suite B3.

http://anthraxvaccine.blogspot.com/2009/01/critique-of-chemical-signature.html

Remember, the first weekend produced 5 grams and the vegetative cells are dead anthrax cells after growth but before forming spores.

(This is a very useful quote Ed found and part of the stock of knowledge he contributes with others, even though we differ on the interpretation.)

Old Atlantic Lighthouse said...

"RMR-1029 is a conglomeration of 13 production runs of spores by Dugway, for USAMRIID, and an additional 22 production runs of spore preparations at USAMRIID that were all pooled into this mixture. It is a total of over 164 liters of spore production, concentrated down to about a liter. "

From Ed Lake above quoting science of anthrax case news conference Aug 18 2008.

It would be interesting to know the details of this preparation. How many liters from Dugway?

Suppose Dugway did 10 liters per its 13 runs for 130 liters. That leaves 34 liters for USAMRIID 22 runs or 1.5 liters per run.

Who did each run with what equipment at what time in each place. How about a FOIA on that.

If Ivins did it, why did he do two more growth runs as indicated at the same conference? Suppose he has 164 liters concentrated to 1 liter. Those 164 liters could represent 31 grams to upwards of almost 164 grams of spores if we take 1/5 gram to 1 gram per liter.

Ivins, in this scenario, needed 7 to 14 grams. Why not take them from the RMR1029 and dry them? Why do new runs that take days and require large equipment? Why risk the detection?

If he has say 80 grams in his beaker, why not take say 10 grams and dry it and mail it? Why take the extra time to grow more which risks detection and requires large equipment?

Overall, the operation of the anthrax mailings shows logistic planning, just like 9/11. Multiple letters. Multiple locations. Just like the hijackings. A logistics planner was behind this is what it looks like.

Old Atlantic Lighthouse said...

If we had a table for each run with

1) start date
2) stop date
3) liters
4) growth media
5) whether heated or otherwise treated to stimulate growth
6) additives used
7) yield measures
8) tests on it
9) all pieces of equipment used, with photos of them
10) where done
11) whether done in a glove box or other container
12) who did it
13) plates v. fermenter etc.

etc etc.

If we find the USAMRIID runs were small and took several days etc. then we can conclude it was not likely USAMRIID where the Sep Oct 2001 runs were done.

The production of this 163 liters should really tell us what was possible at USAMRIID in terms of equipment, time, etc.

FOIA here.