Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Was FBI too quick to judge anthrax suspect killer?/ McClatchy

Greg Gordon may not be as well-known as some investigative journalists, but he is one of the best in the business.  Greg has penned an incredible series on Goldman Sachs, detailing how the company bet against investment vehicles they had designed (to fail), for which he was a finalist for a Pulitzer last year.  [See the sidebar for links to his many 2009 stories on the financial crash.]  He has continued to cover this area, as well as many others, turning out a major story a week.

Today Greg Gordon focused on the evidence against Bruce Ivins, pointing up a major failure in the FBI's case.  This failure is the FBI's inability to link a contaminant found in the first set of letters to Ivins.  It is not clear how hard the FBI tried to find the contaminant in anyone else's laboratory.

The contaminant is Bacillus subtilis, a usually benign bacterial strain that is closely related to the bacteria that cause anthrax.  Whoever made the anthrax for the first set of letters included some Bacillus subtilis in the mix, and therefore had it in their possession (and lab).  The FBI's failure to find this contaminant in hundreds of samples from Ivins' home, car, office and laboratory virtually assures us that Ivins did not grow the anthrax for the first set of letters... at least not in the only lab equipment to which he had access.

UPDATE:  Video of Greg Gordon discussing this subject is here.
...  But the FBI's decision not to fully test for the distinct bacterial contaminant, pieced together by McClatchy Newspapers in interviews with scientists, federal law enforcement officials and in a review of recently declassified bureau records, could reignite the debate over whether its agents found the real killer.

The Justice Department closed the eight-year investigation, said to cost as much as $100 million. However, none of the circumstantial evidence it found showed that Ivins prepared the deadly powder, scrawled "Death to America" in a seeming mimic of al-Qaida, or twice sneaked away on 61/2-hour roundtrip drives to drop them in a Princeton, N.J., mailbox.

If the FBI got the right man, then there is no consequence to its decision to stop hunting for bacillus subtilis, a harmless bacterial contaminant that resembles anthrax. But if Ivins was innocent, then the killer is at large, and the bureau may have missed a big opportunity...

One person close to the investigation, who requested anonymity to avoid harming relationships, suggested that FBI officials felt "trapped" by Ivins' suicide.  "If they ever had any doubts, once he committed suicide, they had to unite," this person said. "Otherwise, you've driven an innocent man to suicide. And that's a terrible thing..."

56 comments:

Anonymous said...

“FBI agents locked on Ivins after 2007 tests showed a genetic match between the mailed anthrax and spores in a flask in his lab. He'd shared the contents with others. Testing all samples submitted by labs, the FBI found eight with mutations matching those in Ivins' anthrax, and soon eliminated all suspects but Ivins.”

The logic in this quote from the Miami Herald article neglected to mention that the genetic markers found in the letters might also have been present in the seed stock that Dugway used to manufacture the spores which was pooled by Ivins to constitute more than 75% of RMR 1029.
Most people continue to focus on RMR 1029 as a sole source. But, the Dugway source of RMR 1029 is just as likely to be a completely separate source. It would also be accessible by completely different suspects, some whom may have been involved in the secret studies at Dugway and the West Jefferson Ohio Battelle laboratory.
In the response FBI Chief Mueller gave to Senators Daschle and Leahy about how Dugway and Battelle were ruled out, he mentions only how material that came from RMR 1029 was used at Dugway and Battelle. He mentions nothing about testing the seed stock Dugway used to make source material for RMR 1029. That seed stock would not have been labeled RMR 1029.

Ed Lake said...

Anonymous wrote: "He mentions nothing about testing the seed stock Dugway used to make source material for RMR 1029. That seed stock would not have been labeled RMR 1029."

The "seed stock" Dugway used to create their portion of the contents of flask RMR-1029 came from Bruce Ivins. Ivins got it from the frozen bacteria sent to USAMRIID in 1981 from Texas - or from spores grown from that bacteria. The sample from Texas was the primary source for all Ames spores used at USAMRIID and elsewhere.

Because Ivins used "seed stock" from the Texas cow, he believed that the contents of flask RMR-1029 would be "just one step removed" from the original cow.

That seed stock contained NONE of the mutations.

In 1997, Ivins needed a large stock of spores for some aerosolization tests they were planning at USAMRIID, so he contracted with Dugway to help produce those spores. He sent the "seed stock" to Dugway and he used identical "seed stock" to grow his portion of the spores that would eventually be in flask RMR-1029.

The mutations in flask RMR-1029 resulted from the fact that the flask originally contained 30 trillion spores. When producing spores of that quantity, mutations are virtually guaranteed.

It can be argued (without proof) that all the mutations COULD have come from the portion of the contents of flask RMR-1029 that were created at Dugway. But, it's also possible that they all came from the portion that Ivins grew.

If Dugway produced 75% of the spores in flask RMR-1029, then, statistically, Dugway also produced three of the four mutations, and Ivins produced the fourth. But, no one can be ever certain of who produced which mutations.

They key fact remains that, of the 1,070 samples of Ames tested, the only eight samples that contained the four mutations that were in flask RMR-1029 were samples that originated from flask RMR-1029.

Ed

Meryl Nass, M.D. said...

imho the problem with the analyses of which samples have which mutations is confounded by the fact that FBI did not necessarily identify all mutations in the letters. Also, each letter did not have the same number of mutations that FBI did look for.

We are unable to use these mutations to analyze the provenance of the samples because FBI has not provided complete information about what it found and why it looked for some things and not others.

Meryl Nass, M.D. said...

To get back to Greg Gordon's main point, we cannot take the FBI's scientific investigation seriously... since FBI knew that identifying the origin of the B. subtilis contaminant was crucial to solving the case, but failed to make the needed efforts to do so.

Particularly given reports that Battelle and Dugway did use B. subtilis, FBI had to test B. subtilis strains in those locations to see if they match the strain in the first letters.

The fact that FBI has failed to tell us whether they tested there, whether they tested properly, and what they found are very suspicious omissions.

Ed Lake said...

Dr. Nass wrote: "since FBI knew that identifying the origin of the B. subtilis contaminant was crucial to solving the case, but failed to make the needed efforts to do so."

The FBI thought that identifying the source of the B subtilis might be crucial to the case, but that didn't turn out to be true. It was NOT crucial to the case.

The FBI also thought that the culprit lived in New Jersey, because the letters were mailed in New Jersey. That also turned out to be untrue.

The FBI thought that the silicon found in the attack spores would be critical to finding the killer. That also turned out to be untrue.

Following leads that turn out to be false leads is part of nearly every criminal investigation.

B subtilis comprised only .3% of the New York Post powder. That says that it was contamination that occurred during the growing of the spores in the NY Post powder. If it had been in the original seed stock, the percentage should have been much much larger.

The B subtilis didn't show up in any of the 1,070 samples they tested. The B subtilis wasn't in flask RMR-1029.

Jacques Ravel sequenced the DNA of the B subtilis, but it didn't match the DNA of any B subtilis used at USAMRIID. Nor did it match any B subtilis contamination found at USAMRIID. However, since there are so many varieties of B subtilis and because B subtilis is nearly omnipresent in the environment, it could easily have been somewhere they didn't test. Or, Ivins could have carried it inside from a walk across the parade ground to get to his lab from his home.

The B subtilis is a red herring. If they found that it came from the parade ground, what would it prove? Absolutely nothing.

The B subtilis was in the CRUDE powders used in the media letters. It was NOT in the more sophisticated and purified powders used in the senate letters. That suggests that it had nothing to do with "weaponization." It was just contamination that occurred when Ivins was growing the CRUDE spore material for the media letters.

Ed

Ed Lake said...

Dr. Nass wrote: "imho the problem with the analyses of which samples have which mutations is confounded by the fact that FBI did not necessarily identify all mutations in the letters. Also, each letter did not have the same number of mutations that FBI did look for."

The reports state very clearly that there were "well over a dozen" mutations found in the anthrax letters. But, when they went searching for the source, they used just the four mutations that were most abundant, most stable and most easily spotted.

It would have been a waste of time and effort to look for the entire dozen-plus mutations, since some of them could have occurred during the growing of the attack anthrax, and thus couldn't point back to the source.

As far as I know, all four letters had all four mutations.

Of the 1,070 samples tested in the search for the source, a few samples had only one or two of the mutations, and one sample had three. Eight samples had all four mutations, and all of those eight samples originated with flask RMR-1029.

Ed

Ed Lake said...

I forgot to add: They also found the Bacillus subtilis in the AMI building in Boca Raton.

That strongly indicates that the anthrax sent to the National Enquirer came from the same batch as the anthrax sent to Brokaw and the NY Times. (Some people have been arguing that the AMI powder must have been from a different batch because it caused inhalation anthrax in Florida, while it mostly caused cutaneous anthrax in New York City.)

BTW, Ivins had a stack of National Enquirers in his office, including back issues which contained the obsolete address used to send the anthrax letter to the National Enquirer. And Ivins mentioned the National Enquirer in at least two emails prior to the attacks. That seems to answer the question of why the National Enquirer was targeted. It was a newspaper that Ivins read and which annoyed Ivins' the most.

Ed

Meryl Nass, M.D. said...

Ed,

The combo of your unique logic and unique view of the facts of the case leave me breathless. I won't try and steer you straight any more.

Ed Lake said...

Dr. Nass wrote: "The combo of your unique logic and unique view of the facts of the case leave me breathless. I won't try and steer you straight any more."

I don't have a "unique view of the facts of the case." My view is nearly identical to the FBI's and the DOJ's view. So, it would seem that your view is the "unique" view.

You may know others who also think the FBI is wrong, but, like you, each has his or her own "unique" view of what it "right" and what the actual "facts" of the case are.

I don't mind you (or anyone) trying to steer me straight about those facts.

I just wish someone would pick some specific disputed fact of the case and discuss it until the views of the two sides can be made clear to everyone - or until the dispute can be resolved.

For example, is the source of B subtilis a "hole" in the FBI's case as some people claim, or is it actually a "hole" in the case that those other people are trying to make in order to prove Ivins' innocence?

A "hole" in a case is a piece of evidence that says (1) someone other than the suspect committed the crime, or (2) someone else was involved, or (3) the suspect is actually innocent.

The B subtilis is a "hole" in the case of the people who claim Ivins was innocent. They need to prove that the B subtilis came from Dugway or Battelle in order to prove Ivins' innocence. Until they prove it, it's a "hole" in their case.

It's NOT a "hole" in the FBI's case because the B subtilis could have come from anywhere. It's irrelevant to the FBI's case against Ivins. It's impossible to prove the negative, so it is not necessary (and probably not possible) for the FBI to prove that the B subtilis does NOT somehow prove Ivins' innocence.

Ed

Max said...

Ed,

Why do you suppose Mr. Ivins sent these letters?

James

Anonymous said...

Previously posted by Meryl Nass:
--------
Dr. Nass wrote: "The combo of your unique logic and unique view of the facts of the case leave me breathless. I won't try and steer you straight any more."
--------------------------------
If I may do a TAD of mindreading here, I think Dr Nass meant 'unique view of the SIGNIFICANCE of certain facts in the case'.

So, for instance, the fact that there were some old copies of THE NATIONAL ENQUIRER lying about Ivins' office would have considerable significance if they were next to piles of THE SUN and THE NEW YORK POST.( since the ENQUIRER is probably the biggest circulation weekly tabloid in the USA, most people wouldn't see this BARE 'fact' as particularly significant, no more than the fact that Ivins watched NBC/CBS/ABC). But they weren't. So this absence is greeted by silence. And that's the gripe here (from us Amerithrax sceptics): a pattern in the years of the investigation emerges:

1)either in a public setting or via leaks to reporters some skein of evidence is held out as key, ballyhooed even (the water used in growing the anthrax and its chemical properties; the silica content; the subtilis contamination; (to a certain extent) the printing in the letters/on the envelopes etc.

2)yet when the case is 'closed' these things are either forgotten entirely or labelled 'of no investigative significance'.

3)but this shunting aside-----and Mister Lake's label 'false lead' ASSUME Ivins to be guilty.

4)But if Ivins was innocent, these weren't (necessarily) 'false leads', they were instances of exculpatory indicators (Ivins' printing did not match, Ivins had 2 decades experience in growing anthrax and would have been unlikely to have had subtilis contamination in even his first batch etc).

5)but because the whole PURPOSE of the FINAL REPORT was to paint Ivins the 'sole culprit' exculpatory evidence isn't labelled as such.

Ed Lake said...

James/Max asked: "Why do you suppose Mr. Ivins sent these letters?"

I don't claim to be able to read the minds of dead people. And discussing Ivins' thoughts can produce nothing but opinions. I prefer to stay out of the area of opinions.

So, all I can do is lay out some of the facts:

(1) In 1998, Gary Matsumoto published and article in Vanity Fair magazine connecting the anthrax vaccine Ivins had helped develop to "Gulf War Syndrome." In 1999 there was a Congressional hearing on the subject. Senator Tom Daschle (one of the anthrax attack targets) was also critical of the vaccine.

(2) In June of 2001, Ivins' prescription for anti-depressants was doubled. He was under severe pressure about problems with the anthrax vaccine.

(3) On August 24, 2001, someone sent Ivins an email saying that USAMRIID's vaccine contract might be cancelled.

(4) On August 28, 2001, Ivins wrote an email expressing his anger over Gary Matsumoto's repeated requests for more information about the vaccine program. The email said: "Tell Matsumoto to kiss my ass. We've got better things to do than shine his shoes and pee on command. He's gotten everything from me that he will get."

(5) On August 29, 2001, Ivins attended a meeting at the Pentagon regarding problems with the vaccine program.

(6) There was talk at USAMRIID about getting out of the anthrax vaccine business entirely. Ivins was greatly upset by this, since he'd made anthrax vaccine his life's work.

(7) Ivins' long, unexplained hours working alone in his lab at night and on weekends began in August.

(8) Ivins had a history of using the U.S. mails to commit acts of revenge and anger in ways that could not be traced back to him. 9/11 gave Ivins the perfect opportunity to change things around.

(9) The anthrax letters were sent a week after 9/11. There is no doubt that Ivins sent them. He included a coded message in the media letters, and he was observed throwing away the code books. Plus, there are many other connections between him and the letters and the place where the letters were mailed. Go to this link for more details: http://www.anthraxinvestigation.com/Evidence-vs-Beliefs.html

(10) The anthrax letters changed everything. The anthrax vaccine program was no longer in danger. Everyone saw the importance of developing better anthrax vaccines. Ivins work was seen as extremely important.

However, exactly what he was thinking at the time is something only those who can read the minds of dead people can tell you.

Ed

Ed Lake said...

Anonymous wrote: "Mister Lake's label 'false lead' ASSUME Ivins to be guilty."

No, "false lead" assumes that the lead will continue to be false no matter how much time and money you spend on it. It will never lead anywhere useful.

In reality, of course, if you had all the money and time in the world to pursue a "lead," even an apparently "false lead" might eventually provide additional evidence that Ivins was guilty.

Since no lead provided any evidence proving anyone else had committed the crime, there's no reason to believe that any of the "false leads" would have led to anyone but Ivins - if they led anywhere at all.

Ed

Ed Lake said...

Anonymous wrote: "but because the whole PURPOSE of the FINAL REPORT was to paint Ivins the 'sole culprit' exculpatory evidence isn't labelled as such."

It appears that you have a totally incorrect view of what "exculpatory evidence" really is.

Here's a hypothetical case:

Some evidence points to suspects A, B, C and D.

Some evidence points to suspects A, C and G.

Some evidence points to suspects C, E and F.

Some evidence points to suspects A, C and F.

Some evidence points to suspects C and G.

Conclusion: ALL the known evidence points to Suspect C as the culprit.

Carrying the hypothetical case a bit further:

It's not possible for anyone but A, B, C, D, E, F and G to have committed the crime.

A, B and E have solid alibis ("exculpatory evidence").

D is physically handicapped and incapable of doing what was necessary to commit the crime ("exculpatory evidence").

F and G are unskilled and have no knowledge of the required techniques used in the crime ("exculpatory evidence").

Final conclusion: Suspect C did it beyond any reasonable doubt.

Ed

Old Atlantic Lighthouse said...

"B subtilis comprised only .3% of the New York Post powder. " Ed Lake above.

To enter the BSL3, Ivins had to take off all his clothes and shoes and wear special lab clothes. Another question is was the procedure to wash their hands? In any case, it seems likely he would have washed his hands prior to entering the BSL3, e.g. using the rest room.

Ed Lake has suggested, Ivins could pick up the foreign subtilis strain outside at Ft. Detrick and then bring it in that way.

However, the requirement to change clothes makes that unlikely. Those, including shoes are taken off prior to entering. He likely washed his hands between outside exposure and entering the BSL3.

If he did have some subtilis on his shoe laces from outside and touched those while taking off his laces, he would likely get very few spores on his hands.

If he seeded his stock with 1 ml that is 1/1000 of 1 trillion spores approximately so 1 billion spores. .3 percent of 1 billion is 3 million spores.

Would he pick up 3 million spores on his hands from his shoe laces? That is assuming he didn't wash his hands after removing his outside clothes before working with the anthrax prep equipment.

In prior discussions, Ed suggested Ivins started with more than 1 ml to explain why it took so little time to grow it. So if he started with 100ml then that would mean he had .3 ml of spores on his hands from his shoe laces, i.e. 300 million spores. This seems quite unlikely.

This assumes anthrax and subtilis grow at the same rate. I have seen indications that anthrax had a faster growth rate. But if slower, than that means it is slower than the published paper on trial times of subtilis discussed before on this blog, which are too slow for the hours shown on his log.

Old Atlantic Lighthouse said...

Ed Lake suggested Ivins picked up the foreign subtilis while walking outside at Ft. Detrick. If it was in the air, the total spores would likely be how many? A few hundred to a few thousand? And go on his clothes not just on his hands. The number on the top of his shoe laces or top of the shoe from the air would be hundreds or thousands.

If he stepped in the subtilis outside with his shoe, he would like get less than 1 ml of subtilis on his shoe. A lot less. Perhaps the .3 percent of subtilis.

But as soon as he gets subtilis on the bottom of his shoe in quantity, it starts rubbing off. On the grass, the sidewalk and then inside.

When Ivins changes clothes at the BSL3, he would first take off his shoes. So at that point me might transfer. But if he got .3 percent of 1ml outside on his shoe, even if he had that much on his shoe at the time he took it off, he would not transfer all of it to his hands.

Even if he transferred .3 percent of 1ml to his hands when taking off his shoes, he would then take off his clothes and put on the new clothes. So most of the newly transferred .3 percent would transfer off his hands to the clothes.

Then he keeps using his hands to enter the BSL3. Does he walk to the flasks right away and rub his hand on the inside of the flask to transfer as much of the .3 of one percent of the 1ml that is left to the inside of the flask he is growing on?

Is the subtilis easily transferred to the hands or from the hands? If the subtilis doesn't transfer from the hands when he changes clothes after taking off his shoes, then why would it transfer into the flask?

He had to pick up much more than .3 of one percent of 1ml outside and then it sticks up until he takes off his shoes where it all transfers to his hands, and then it sticks to his hands up to the time that he puts his finger on the inside of the flask to pick it up and then all of it transfers to the inside of the flask at once. This is the only way it works for him to put .3 percent of one ml of subtilis on the inside of the flask having picked it up outside.

Ed Lake said...

Old Atlantic Lighthouse wrote: "To enter the BSL3, Ivins had to take off all his clothes and shoes and wear special lab clothes."

You seem to be making a lot of assumptions, most of which seem to be false.

First, BSL-2 and BSL-3 labs are designed to prevent germs from escaping from the lab to the outside. In a BSL-2 lab, there is almost nothing to prevent germs from the outside from getting into the lab. You can walk from the outside into a BSL-2 lab without taking any significant precautions.

It is not like a hospital where the concern is about germs from getting into the room from the outside.

Scientists do NOT typically wash their hands before going into a BSL-3 lab. They put on gloves, often two layers of gloves. And, in the process, they can transfer bacterial from their hands onto the gloves. They shower and dispose of their lab clothes when they LEAVE the BSL-3 lab.

Second, the bio-safety cabinets used in the BSL-2 and BSL-3 labs have open fronts, and fans suck air from the lab into the cabinet to help prevent things inside the cabinet from escaping OUT into the lab. The air is then filtered and blown back out into the lab. So, in theory, any B subtilis contamination in the lab could be sucked into the bio-safety cabinet and onto the sample being prepared.

BSL-3 labs are entirely under negative pressure, so, in theory, bacteria from the outside can be sucked into the lab every time the door is opened.

Third, you seem to be assuming that Ivins would have to go into a BSL-3 lab in order to inoculate a Petri dish with wet B anthracis spores. We don't know that to be true.

There's a picture of Ivins at the link HERE showing Ivins handling Petri dishes with his bare hands in an open lab. His only protection is a smock and safety glasses.

I'm not saying that Ivins prepared Petri dishes of anthrax this way, but we don't know whether or not he had to go into a BSL-3 lab in order to inoculate a Petri dish with wet B anthracis spores. Why wouldn't he do it inside a bio-safety cabinet inside a BSL-2 lab? The dish is closed before it is removed from the cabinet.

When I first started studying how they worked with anthrax, I assumed that they did everything wearing space-suit type protection and glove boxes. But, that's BSL-4 protection. In 2001, they appear to have routinely worked with anthrax in BSL-2 labs inside bio-safety cabinets that were open in the front. They would only go into BSL-3 labs when there was concern about spores getting aerosolized.

Ed

Ed Lake said...

I ran over the 4,096 character limit on my previous post. Here's the rest of my response:

Old Atlantic Lighthouse also wrote: "If he seeded his stock with 1 ml that is 1/1000 of 1 trillion spores approximately so 1 billion spores. .3 percent of 1 billion is 3 million spores.

Would he pick up 3 million spores on his hands from his shoe laces? "


That is TOTALLY wrong. There is absolutely NO reason to believe he seeded his Petri dishes with a BILLION spores.

We don't know how much time Ivins needed to grow the spores. If he used Petri dishes that had been setting in unsterilized autoclave bags for weeks, he was using material that had been growing and sporulating for long periods of time before he made his decision to send the letters.

He almost certainly mixed together the contents of multiple dishes, so only ONE Petri dish may have been badly contaminated in a stack of dishes in order to get the 0.3% B subtilis.

Bruce Ivins prided himself on the fact that he routinely used the "single colony pick" method of inoculating growth material. That means he would inoculate a Petri dish with spores, then wait until the spores had formed colonies. Then he would take the colony or colonies that seemed the most pure and use those colonies to grow larger quantities of spores.

The rest of the material on the Petri dish, including any contamination, would be tossed into an autoclave bag.

The fact that he had to use the "single colony pick" method to get his seed material says that he knew that contamination was always a possibility. And the fact that everything else on the Petri dish got tossed into the autoclave bag says that there was a high possibility of contamination being in the dishes in the bag.

What's unknown is exactly how Ivins avoided the contamination for the senate letters.

Ed

Ed Lake said...

One last point:

When Ivins was making the CRUDE powder for the media letters, the intent was apparently to create a powder that would look like it could have been made by Muslim terrorists in a garage lab or even in a cave in Afghanistan.

That means, contamination wouldn't have been a great concern to him. In fact, contamination could be seen as evidence that the powder was made under CRUDE conditions, not in a sophisticated lab.

He became more interested in purity and avoiding contamination with the second batch for the two senators. He evidently wanted to show the senators that crude powders weren't the only kind of powders Muslim terrorists knew how to make. He wanted to tell the senators that "WE HAVE THIS ANTHRAX," i.e., the pure and really dangerous kind.

Ed

Ed Lake said...

In addition to all the material I posted yesterday about B subtilis, today I'm reading David Willman's new book on the anthrax case ("The Mirage Man"), and I came across something I'd forgot about.

I'm reading Chapter 16. It goes into great detail about all the cleaning and swabbing done in December of 2001 and April of 2002, when it was learned that Ivins had been secretly cleaning areas of his office and other areas in Building 1425 that were supposed to be "cold," i.e., free from dangerous bacteria.

When USAMRIID learned about the secret cleaning, they did a MASSIVE cleaning job, while also looking for stray anthrax spores.

My point: Such a cleaning would get rid of any B subtilis while also getting rid of any anthrax spores that might be laying around.

So, that's another reason why a search for B subtilis years later, in 2005 or 2006, wouldn't have found the source of the contamination in the media letters.

Ed

Old Atlantic Lighthouse said...

(I understand Blogger has had problems, been slow and eaten articles and possibly comments in the last few days. However, the lesson to more carefully proofread my comments to make them acceptable did not go to waste even if it came from Blogger. I make no guarantees on how long it sticks though.)

Ed, is the suggested scenario

1) the subtilis at less than 3 million spores infected a single small plate of anthrax in a bag. Among other plates of anthrax in a bag.

2) That plate among all other plates was selected by Ivins for his growth source.

3) Ivins then picked the colony on that plate that had subtilis.

4) Ivins then grew all the anthrax in the letters from the single colony picked.

5) The letter anthrax was grown from this single colony how? By more plates in the trash bags or by growing in a flask?

I don't see how the plates in the trash bag scenario actually works out to get the .3 percent of subtilis in the entire first sample.

Also, I recall from prior discussions that this would result in more plates and time in the bags than seems reasonable.

Also if a plate in a bag was infected from anthrax Ivins carried in on his person, then it would seem the transfer rate from Ivins' person to the plate in the bag would be low.

Also could you clarify how many spores you think Ivins picked up outside at Ft. Detrick and the timeline of how many spores are left when he enters the building, uses the restroom at some point, gets to the BSL3, takes off his shoes, takes off his clothes, puts on new clothes, puts on gloves, etc.

Ed Lake said...

Old Atlantic Lighthouse asked, "Ed, is the suggested scenario

1) the subtilis at less than 3 million spores infected a single small plate of anthrax in a bag. Among other plates of anthrax in a bag.

2) That plate among all other plates was selected by Ivins for his growth source.

3) Ivins then picked the colony on that plate that had subtilis.

4) Ivins then grew all the anthrax in the letters from the single colony picked."


No, there was no "single colony pick" used when preparing the attack anthrax. If there had been, the morphs in flask RMR-1029 wouldn't have appeared in the attack anthrax.

I stated that when Ivins did his NORMAL work, he would do the "single colony pick" step to get pure bacteria for seeding growth material in his NORMAL work.

My point was: The REST of the material on that dish (everything EXCEPT the colony that was picked) would have been thrown into the autoclave bag, where the bacteria continued to grow until the media on the plates were exhausted.

It was the REST of the material, NOT the single colony that was picked, that Ivins used to create the attack anthrax.

He opened up unsterilized autoclave bags that had been sitting around for weeks in his lab, he removed the plates that were inside the bags, and he scraped the growth material from the plates into a beaker for use in the attacks. Then he put the empty plates back into the bags.

As part of their normal work, they also used numerous plates to count the number of viable spores in a sample. That would involve diluting the source material and inoculating MANY plates. Once the number of colonies was counted, all the plates and all their colonies would get tossed into the autoclave bags, where the bacteria colonies would continue to grow.

A plate contaminated with B subtilis would be tossed into the bags with everything else, and the B subtilis would also continue to grow. By the time the plate was removed from the bag, there could be many billions of B subtilis bacteria on the plate.

All those many billions of B subtilis bacteria and spores on the plate could have originated from a single spore brought in from outside.

And, since it appears that Ivins may have been accumulating spores for the attacks for many weeks (if not months), there could have been multiple plates that were contaminated with B subtilis.

Ivins may have been building his own secret stash of anthrax spores for a long time, storing it in a beaker in the cold room until he found a need to use it.

Ed

Meryl Nass, M.D. said...

Had the B. subtilis grown in a bag in the lab, and been transferred from a plate to another growth medium that grew anthrax for the letters, it would have contaminated the lab. The FACT that no B. subtilis could be cultured from the lab means this scenario did not happen.

To recap: had the anthrax been grown in Ivins' lab, B. subtilis would have been present in the lab and the FBI would have found it. Believe me, they tried. They knew this could unravel their entire case.

To send Ed Lake in now to spin fantasies in an attempt at damage control is ludicrous. Is Ed Lake FBI's best shot? I guess the FBI case is even weaker than I thought.

Ed Lake said...

Old Atlantic Lighthouse also asked, "Also could you clarify how many spores you think Ivins picked up outside at Ft. Detrick and the timeline of how many spores are left when he enters the building, uses the restroom at some point, gets to the BSL3, takes off his shoes, takes off his clothes, puts on new clothes, puts on gloves, etc."

First, we don't know that it was necessary to go into a BSL-3 lab to inoculate plates with wet anthrax spores. I doubt that it was. I think they just did it inside a bio-safety cabinet in a BSL-2 lab.

Second, I think we're probably talking about contamination from one or two spores on a specific plate. And we're probably talking about multiple instances, i.e., two or more plates that had to get tossed into the autoclave bag because the plates were contaminated with B subtilis.

If there were hundreds of plates in the autoclave bags, and several of those plates are contaminated with B subtilis, the ratio would have been right to get the 0.3% contamination in the media attack letters.

If they routinely inoculated plates in the BSL-2 lab, then all the thoughts about changing clothes, taking off shoes, etc., are no longer a factor.

Here's something else:

It appears that Patricia Worsham's lab was in the same Bacteriology Suite #3 as Ivins' lab. Ivins' BSL-3 lab was in room B303. Worsham's BSL-3 lab was in room B309, which is at the opposite end of the corridor from the showers and locker rooms.

That indicates that when entering a BSL-3 lab, you enter from a central BSL-2 corridor, the air from the corridor gets sucked into the BLS-3 room with you, and so do all the B subtilis spores that may have been brought into the corridor on the clothes of the all the people who worked in or visited the suite since it was last thoroughly cleaned, which may have been years ago.

So, there appears to have been an infinite number of ways that B subtilis could have gotten onto a plate in a BSL-2 or a BSL-3 lab at USAMRIID.

Ed

Ed Lake said...

Dr. Nass wrote: "Had the B. subtilis grown in a bag in the lab, and been transferred from a plate to another growth medium that grew anthrax for the letters, it would have contaminated the lab. The FACT that no B. subtilis could be cultured from the lab means this scenario did not happen.

That is your scenario, not mine. My scenario is that ALL the material in the attack letters was grown on closed plates in the closed autoclave bags. It was material that was KNOWN to be in the autoclave bags which laid around for weeks in Ivins' lab, and it didn't contaminate the lab with anthrax, so your theory must be false.

Dr. Nass also wrote: "To recap: had the anthrax been grown in Ivins' lab, B. subtilis would have been present in the lab and the FBI would have found it. Believe me, they tried. They knew this could unravel their entire case."

1. After Ivins told people about his TWO unauthorized cleanings of his lab and other areas in December of 2001 and April of 2002, there was a MASSIVE cleanup done in April of 2002 by USAMRIID personnel that same April.

2. That cleanup could easily have eliminated all traces of the B subtilis.

3. The B subtilis in the letters wasn't detected until 2005 or 2006.

4. There were almost certainly ADDITIONAL CLEANUPS done during the four or five years between the contamination of the material in the anthrax letters and the search for B subtilis in Ivins lab.

These are established facts. No spin involved.

Ed

Ed Lake said...

Dr. Nass wrote: "To send Ed Lake in now to spin fantasies in an attempt at damage control is ludicrous. Is Ed Lake FBI's best shot? I guess the FBI case is even weaker than I thought."

As far as I know, it isn't part of the FBI's case that Ivins grew the attack spores in autoclave bags. They've never said such a thing. They have never speculated on exactly what method Ivins used to grow or dry the spores.

That is MY hypothesis to explain how the silicon got into the attack anthrax - the spores were formed at "natural" temperatures instead at incubator temperatures. Sergei Popov stated to me that spores formed at "natural" temperatures contain the high amounts of silicon found in the attack anthrax. All the "reverse engineering" experiments were done at incubator temperatures.

The facts say that Ivins routinely had bags full of plates laying around his lab for weeks.

The facts say that the bacteria growing inside the sealed plates inside those closed autoclave bags would be growing a room temperature, NOT at incubator temperatures.

I'm just stating facts and my hypothesis to explain the facts. I'm doing it to show that your beliefs/theories/hypotheses do not agree with the facts.

It's call "a discussion."

It is my belief that the "truth" can be found by looking at all the facts and "discussing" them to see whose hypothesis can best explain all the known facts.

Ed

Ed Lake said...

I wrote: "All those many billions of B subtilis bacteria and spores on the plate could have originated from a single spore brought in from outside."

I was just reading something which indicates that the contamination probably came via dust particles.

Dust particles could very easily contain multiple B subtilis spores - maybe 2 or 3, maybe dozens or hundreds.

So, it now seems more likely that the B subtilis contamination occurred when a dust particle landed on a plate rather than from a single spore floating around in the air and then landing on a plate.

Ed

BugMaster said...

"All those many billions of B subtilis bacteria and spores on the plate could have originated from a single spore brought in from outside".

Ed:

The FBI sent a sample of the bacillis to Novazyme, a company that produces industrial enzymes using bacillus strains. (The FBI wanted to see if the strain was actually b. licheniformis, for some strange reason. Maybe they though Ivins had a secret stash of live chickens). They did some basic characterization of the strain's properties (morpholgy, some growth characteristics, NO genetic analysis) and concluded it was a "a very efficient sporulator" and speculate that this is why it was found as a contaminant. In otherwords the environment in which the contaminating bacillus resided (soil) would have contained lots of spores.

I am assuming the FBI examined SOIL SAMPLES in their search for a genetically identical strain in the Fort Detrick area. (They damn well better have!).

So it makes no difference how well any given lab was cleaned or decontaminated, as you can't decontaminate the dirt outside (which you already stated was the most likely source of the contaminant, I agree!).

BTW, ED:

The b. subtilis isolated from the AMI WAS NEVER FOUND TO BE GENETICALLY IDENTICAL TO THE CONTAMINANT FOUND IN THE LETTERS!

Get your facts straight, Ed!

Old Atlantic Lighthouse said...

"He almost certainly mixed together the contents of multiple dishes, so only ONE Petri dish may have been badly contaminated in a stack of dishes in order to get the 0.3% B subtilis." Ed Lake.

If he prepares a single Petri dish with anthrax 1 million spores and you add 1000 spore of Bacillus subtilis to that, you get a ratio of 1 to 1000 on that one dish. If there are 10 dishes total, all the others having no bacillus subtilis, then the total ratio is 1 to 10,000.

If you grow them at the same rates the ratio stays the same.

"
If there were hundreds of plates in the autoclave bags, and several of those plates are contaminated with B subtilis, the ratio would have been right to get the 0.3% contamination in the media attack letters."

You are assuming here that the plates with subtilis are all subtilis. But a plate wit 1/1000 subtilis added to 100 plates with no subtilis, gives a ratio of 1/100,000 of subtilis to anthrax.

Old Atlantic Lighthouse said...

The second set of letters constitute a measurement of whether the lab was contaminated with subtilis in preparation. The first set of letters is a measurement of whether the lab was contaminated.

A ratio of 3/1000 of subtilis to anthrax indicates a contaminated lab.

The two letter batches thus imply that they were prepared in two separate labs.

The first lab might have been bleached and cleaned and taken down by al Qaeda in the US. Then after 9/11, they set it up again because the first letters were disappointing.

Or in Afghanistan, they might have moved after 9/18/2001 because the US was threatening to invade.

Ed Lake said...

BugMaster wrote: "So it makes no difference how well any given lab was cleaned or decontaminated, as you can't decontaminate the dirt outside (which you already stated was the most likely source of the contaminant, I agree!)."

But what would it prove to find the B subtilis in the dirt on the parade ground or in the dirt in the lawn between buildings 1412 and 1425?

It wouldn't be evidence against any specific person at USAMRIID.

And, if they took a thousand samples and didn't find an exact match, the one thousand and first sample could still have been a match. So, not finding it doesn't prove anything at all.

The initial search for B subtilis was required, but any massive search of the lawns wouldn't prove anything significant. It would just be a waste of time and money.

Ed

Ed Lake said...

Old Atlantic Lighthouse wrote: "But a plate wit 1/1000 subtilis added to 100 plates with no subtilis, gives a ratio of 1/100,000 of subtilis to anthrax."

The subject is microbiology. In this instance, there are too many variables for mathematics to provide any meaningful answers.

If someone began with a fresh pack of media-ready plates, they might find a plate that is already contaminated with B subtilis. It would get tossed away, i.e., it would get tossed into an autoclave bag where it could continue to grow more B subtilis until the plate was totally covered.

Or, they might find TWO plates that are already contaminated. Or they might find ten.

Or they might inoculate ten plates to do a dilution sampling of B anthracis, and, when cultured, they might find that several of the plates have B subtilis colonies in addition to B anthracis colonies.

Or, they may have been doing a nearly infinite number of different tasks which would produce a nearly infinite number of different results.

It is not realistic to assume that some specific method of contamination is the only possible method of contamination because mathematics work better that way, while ignoring an infinite number of other possibilities that haven't been computed.

Ed

Ed Lake said...

Old Atlantic Lighthouse wrote: "The two letter batches thus imply that they were prepared in two separate labs."

You are taking one fact and building a case upon that fact while ignoring all the other facts which say your case is totally false.

1. The media anthrax was 90% matrix material, i.e., dissolved mother germs. It was CRUDE and unpurified.

2. Considerably more care was taken in preparing the senate batch. All the matrix material had been removed.

3. The culprit evidently took care to not used any contaminated plates for the second batch.

4. The morphs show that the inoculations of the plates for both mailings came from material taken from flask RMR-1029.

5. There is no evidence of any kind to suggest that al Qaeda had access to the Ames strain, much less to flask RMR-1029.

6. The Ames strain is easily killed with antibiotics and a bad choice for making bioweapons. Other strains are better for making bioweapons and are more available for terrorists to use. Ivins used the Ames stain because he thought it was untraceable.

7. There is no data to support any suggestion that the attack anthrax was made in Afghanistan. Getting a second batch into America so quickly after learning that the first batch didn't work properly is unrealistic.

8. There is no data to support any suggestion that the attack anthrax was made by al Qaeda in America.

Your idea is that they made one CRUDE batch, shipped it to America, and mailed it. Then, when the first mailing didn't accomplish what they wanted, they made a second batch that was much more sophisticated, shipped it to America and mailed it. All in the space of three weeks?

If al Qaeda had the ability to make sophisticated anthrax, why did they make a CRUDE batch for the first mailing?

If al Qaeda was behind the mailings, why did they take so much care to avoid killing anyone? They had just killed thousands of Americans with the hijacked planes. But with the anthrax they didn't want to kill anyone? Why?

The facts say that the two batches of anthrax were made in the same lab. The difference is simply that first was CRUDE and the second was purified.

The first letter gave medical advice: TAKE PENACILIN NOW.

The second letter told the recipient that the powder was anthrax so that they'd seek immediate medical help.

Why would al Qaeda code the name of Ivins's co-worker "PAT" in the media letter?

Why would al Qaeda use a false return address on the senate letters? Why would they use a ZIP Code for the town where Ivins' father's family lived for over a hundred years?

The facts do not support any theory that al Qaeda was behind the attacks.

Ed

BugMaster said...

"But what would it prove to find the B subtilis in the dirt on the parade ground or in the dirt in the lawn between buildings 1412 and 1425?"

It would identify the geographic area from within which the attack material was produced.

Dr. Keim published an article on the geographic distribution of different b. anthracis strains. He even identified the county in Texas from which the highly virulent Ames strain was first isolated. (Perhaps too much information?). One would expect a similar genetic variation in subtilis strains isolated from different regions.

So, a genetically identical strain (or close) from soil samples in Fredrick? Supports the FBI's case.

A genetically identical strain (or close) from soil samples in Columbus, Ohio? OOPS!

Ed Lake said...

BugMaster wrote: "'But what would it prove to find the B subtilis in the dirt on the parade ground or in the dirt in the lawn between buildings 1412 and 1425?'

It would identify the geographic area from within which the attack material was produced."


No, it wouldn't. There is no database for B subtilis like the one which Paul Keim created for B anthracis to determine geographical locations.

B anthracis is a fairly rare bacteria.

B subtilis is too widely distributed and too varied to make developing such a database worthwhile.

It would take many years (possibly decades) to develop such a database to the point where you MIGHT be able to state with some authority that the B subtilis in the attack anthrax could ONLY have come from location A and not from location B.

B anthracis can be used as a weapon, so there was a NEED for such a database. The only need for a similar B subtilis database is to quell arguments from conspiracy theorists. Public money is better spent on other things.

Ed

BugMaster said...

"B subtilis is too widely distributed and too varied to make developing such a database worthwhile."

Database, nonsense, just compare strains isolated from specific locations.

As in:

Genetically equivalent strain isolated from soil samples in Fredrick, Maryland:

Supports the Ivins theory.

Genetically equivalent strain isolated from soil samples not from Fredrick, but Columbus, Ohio istead:

We may have a problem here!

O.K., add a few soil samples from several cities chosen at random, and if then no match:

We really have a problem here!

Creating a database would not be neccessary, Ed. Note also Ed, that the genetic analysis of the contaminating strain indicates that is in in fact quite unique. Just like a fingerprint is unique, Ed.

BugMaster said...

From Wikipedia, subject: Occam's Razor

Occam's razor is attributed to the 14th-century English logician, theologian and Franciscan friar Father William of Ockham (d'Okham) although the principle was familiar long before. The words attributed to Occam are "entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity" (entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem).

The FBI's so-called case against Ivins IS NOTHING BUT ENTITY MULTIPLICATION!

To some, that may not mean anything. To a scientist or anyone else that understands the fundamentals of logic, the most probable explanation for this:

The FBI is wrong!

Ed Lake said...

BugMaster wrote: "Database, nonsense, just compare strains isolated from specific locations.
...

We really have a problem here!"


Yes, there would be a problem because the data is meaningless. You have no frame of reference or database to determine what finding a match (or not finding a match) means.

BugMaster also wrote: "Note also Ed, that the genetic analysis of the contaminating strain indicates that is in fact quite unique."

No, it doesn't. The genetic analysis only indicated that it didn't match the few other samples they tested. That does NOT mean it's unique. By itself, it means next to NOTHING.

What you are saying is like arguing that, if a Zagnut candy bar wrapper was found at the scene, and there were no Zagnut bars in the USAMRIID cafeteria vending machine in 2006, then it's unique candy bar wrapper and probably came from a vending machine at Battelle in Ohio.

No, it could have come from ten thousand other places, and they may have had Zagnut bars in the vending machine at USAMRIID back in 2001.

Ed

Ed Lake said...

BugMaster wrote: "To a scientist or anyone else that understands the fundamentals of logic, the most probable explanation for this:

The FBI is wrong!"


No. You are ignoring the facts, and you are misinterpreting Occam's razor.

The facts say that Ivins was the anthrax mailer.

There is a mountain of facts which say that Ivins sent the letters. There are NO significant facts which say someone else did it or that there is a vast conspiracy.

All the "entity multiplication" must be done to justify a belief in a vast conspiracy or a belief that al Qaeda send the anthrax letters. You have to do the "entity multiplication" in order to ignore and dismiss the facts pointing to Ivins so that you can believe as you want to believe.

Occam's razor says that the correct hypothesis is usually the one that requires the fewest assumptions.

No assumptions are needed to view Ivins as guilty.

Vast conspiracies require countless assumptions.

Notions that al Qaeda was behind the attacks require countless assumptions.

Ed

BugMaster said...

So Mr. Ed and the FBI say the following is ABSOLUTE PROOF of Ivin's guilt:

Sorority obsessions.

Davinci-code clues in the letters.

"Marmot Junction" zip code is Ivin's signature!

Unexplained activity in his lab when he had documented reason for being there.

Handwriting of letters doesn't even come close to a match (oh right, it was that damn kid!).

This isn't entity multiplication!!??

How about some actual physical evidence that doesn't require additional entity multiplication?

Perhaps, Ed, you should rename your website to:

"Ed's Layperson Guide to the FBI's Entity Multiplication Tables"

Old Atlantic Lighthouse said...

The strange subtilis should not be thought of simply as a 0 1 variable, it is there or not. Although this view is useful, it is not everything.

We should think about the percentage of strange subtilis in the sending. On this basis, it is a continuous variable that starts at 0.

The level of .3 of 1 percent found in the first mailings is too high for a particle of dust carried on Ivins' nose from the outside to float into a flask or dish and then result in .003 ie .3 of 1 percent of the first letters being the foreign subtilis.

The second mailing shows a level of the strange subtilis that is much lower.

Also as Bugmaster has pointed out, the Florida mailing seems to be shown to be a separate mailing distinct from these two in production origin by yet another subtilis and the absence of the subtilis in the NY Post and Brokaw letters.

Looked on as a continuous variable, we can

1) reject that Ivins caused the contamination by simply picking up a stray bit of dust outside and transporting it on his person despite switching clothes and shoes and possibly putting on gloves.

2) reject that the second letters were prepared in the same lab, if the source of contamination in the first letters was a contaminated lab. This may also exclude the dry run with subtilis scenario as well, since that should have left the lab contaminated.

We thus either have an intentional dry run with the strange subtilis, which should have left traces in the BSL3 and likely the second run, or we have a work place thoroughly contaminated with the strange subtilis.

So we get separate labs in separate places as the most likely answer. Any reasonable analysis excludes Ivins on this evidence.

Ed Lake said...

BugMaster wrote: "So Mr. Ed and the FBI say the following is ABSOLUTE PROOF of Ivin's guilt"

If you start by distorting the facts, you cannot expect to come to any kind of valid conclusion.

Neither I nor anyone in the FBI has ever used the term "absolute proof" when discussing the evidence against Bruce Ivins.

Occam's razor says the correct hypothesis is usually the one that requires the fewest assumptions.

Fact: Ivins had no verifiable alibi for the time of either one of the mailings.

Fact: Ivins had means, motive and opportunity.

Fact: Ivins had control of "the murder weapon," and he thought the Ames strain was untraceable.

Fact: Ivins had a history of actual criminal acts and thoughts of committing murderous acts.

Fact: Ivins was mentally unstable.

Fact: All other suspects were investigated and cleared.

There are NO assumptions here. Just facts. When the facts are viewed together, they show beyond any reasonable doubt that Ivins was the anthrax mailer.

Theories about al Qaeda, on the other hand are all assumptions.

The 9/11 hijackers were DEAD for nearly a week at the time of the first mailing, and DEAD for over three weeks at the time of the second mailing. So, any theory must assume that they had a fantasy associate who was never caught and who left no clues to his existence anywhere.

The theory that "the government" was behind the anthrax attacks is entirely based upon the assumption that because "the government" did secret acts in the past, they must also have done this as a secret act.

Another assumption is that, because the FBI investigated innocent men in the past and thought they might be guilty, they must have done the same thing with Bruce Ivins.

All the assumptions (or "entity multiplication") are done by people who have theories about al Qaeda or theories about "the government" being behind the attacks. Their beliefs are based entirely on assumptions.

The case against Bruce Ivins consists entirely of facts and evidence. NO assumptions.

The jury would have viewed the evidence in its entirety, and would almost certainly have found Bruce Ivins guilty.

You might consider such a verdict to be an assumption on the part of the jury, but it would have been recorded as a verdict or a finding, not as an assumption.

Ed

Ed Lake said...

Old Atlantic Lighthouse wrote: "Looked on as a continuous variable, we can ..."

You are using mathematics to argue a case that cannot be defined by mathematics.

Old Atlantic Lighthouse also wrote: "Also as Bugmaster has pointed out, the Florida mailing seems to be shown to be a separate mailing distinct from these two in production origin"

She distorted the facts. There is no published evidence showing whether or not the B subtilis found at AMI was or was not a match to the B subtilis in the Brokaw and NY Post letters.

The facts show that the AMI letter was mailed at the same time and from the same place as the Brokaw and NY Post letters.

Ed

Ed Lake said...

Old Atlantic Lighthouse,

Earlier today, I wrote that you were using mathematics to argue something that cannot be defined with mathematics.

After thinking it over, I have a better way to describe your method of arguing.

In the computer business it is called "garbage in, garbage out."

You do not know how much time Ivins spent on growing spores.
You do not know how many plates he used.
You do not know how many anthrax spores were put on each plate.
You do not know how many plates were contaminated with B subtilis.
You do not know how many B subtilis spores were on the contaminated plates.
You do not know the comparative growth times.

So, you simply pick numbers that suit your purposes, and you perform calculations that get the results you want.

Garbage in, garbage out.

Your mathematics cannot be shown to have anything to do with what really happened.

Ed

BugMaster said...

Facts, Ed:

"Fact: Ivins had no verifiable alibi for the time of either one of the mailings."

As it stands today, yes. But that may change if more information (timing of emails he set to others) comes out. Still, for the sake of argument, let's accept this as a fact.

"Fact: Ivins had means, motive and opportunity."

Far from fact, Ed. It can be suggested, but not stated as a fact that Ivins mailed the letters because of a specific motive. Means? Since it is still not known how the material was grown and processed, you cannot claim as an absolute fact that he had the means. Opportunity? Still up for debate, cannot be stated as fact.

"Fact: Ivins had control of "the murder weapon," and he thought the Ames strain was untraceable."

Wrong, Ed, Wrong! He did not have absolute control of the "murder weapon". And its a fact that you knew what he was thinking regarding the anthrax being untracable? Next time you channel Bruce Ivins, ask him who he thinks mailed the letters! (You are starting to disappoint me again, Ed!)

"Fact: Ivins had a history of actual criminal acts and thoughts of committing murderous acts."

To have thoughts of committing murderous acts and not actually commit them is quite common. Go to Wikipedia, Enter "homocidal ideation" (BTW: homocidal ideation has been reported as a side effect of taking Ambien)

As far as criminal acts, yes, it appears at times he was a real creep.

"Fact: All other suspects were investigated and cleared"

How do you determine who should have been considered a suspect? This cannot be stated as fact.

Fact: It is far from over, Ed. This CAN be stated as fact!

Ed Lake said...

BugMaster,

Fact: Ivins had no verifiable alibi.

You argue or assume that an alibi might someday be found.

Fact: Ivins had multiple motives.

You argue that no one knows which specific motive drove Ivins to do what he did. That's a different argument.

I wrote the Ivins believed that the Ames strain was untraceable. He stated in several emails what his thinking was regarding the Ames strain and where it came from.

You distort my statements to suggest I was mind-reading.

I wrote the Ivins had control of the murder weapon. It was his flask.

You argue that Ivins did not have absolute control over the murder weapon. That's a different argument.

I wrote that Ivins had a history of thoughts of committing criminal acts.

You argue that the thoughts could be the result of taking medicines. Actually, it's the other way around: Ivins was prescribed medicines to quell his murderous thoughts.

I wrote that all other suspects were investigated and cleared.

You argue or assume or speculate that the investigators could have missed a possible suspect.

I talk facts, you talk assumptions, theory and speculation. And you distort my arguments to create new arguments.

You wrote: "Fact: It is far from over, Ed. This CAN be stated as fact!"

No, you are stating that as your belief or assumption.

Everything you argue is either a belief, an assumption or a distortion.


Click HERE to go to a list of 50 facts showing Ivins to be guilty - side by side with 50 assumptions used by people who think Ivins was innocent to argue against the facts.

Ed

Old Atlantic Lighthouse said...

Ed Lake:

"You do not know how much time Ivins spent on growing spores.
You do not know how many plates he used.
You do not know how many anthrax spores were put on each plate.
You do not know how many plates were contaminated with B subtilis.
You do not know how many B subtilis spores were on the contaminated plates.
You do not know the comparative growth times. "

Would the FBI know these?

I recall at an earlier time before you went with plates in garbage bags, you argued that anthrax grows faster than subtilis because the paper I cited on subtilis growth times indicated more like a week as the time to grow 1 gram from a liter and that about half the time or so (I don't quite recall the percentage), there was very little after two weeks.

If subtilis grows slower than anthrax, then even more subtilis than .3 percent would be needed at the start. So the Ivins brought it in from the outside would have more of a hurdle to overcome.

If the FBI doesn't know all those things why are they saying they know Ivins did it? Don't you have to prove a person could have done it to say you know they did it? Didn't the FBI leave out that part in the case of Ivins?

Also, aren't you going on this you don't know bender because the numbers come out that .3 percent strange subtilis in the first mailing doesn't make sense for Ivins to have brought it in from the outside on a dust molecule on his nose, since he has to change his shoes and clothes before he can come in the lab? And getting that dust molecule off his nose and into the growth flask/plate would be difficult?

BugMaster said...

Ed:

"Actually, it's the other way around: Ivins was prescribed medicines to quell his murderous thoughts."

Ivins was prescribed medicines to quell his murderous thoughts? You know this as a fact, and have information supporting your conclusion? (medical records, exact medication being prescribed, indications for prescribing the medication, who prescribed it, for how long, notes in his medical record specifically mentioning the indication, etc.).

It is my understanding that Ivins was treated with medication for depression and insomnia. So you must have some new info here, right? If so, can you show us?

Or, is it another "entity multiplication" on the part of either yourself or that so-called "independent think-tank" in Virgina that normally meets in someone's living room and obsesses about Somali pirates?

"Fact: It is far from over, Ed. This CAN be stated as fact!"

It isn't a fact the the GAO is currently investigating the investigation and is hopes to release its report in September?

O.K., Ed, we all know that like any other True Believer, you are only going to believe in what you believe, regardless of any known facts or recent new information.

Ed Lake said...

Old Atlantic Lighthouse wrote: "If the FBI doesn't know all those things why are they saying they know Ivins did it? Don't you have to prove a person could have done it to say you know they did it?"

There are MANY different ways that Ivins could have made the anthrax.

He was an expert in making spores. He knew many ways to create spores, and he knew many ways to dry spores.

It's not necessary to try to figure out exactly which method he used to create the powders in the attack letters. It's only necessary to determine that he did indeed have means. Asking that the investigators determine the exact method Ivins used is like demanding that the FBI determine exactly what roads Ivins traveled when he drove to Princeton to mail the letters. What difference does it make? He COULD do it. He had the means and the ability. That is all that is necessary to prove.

On the other hand, if you want to prove that Ivins could NOT have made the attack anthrax, then you need to explain why he couldn't have used any of the many methods available to him.

Old Atlantic Lighthouse also wrote: "... doesn't make sense for Ivins to have brought it in from the outside on a dust molecule on his nose, since he has to change his shoes and clothes before he can come in the lab?"

I already responded to that. You are imagining different conditions than actually existed in Ivins lab.

Click HERE for an picture of Bruce Ivins handling plates in his lab.

You can see that it is apparently a BSL-2 lab. He has no hairnet. He has no mask. He's just wearing a smock over his street clothes. His shoes cannot be seen, but they are almost certainly the same shoes he arrived at work wearing.

Ivins almost certainly inoculated plates in his BSL-2 lab, not in his BSL-3 lab.

Plus, Ivins was notorious for how sloppy his labs were.

Plus, as stated in a previous post, the biosafety cabinet behind Ivins in the picture sucks room air into the cabinet. So, the dust containing the B subtilis can come from anywhere in the building or from outside.

Contaminating a growth plate is VERY easy to do - particularly in a BSL-2 lab, but also in a BSL-3 lab. It happens every day.

Ed

Ed Lake said...

BugMaster wrote: "Ivins was prescribed medicines to quell his murderous thoughts? You know this as a fact, and have information supporting your conclusion?"

The Expert Behavioral Analysis Panel (EBAP) report uses information from confidential files kept by Ivins various psychiatrists. You can attack the people who wrote the report because you don't like what they wrote, but that doesn't change the fact that they are using actual psychiatric reports, and you are arguing only your beliefs.

The EBAP report has a lot of redacted information, but David Willman's new book contains a lot of the redacted material - including the names of all of his psychiatrists and therapists.

Ivins started visiting psychiatrists around 1976, while he was doing post-doctoral work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. That was the time when he was also fixated on Nancy Haigwood, and he thinking of ways to do harm to her or her career - apparently because he couldn't control her. There are no records from that psychiatrist.

Ivins wasn't suffering from depression in 1978, when he first visited Dr. Naomi Heller. He was having thoughts about murdering Nancy Haigwood.

Dr. Heller's first thought when she heard about the anthrax attacks and the connection to USAMRIID was that Ivins could have done it.

In early 2000, Ivins was thinking about murdering Mara Linscott because she'd quit working for him to go back to medical school. He couldn't control her, either.

Ivins contacted Dr. Heller to try to start seeing her again. However, Dr. Heller had retired, so she sent Ivins to Dr. David Irwin. Dr. Irwin determined that Ivins was "sociopathic" and prescribed anti-psychotic drugs for him.

Then, because Irwin was too far to drive for Ivins, and too expensive, Ivins was sent to see Dr. Allen Levy. Dr. Levy prescribed different drugs. It was in June of 2000 that Ivins was talking with his therapist - Judith McLean - about his plans to murder Mara Linscott by giving her a bottle of poisoned wine. McLean called the police, but there wasn't anything the police could do.

All the real depression started after the FBI started focusing on Ivins as the key suspect in the case. That wasn't until 2004 or so.

Ivins may have been "depressed" because he couldn't control the various women around him, but it was his plans for murder that caused him to see help.

The EBAP says this on page 195 about Ivins failing to tell USAMRIID about his mental problems:

"Dr. Ivins did not fully disclose his past and current psychiatric treatment on screening forms and he did not report the use of prescription antipsychotic medications, which were prescribed by his treating psychiatrist in 2000, 2003, 2005, and 2008. He also failed to report to the doctors treating him in 2000 and beyond that he had been prescribed antipsychotics in the late 1970s. Nor did he report his increasing substance abuse."

Ed

Ed Lake said...

BugMaster wrote: "It isn't a fact the the GAO is currently investigating the investigation and is hopes to release its report in September?"

Yes, but there is absolutely NO reason to believe that the GAO is going to find that Ivins was innocent. That's just plain absurd. The GAO isn't going to change the FACTS, and the FACTS say Ivins was guilty.

All the GAO can do is fill in some details and, perhaps, suggest how the investigation of Dr. Hatfill could have been done differently.

I hope they also make some recommendations about how to handle conspiracy theorists and the media when they try to interrupt or mislead future investigations, as Barbara Hatch Rosenberg and the New York Times did with the Amerithrax case.

The Amerithrax case is OVER. The GAO report is NOT going to reopen it just because some skeptics have irrational doubts about the findings. That's beyond absurd. It's a fantasy.

The facts say Ivins was the anthrax killer. Click HERE for a list of the evidence against Bruce Ivins. The list is side by side with the arguments from skeptics.

It is preposterous to believe that the GAO is going to ignore the evidence just because conspiracy theorists and True Believers don't believe the evidence.

All the GAO can do is add to the Evidence List. David Willman's book produced a couple items I plan to add to the list as soon as his book is published.

Ed

Old Atlantic Lighthouse said...

If there was a dense subtilis patch at Ft. Detrick on the parade ground that Ivins stepped in, then presumably others would have as well.
If Ivins' shoe had millions and billions of spores before he entered the building, with most rubbed off as he walked around, then this subtilis would have been everywhere in the complex from others stepping in it.

If somehow a single bit of strange subtilis floating in the air outside at Ft. Detrick had stuck on Ivins face or clothes or shoes, then by the time he got to preparing a flask or plate inside the BSL3, there would have been almost nothing left.

If there was enough strange subtilis on the outside that after all the losses to go inside, change clothes and shoes it still ended up as .3 percent of the first letter anthrax, then there was enough on the outside to get into everything at Ft. Detrick from others tracking it around as well. It would then still be there.

Meryl Nass, M.D. said...

Thanks, Atlantic Lighthouse.

You are exactly right. Either there was so much B. subtilis outside that it would have been tracked in, in great quantity, to achieve 0.3% of the total spore load, and been easily found on surface samples, OR it was part of the seed spore prep from which the spores were grown.

Does everyone agree this thread has gone on long enough and there is little left to pick over?

Ed Lake said...

Dr. Nass,

I agree that there doesn't seem any way to discuss facts about B subtilis contamination.

Click HERE for an article about the danger of B subtilis contaminating the surface of a space craft sent to Mars and thereby also contaminating the entire planet.

There's another article HERE.

Here's an interesting quote:

"B. subtilis is a common contaminant of laboratory cultures (it plagued Louis Pasteur in many of his experiments) and is often found on human skin."

Source: HERE.

But, if people want to believe that Ivins lab was cleaner than the surface of a space craft sent to Mars, there's no point in continuing to argue.

Ed

Anonymous said...

I'm the "anonymous" of April 26th and I just looked at this blog entry again.

Mister Lake posts (ostensibly addressing me):
-------------
Here's a hypothetical case:

Some evidence points to suspects A, B, C and D.

Some evidence points to suspects A, C and G.

Some evidence points to suspects C, E and F.

Some evidence points to suspects A, C and F.

Some evidence points to suspects C and G.

Conclusion: ALL the known evidence points to Suspect C as the culprit.

Carrying the hypothetical case a bit further:

It's not possible for anyone but A, B, C, D, E, F and G to have committed the crime.

A, B and E have solid alibis ("exculpatory evidence").

D is physically handicapped and incapable of doing what was necessary to commit the crime ("exculpatory evidence").

F and G are unskilled and have no knowledge of the required techniques used in the crime ("exculpatory evidence").

Final conclusion: Suspect C did it beyond any reasonable doubt.
=================================
Well then, your hypothetical evidentiary reasoning is just as faulty as your concrete evidentiary reasoning (Ivins and Amerithrax).

Reasons:

1)there is no such thing concretely as "some evidence". If there were then the fact that Fay Resnick had a drug problem and was a friend of Nicole Brown would tend to indicate that the key to the death of Nicole Brown Simpson was "to be found in the drug world of Fay Resnick". It was never established that that ever had anything to do with the murder.

There are only PARTICULAR instances of 'evidence', with widely varying levels of reliability, relevance etc.

2)concretely in Amerithrax we don't know a)how many and who were/was in the original pool of suspects b)how they arrived at that pool (ie why some people weren't included). This ALONE raises reasonable doubt, especially given the geographical spread (ie Fort Detrick to Princeton NJ).

Even if we could agree with the government that ALL the people should be there, that doesn't preclude someone with marginal/temporary access to the lab(s) containing the Ames anthrax from having stolen it.

3)We don't know on what basis people in the original pool were eliminated. To be COURTROOM evidence, that would all have to be presented. And it would almost certainly be found wanting. (You can't convict someone for lack of a better suspect).

Said another way, this part:
--------
It's not possible for anyone but A, B, C, D, E, F and G to have committed the crime.
-----------
is, in the given case (Amerithrax), just not the case. The Amerithrax perps will prove to be persons unknown to the US public. Unknown to federal investigators.

And outside of Agatha Christie novels where all the suspects attended the same dinner party, were in the same locked room when the murder took place, this A, B, C, D, E, F and G stuff almost never happens.

Anonymous said...

Again,the anonymous of April 26th and yesterday (May 26th). Another strong indicator that Mister Lake is, well, all wet when it comes to evaluating the relevance, reliability, and admissibility of evidence is in the comment section of his website where he unloads this beaut:
--------------
In reality, evidence of guilt that points to multiple people is still evidence of guilt in any court.
----------------------------------
But typically courts try INDIVIDUALS, not 'multiple people', and certainly nothing as large as the readership of THE NATIONAL ENQUIRER.

It boils down to specificity. If it did not, then a court really WOULD rule admissible the fact that Ivins (probably) watched NBC/ABC/CBS for decades. Can Mister Lake really be saying that this is relevant to a hypothetical)courtroom trial of Ivins?!?!? I think not! (and if I'm wrong then an Ed Lake on a jury would be putty in the hands of any prosecutor).
----------------------------------
The fact that Ivins liked to drive at night MIGHT be of some probative value if IT COULD OTHERWISE BE PROVED he drove to New Jersey on the night of Sept 17-18th and/or the days/nights prior to the October 9th letters. But without that, it's totally irrelevant (and likely inadmissible). Because the fact that Ivins could drive is not in dispute, only the fact that he drove to Princeton on two occasions to mail letters poisoned with anthrax. THAT question won't be settled by citing his mailing bona fide PRESENTS, even if the mailings took place near Princeton (and this----the Princeton location for the gift-mailing(s)---was never alleged by the government).