Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt?

U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Taylor said at a Justice Department news conference, "We regret that we will not have the opportunity to present evidence to the jury."

Everybody else regrets it too--since what came out today was another pastiche of innuendo and circumstantial evidence, with an awful lot of holes. Time for the FBI to present all of what it has to the court of public opinion, don't you think? A major benefit for the FBI of sharing its case would be restoration of confidence in the US' system of justice, the Justice Department and its FBI.

I worked all day at the hospital, but want to get something out tonight, in a hurry, regarding the strength of some of the evidence presented today. I'll no doubt have more to say once I have read the rest of the "evidence".

Here goes:

1. Ivins had just been immunized against anthrax. He was required to have yearly immunizations, and some anthrax scientists have chosen to be vaccinated every six months for safety, since the vaccine's efficacy is weak--and Ivins had proven its weakness in several animal models. In his career he had probably received about 33 separate anthrax vaccinations.

2. Earlier, we heard the envelopes came from the specific post office he frequented. Today the affidavit states it is "reasonable to conclude" they were purchased in Maryland or Virginia.

3. Choosing a strain that would direct suspicion at Ivins. The perpetrator(s) were tremendously careful to leave no clues vis a vis the envelopes. For example, block lettering was used, which is the hardest to identify with handwriting analysis. Second, stamped envelopes were chosen to avoid using saliva. Third, there were no fingerprints on anything.

Why would the person(s) who took such care select an anthrax strain that would focus suspicion on himself? In 2001, strain analysis was possible. It had been discussed many times as a forensic tool for biowarfare, including in a paper I wrote in 1992, which Ivins had read, and in which I thanked him for his contributions.

4. Ivins was the "sole custodian" of the strain. But the strain was grown in 1997, and many people had access to it over that four year period. Having received a sample, or obtained it surreptitiously, they would be "custodians" of it too.

5. Ivins was in the lab alone at night for prolonged periods--much more so than at other times. Perhaps so. But the document states he spent exactly the same amount of time in the biosafety suite each night for 3 nights running just when the first letters were sent (September 14-16): 2 hours and 15 minutes, each time. That is a funny coincidence, when he spent variable amounts of time in the building. To me it suggests a clerical error.

Between September 11, 2001 and the first anthrax letter being found, there was a LOT of talk about a biological attack being next. I was deluged with queries about this at the time. So if Ivins was trying to work harder under the cloud of an impending attack, it makes sense to me, because I was working harder.

6. If the motive is that he was mentally disturbed, agitated, out of control, then the care he took with those envelopes is paradoxical.

7. He was under pressure to help Bioport with its substandard anthrax vaccine.
So he wanted to help Bioport by creating an attack? That doesn't make sense. He had proven Bioport's vaccine had limited efficacy. He knew about the safety data implicating the vaccine in chronic illnesses, particularly autoimmune illnesses. His colleague at Detrick, Phil Pittman, MD, took the possibility the adjuvant was causing illness seriously, and had published on this. Bruce told me he thought he might have a blood illness due to the anthrax vaccinations he had received.

But most critically, Bruce had created new anthrax vaccines designed to replace Bioport's (now Emergent Biosolutions') vaccine. Why would he want to do Bioport a favor?

And the vaccine that was used after the attack was Bioport's (licensed in 1970, when Ivins was still in school) not Ivins', since Ivins' vaccines were not licensed or fully tested.

8. The affidavit carefully wordsmiths around Ivins' lack of knowledge for making weaponized anthrax, by emphasizing that he might have known some of the things needed to make such a product. The statement is this: "Dr. Ivins was adept at manipulating anthrax production and purification variables to maximize sporulation and improve the quality of anthrax spore preparations. He also understood anthrax aerosolization dosage rates and the importance of purity, consistency and spore particle size due to his responsibility for providing liquid anthrax spore preparations for animal anthrax spore challenges." After 28 years making anthrax, it would be odd if he weren't expert in all these areas.

9. We still need to know about the finished spore preparation in the letters. I am one who tends to believe the first reports in contrast to the later ones: the ones that come out before someone decides the story needs to be shaped. So it is logical to conclude that a very small amount of an additive, or a special treatment, was used to prepare the Daschle/Leahy letter spores in order to make the spores repel one another. This was multiply reported by scientists who had first crack at the sample. Later, other scientist who got to study the spores may have said there was no additive. But were they given the same spores? Had the effect worn off? The 2006 Beecher (FBI) paper claimed there was no additive, but curiously cited no research to back up this claim. To me, this was written by FBI in a crude attempt to shape the story, and was soon disputed by a UN official, Dr. Mereish. If you can show me what the real preparation was, and how Ivins could have learned to make it, I would find the story a lot more convincing.

10. The Naval Medical Research Center held all the samples, under contract to FBI. This is a trivial point, but the Army and Navy are longstanding competitors.

11. Mental health. If Ivins was so out of control, so scary, why was he allowed to keep working in a high containment lab with access to some of the world's deadliest pathogens for so long? Is it true, as has been reported, that it was an FBI agent who suggested Ms. Duley ask for a protection order? The wording on the order suggests she was coached by the FBI; how else would she know Ivins was to be charged with capital murder? More information on her finances and pre-existing legal troubles, and whether they had been remedied recently, is needed.

12. Ivins cursed about giving journalist Gary Matsumoto information requested in a Freedom of Information Act request. Matsumoto is a most peculiar journalist. We had a number of conversations. He would not get off the phone, sometimes staying on for an hour or more. He would harass me, in an attempt to shape the story. He worked very hard, trying to force me to say that the only problem with anthrax vaccine was its squalene adjuvant, although there were many reasons to question that assertion. I hung up on him more than once, exasperated, and no doubt I used some foul language describing our conversations to others.

13. The anthrax attacker MUST be able to be placed at the scene of the mailboxes, at the times the letters were mailed. Surely the FBI sought information on these dates and places from everyone with anthrax access in the US and probably abroad, shortly after the letter attacks. Either Ivins had an alibi or he didn't. Put up or shut up: this is the most critical evidence in this case. If Ivins cannot be placed in New Jersey on those dates, he is not the attacker, or he did not act alone.

Furthermore, there were other letters. Some contained other powders. Some were said to contain some anthrax in contemporaneous news reports. Some were warnings. These were mailed from other places, on other dates. The FBI has sat on this collateral evidence. If these envelopes, ink or block print were the same, the attacker would have to be placed at the scene when those letters were mailed. What happened to this evidence? Pony up.

14. The anthrax letters were sent for effect, not to kill. (See my 2002 article for more on this.) Here are the effects that resulted, at least in part, from the letters:
A. The Patriot Act
B. War against Iraq
C. A new bioterrorism industry, worth over $50 Billion so far, was created
D. The moribund Anthrax Vaccine Program was resurrected
Who benefited? Ivins was no beneficiary. (Had the Bioport vaccine been killed, as planned, maybe Ivins' vaccine would have taken its place.)

You know who benefited:
  • The bioevangelists, who have made a ton of bucks on the threat
  • The Neocons, looking for an excuse to attack Iraq. The Iraqis may not have attacked the World Trade Center, but by golly, everyone knew they had anthrax!
  • Those seeking to consolidate more power in the executive branch, increase the surveillance of Americans, get rid of Habeus Corpus, and on and on.
  • The anthrax vaccine manufacturer, Bioport. Guess what? Its CEO, Fuad El-Hibri and his company Intervac bought Bioport in 1998 with $3 Million down. The day before he bought it, the Army agreed to indemnify it for him, for free. Then contracts totalling hundreds of millions of dollars started rolling in.
  • Correction: Twice last week, one day after Ivins went into the hospital with an overdose, and one day after Ivins died, El Hibri sold some of his shares in the company. Did he think the company would get some extra scrutiny and its share price plummet? Although the shares were reportedly sold "automatically," if you review the price fluctuations, that would appear unlikely. Since mid July 2008, the sales totalled about $3 million.
I am still waiting to hear about how the FBI eliminated from consideration those with a real motive.


Anonymous said...

Dr. Nass, any chance Ivins's many anthrax vaccinations could have affected his mental state? Do people who work with anthrax routinely get as many as 33 vaccinations?

Swift Loris

Greg said...

This is just outstanding. Please stay in this fight. We can't let the MSM steal the narrative based on their deference to official governmental judicial sources.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for an excellent review of the evidence, especially after a full day of work!

Yes, Ms. Duley did say the FBI urged her to get the warrant. She says so in her oral testimony, which is in the left sidebar here:

Beginning where there is 1 minute 21 seconds left she says, "My assigned FBI agent actually very much suggested that I get a protective order."

Jim White said...

Great list of questions, Dr. Nass. The FBI makes a big deal out of the Fort Detrick material being physically the closest genetically matching material to where the envelopes were purchased. What they don't address is whether other samples matching genetically were closer to the mailbox where the letters were mailed. That seems more important to me and I haven't seen anyone address that question.

Norn Cutson said...

you lay it out perfectly!
thank you!

Anonymous said...

Dr. Nass-

Would Ivins have had access to naturally occurring strains of anthrax? How difficult would it be for him to obtain wild specimens? What about other strains in the lab? The reason I ask is that you doubt that an attacker who otherwise takes precautions would choose to use something that traces directly back to him. However, your line of thought is predicated on him having access to other strains as well.

Would he have had ways of obtaining other strains?

Washingtons Blog said...

Dr. Nass,

Brilliant article.

Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa and Congressman Holt aren't satisfied with the FBI's "selective release of documents either.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Nass:

I posted this in a different thread but I'm not sure if you are still checking older threads. I will post it again, as well, and hope you'll forgive the duplication...


Dr. Nass:

I am so grateful to you for your contributions to this series of mysteries surrounding Dr. Ivins and the Anthrax attacks of 2001. A great many of us are now relying almost exclusively on the insights of bloggers like Glenn Greenwald and scientist/peers of Dr. Ivins like yourself because of our complete loss of faith in the objectivity and fairness of corporate media and our skepticism about the credibility and trustworthiness of politicized government entities like the FBI and Justice Department.

I wanted to ask whether or not you could possibly comment in your blog about the 2002 article by Laura Rozen in, "Fort Detrick's Anthrax Mystery".

In light of the largely circumstantial case against Bruce Ivins that has thusfar come to light- I find myself deeply curious about whether any connections may have existed between Dr. Ivins and Dr. Ayaad Assaad (who, as I'm sure you are familiar, was an Egyptian-American identified via an anonymous letter to the FBI as a potential bioterrorist.) The conspicuous timing of the warning's arrival- arriving at FBI headquarters seemingly at almost the exact same time as Anthrax letters were beginning to arrive- suggests the possibility that the sender of the Anthrax may have also simultaneously sent a letter framing Dr. Assaad for the attack.

Many I know are also curious to better understand the roles/personalities/credentials/research disciplines of personalities like Marian Rippy and Lt. Col. Phil Zack- both of whom apparently had grudges (seemingly race-based?) against Dr. Assaad which led, it seems, to their eventual reprimand and departures from USAMRIID. One wonders whether or not Dr. Ivins had any working relationship with Dr. Assaad? It seems like there are a great many unanswered questions about these two individuals, "The Camel Club", and reports about their continued access to the laboratories and anthrax specimens.

If you have any insights about any of these figures, I think it would be uniquely valuable to the Internet community at large. If ultimately Dr. Ivins is found responsible for the attacks- then it seems only common-sensical that he must also have been responsible for sending the warning letters to the FBI about Dr. Assaad being a bioterrorist. If he did not- the question remains who did? And how could they possibly have coordinated their letter in perfect synchronicity with the arrival of anthrax-tainted letters (from, seemingly, a US strain) which intentionally suggested the author(s) were illiterate Islamic Fundamentalists.

Thanks again for your insights and generosity of spirit.

Winter Patriot said...

Great stuff! Thank you very much.

Anonymous said...

This is really starting to look like yet another in a series of cover-ups.

The very poor quality clinical language and writing skills led me to question whether Ms. Duley was much of an authority on mental health issues or if she even had an LMSW, something required if she is to be referred to as "a social worker", let alone a "theripist" [sic]. I've been trying to verify her license through the Maryland Board of Social Work Examiners, the appropriate regulatory agency in the Maryland State Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Their site has been mysteriously down since the news of Dr. Ivin's suicide broke.

Duley quotes Dr. David Irwin's clinical assessment that Ivins was "homicidal, sociopathic with clear intentions." Irwin got his medical degree 42 years ago and it's not unusual for the old timers to still refer to "Antisocial Personality Disorder," as "sociopathy" or "a sociopath." But this language is archaic and using the criteria spelled out in the DSM-IV for Antisocial Personality Disorder, Ivins does not even appear close.

A corollary bit of evidence to consider as well is that the term "Sociopath" is a term that has persisted in the FBI since the 50s. They are notorious for using diagnostic labels haphazardly in much the same way that the DEA folks still refer to most drugs as "narcotics."

All of this crazy mishmash of unprofessional nomenclature coming through leaks and innuendo only suggests more questions as to the suspect professional quality of the folks with whom we are having to deal.

Dr. Nass, it certainly looks like, just as you said in the article above corroborating the opinion of the NYTs: the FBI seems to be manufacturing a case against Dr. Ivins in the same manner they have used in cooperation with the Bush Administration to contrive the casus belli for a war they wanted long before 911. If the "Niger Yellowcake Forgery" and the "Feith Memo" highlighted the incompetence of neocon faux-intelligence (Office of Special Plans under Douglas Feith) and their amateurish attempts at the cloak and dagger games any ten year old who has seen Batman could best them at, the deceitful episode of the great Amerithrax Crisis points to the prayed for demise of yet another dinosaur of the Cold War. My God, what are we going to do with the communists to define our "conservatism," eh?

I'll risk my reputation here by betting you a DSM-IV and the real R/O Major Depression, along with two bubblegum cards of Mickey Mantle and the Falstaff Beer empties fished from his trashcans by teenage fans, Shin Bet has been in on this from the git-go. If not, they sold an awful lot of magazine subscriptions for nothing.

Thank you so much, Dr. Nass, for providing your personal knowledge and experience. I will be tracking your blog as this story is swept into the dust of the twin towers along with the documents of the Kennedy Archives.

Whispers said...

Excellent post.

This whole thing smells of psyop. The little details just do not fit.

Anonymous said...

More points to ponder.

The FBI alleges that Ivins was unstable, homicidal, perhaps suicidal. Why then tell him they were going to arrest him instead of just arresting him?

The FBI was working with the therapist. That would be an excellent method of obtaining feedback on the progress of an ongoing psychological warfare operation.

This inside knowledge of Ivins' mental state could well have allowed them to dial up the pressure to the point that their arrest warning would trigger a suicide.

Washingtons Blog said...

Dr. Nass,

This essay amplifyies on your point that many people had access to RMR-1029.

Anonymous said...

Bruce Ivins wrote in a September 26, 2001 email that he "heard tonight" that Bin Laden has anthrax and sarin gas.

Major report from that day:

Bin Laden terror group tries to acquire chemical arms
By Bill Gertz
September 26, 2001

"Intelligence officials say classified analysis of the types of chemicals and toxins sought by al Qaeda indicate the group probably is trying to produce the nerve agent Sarin, or biological weapons made up of anthrax spores"

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your candor, Dr. Nass, not merely in this post but throughout your blog. The anthrax attacks have never sat well with me, and I have many questions about Dr. Ivins and the rather opportune "lone gunman theory" that's now been attached to him. I'm not at all convinced by what the FBI presented yesterday.

The anthrax attacks (originating from a U.S. government lab) were ultimately transformed into the casus belli for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. It's difficult to forget Colin Powell holding up that vial of anthrax in front of the U.N., isn't it?

But even more difficult to forget is that individuals in the Vice President's office — indeed, whole families — were advised to begin taking Cipro immediately after 9/11 (according to the Washington Post).

So how did the White House know the anthrax was coming?

Anonymous said...

The FBI guy at the news conference flatly denied that the FBI used confrontational tactics with Ivins and his family. How credible is that denial, given what we know about how the FBI treated Hatfill?

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much. You have no idea how many people who no longer trust ANYTHING the government, its agencies, or the press say anymore are depending upon information only people like you can decode for the public. I'm evaluating what I can evaluate given what I'm given, but so much depends upon the continued activism of those who understand the language and the scene. If the questioning dies out, so does any hope for normal democratic procedure in this country.

Anonymous said...

In the DOJ materials, a number of fibers were mentioned (it sounded like fibers from clothing), so are we to assume they had this evidence but couldn't match it to Ivins because, if they could have matched it, that would have been the headline at the presser?

Also, the DOJ materials mention there were many hairs in the mailbox suitable for comparison, yet at the presser they said there were no hairs. Don't they really mean there were no hairs that matched Ivins?

Z said...

Dr. Nass, Thank you for all of your insight. Doesn't the defense department have a separate group working on weaponized anthrax? If so, isn't it likely that they would have the specialized knowledge to make it and have access to the samples at Fort DeTrick?

jatkin02 said...

Excellent overview of the FBI ragbag. Thank you.

Several other items about the Ivins case keep pestering me:

1. the first mailings that went to the Washington Post and NBC, among others, were contaminated with the same strain of b. subtilis. That strain of b. subtilis apparently is unique --- demonstrably different from other known and/or captive strains. Where did it come from? Who, if anyone, works with b. subtilis experimentally?

2. Dr. Ivins is reported to have killed himself with an overdose of Tylenol (acetominophin). Seems an intensely unpleasant and lingering suicide method, sometimes taking three or four days before liver failure finally ends the suffering, when the FBI reports that Ivins had both handguns and ammunition in his house. And access to lots of pathogens. Makes no sense. Where are the autopsy results? Was there an autopsy (there ought to have been, given the circumstances).


Anonymous said...

Yes, I too am wondering what effect 33 anthrax vaccines might have on someone with a pre-existing tendency toward depression and paranoia. What I know about vaccines generally is that the "adjuvants" can actually be quite harmful. They have a tendency to exacerbate pre-existing conditions, whatever those conditions may be. Not to mention the already inherent dangers of being injected with live, albeit "attenuated" viruses. I can definitely envision a scenario in which someone with mental illness who receives 33 injections of the anthrax vaccine could deteriorate over time.

Anonymous said...

What if, sometime around 9/11, someone from private industry enlisted the good doctor in a scheme to develop a new and improved anthrax vaccine – off the books. What if they asked him to provide several anthrax cultures for their work? And if the good doctor went along, wouldn’t that be something that he would have hidden in deathly fear of discovery?

Look at it from the other side. If the NeoCons needed a false-flag anthrax attack, wouldn’t they have gone to a corrupt private company with an offer of a multi-billion dollar anthrax vaccine contract if only they would provide them with a small amount of off-the-books weaponized anthrax? Anthrax that couldn't later be traced right back to said industry lab.

Anonymous said...

I've wondered about the apparent lack of investigation of private industry too. I lived in Princeton in 2001 and the first thought I had at the time was all those biotech labs that exist right in the immediate Princeton area. It's not for nothing that Princeton author Richard Preston made the NJ biotech corridor the locale for many of the misdeeds in his writings. THAT would make sense of mailing the envelopes from a Princeton address, something that makes NO sense now. The anthrax source could still easily have come from Ft. Detrick, right?

Anonymous said...

Write me down as one of those people who think 33 vaccinations might have had some effect on him. Also consider that Gulf War Syndrome was potentially caused by the anthrax vaccine adjuvant squalene. Imagine how paranoid and crazy you might get knowing that you ruined the lives of hundreds of thousands of American soldiers by adding squalene to your vaccine. Or knowing that you might have been vaccinated with one of those vaccines. This would cause a great deal of guilty behavior.

Write me down, again, for those who think that suicide-by-acetaminophen is sketchy. Why would a scientist, a reasonably intelligent person, choose such a slow and painful way to kick the bucket? Just where is that autopsy report?

The idea that the FBI was using Duley to evaluate the effect of their psyops on Ivins is quite interesting, I must say...

Washingtons Blog said...

Dr. Nass,

It is interesting that RMR-1029 apparently originated from Dugway Proving Ground.

Anonymous said...

Re: of investigation of private industry

I'm blogging this theory over at DemocraticUnderground:

Anonymous said...

Dr. Nass,

Thank you so very much for your work on this. I'd say your brave considering what seems to happen to so many experts in this field.

I feel that if he did produce the anthrax for the letters, he was pressured to do so as one of the anonymous posters mentioned. In other words, someone coerced him into making an anthrax similar to what Saddam Hussein used which would explain why he seemed so stressed out around that time.

My question is: Do you think Ivins could have possibly left out the Bentonite on purpose? He may have known all along that he was going to take the fall or at least be implicated so deviating from the recipe would mess up the Islamoterrorist narrative. And sort of implicate those talking about the type of anthrax that never existed. A scientific FU.

I can't get around the motives:


A. A scientist who happens to be a registered democrat, kills other democrats in the name of Jesus.


B. Government and/or private industry wants to scare public for political and/or economic gains. (And knock off a few liberals in the process)

As someone mentioned...It really does smell "yellow cakeish".

Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you Meryl for your hard work and for putting it here for all of us.

You are a True American Patriot! :) Bless you.

Anonymous said...

thanks for your extensive review of the "evidence".... as someone who was in the Hart Building and had to take Cipro for an extended period, this issue is important to me.

One thing that jumped out at me (in particular) was the mention of the metallic taste that he experienced. Isn't that indicative of a possible seizure disorder? If I were a clinician, I think that I would be working that up as a possible cause and that failure to do so would be negligent. There is no mention of any neurological follow-up on this important symptom.

Thanks to the other posters here for helping sort through the "evidence" that the DOJ presented -- it was important for me to read that there was news coverage of the Bin Ladin attempt to acquire anthrax spores on the day that he was quoted as having wrote about it. Any junior reporter should have known to fact check this with media reports for that day.

all this business about him using false names on the internet is rather odd as well -- who doesn't use an assumed name when posting to many forums?

Unknown said...

Thank you for laying out these objections clearly and specifically.

The only piece of hard forensic evidence I've seen in this case is the mention of flask RMR-1029 and the assertion that Ivins "created and solely maintained" it. However, the careful wording of that DOJ press release obscures the evident fact that Ivins did not have sole access to that flask. If only Ivins had access to it, that would prove significant. As it is, it's meaningless as evidence.

The rest of the so-called DOJ "case" appears to boil down to vague rumors, innuendo, hearsay and circumstantial "evidence" so nebulous as to be probitively meaningless. For example, the DOJ trumpets the fact that "investigators have traced the envelopes." Sounds like a smoking gun, doesn't it? Whoops -- turns out all that means is that they found the post office where the anthrax enveloped were bought. Yes, Ivins lives in the same metropolitan area as the Frederick MD post office where the anthrax letters were bought -- but so do millions of other people...including everyone who works at that USAMRIID lab.

The amount of hearsay in this "case" is stunning. For instance, we get the claim that "Dr. Ivins was said to be one of the few people at the lab able to use a lyophilizer." Wait a minute... "Was said to be"? That's hearsay. That's not evidence, you can't even bring that into a court of law.

This case is so weak that one of the search warrants specifies Camus' novel The Plague. C'mon, now, folks! Seriously. Is that evidence of anything?

I'm intensely skeptical of the significance of Ivins' "apparent inability to adequately explain the extra time he spent at the lab" shortly after September 11 2001. That's 7 years ago. If I demanded that you provide me with a detailed and fully convincing explanation for extra time you spent at some activity shortly after September 11 2001, could you comply? I probably couldn't. Could you? Could anyone, unless they were involved in some activity where minutes of meetings or video surveillance was kept around the clock?

Now permit me to weigh in on the evidnece we're not seeing:

[1] Any investigator with any competence at all would immediately zero in on video surveillance footage of the shops around the post office box where the anthrax was mailed and also video surveillance footage of the post office where the envelopes were purchased. Obviously back in September 2001, no one knew at which mailbox the letters had been mailed or at which post office the envelopes had been purchased. But I'm willing to bet that, since DOJ investigators are certainly not stupid, they probably subpoened and collected video surveillance tapes overlooking all the mailblxes within several states including Washington D.C., and video surveillance tapes from all post offices within several states. It would take a while to go through all that surveillance footage, but wouldn't Ivins show up on at least some of it? There are a huge number of camera recording footage in public streets nowadays. You have ATM cameras, cameras from shops that point out at the street, CCTV cameras from warehouses and other facilities. Wouldn't at least some of these have shown Dr. Ivins walking toward the mailbox, entering the post office, etc?

The fact that there's no mention of Ivins spotted in such video surveillance tapes from ATMs etc suggests that he doesn't appear on any CCTV or ATM video footage.

[2] Mentally disturbed people tend not to confine their disturbance to just one area of their lives. We saw with the Unabomber that his shack was full of crazy screeds, bomb-making materials, etc. I haven't seen any evidence that Ivins' home or any space he rented was full of extremist tracts, books like The Anarchist Cookbook, etc. Wouldn't you expect that from someone who was mentally disturbed and wanted to kill members of the general public? Where's the equivalent of a diary filled with crazy rants, or large manuscripts containing hysterical threats? That's what you typically encounter from mentally disturbed people who make Unabomber-type attacks, isn't it?

[3] The motives alleged to Ivins appear contradictory. They just don't make sense. On the one hand, the DOJ seems to be trying to paint a picture of a mentally unstable person with extreme religious beliefs. But then the DOJ mentions explicitly that Ivin's possible motive might be that he was worried about his anthrax reserach funding getting cut, so we created an anthrax scare to pump up the funding. These two motives conflict with one another. A mentally unstable person wouldn't care about putting together a coldly calculated attack designed to ramp up funding for his research. And a killer cold-blooded enough to murder people merely in order to maintain his research funding wouldn't be likely to launch an anthrax attack for religious reasons.

The person the DOJ is describing in these two conflicting alleged motives seems to be two different people. One is a wild-eyed mentally usntable religious fanatic. The other is a cold-blooded murderer with no qualms about killing strangers to get his research funding increased. Either of these motives might make sense, but the fact that DOJ is tossing in both motives suggests that they're just hurling manure at Ivins' reputation in the vague hope that some of it will stick.

Bluntly, none of the evidence released by the DOJ so far seems remotely convincing. If this case were the work of a mentally distrubed individual, we'd expect to get the kind of evidence pouring out that we got about Ted Bundy or Ted Kaczinsky or Arthur Bremer. I'm not seeing anything like that here.

As a result, this whole thing smells wrong.

Motives are being alleged with seem contradictory, an excess of hearsay and innuendo seems to be substituting for hard forensic evidence, and there isn't any of the contributory detailed evidence woudl expect in cases like this: for example, video footage of Ivins mailing an envelope on the day when the anthrax envelopes were supposed to have been mailed. I'm not seeing anything in the way of specific forensic evidence that would support these allegations by the DOJ.

The sole piece of hard forensic evidence I've seen involves flask RMR-20129. And there's no evidence that Ivins had sole access to that flask.

Where's the fiber evidence? Does it point to Ivins? How about other trace evidence? Hair samples, something like that? No fingerprint evidence on the mailbox where the anthrax was mailed? How about the counters in the post office where the federal eagle envelopes were bought? Any fingerprints matching Ivins there?

Either the FBI is grossly incompetent, or there is simply no hard evidence connecting Ivins to this case other than the flask number, which by itself means very little.

As far as I can tell, Ivins' lawyers summarized accurately:

"The government's press conference was an orchestrated dance of carefully worded statements, heaps of innuendo and a staggering lack of real evidence -- all contorted to create the illusion of guilt by Dr. Ivins," attorneys Paul Kemp and Thomas M. DeGonia said.

Anonymous said...

Also see Justin Raimondo's series of articles on the entire affair. This is the latest:

Anonymous said...

Also see Justin Raimondo's excellent series of articles on this entire affair. The most recent is here:

Anonymous said...

For more on the NON scientific investigation of who mailed the letters ... check out this story on

trishka said...

Mental health. If Ivins was so out of control, so scary, why was he allowed to keep working in a high containment lab with access to some of the world's deadliest pathogens for so long?

thank you thank you thank you.

this is the first question that popped into my head when i first heard the NPR story about his suicide. and i cannot for the life of me figure out why noone else (in the MSM) is asking it. i mean, one doesn't have to be a scientist or know a thing about anthrax to be able to see this as an issue.

Steve Sailer said...

Your posting would be more persuasive if you'd admit that Ivins was very, very crazy in 2000:

From the New York Times:

In the summer of 2000, Ivins told a counselor that he was interested in a young woman who lived out of town and that he had "mixed poison" and taken it with him when he went to watch her play in a soccer match.

"If she lost, he was going to poison her," said the counselor, who treated Ivins at a Frederick, Md., clinic four or five times that summer. She said Ivins emphasized he was a skillful scientist who "knew how to do things without people finding out."

The counselor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Wednesday that she was so alarmed by her client's emotionless description of a specific, homicidal plan that she alerted the head of her clinic, a psychiatrist who had treated Ivins and the Frederick Police Department. She said the police told her nothing could be done because she did not have the woman's address or last name.

The account of the counselor, who was interviewed by the FBI early last week, is part of a dark portrait of Ivins that emerged Wednesday.

Anonymous said...

1- in point 8, the last sentence seems to undermine your point. Maybe the missing info is something like: Ivins knew how to make anthrax, but didn't know how to make it weaponized? To me, making anthrax is making anthrax. 'maximize sporulation' - sounds like a useful skill needed to make weaponized anthrax. sorry, I was a physics major, not biology.

2- What does 'adjuvant' mean? not in my dictionary.

Unknown said...

"The counselor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity..."

Blah, blah, blah. The mainstream media have been working overtime tarring and feathering Ivins's corpse since the moment his death was first reported.

Virtually ALL of these egregious accusations have come from anonymous sources and have been backed by no evidence, whatsoever. The one above, coming from this unnamed counselor, breaks every tenet of the doctor-patient confidentiality pledge. But who cares about that, right? Everyone knows that Ivins is guilty, so it doesn't matter.

And did you take a look at the court documents filed by Jean Duley? With all the grammatical and spelling mistakes, combined with her poor handwriting, I'm surprised her accusations weren't penned in crayon. And you believe this tripe?? I sure don't.

Just because something has been repeated ad nauseum by the New York Times, Washington Post, ABC News and various other members of the mainstream media, does not- I repeat, NOT- make it true. Please see "weapons of mass destruction", "Niger yellowcake" and "Iraq" for more information.

The anonymous leaking was used right at the outset of the anthrax attacks 7 years ago, to great effect. Any opposition to the Patriot Act's passage was obliterated by the attacks- especially with respect to Senators Daschle and Leahy, who were recipients of anthrax-laced letters.

Many members of the media have since come out and said that the anthrax attacks greatly influenced their support for invading Iraq. And need I remind you how Colin Powell lied to the world in February of 2003, as he buttressed his case for invading Iraq with a vial of anthrax in hand?

But of course, this guy did it, and all by himself too, because he wanted to test his anthrax vaccine (which never got tested at any point on the victims- a point which the mainstream media has ignored COMPLETELY thus far). He blamed it on The Muslims because he's obsessive about sororities and generally hateful towards women. And he "tried to kill people". Uh huh. We know all these things because anonymous people said so!

A dead man can't talk and you can't un-ring a bell- let alone a whole symphony of them. The media rang the bell by uncritically posting a cacophony of half-baked allegations, such as those originating from Jean Duley. They couldn't wait to defile Ivins's reputation from the get-go. And the bell keeps ringing again and again and again.

While it's possible that Ivins really was responsible for the attacks, no solid, unbiased evidence has indicated his culpability thus far. All of this could've been settled in a court of law, but the FBI and everyone else involved are very happy to convict him in the court of public opinion instead, on the weight of claims made by anonymous sources.

Lastly, the government has released some incriminating, credible documents about Ivins. The only problem is, what exculpatory documents aren't being released? That's the problem with the selective release of documents. They are cherry-picked, just like certain intelligence that led to invading a certain country in the middle east.

I don't know... you go on believing all the unsubstantiated tripe being reported by the oh-so-credible mainstream media. You're free to do so. I, on the other hand, will not. I will remain skeptical of any and all claims made by anonymous sources, especially those that concern this case. I'm happy that Dr. Nass and most of the other posters here, are just as skeptical as I am. If not moreso.

Anonymous said...

This is a sporadically interesting mishmash of speculation, but it doesn't add up to very solid criticism.

#13 is simply wrong: absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

#3, 5, 6, 11, and 14 are amateur speculation about the mental state and motives of someone who may have been mentally ill. #14 also just devolves into empty political conspiracy.

#2 and 10 are trivial.

#5, 8, and 9 are assumptions without evidence.

#4 is a strong point, and #7 seems solid, if the facts are as you describe.

In summary, you may be on to something with a couple of these points, but your credibility would be stronger if you improved the signal-to-noise ratio.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know about the possible role of "Dr. Philip Zack" in all this? Google for it, there are many interesting hits.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know about the possible role of "Dr. Philip Zack" in all this? Google for it, there are many interesting hits.

Anonymous said...

"On the evening of July 24, FBI agents watched Ivins go into the library and use ... two computers. According to newly issued search warrants, Ivins reviewed a Web site dedicated to the anthrax investigation and checked his email. The FBI quickly seized those computers..."
[My emphasis]
I speculate that Ivins was visiting *this* Website.

morgan said...

Persuasive, illuminating post. Thanks for your excellent work.

Mark B. said...

I am speechless. This has been so thoroughly researched and cited that the FBI no longer has any credence. Thank you so much for sharing this insight.

Anonymous said...

Ivins, a brilliant but deeply troubled man who committed suicide last week, was the anthrax killer whose mailings rattled the nation in the worst bioterror case in U.S. history, just a month after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, federal prosecutors asserted. They were backed by court documents that were a combination of hard DNA evidence, suspicious behavior and, sometimes, outright speculation.