Thursday, August 7, 2008

More than 100 people had access

The shiny new methods of "microbial forensics," touted by the FBI for months as offering a new break in the case, have in fact revealed little or nothing. As the New York Times' Scott Shane and Eric Lichtblau reveal, "officials admitted that more than 100 people had access to the supply of anthrax that matched the powder in the letters."

But the same article notes that FBI conclusively decided Hatfill had no access to the letters' anthrax, even though he was working at Fort Detrick during the time this strain of anthrax was stored there. If the FBI conclusively decided this (though the evidence appears weak), why haven't they provided Hatfill with a full exoneration? The FBI's logic is incomprehensible. I am not trying to finger Hatfill, who I believe is innocent. Just trying to understand the FBI.


Lizard said...

Doctor Nass -

I have gone over the FBI's release of information, and one thing jumps out at me in addition to the obvious flaws, and I am wondering if you have an answer.

Did Dr. Ivins have in his lab all the necessary equipment to make dry, finely milled and perhaps "weaponized" Anthrax spores? The FBI doesn't answer this question as far as I can tell. If the answer to that question is yes, then I am sure the FBI would have included that in the released information.

Am I missing something?

Jim White said...

Dr. Nass,
In an email in the first search warrant, Ivins says that he went off the Special Immunization Program in the spring of 2001. Yet, the data on his after hours access to the hot suite show his activity there beginning to spike in August of 2001. Wouldn't he have been denied access to the hot suite while he was off the program? I have more on this question at my blog you can access through clicking my name.

Maure said...

Dr. Nass,

THANK YOU for maintaining your excellent blog. You have made so many excellent points and brought to light essential information regarding Dr. Bruce Ivins. My personal opinion is that there is simply NO WAY Bruce was the anthrax mailer. What happened in the past two weeks is beyond absurd. The first news report I heard stated that Bruce committed suicide from an overdose of Tylenol and codeine. How could they know it was not an accidental overdose? SUICIDE? No suicide note? A devout Catholic committing suicide? Unbelievable right there!

I am not sure why you are convinced of Hatfill's innocence, though. It seems probable that he was involved. Of course the evidence against him has not been officially released by the FBI. But many leaked bits seemed quite damning and are still unresolved. For example, has everyone forgotten that the letter Senator Daschle received was postmarked in November 2001 in London, and Hatfill was in England in November attending a training course at that time? Has everyone forgotten the outright lies and fakery on Hatfill's CV? Claims of degrees he never obtained? Please read the article from 2003 by a professor of English at Vassar, he raised excellent points:

In response to your post of Wednesday August 6, 2008, point 10, where you mention that "... the Army and Navy are longstanding competitors," the FBI and CIA are also "competitors." If Hatfill's involvement with the CIA was deeper than he admitted to, and the FBI did indeed find evidence against Hatfill as they uncovered a bioterror plot, it all became very complex very rapidly and unprosecutable for reasons we are not allowed to know.

My fear is that the true evidence will never be revealed. The complete and factual Hatfill evidence, and the Ivins evidence, will remain undisclosed. If a public outcry over Bruce results in some type of congressional inquiry and a review of the evidence, files will conveniently disappear and facts will be altered and deleted.


Anonymous said...

Alabi? I agree that being unable to place him in New Jersey is a huge problem for the FBI. Most people had a firm track on their friends and relatives (husbands, fathers) just days after 9-11. I have attempted to find any comments by his wife or children regarding his whereabouts in this time frame. Oddly, I googled Ivins and "alabi" last night in Google news assuming there would be much banter. But, there was ONE hit. At the VERY LEAST, being unable to place him in New Jersey is reason alone to never close the investigation, especially in light of the possibility of conspiracy.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Nass-

Thank you for clarifying the more obscure points regarding the anthrax/microbiology lab procedures. I agree that there is nothing truly incriminating in any of the "evidence" the FBI has presented so far.

I also agree with you that the emphasis on the sorority obsession is merely a blatant effort to sully the man's character.

Since you were his friend, I would also like to point out to you that the email evidence used to portray him as an out of control lunatic can reasonably be viewed as a man who was suffering adverse side effects of the antidepressant medication he was prescribed. I feel Dr. Ivins was a victim of a variety of malpractice by mental health practicioners.

Best wishes to you. Keep up the good fight.

Note to Anonymous: it would probably help if you spelled "alibi" correctly.

Anonymous said...

The FBI seems totally guilty of ignoring any evidence that doesn't fit in with their beliefs. They state they tested 1000 samples and 4 matched the strain that was sent. They then ruled out all the matches except Ivins. Well, what makes you think the perpetrator would send in his sample for testing? He probably destroyed the strain when he was done sending letters. While it's possible that the anthrax in the letters came from Ivin's flask, I'd like to know how many scientists have been given a sample from that flask since 1997? I'm a microbiologist and I get several requests each year for the harmless bacterial strains I own. Even if I know who I send to, there is no way I can control who those people share with. This is not a limited resource. It's bacteria. Take a pinch of spores, put it in broth and ovenight grow as much as you want, induce it to sporulate and you got a life times supply. Even the idea the containment facility is impregnable is laughable. You need clearance to enter, but one in those places things are generally not locked up, just stored in well labeled boxes or racks. Probably most any scientist at Ft Dretrick (or any visiting colleague) could have taken some spores at any time and no one would have a record.

Anonymous said...

Let's face it. The only real evidence is that the letters were mailed from Princeton NJ. It seems alot more likely that someone from that area did it. I just can't imagine willingly driving 3 hours up I95 from DC to NJ just to mail a letter. If they can't prove Ivins wasn't in Princeton on those few dates, he didn't do it.

Anonymous said...

>>has everyone forgotten that the letter Senator Daschle received was postmarked in November 2001<<

On the Web, it says the Daschle letter was postmarked Trenton in October.

Anonymous said...

ALIBI. Can anyone tell me if Bruce Ivins was in England in November 2001? I have been googling and cannot find anything on this. The biothreat letter to Senator Daschle was postmarked London, England, Nov 2001. Did Ivins travel to England in November 2001? Oddly enough, Hatfill was in England in November 2001 for a 12 day training course.

Washingtons Blog said...

Dr. Nass,

Interestingly, RMR-1029 seems to have originated from some place other than Ft. Detrick

Anonymous said...

Have you tried spelling it correctly, i.e. "alibi"? I get quite a few hits.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Maure - excellent comment and link.

I'm with you - Hatfill SMELLS.

Dan Kirk-Davidoff said...

Um, but if you check Ivins and "alibi" you get 5,830 hits.

Jim White said...

One more point. Beginning with Robert Stevens, who was admitted to the hospital on October 2, 2001, live cultures genetically derived from the attack material were prepared at a number of hospitals. Documentation on the handling and eventual disposition of each of those would be very interesting to examine.

I especially wonder if CDC sent samples of Stevens' culture to Fort Detrick for analysis. Could Ivins have been informally examining that culture for CDC? Could that account for the spike in his activity Oct 3, 4, and 5? (And why it dropped off after Stevens' death on the 5th, althoug CNN reported the death at 6 pm and Stevens was in the hot suite between 7:40 pm and 12:43 am that night.)

Washingtons Blog said...

Dr. Nass, important update: Anthrax Letters NOT In Ivins' Handwriting

Anonymous said...

The letter from London contained talc, not anthrax.

Anonymous said...

Maure gave this site as raising some excellent points:

May I also recommend giving it a full read.

Once you do it will occur to you that the FBI may feel that in reality the culprit is known, they just can't prove it yet... but they need look no further. Ivins who is fortunately dead and therefore incapable of defending himself will merely do as a convenient patsy and an excuse to close the case.

Anonymous said...

On Friday August 1st, before seeing the FBI's affidavits, you stated "Bruce wasn't the anthrax perpetrator." Categorical.
Following the release of the FBI documents, has your categorical view softened, and in what ways and why?
A reader

Anonymous said...

Ok, I needed to share this with someone else who is interested.

What is wrong with CNN? And the FBI apparently for presumably feeding them a story as if it's incriminating when it's the opposite.

They just posted a story claiming that Ivins left work and was unaccounted for during a window to mail the anthrax. The headline is "Source: Suspect took leave to mail anthrax letters." The time when he was away from work, the story says is from the MORNING of Sept 17 when he checked in to work until the LATE AFTERNOON of Sept 17 when he was back for a meeting. Problem is, if you look at the DOJ warrant, they say that the mailing window was from 5pm Sept 17 until noon on Sept. 18. So the time he was allegedly away from work wasn't the window when the letters were mailed, it places him back in MD just before the window begins.

Yahoo maps says it takes 3 hour, 15 minutes to drive to NJ from Frederick (and who knows what it took right after 9/11). So there's no way he could mail something after 5pm and be back in his office by "late afternoon" that same day. (And most people would say 5pm itself is after late afternoon and is early evening.)

So, this is actually exculpatory to Dr. Ivins. Since his meeting must've lasted awhile. We now know that at least for part of the actual window of opportunity he was at work.

Anonymous said...

Regarding Hatfill,

He claimed from the beginning that he worked with viruses, not bacteria.

I took this to mean, perhaps, that there are physically separate bacterial and viral departments.

Possibly he was excluded because he didn't have access to the bacterial department?

Meryl Nass, M.D. said...

I believe there were two letters to Daschle, with the one from London being a copy cat letter that did not contain anthrax. There were several of these copy cat letters, and the FBI should let us know if they came from the same perpetrator (wrt ink, envelope, fibers, whether taped around the edges, type or roll of tape, handwriting.) If so, the perpetrator would have to be able to be placed at all those mailboxes at the time they were mailed. I suspect the FBI has kept quiet about these because they cannot connect these mailings (either) with Ivins or other suspects.

Totally agree about the sharing of bacteria between labs, which makes the "sole custodian" claim ludicrous.

I erred on the EBS share sales, reading the wrong column of total ownership. El Hibri may own more of Bioport than $200 in shares. I believe the IPO in 2006 did not sell shares equal to the value of the entire company, but instead sold only about 15% of the total value. However, more shares may have been sold since.

The meds he is alleged to have taken have the potential to cause mania and suicidal thoughts and acts. However, I do not know when he took various drugs, identified by class only, apart from Celexa.

I agree that the evidence of Ivins leaving work for 7 hours still cannot place him at the Princeton mailbox late enough to have mailed an anthrax letter there that day.

Given the available evidence, I do not believe the crime could have been carried out by a lone individual.

Meryl Nass, MD

Anonymous said...

I'm wondering about the "hotbox" that's required in order to handle this spore safely. Surely you can't just "take a pinch of spore" and drop it in a envelope without special safety precautions. No?

Also about Dr. Zack and his cronies whereabouts during all this. Dr. Zack had connections to Rumsfeld (Mr. Aspartame) years back.

Just a curiousity.

Anonymous said...

"....If so, the perpetrator would have to be able to be placed at all those mailboxes at the time they were mailed. I suspect the FBI has kept quiet about these because they cannot connect these mailings (either) with Ivins or other suspects....."

Also, if it were an inside job, ie. the NeoCons, the "perpetrator" did not have to be present anywhere if the letters were manufactured in a lab, then delivered to different places by several agents. Never underestimate the workings of the CIA.