Friday, February 27, 2009

Revealed: Scientific evidence for the 2001 anthrax attacks

from an article by Debora MacKenzie, who has been knowledgeably reporting on anthrax and bioterrorism at the New Scientist for more than a decade:

. . . Next the team developed highly sensitive tests to screen all 1072 samples for four of the mutations. Eight samples had all four. One came from a flask labelled RMR-1029 that Ivins was responsible for at USAMRIID. The other seven came from cultures taken from that flask, only one of which was not located at USAMRIID. So while these findings show the attack spores came from one of these cultures, the FBI has gone further in concluding the attack came directly from the RMR-1029 flask.

Another question is how the attacker turned the water-based slurry of spores in the flask to the fine, dry powder in the letters. . .


Anonymous said...

That ‘patents’ item in the anthrax mailings
by margieburns on Mon 04 Aug 2008

Following up on that ‘patents’ item in the LATimes, suggesting a possible profit in future from patents on anthrax vaccines: True, Cui bono is always one avenue in investigating.

But . . . Ivins is not looking good for this angle, though.

Take a look:

Checking patent office records for the name Bruce Ivins, we find that Dr. Ivins has been named 11 times as a supplier of anthrax to other researchers for use in vaccines, most recently in two patent applications for nanoemulsion vaccines on July 31, 2008. The identical boilerplate language found in the seven patent applications and the four patents runs as follows:

“B. anthracis spores, Ames and Vollum 1 B strains, were kindly supplied by Dr. Bruce Ivins (USAMRIID, Fort Detrick, Frederick, Md.), and prepared as previously described (Ivins et al., Vaccine 13:1779 (1995)). Four other strains of anthrax were kindly provided by Dr. Martin Hugh-Jones (LSU, Baton Rouge, La.). These strains represent isolates with high allelic dissimilarity from South Africa; Mozambique; Bison, Canada; and Del Rio, Tex.”

Just to point out the obvious—little in this language suggests that Ivins was regarded as deranged or a danger to himself or others, by professional colleagues. In fact, nothing in this language suggests same.

The lead researcher named in all of the 11 patent applications and/or successful patents is James R. Baker, Jr., of Ann Arbor, Michigan, mostly in association with scientist Tarek Hamouda of Michigan and Milan; sometimes with scientist Anna Bielinska of Michigan; and less often with additional researchers.

For those of you who want eye-glazing detail at home, the dates and status of these entries:

* Patent application 20080181949. July 31, 2008.
* Patent application 20080181905. July 31, 2008.
* Patent 7314624. January 1, 2008.
* Patent application 20060257426. November 16, 2006.
* Patent application 20040043041. March 4, 2004.
* Patent 6635676. October 21, 2003.
* Patent application 20030194412. October 16, 2003.
* Patent 6559189. May 6, 2003.
* Patent 6506803. January 14, 2003.
* Patent application 20020119207. August 29, 2002.
* Patent application 20020045667. April 18, 2002.

Did govt investigators locate Ivins as a suspect simply by sifting through these patent office records? Were their search terms ‘anthrax’ and ‘provided’? ‘W/in three’?"

Anonymous said...

Here's a video from Sandia National Labs revealing that Sandia didn't even prepare its own samples (video at 1:30 - 1:40; "A number of samples came preprepared by the FBI.")

Does Sandia even know how the samples were prepared? Compare Stewart et al's 1980 publication, discussing in great detail how the samples were prepared, since the preparation method could have impacted the analytical data.

Ed Lake said...

Sandia didn't even prepare its own samples

It's my understanding that Sandia refused to accept any spores what were still viable. I don't think they have anything like a Level 4 biosafety lab. So, spores would have to be killed with radiation or other means before being sent to Sandia.

To save time, the FBI may also have mounted the spores according to Sandia specifications.

But, I can see that if you believe that everyone at the FBI is evil and involved in sinister activities, you would see this as tainting the evidence - even though all chain of custody procedures were followed.

Anonymous said...

-> Ed Lake

Re: Sandia didn't even prepare its own samples...

It's not a question of believing, as you apparently do, that everyone at the FBI is 100% competent in all fields; would never overlook even the smallest piece of exculpatory evidence; and always reveals every piece of evidence that doesn't support their position to the public.

Instead, it's a matter of good science, as you would have known had you bothered to read my original post. Sample preparation is quite important as discussed in detail by Stewart et al. The reason that Stewart et al went into that discussion wasn't because they wanted to overcome public beliefs that they were evil, or some such crazy notion, as you imply. It's just a matter of good science.

Ed Lake said...

One of the Anonymi wrote: "it's a matter of good science

Since we're talking about evidence to be used in court, the proper procedure is for the FBI scientists to prepare the samples and for Sandia to do the analysis.

The FBI and DOJ would want to make sure that all samples were prepared using identical methods and proper procedures. And the only way they can be sure of that is to have the samples prepared by FBI scientists.

BugMaster said...

Since the preparation of anthrax spore samples is not the type of expertise the FBI would likely to have had, is it possible that the samples were prepared at Dugway?

Dugway, meaning is it possible the samples were prepared by Battelle?

Anonymous said...

Ed Lake wrote: Since we're talking about evidence to be used in court, the proper procedure is for the FBI scientists to prepare the samples and for Sandia to do the analysis.

Well that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. If the testing lab is using appropriate procedures, both to prepare and test, they can prove that in court. Using the FBI lab plus another lab only complicates things, adds more witnesses that can be cross-examined and may admit to a mistake, and just in general increases the likelihood of problems.

As to your other comment that "the FBI may also have mounted the spores according to Sandia specifications" you are making totally unsupported assumptions (as you delight in accusing others of doing). Go listen to the video again, nothing even remotely suggests that the samples preprepared by the FBI were prepared acccording to Sandia specifications. Since Sandia hasn't said otherwise, one can only assume that they didn't supply the specifications, and may not even know how the samples were prepared.

Indeed, improper sample preparation may be the underlying cause of silicon content diversity in some groups of spores, (apparently recently discovered by Sandia).