Monday, September 15, 2008

The Anthrax Case: Congress Must Demand an Independent Inquiry

David Harris of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law says that in light of questions about the FBI's public identification of the late Dr. Bruce Ivins as “the only person responsible” for the 2001 anthrax attacks, Congress should demand an independent investigation to test the government’s evidence of its accusatory claim.


Washingtons Blog said...

I completely agree.

However, it has to be a better investigating than the 9/11 investigation.

Note: As always, the opinions expressed in this essay are SOLELY mine, and are NOT necessarily those of Dr. Nass or anyone posting to or mentioned on this site.

Anonymous said...

The Spore on the Grassy Knoll

A critical aspect of the case against Bruce Invins is the FBI's investigation of all individuals who could have had access to the RMR-1029 batch of anthrax spores. The Justice Department in its Amerithrax Investigation Press Conference espressly identified this aspect of the FBI's investigation as an element of its evidence against Ivins. ("Now, turning to the evidence... First, we were able to identify in early 2005 the genetically-unique parent material of the anthrax spores used in the mailings... We thoroughly investigated every other person who could have had access to the [RMR-1029] flask and we were able to rule out all but Dr. Ivins.")

Indeed, without this critical element of the FBI's case, the FBI's "microbial forensics" evidence becomes meaningless since at least "100-plus" others had access to the RMR-1029 anthrax batch identified by microbial forensics. (FBI Anthrax Briefing of Aug 18; "The total body -- the total universe of people at some point were associated with RMR-029 -- I'll qualify that. Roughly, about 100-plus.")

Evidence that the FBI thoroughly investigated and ruled out every other person that could have had access to the RMR-1029 flask would require testimony, documents, or other tangable proof (including evidence establishing that the FBI did identify, and did investigate "every other person that could have had access to the flask", that each investigation was thorough as claimed, how and on what basis the FBI was able to "rule out" individuals and groups, etc.).

To date the Justice Department has released no information in support this critical aspect of the case against Ivins other than a single unsubstantiated statement by US Attorney Taylor at the Amerithrax Investigation Press Conference, as follows:

"The science breakthrough in ’05 leads you to flask RMR1029. At that point, as I said, there is a tremendous amount of additional investigation that needs to take place to identify the universe of individuals who had access to that flask, what they did with it, checking lab books, doing interviews, things of that nature. And only through taking those extensive, time-consuming steps, involving a lot of agents, were they able to exclude individuals and include others; in particular, Dr. Ivins."

Congress must demand the FBI provide verifiable details of this critical evidence for congressional and public evaluation, and for examination by independent investigators. Otherwise the FBI's Anthrax Attacks Investigation will undoubtedly become a chapter in US history known as "The Spore on the Grassy Knoll", a title aptly coined by the FBI, itself, at the FBI Anthrax Briefing of Aug 18.

Anonymous said...

Meryl, anyone, here's a Baltimore Sun article that says the anthrax didn't come from Ft. Detrick. Anyone know where this came from?

FBI requests review of anthrax case
Skeptics say anthrax that killed 5 in 2001 did not come from Fort Detrick

By Matthew Hay Brown | | Baltimore Sun reporter
2:21 PM EDT, September 16, 2008

WASHINGTON - The FBI is asking the National Academy of Sciences to review its investigation of the 2001 anthrax attacks, Director Robert S. Mueller III told lawmakers this morning.

The review is intended to address doubts about the guilt of Bruce E. Ivins, the Fort Detrick scientist who killed himself in July. The FBI says Ivins, who worked at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, was the sole suspect in the attacks.

Skeptics, including Rep. Roscoe T. Bartlett, say the anthrax that killed five and sickened 17 others in the weeks after Sept. 11, 2001, did not come from Fort Detrick.

Ivins was not the first suspect in the attacks. The government paid former Fort Detrick researcher Steven Hatfill $5.8 million in a settlement this year because the Department of Justice had earlier identified him publicly as a "person of interest" in the case. He was never charged with anything.,0,4692146.story

Anonymous said...

FBI to Seek Review of "Killer Flask" Evidence

"WASHINGTON - The FBI will ask a group of independent scientists to review evidence from the government's anthrax investigation that concluded an Army researcher masterminded the deadly 2001 biological attacks.

The FBI and National Academy of Sciences have been discussing whether to do an independent review, likely costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, of the DNA analysis that led investigators to Dr. Bruce Ivins.

On Tuesday, FBI Director Robert Mueller says he will request the review..."


So there you have it -- the National Academy of Sciences is poised to determine guilt or innocence of the infamous "Killer Flask". Rumor has it that the FBI is prepared to execute the "Killer Flask", by breaking, in the event of a guilty verdict.

See also The Oversight Joke reporting Glenn Greenwald's comments on this morning's sadly ineffective House Judiciary Committee hearing.


Old Atlantic Lighthouse said...

Re Anonymous said... The Spore on the Grassy Knoll.

The FBI said 100 had access to the flask and that they investigated 99 and found they couldn't do it (alone). Then we find 300 or more had access. So the FBI couldn't have investigated those extra 200. Or the FBI investigated 300 people but thought they investigated only 100.

Ellen Byrne said...

The FBI can do anything they want. "Oversight"?! Hardly! They are the five hundred pound gorilla that sits wherever they want.

Anonymous said...

The one of the laboratories mentioned by Rep. Nadler gave the FBI a different strain of anthrax, but they were also the original source of the Ames strain in Dr. Ivins' flask RMR 1029. It seems that the FBI evidence is incomplete in addition to being circumstantial.

Old Atlantic Lighthouse said...

The FBI's strongest evidence against Ivins, in some regards, is the graph night hours in suite B3. Others may have raised this before, but the specificity of the hours in suite B3 is a warning flag. The FBI claims night hours in B3 spiked for Ivins and were abnormal. Daschle said this graph is what convinced him.

We need the following graphs: Night hours by Ivins in each suite, B1 to B4. The total night hours in all of these suites combined for Ivins.

The same for other researchers at the labs. The same for all researchers combined. The same for various sub-units.

Anonymous said...

They are not going to have a real investigation,

Because the FBI's case was not fashioned to convince knowledgable scientists,

but to sound plausible to 12 lay jurors.