Poisonous anthrax that killed five Americans in the weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks doesn't match bacteria from a flask linked to Bruce Ivins, the researcher who committed suicide after being implicated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a scientist said.
Spores used in the deadly mailings "share a chemical 'fingerprint' that is not found in the flask linked to Bruce Ivins," Roberta Kwok wrote in Nature News, citing Joseph Michael, a scientist at the Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Michael analyzed letters sent to the New York Post and offices of Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy, and found a distinct "chemical signature" not present in the flask known as RMR-1029, which Ivins could access in his laboratory at Fort Detrick, Maryland.
New York Times Complicit in FBI Anthrax Coverup
by Sheila Casey / February 26th, 2009
Back in 2001, just months after the anthrax attacks that killed five people, several articles came out in mainstream newspapers that pointed clearly to the CIA and Army as the most likely sources of the weaponized anthrax. Articles in The Baltimore Sun, Miami Herald, Washington Post and New York Times laid out the facts that incriminated Battelle Memorial Labs in West Jefferson, Ohio, and the Army’s lab at the Dugway Proving Grounds in Utah as the only logical sources for the anthrax. These facts, as reported in 2001, include:
1. For over a decade, Army scientists at Dugway have been making weapons-grade anthrax that is “virtually identical” to the anthrax used in the attacks.
2. The anthrax used in the 2001 attacks was extremely concentrated, with a trillion spores per gram. The Dugway anthrax had a similar concentration.
3. The FBI was increasingly focused on US government bioweapons research programs as the source of the deadly anthrax.
4. Both the lab in Utah and the lab in Ohio received anthrax samples from the United States Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) at Fort Detrick, although USAMRIID deals only with wet anthrax and ships it wet.
5. The investigation was focused on the Dugway anthrax, and Dugway was described as the only facility that was known to be weaponizing anthrax.
6. One FBI official said that the CIA’s anthrax was “the best lead we have at this point.”
7. Army officials said that Fort Detrick did not have the equipment for weaponizing anthrax.
The FBI has never explained what became of this initial focus on the labs in Utah and Ohio. Instead, after the death of Fort Detrick anthrax researcher Bruce Ivins in July 2008, the FBI attempted to make the case that Ivins was the murderer and all other suspects had been cleared of suspicion.
Since Ivins’ death, the media have, with very few exceptions, passively swallowed the line dispensed by the FBI, and have acted as little more than stenographers in parroting the hollow arguments presented by the FBI that Ivins is guilty.
On December 12, 2001, The Baltimore Sun published a seminal article by Scott Shane that clearly laid out just how strong the evidence was against the Dugway Proving Ground in Utah. Subtitled “Organisms made at a military laboratory in Utah are genetically identical to those mailed to members of Congress,” Shane’s article also includes this eyebrow-raising line: “Scientists familiar with the anthrax program at Dugway described it to The Sun on the condition that they not be named.”
Apparently Shane has forgotten all that he reported seven years ago. Now with The New York Times, Shane’s latest piece, published January 4, 2009, raises troubling questions about the independence of The Times, and the memory hole that Shane must have used to shunt away all that he once knew about the case the FBI code-named Amerithrax.
Shane calls his 5,200-word article “the deepest look so far at the investigation.” Titled “Portrait Emerges of Anthrax Suspect’s Troubled Life,” it is primarily a hatchet job on Bruce Ivins. Filled with innuendo and unsubstantiated allegations, the purpose of the article is clearly to solidify the perception that Ivins was the killer, and to pooh-pooh the widely held belief that the anthrax came from a CIA or military lab in Utah or Ohio.
Shane dismisses these beliefs breezily, stating: “The Times review found that the FBI had disproved the assertion, widespread among scientists who believe Dr. Ivins was innocent, that the anthrax might have come from military and intelligence research programs in Utah or Ohio.” Not a single piece of evidence is presented to back up this sweeping claim.
Halfway through his article, Shane springs another shocker on us. “By early 2004, FBI scientists had discovered that out of 60 domestic and foreign water samples, only water from Frederick, Maryland, had the same chemical signature as the water used to grow the mailed anthrax.”
Really? Do FBI scientists think that anthrax researchers go to the kitchen sink for the water they use to grow the anthrax? According to Wikipedia, biochemistry labs use only highly purified water, such as double-distilled. Distilled water is created by boiling water and collecting the steam. To obtain double-distilled water, the process is done twice, so that all impurities and minerals are removed. Distilled water has the same chemical signature, namely none, no matter where in the world it originates.
It is unprecedented to have a major development in a high profile case go unreported for a full five years. Not only has the FBI never before mentioned this so-called discovery about the signature of the water, but when they were specifically asked if anything could be learned from the water, they said no.
The question came up on August 18, 2008, when the FBI held a science briefing to follow up on the highly publicized August 6 press conference by DOJ attorney Jeff Taylor. The science briefing was hosted by Dr. Vahid Majidi, Assistant Director of the FBI Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate.
Dr. Majidi was asked: “In your looking at the elemental and chemical properties, could you tell anything about the water that was used to filter this anthrax, and did that do you any good?”
Dr. Majidi replied: “No. No.”
Yet here we are, five months later, with Scott Shane telling us that the FBI has known since 2004 that the anthrax was grown near Fort Detrick, because of the chemical signature of the water.
Beyond these outrageous claims, Shane’s article is busy assassinating Bruce Ivins’ character. We have Nancy Haigwood saying of Ivins “he did it,” for no apparent reason other than she doesn’t like him and thinks he’s odd. She also thinks Ivins vandalized her house 27 years ago and impersonated her. No reason is given for why she believes these things.
Shane editorializes heavily. He charges that Ivins was “chipper” even as five people were dead or dying of anthrax inhalation, and was relishing his moment in the spotlight. No evidence is presented for how Shane reached these conclusions about Ivins.
Words Shane uses to describe Ivins (including quotes from others) are: corny, dour, scary, provocative, emotionally laden, thin-skinned, aggressive, goody two shoes, very sensitive, creepy, possessing an unnerving hubris, stressed, depressed, rude, sarcastic, nasty, devious, jumpy and agitated.
We find out that Ivins had been a nerdy, awkward teenager, was not popular in high school, and was still bitter about this.
He liked to eat a mixture of peas, yogurt and tuna for lunch and wore outdated bell-bottoms, practices that, according to Shane, got him labeled an “oddball.” The words odd, oddball or oddities appear five times in Shane’s article.
The final reference, regarding “a man whose oddities, for many people, made the FBI’s anthrax accusation more plausible,” tips Shane’s hand. His constant harping on Ivins oddness betrays the poverty of the FBI’s case, which Shane acknowledges has “yielded nothing more persuasive than a strong hunch” that Ivins was the killer.
Fortunately for many of us, being odd is not a crime.
But was Ivins odd? The Frederick News Post published a letter from Amanda Lane on August 10, 2008 that includes: “I want to shout from the mountain tops that Bruce was the kind of man we look up to . . . He was a decorated scientist and the humblest of men who didn’t use his title as a status symbol. He picked up a mop or emptied the trash without a moment’s hesitation. If he thought you were having a bad day he would offer candy or a catchy tune to cheer you up. If someone had to stay late to accomplish a task, Bruce would work with you so that the task would get completed faster.
“He was not the greatest athlete, but he was the best cheerleader present at every game to support his friends. I will truly miss his good humor, as there are few people in life who measure up to this man. I hope that he knew how much joy he brought to my life and others around him. If I learned anything from Bruce, it was to enjoy life and to always smile. His friendship brightened so many lives. I hope that Americans will remember Bruce for the funny and compassionate person that he was, because that is all Bruce knew how to be.”
Although Shane does mention that Ivins’ colleagues cherished him, the implication is that they didn’t really know him, as “he hid from them a shadow side of mental illness, alcoholism, secret obsessions and hints of violence.”
The New York Times has published a hit piece, devoid of incriminating facts, more gossip than journalism. Shane’s article raises disturbing questions about the relationship between The New York Times and the US government. What happened to the FBI’s original focus on the CIA and Army labs? Who is behind the drive to pin the attacks on a dead man who possessed neither the means nor the motive to carry them out? And why is The Times acting as a PR arm for those with an agenda that has nothing to do with journalism?
Sheila Casey is a DC-based journalist. Her work has appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, Reuters, The Denver Post, Buzz Flash, Common Dreams and the Rock Creek Free Press. She blogs at blog. Read other articles by Sheila.http://www.dissidentvoice.org/2009/02/new-york-times-complicit-in-fbi-anthrax-coverup/http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090224225909.htm
Published online 25 February 2009 | Nature | doi:10.1038/news.2009.120
Anthrax investigation still yielding findings
Chemical composition of spores doesn't match suspect flask.
The deadly bacterial spores mailed to victims in the US anthrax attacks, scientists say, share a chemical 'fingerprint' that is not found in bacteria from the flask linked to Bruce Ivins, the biodefence researcher implicated in the crime.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) alleges that Ivins, who committed suicide last July, was the person responsible for mailing letters laden with Bacillus anthracis to news media and congressional offices in 2001, killing five people and sickening 17. The FBI used genetic analyses to trace the mailed spores back to a flask called RMR-1029, which Ivins could access in his laboratory at the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) in Fort Detrick, Maryland.
Investigators used genetic analyses to track down the particular strain of Bacillus anthracis used in the attacks.Investigators used genetic analyses to track down the particular strain of Bacillus anthracis used in the attacks.GARY GAUGLER/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
At a biodefence meeting on 24 February, Joseph Michael, a materials scientist at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, presented analyses of three letters sent to the New York Post and to the offices of Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy. Spores from two of those show a distinct chemical signature that includes silicon, oxygen, iron, and tin; the third letter had silicon, oxygen, iron and possibly also tin, says Michael. Bacteria from Ivins' RMR-1029 flask did not contain any of those four elements.
Two cultures of the same anthrax strain grown using similar processes — one from Ivins' lab, the other from a US Army facility in Utah — showed the silicon-oxygen signature but did not contain tin or iron. Michael presented the analyses at the American Society for Microbiology's Biodefense and Emerging Diseases Research Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland.
The chemical mismatch doesn't necessarily mean that deadly spores used in the attacks did not originate from Ivins' RMR-1029 flask, says Jason Bannan, a microbiologist and forensic examiner at the FBI's Chemical Biological Sciences Unit in Quantico, Virginia. The RMR-1029 culture was created in 1997, and the mailed spores could have been taken out of that flask and grown under different conditions, resulting in varying chemical contents. "It doesn't surprise me that it would be different," he says.
The data suggest that spores for the three letters were grown using the same process, says Michael. It is not clear how tin and iron made their way into the culture, he says. Bannan suggests that the growth medium may have contained iron and tin may have come from a water source.
Hard to tell apart
The meeting offered scientists who collaborated with the FBI during the investigation an opportunity to share detailed data. The analyses will eventually be published in peer-reviewed journals, the FBI has said.
Jacques Ravel, a genomics scientist at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, described his team's efforts to find genetic differences between various cultures of the Ames strain, the B. anthracis strain identified in the anthrax letters. At first, the team was surprised to find that the DNA sequences of a reference Ames strain and Ames samples from the investigation, such as bacteria isolated from the spinal fluid of the first victim, were exactly the same. "It was kind of a shock," says Ravel.
For help, the researchers turned to variants found by a team at USAMRIID. Patricia Worsham and her colleagues had noticed differences in shape, colour and rate of spore formation even within a single anthrax culture. Ravel's team identified the genetic mutations associated with four variants and developed an assay for one of them, called Morph E. Researchers at Commonwealth Biotechnologies in Richmond, Virginia, and the Midwest Research Institute's Florida Division in Palm Bay created assays for three other variants.
The FBI then used that arsenal of tests to pin down the origins of the anthrax letters, matching the mix of genetic variants in the mailed spores to Ivins' RMR-1029 flask. "It has the genetic signatures that identify it as the most likely source of the growth," says Bannan.
Ravel also sequenced the genome of a Bacillus subtilis strain that was found in one of the letters. That sample did not match a B. subtilis strain found in Ivins' lab, says Bannan, but the bacterial contamination still could have come from somewhere else in Ivins' institution.
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The FBI has asked the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to convene an independent panel of experts to review the anthrax investigation data. The academy is still in the process of drawing up a contract with the FBI that lays out an agreement to perform the study, says NAS spokeswoman Christine Stencel.
Thomas DeGonia, Ivins' lawyer at Venable LLP in Rockville, Maryland, maintains Ivins' innocence.http://www.nature.com/news/2009/090225/full/news.2009.120.html