|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2004, thru Friday, December 31, 2004
December 26, 2004 - My December 17 interview with Russian bioweapons expert Dr. Ken Alibek cleared up a serious misconception I'd had about the difficulty of purifying spores. What I thought was a very complicated step turns out to be one of the simplest steps. (I don't want to go into details, but I can say this: Purification is a chemical process, not a mechanical process involving centrifuges, filters, etc., as I'd mistakenly believed.) As a result of learning this lesson, I had to change the section on this site about Refining Anthrax. And, because things are simpler than I previously believed, it now seems even more certain that the attack anthrax did not require any massive government industrialized process.
Dr. Alibek also cleared up a false assumption I made about why he, Matthew Meselson and William Patrick III were all so certain the attack anthrax was not milled.
I assumed that milling would chip some of the spores and the chips and the chipped spores could be easily seen via an electron microscope. In reality, it's even easier to see than that. Milling produces very visible effects: The single spores and the particles with multiple spores would all have a somewhat rectangular appearance. Milling spores does not create round objects, it creates objects which are flat on one or more sides. So, the simple fact that the attack spores looked like natural round spores was clear proof that the spores had not been milled - another major indicator that the attack anthrax did not come from any massive government industrialized process.
I don't think I mention that anywhere on this site, but I certainly talked about the likelihood of milling producing chipped spores in e-mail conversations. My bad.
Clearing up these misconceptions tends to verify my "working hypothesis" that the spores were made in an ordinary lab by a scientist who lives and works in Central New Jersey and not by some massive, illegal government bioweapons program.
Other parts of my conversation with Dr. Alibek made that even more clear, particularly when we talked about coatings and silica. To illustrate that, I'm going to provide a word for word transcription of part of our telephone conversation. (Dr. Alibek speaks with a heavy Russian accent, so his speech patterns reflect that, and occasionally it was difficult to be certain of the exact word he was using.)
We had been talking about relative particle sizes (spores vs silica vs resin) in the powder Dr. Alibek made for Russian bioweapons when the subject of silica came up:
Alibek: It was Soviet type principle. Nobody would ever pay attention to silica. Nobody actually analyzed whether or not the silica was distributed well, so on and so forth. Because it was not a big deal. It was just for improving parameters, not in terms of flyability. In terms of just to prevent … ah … to prevent ah, what you say, to prevent clomming.As can be seen, I mentioned van der Waals forces as described in Gary Matsumoto's article in Science Magazine, but Dr. Alibek just dismissed it and started talking about moisture causing spores to clump.
The subject of silica came up again after we talked about purifying spores. I asked about November of 2001, when the FBI showed him micrographs of the Daschle anthrax. We talked about how the FBI went about it, and then this was said:
Lake: Okay. Well, my question was basically, did they mention the fact that there was silica detected with a spectrograph but there was no silica there and they were wondering why?In summary, he's saying that silica was in the Soviet bioweapons purely to absorb any residual moisture from the dried spores. Spores simply will not stick together if they are absolutely dry (less than 6 percent residual moisture). He's also saying that the silica detected by AFIP could have come from a crude drying process.
When I pointed this out to one of the conspiracy theorists who believes that the attack spores were coated with silica, he provided me with an extremely interesting report from the Cab-O-Sil company which manufactures fumed silica. His intent was to show how particles are "coated" with silica and why the attack anthrax must also have been coated in a similar way. In reality, the article proves just the opposite.
Here's the key information from page 12 of the Cab-O-Sil report:
The free-flow and anti-caking characteristics which are imparted to the powder coating are the result of several actions. First, the submicron particle size of the fumed silica allows it to move easily between the larger particles of the coating. It is believed to form a layer on the surface of the larger particles (Figure 8). This layer of fumed silica acts as tiny, mobile "ball bearings" easing the slippage of the particles by physical spacing. Secondly, the hydrophilic grades of fumed silica are able to absorb any moisture on the surface of the particles. The surface tension of the water binds the particles together to form clumps whenever the particles come into contact.All the conspiracy theorist saw was the words "form a layer on the surface of the larger particles" which he said meant a coating.
But he'd been saying for a year that the silica particles were GLUED to the spores, even saying the glue was some kind of "organic resin". This report clearly says the fumed silica moves like "tiny, mobile 'ball bearings'" between the powder particles. Nothing is glued in place.
It's known that AFIP had to scan across the surface of the spores to find the silica particles. This article shows that the surface of the powder particle is almost totally covered with fumed silica. That is NOT what AFIP detected in the Daschle anthrax.
He'd been saying that van der Waals forces would bind the powder particles together unless silica particles separate the powder particles. The report indicates it's just friction which prevents "free-flow" of the powder, and the "ball bearings" of the fumed silica reduce that friction.
But most important, the report explains how moisture causes clumping in dry powders, including powders containing anthrax spores and simulants of such powders.
The article says that the fumed silica absorbs moisture. Fumed silica keeps the surface of the powder particles dry so that the powder particles do not stick together. If the surface of the powder particles (or spores) were to get wet, van der Waals forces attraction between WATER MOLECULES in or on the surfaces would cause the particles to bind together.
To put it another way, totally dry powders do not clump. But if moisture is added, the tiny molecules of moisture will seep into or cling to the dry powder particles. And because van der Waals forces work between molecules of a single substance like water (causing water molecules to grab onto one another to turn a vapor to water droplets and to turn small droplets into larger droplets - the same force which creates surface tension allowing tiny bugs to walk on water), the moisture in one spore will cling to the moisture in another spore and cause the spores to clump. It's water clinging to water via van der Waals forces. It doesn't happen if the spores is totally dry, and it certainly has nothing to do with particle size (as the conspiracy theorist believed and as Gary Matsumoto's Science article reported).
[NOTE: The scientific terminology used in the above two paragraphs is not entirely correct. For better terminology and a good explanation of van der Waals forces, see the entry for February 11, 2005.]
The conspiracy theorist is now in a state of deinal and continues to believe as he wants to believe, even though everyone has seen how powders will clump if exposed to moisture in the air for too long. (Instant coffee is a prime example. The coffee powder always seems to turn into one big clump before the jar is even half used up.) And it's an effect that's been known at least since the days of Fennimore Cooper and "The Last Of The Mohicans", when "keep your powder dry" meant "be careful".
Gunpowder, like other dry powders will absorb moisture from the air and clump. And if you are in a life-and-death situation and need to pour some from a powder horn into the muzzle of your flintlock, it had better be nice and dry and pour easily. If it has clumped, you might end up with your head clumped by a Iroquois battleaxe.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2004, thru Saturday, December 25, 2004
December 21, 2004 - I won't put any of the actual discussion between Dr. Alibek and I on this site until after Christmas, and then it will only be the sections of the discussion which were about coatings and silica. Meanwhile, in keeping with the latest rewrite of my book, the discussions I'm having with conspiracy theorists about the interview have illustrated another bizarre misconception that is scientifically preposterous, but they evidently don't care.
One of the widely-held, mistaken beliefs about the anthrax found in the Daschle letter in 2001 is that it the spores were coated with silica, which made the spores "fly" farther and more easily.
This has always seemed to be total nonsense to me, because adding the weight of silica to a spore can only make it fly less well and less far. And spores "fly" perfectly well without silica, as has been demonstrated by countless cases of inhalation anthrax throughout history.
A conspiracy theorist provided a link to a CBC story about Alibek and anthrax which he felt proved that silica makes anthrax spores fly four times as far. The article contains this paragraph:
In the years since the Sverdlovsk accident, Alibek and a research team had taken the Soviet military's anthrax and made it even more deadly. He developed a process to take ground up anthrax spores and coat each particle in plastic and resin. It kept the anthrax aloft four times longer, increasing its ability to infect people.It didn't matter to the conspiracy theorist that the statement says that the spores were coated with "plastic" and not with silica. Nor did it matter that it says the spores were "ground up", which would certainly kill them. Nor did he care that the statement is not a quote from Dr. Alibek, it is text written by the author of the article. It's the author's interpretation of what was said. The author somehow believed that adding the weight of plastic and resin to a spore will make it fly four times farther.
In terms of a military bioweapon, the author (and the conspiracy theorists who got their "facts" from him) believed a bioweapon would work like this (using example numbers): Without the coating of silica and resin, a mortar shell filled with spores would burst over the battlefield and create a cloud 30 feet across, and the spores would drift in the wind contaminating everyone in an area 30 feet wide and a half mile long until all the spores settled. With the coating of silica and resin, they believe, the mortar shell would burst over the battlefield and create a cloud 30 feet across which would drift in the wind much longer contaminating everyone in an area 30 feet wide and two miles long.
No one seems to have challenged the bizarre notion that added weight will somehow make a spore fly farther. When asked, they just give the usual conspiracy theorist answer, "I don't know how it works, I just know that's what happens."
In the interview with Dr. Alibek I found out how it works.
The silica has little to do with anything regarding "flying". It's just there to absorb excess moisture so that the spores remain absolutely dry and as light as possible.
The resin in the mix is the "trick", not the silica. Because of certain easily understood characteristics of the resin, when the mortar shell bursts over the battlefield, instead of a cloud 30 feet across, there will be a cloud 120 feet across.
The cloud will drift over the battlefield and the spores will contaminate everyone in an area 120 feet by one half mile - four times the coverage you'd get without the resin.
In other words, the author interpreted things incorrectly. The spores weren't kept aloft four times longer, the spores covered an area four times as wide. And, of course, the spores were not COATED with silica and resin, they were MIXED with silica and resin.
I didn't convince the conspiracy theorist, of course, since he reverted to another standard conspiracy theorist argument: "I can't believe that so many people could believe something that isn't true. It has to be true. Alibek has to be lying."
My standard reponse to that argument is, of course, "At one time, everyone on earth believed the earth was flat. That didn't make it flat. The number of people who believe in something has nothing to do with whether it is true or not."
December 19, 2004 - On Friday, I was privileged to be able to interview Dr. Ken Alibek, a famous Russian bioweapons expert and authority on weaponized anthrax. We talked for 35 minutes on the phone, and hopefully we'll talk again after the holidays. It's going to take me awhile to transcribe the conversation so that I can thoroughly study all that was said, but one fact immediately came out which helps explain some of the nonsense in Gary Matsumoto's November 28, 2003, article in Science Magazine.
During the discussion, Dr. Alibek told me that when the Russians prepared anthrax bioweapons munitions during the Cold War, the payload consisted of 25 percent anthrax spores, 2-3 percent silica and the rest (72-73 percent) was resin. One of the "experts" who had assisted Matsumoto on his article challenged those numbers and said the true numbers he'd heard were 73% spores, 25% silica and 2% resin.
As it turns out, the percentages represent mixing versus testing, i.e., mine are the volume numbers for mixing what goes into a weapon, the "expert's" percentages are for testing particle dispersal after detonation. Or, to put it another way, his numbers reflected the percentages for the three types of different size particles in the weapons.
The resin particles were very large - up to a thousand times larger than a spore, - so it takes very few of them to make up a large part of the volume of what goes into a weapon. As the numbers indicate, while only 2 percent of the particles are resin, they make up 72-73 percent of the volume of a shell or bomb. And, because silica particles are very small, they make up 2-3 percent of the volume but 25 percent of the number of particles.
Using a totally invalid interpretation of these numbers, an "expert"assisting Gary Matsumoto assumed that the resin was a glue which binds the silica coating to the spores. In reality, there is no coating, because none is required. One purpose of the resin is to protect the spores from the shock waves of detonation. (If the resin was 2% of the volume, it certainly couldn't accomplish that function.) The purpose of the silica is to absorb moisture to help keep the spores from clumping. The silica particles do not stick to the spores and they are certainly not glued to the spores.
Instead of checking out the reason for the differences in numbers, it appears some theorists just automatically assume that there is a conspiracy to hide the truth.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2004, thru Saturday, December 18, 2004
December 18, 2004 - Today's Los Angeles Times has more about the subpoenas issued in Dr. Hatfill's lawsuit against John Ashcroft et al. The Associated Press also has an article about it. In the LA Times, there's this comment:
"News organizations are supposed to gather news, as opposed to spending their time performing research and testifying in court on behalf of various parties with axes to grind," Dave Tomlin, the assistant general counsel for AP, said in a report published by the wire service.The question that comes to mind is: What if it's the news organizations which have "axes to grind"? Suppose they generated false information to create a "story". The law says "innocent until proven guilty", it doesn't say "true until proven false".
It would be nice if the case was over and we knew for certain what was true and what was false, but we don't. I support "Freedom of the Press", but I can also see an exception similar to the exception to "Freedom of Speech", i.e., it doesn't include the right to yell "FIRE!" in a crowded theater when there is no fire.
Since the Dr. Hatfill case is really about a conspiracy theory, popularized by the media, where the FBI is supposedly covering up for Dr. Hatfill and some illegal American bioweapons program, one would think that we'd want to know the truth. How will covering up for people who leaked and printed false information give us the truth?
December 17, 2004 - Today's edition of Editor& Publisher says that Dr.Hatfill's lawyers have begun issuing subpoenas. The first went to NPR and the Associated Press. The article also says, "There are rumors of as many as a dozen other subpoenas circulating in several Washington bureaus."
December 15, 2004 - Today's Washington Post contains an editorial called "Anthrax Killer at Large" which restates the Post's point of view that the only valid "sign of progress" in the anthrax case would be an arrest. It seems a very odd point of view for a "liberal" newspaper, and it seems to echo Barbara Hatch Rosenberg's thinking: Make an arrest now and worry about finding proof later:
The FBI has stated more than once that it insists upon 100% proof before making an arrest in this case -a very stringent requirement. Why?The FBI currently has 31 Special Agents on the case full time, along with 13 Postal Inspectors (and that does not include lab technicians), so should we can assume that the culprit is running around loose or should we assume that the FBI is watching every move he makes while they continue to build a solid case? One thing is certain: this is not a case the FBI and the DOJ can afford to lose in court.
December 12, 2004 - Today I finished what I hope is the final draft of my book. I think it's a significantly better book. I know it's significantly different. Unlike prior versions, even if there were an arrest in the case today, this version of the book could still stand on its own as a debunking of the conspiracy theories that have surrounded the anthrax case for the past three years. (You do not have to prove your own argument to prove that someone else's facts are totally wrong. Wrong is wrong.)
I've updated the book proposal to reflect the changes. (The changes also include a reworking of the Introduction.) The book is now 350 pages, 66,000 words. After Christmas I'll start another round of query letters to agents and publishers. This time, however, I'll include smaller publishers and not just major New York publishers.
If I haven't found a publisher by the end of January, I have enough faith in the book so that I'll start seriously looking at self-publishing. (If there's an arrest in the case, I also have 30 percent of a follow-up book written, assuming I'm right about who did it.)
No publisher has yet read any version of the book. Without the right credentials and/or a good referral, it's extremely difficult to get a book read by a publisher. For example, I sent a query letter to the Alfred A. Knopf company on January 2, 2004, and received a form letter rejection slip on November 23, 2004, nearly 11 months later. A couple other publishers still haven't responded to other queries sent at that same time.
So, if anyone knows a book editor or publisher who might be interested in a completed book about the anthrax case that is different from anything anyone else could possibly write, and which should generate major controversy for exposing critical mistakes in the way the case was handled by virtually everyone concerned, I'd appreciate any help. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2004, thru Saturday, December 11, 2004
December 6, 2004 - While working on a new draft of my book, I uncovered more evidence that the Senate anthrax was not coated. The evidence also helps explain how the whole coating conspiracy theory got started.
Rereading the anthax-related chapters in the book "The Demon in the Freezer" by Richard Preston, I noticed things I hadn't noticed before. First, when Tom Geisbert at USAMRIID did his initial examination of the Daschle anthrax, he was examining a sample which had come from the Hazmat team which recovered the anthrax and the letter from Senator Daschle's office. That sample was in a small test tube and in a "white, milky liquid" form, i.e., spores in some kind of liquid, possibly bleach or alcohol.
Geisbert put a droplet on a wax holder, let it dry, then made sure the spores were dead by dipping them in chemicals. He viewed this sample under a Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM), which is specifically designed to examine specimens much smaller than a spore. He saw "goop" oozing from the spores when he turned up the power. (The TEM is designed to look inside tiny specimens, so the electron beam was undoubtedly heating up the interior of the spore and causing some substance to ooze out.) The "goop" was almost certainly related to the "white, milky liquid" or, more likely, to the chemicals he used to make certain the spores were dead.
Later, when he looked at a different sample which was in its dry form directly from the envelope, he made sure those spores were dead by radiating them. He examined those spores under a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM), and he saw no "goop", just dry, clumped spores.
A second thing I never paid proper attention to before is that when Geisbert did his initial examination of the spores using the TEM, he was actually hunting for smallpox viruses. People at USAMRIID at the time were very afraid that the spores were laced with smallpox to make them far more deadly than just plain anthrax.
A smallpox virus is about 1/5th the size of a spore and can be examined in detail under a TEM, which is probably the reason why Geisbert used the TEM.
But the key fact is that, even though he was using a TEM and hunting for objects much smaller than spores, he saw nothing but pure spores. That should be solid proof to any reasonable person that there was no silica coating on the spores and no silica additives mixed with the spores.
However, at a classified White House briefing on October 24, 2001, Peter Jahrling showed pictures of the "goop" to Cabinet members, FBI officials, CIA spooks and others. He told them he thought the "goop" might be an additive. The next morning, the story of finding an additive was in the New York Times, and scientists were already speculating about it, and so was The Washington Post. The leaks didn't include the pictures of the "goop" oozing out of the spores, so scientists were free to use their imaginations about what had actually been found. Their assumptions were based upon past experiences with weaponization using true additives. There was no stopping the speculation, particularly after there was another leak about AFIP detecting silica. The speculation continues today, even though it may have been all a misunderstanding. And any attempt to correct the speculation generates cover-up conspiracy theories.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2004, thru Saturday, December 4, 2004
December 2, 2004 - While studying Judge Hilton's memorandum dismissing the lawsuit Dr. Hatfill filed against The New York Times and Nicholas Kristoff, I couldn't help but notice several things which to me seem like grounds for appeal. I'm no lawyer, but on page 3, for example, regarding Kristof's May 24, 2002, column, Judge Hilton writes:
there were probably only a handful of individuals who had the ability, access and motive to send the anthrax. [...] Kristof criticized the FBI for being painstakingly slow in investigating the small group who should be checked outThe notion that there were only a "handful" of possible suspects was an unproven assumption in May of 2002, and it's still an unproven assumption today. In reality, the number of potential suspects at that time could have been in the thousands. But Judge Hilton seems to believe Kristof's point of view.
These columns were written in the context of a high degree of public attention focused on the anthrax investigation, and extensive reporting by news organizations, on their news pages about specific, potential suspects.In reality, there was only one "specific, potential suspect" being pointed at in the media at that time: Dr. Hatfill. Does the fact many newspapers and media outlets were pointing at Dr. Hatfill mean that no specific newspaper or reporter can be libelous regarding Dr. Hatfill? If many are in error, is it no longer an error?
On page 7, regarding Kristof's August 13, 2002, column, Judge Walton writes:
Kristof praised the FBI for the recent newfound energy of its anthrax investigation, and expressed hope that the bureau may soon be able to end this unseemly limbo by either exculpating Dr. Hatfill or arresting him.It can be argued that the "newfound energy" had nothing to do with the anthrax case and was actually the result of the 7 month campaign by Barbara Hatch Rosenberg to have Dr. Hatfill publicly investigated. For months Dr. Rosenberg had talked to the media endlessly about the person she suspected of being the anthrax mailer and the fact that the FBI wasn't publicly investigating him. She'd named her suspect to a Senate committee on June 18, 2002, and as a result of her campaign, the media was ready and waiting when the FBI did a search of Hatfill's apartment on June 25, one week later. The fact that Kristof believed Barbara Hatch Rosenberg does not mean the FBI had "newfound energy" in the anthrax investigation. It appears to mean the FBI was pressured into a pointless search of Hatfill's apartment by Rosenberg's campaign. That search may have done more to harm the case than help it. It certainly didn't exculpate Dr. Hatfill, nor did it result in his arrest. It accomplished nothing.
On page 14, Judge Hilton writes what seems to be a gross error:
The last column accurately describes Hatfill as the overwhelming focus of the [FBI's] investigation into the anthrax attacksUnless Judge Claude M. Hilton has inside knowledge about the anthrax investigation - and there is absolutely no reason to believe he has any inside knowledge - he cannot possibly know if the the column was accurate in describing Hatfil as the "overwhelming focus" of the FBI's investigation. If Judge Hilton believes that, then he is making a critical error. There is no reason to believe Dr. Hatfill was the overwhelming focus of the FBI's investigation. Dr. Hatfill was merely the overwhelming focus of the media's attention. The FBI was repeatedly stating just the opposite, saying they had over 10 "persons of interest" and saying again and again that Dr. Hatfill was not a suspect.
Judge Hilton appears to have made the critical error of believing the media, not the evidence.
November 30, 2004 - Once again it is interesting to look at how various reporters (and their newspapers and media outlets) view a specific event. This time the event is Judge Claude M. Hilton's dismissal of the lawsuit filed by Dr. Hatfill against Nicholas Kristoff and the New York Times. The first report, as usual, was from The Associated Press wire service. It came in late yesterday afternoon. And this morning we have reports from The Washington Post and The New York Times. The AP report and the NY Times report are similar, but the Washington Post report has some interesting twists.
Matthew Barakat of The Associated Press wrote:
Hilton ruled that Kristof's columns did not defame Hatfill, and that they accurately reflected the state of the FBI's investigation, in which Hatfill was labeled ``a person of interest'' by Attorney General John Ashcroft.
Hilton's ruling, issued Wednesday, noted that the primary target of Kristof's columns was the FBI, for its handling of the investigation. While several columns accused the FBI of failing to investigate Hatfill thoroughly, Kristof also wrote that Hatfill was entitled to a presumption of innocence.
``It is evident that the Op-Ed pieces highlighting the perceived shortcomings of the FBI are not reasonably read as accusing Hatfill of actually being the anthrax mailer,'' Hilton wrote.Nat Ives of The New York Times wrote:
In an opinion made public yesterday, the judge, Claude M. Hilton of the Federal District Court in Alexandria, Va., ruled that Mr. Kristof had directed his columns primarily at the handling of the investigation by the F.B.I. and had not accused Dr. Hatfill of responsibility for the attacks. Judge Hilton wrote that "it is evident that the Op-Ed pieces highlighting the perceived shortcomings of the F.B.I. are not reasonably read as accusing Hatfill of actually being the anthrax mailer."And this is what Jerry Markon of The Washington Post wrote:
A federal judge in Alexandria has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a former Army scientist against the New York Times Co. and columnist Nicholas D. Kristof, ruling that Kristof accurately reported that the scientist was a focus of the FBI probe of the 2001 anthrax attacks.And
Chief Judge Claude M. Hilton said that Kristof had not accused Hatfill of guilt and that the columnist was correctly reporting that Hatfill was the "overwhelming focus" of the FBI probe as of last fall.So, according to AP and the New York Times, Kristoff's articles were primarily directed against the FBI's handling of the anthrax case, even though the Washington Post makes no mention of anything being said about this in court. And both AP and the NYT quote Judge Hilton as saying, "the Op-Ed pieces highlighting the perceived shortcomings of the F.B.I. are not reasonably read as accusing Hatfill of actually being the anthrax mailer". Again no mention of this by the Post. Instead, the Washington Post says that Dr. Hatfill "was a focus of the FBI probe of the 2001 anthrax attacks" and that Kristoff "was correctly reporting that Hatfill was the 'overwhelming focus' of the FBI probe as of last fall."
So, while the Post says Dr. Hatfill was "a focus" and not "the focus" of the FBI probe, they also believe Kristoff was correct in reporting that Hatfill was the 'overwhelming focus' of the FBI probe.
One could conclude that some people in the media still believe that Dr. Hatfill was the "overwhelming focus" of the FBI and not just the "overwhelming focus" of the media. And being the "overwhelming focus" of the FBI means either Dr. Hatfill is guilty or the FBI is wrong. There can be no error by the media.
November 28, 2004 - I just realized that last week was the third anniversary of this web site. I created this site on November 22, 2001, to keep track of facts needed to resolve endless arguments about the anthrax attacks. Back then, it looked like the case would be resolved before Christmas of 2001 - which just goes to show how wrong I can be.
And today is the first anniversary of Gary Matsumoto's article in Science Magazine, which means that article has been the subject of constant arguments for one solid year.
Interestingly, during this week's arguments, something new was actually uncovered. According to a source involved in the writing of the article,
the original version of the Science article went into much more detail concerning AFIP detecting silica. There were more quotes from [General] Parker where he talked about the simultaneous appearance of Si and O peaks whenever the e-beam rastered across the silica nanoparticles.It seems clear why that information was left out of the article: It tends to disprove the rest of the article. It means that the spores in the Daschle letter were not really coated with silica, they were speckled with silica. They had to raster an X-ray beam across the surface of a spore to find the specks of silica. That is almost exactly what was reported about other kinds of lab-produced spores. Click HERE for an image of silicon specks found in the natural coat of some Bacillus cereus spores. Click HERE for an image of how silicon showed up in the spectra of some Bacillus megaterium spores. (Pure silicon is not found in nature, so the presence of the element silicon generally means it's combined with some other element, typically oxygen, which would usually mean it is in the form of silicon dioxide, a.k.a. silica.)
Up until last week, the conspiracy theorist's argument had been that the spores were coated with "polymerized glass" which binds the "silica nanoparticles" to the spore. (That would be silica atop silica with no gaps, so there would be no need to raster to find silica. Silica would totally cover the spore.) This is the way the Science article describes it:
Also known as "sol gel" or "spin-on-glass," polymerized glass is "a silane or siloxane compound that's been dissolved in an alcohol-based solvent like ethanol," says Jacobsen. It leaves a thin glassy coating that helps bind the silica to particle surfaces.When I pointed that out to the scientist who is the main supporter for the conspiracy theory detailed in Matsumoto's article, the scientist immediately conjured up a revised theory where, instead of being glued to a silica coating covering the spores, the silica "nanoparticles" were actually glued directly (evenly spaced!) to the natural coating on the spores, glued with "organic epoxy groups". And, of course, since the glue was "organic", that explains why the energy dispersive X-ray spectrometer (an instrument used to detect the presence of otherwise-unseen chemicals through characteristic wavelengths of X-ray light) didn't detect any other unusual elements.
In other words, he now argues that the "silica nanoparticles" were glued to the spores in a way that would serve no purpose except to fool lesser scientists into thinking that the silica was there from natural causes. But he was not fooled like the others.
As far as I'm concerned, the absurd coating argument is now dead. AFIP detected only specks consisting of silicon and oxygen. They may have jumped to conclusions about additives and "weaponization", but in reality they only detected specks of silica which were almost certainly absorbed into the spores' natural coating from the environment during sporulation. AFIP saw no coating; they saw no additives; they saw only a spike on a graph. Oddly enough, the Science article actually confirms that:
"There was silica there," said [Frank Johnson, chief of AFIP's Chemical Pathology Division], "there was no mistaking it." Maj. Gen. John S. Parker, commander of the U. S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command at the time of the attacks, says he saw AFIP's lab reports. "There was a huge silicon spike" consistent with the presence of silica, he says. "It peaked near the top of the screen."After that, it was all conclusion-jumping by those who saw a conspiracy to cover up the "fact" that the spores had been "weaponized" in some illegal U.S. bioweapons lab, and the FBI was covering up for that illegal government bioweapons program, a program which had somehow caused the death of five people and injury to seventeen others (a conspiracy which would have to involve hundreds - if not thousands - of people).
While it may still be possible that there is some illegal U.S. bioweapons lab somewhere, there is absolutely no reason to believe it produced the anthrax used in the 2001 mailings. As USAMRIID scientist Peter Jahrling said in a meeting in the White House on October 24, 2001, (according to Richard Preston's book "The Demon In The Freezer"): "This anthrax could have come from a hospital lab or from any reasonably equipped college microbiology lab." And, as stated elsewhere on this web site, the intense work in microbial forensics for the past two and a half years has been to figure out which lab made it and to be able to prove it in court.
Here is what Michael Mason, the Assistant FBI Director in charge of the Washington Field Office and the anthrax case told me last week:
I would tell you that any suggestion that the government is covering up for anyone is absolutely, categorically absurd [...] I wouldn't care if you lined up "experts" from every renowned university on earth... It simply is not true. [...]
I and the Amerithrax team are simply not part of some grand conspiracy, the objective of which is to keep the truth from the public...the mere thought is insulting to me and to all the people who have worked so hard on this case for the past three years. I wish this thing were more sexy, but it is not. It is dedicated public servants, some of the absolute best and rightest in this country, working extremely hard to find the person or persons responsible for the anthrax attacks of 2001....it's just that simple.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2004, thru Saturday, November 27, 2004
November 22, 2004 - Yesterday's Oxford, CT, Republican-American provides a nice summary of what's happened in the anthrax case during the past three years - and a bit about what's happening now:
Thirty-one FBI special agents work the case full time, said Debra Weierman, an FBI field office spokeswoman in Washington. That's in addition to 13 postal inspectors, one U.S. attorneyand a scattering of support staff.Unfortunately, we don't know for certain how those 48 searches were counted, except that according to NBC they were "four dozen separate locations". If true, the two searches of Dr. Hatfill's apartment would only count as 1. And all the searches of places connected to Dr. Berry on August 5 and 6 (two homes, two apartments, airport records and his car) would count as 6.
Interestingly, the number of FBI agents working on the case appears to be up. Now it's 31 FBI agents plus 13 postal inspectors, 1 US Attorney and "a scattering of support staff". In October of 2003, according to Weierman via the Hartford Courant,"there were 30 FBI agents and 18 postal inspectors working full time on the investigation". But in March of this year, the Washington Post said the investigative team consisted of "25 FBI agents and 12 postal inspectors". So, as of now we have more full time FBI agents on the case than anytime in more than a year, and one more postal inspector than in March.
Plus there is a U.S. Attorney working full time on the case. Just a month ago someone closely following the case told me that they weren't aware of any U.S. Attorney being on the case full time, and he said he wouldn't get excited about any so-called progress in the investigation until that happened. However, FBI Assistant Director Michael Mason tells me, "There has been a full-time Assistant United States Attorney assigned to this case since it's beginning."
November 22, 2004 - According
court docket for the U.S. District Court for the
November 21, 2004 - According to an e-mail source, the hearing in the Hatfill v Foster lawsuit was held on schedule Friday, but, evidently, no one in the media has bothered reporting on what was said or done.
Meanwhile, The New York Times reports today that turf wars between the FBI and NYC Health Department officials have been resolved.
The anthrax investigations, and several subsequent inquiries into suspected germ attacks, were strained by tension between health and law enforcement officials over turf and procedures.Whether or not those turf wars affected the Kathy Nguyen investigation is unknown.
And The Bulletin Of The Atomic Scientists reminds us that even scientists will continue to believe what they want to believe about the anthrax case until they are officially proven wrong (and maybe even beyond that):
the culprit (or culprits) who sent letters containing anthrax spores through the mail in September 2001 has not been apprehended, and his or her identity remains a mystery, at least to the public--this despite the fact that the perpetrator used a strain of anthrax known to be of U.S. origin, that it was milled in a highly sophisticated manner, also suggesting it was likely produced in one of a limited number of facilities, and that in all likelihood the perpetrator works or worked among a fairly limited universe of possible suspects in government or government-contract laboratories.Whether or not the anthrax case is ever solved, it's likely the politics of the case will be argued forever.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2004, thru Saturday, November 20, 2004
November 19, 2004 - According to some sources on the Internet, there is supposed to be a hearing today regarding the defendant's motion to dismiss Dr. Hatfill's lawsuit against Don Foster, Vassar College, Vanity Fair Magazine and Readers Digest. Presumably, the motion will be denied by Judge Leonie M. Brinkema, since motions to dismiss are routine and routinely denied in situations like this.
E-mails about the hearing caused me to finally locate a copy of the lawsuit. Unlike the Hatfill v. Ashcroft case, documents from the US District court in Alexandria, VA, are not as easily accessable on-line.
Paragraphs 50-52 of the lawsuit pertain to Vassar College and a poster they used to advertise a forum at which Don Foster was a "Faculty Presenter". As of yesterday, Vassar's web site now includes this "Clarification":
ClarificationThe lawsuit contains a lot of interesting information about Don Foster and his techniques. An NBC News article from October 4, 2004, still seems to be the only media source on this case.
November 17, 2004 - The resignation of Colin Powell seems to be another "milestone" in the anthrax case. The images of Powell before the UN Security Council holding up a vial of anthrax simulant to justify the invasion of Iraq may be the "defining moment" of his tenure. It certainly appears to be the favorite news clip.
Meanwhile, according to the Wisconsin State Journal, Tommy Thompson's tenure as head of the Department of Health and Social Services may have a very different "defining moment". They write:
The one thing even his most severe critics admit about Tommy Thompson is that he gets things done. Shortly after 9/11, when there was a nationwide anthrax scare, Thompson took some flack about not taking the threat seriously - but we haven't seen another anthrax scare.As head of the DHHS, he had "need to know" the facts of the case. And as everyone should realize by now, knowing the facts helps make better decisions.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2004, thru Saturday, November 13, 2004
November 11, 2004 - Some who have written me about the government's boilerplate- filled response to Dr. Hatfill's lawsuit have failed to see anything significant in it. The fact that no one in the media even bothered to mention it seems to confirm that.
How "significant" it is may be debateable, but the fact that the FBI and DOJ confirmed Dr. Hatfill's allegation that Barbara Hatch Rosenberg named Dr. Hatfill as the "person most likely responsible for the mailings" in the Senate staffer meeting of June 18, 2002, seems very important to me.
Not only does it contradict what Barbara Hatch Rosenberg has repeatedly said about not naming names, it also confirms that, on June 18, the Senate staffers and everyone else in the room knew who Barbara Hatch Rosenberg had been talking about for the prior 7 months. They knew his name: Dr. Steven Jay Hatfill. Therefore, any of them could have informed the media. And, as a result, there should have been no surprise that the media was alert and waiting when the FBI did the first search of Dr. Hatfill's apartment a few days later.
Those who believe that only the FBI could have alerted the media now have other possibilities they must consider.
November 10, 2004 - The resignation of Attorney General John Ashcroft and the rapid naming of his replacement has generated more discussion about the politics of the anthrax case. It's all pure speculation, but, if Ashcroft did anything to delay the arrest until after the election, quickly removing him from the scene will make it more difficult for anyone to gain political points by claiming he caused the delay.
Whether or not it happened, there was certainly good political reason to delay until after the election the arrest of someone who sent anthrax to the two Senate Democrats who were leading the fight against Ashcroft's "Patriot Act". It would not only have been awkward to arrest someone for "helping" Ashcroft, but how would it have affected all the Bush supporters who believed that al Qaeda or Iraq was behind the attacks?
It's also interesting that, as far as I can tell, not a single newspaper or media outlet reported anything about the government's response to the Hatfill lawsuit.
November 9, 2004 - In response to the order from Judge Walton, the US Government finally filed its response to the Hatfill lawsuit yesterday. A .pdf copy of the response is HERE. In order to understand what it contains, however, you also need to have Dr. Hatfill's complaint. A .pdf copy of that is HERE. The response answers each item in the complaint, one by one, often sentence by sentence within an item.
Most of the response is "boilerplate", which is legal slang for provisions in a contract, form or legal pleading which are apparently routine and often preprinted - as if they could have been copied and pasted from countless other legal documents.
Here’s a summary of the response:
Item 1 - They deny Dr. Hatfill’s claim that the FBI went after him "to promote their own personal and political interests".
Item 2 - 7 Same. Most begin with the same boilerplate sentence: "This paragraph contains legal theories and conclusions, to which no response is required."
Item 8a - The government "admits" that "public comment by prosecutors or law enforcement officials on investigative procedures and evidence outside of formal criminal processes could, in some circumstances, compromise potential prosecutions by tainting the jury pool and creating prejudice against a future criminal defendant."
Item 8b - In another frequently repeated boilerplate response, the government says, "The Agency Defendants can neither admit nor deny the allegations in this sub-paragraph because to do so would require the disclosure of sensitive information concerning an ongoing criminal investigation and protected by law enforcement privilege".
Item 25 - The third and fourth sentences of Dr. Hatfill’s complaint read, "Over several months, the FBI interviewed Dr. Hatfill several times. He volunteered to take a polygraph examination and was informed by the examiner that he had passed, indicating that he had no involvement in the anthrax mailings." The government’s response is: "The Agency Defendants admit the allegations in the third sentence. The Agency Defendants deny the allegations in the fourth sentence." In other words, they acknowledge that Dr. Hatfill was interviewed several times, but they deny that (whether or not Dr. Hatfill passed) the results of the polygraph test indicated anything regarding his guilt or innocence.
Item 27 - In response to the charge that Barbara Hatch Rosenberg "embarked on a campaign to convince investigators that [Dr. Hatfill] should be their primary suspect in the anthrax mailings", the government responded with the same boilerplate: "The Agency Defendants can neither admit nor deny the allegations in this paragraph because to do so would require the disclosure of sensitive information concerning an ongoing criminal investigation and protected by law enforcement privilege".
Item 29 contains an oddity. Dr. Hatfill’s complaint says, "On June 18, 2002, Ms Rosenberg received an audience with members of the staffs of Senators Leahy and Daschle…". The response says the government "lack sufficient knowledge or information to admit or deny whether the date of the meeting was June 18, 2002. However, they admit that Van Harp "attended the meeting".
Sentence #4 of Item 29 in Hatfill’s complaint reads, "In this meeting, Ms Rosenberg, who had no official authority, no investigative experience, and most significantly no access to the forensic tests conducted on the anthrax letters or the FBI’s investigative file, informed the Daschle and Leahy Staff members that her suspicions led her to believe that Dr. Hatfill was the person most likely responsible for the mailings."
The response is, "With respect to the fourth sentence, the Agency Defendants admit that, in this meeting, Ms Rosenberg informed the Daschle and Leahy staff members that her suspicions led her to believe that Dr. Hatfill was the person most likely responsible for the mailings, and otherwise can neither admit nor deny the allegations in the fourth sentence because to do so would require the disclosure of sensitive information concerning an ongoing criminal investigation and protected by the law enforcement privilege."
This appears to be the first official acknowledgment that Ms Rosenberg specifically named Dr. Hatfill in that meeting with the Senate staffers.
Ms Rosenberg has denied ever specifically naming Dr. Hatfill. Here's her statement in her own words from her "Analysis of The Anthrax Attacks" dated 11 August 2002, less than two months after the meeting with the Senate staff:
I have never mentioned any names in connection with the anthrax investigation, not to the FBI, nor to media, nor to Senate Committees or staffs, not to anyone. I have never said or written anything publicly that pointed only to one specific person. Anyone who sees parallels is expressing his own opinion.Here's a statement from Ms Rosenberg on a July 24, 2003, NPR broadcast suggesting once again that she never named names:
"I put together all the of evidence I knew about … about the perpetrator. But I didn’t put it in full detail. Some items I left rather vague because I didn’t, again, want to be pointing finger at any particular person. It was interesting that the FBI then started to work harder on the investigation. And they seem to have kept going ever since, so I feel good about that."Here's an article from the November 3, 2003, Sydney Morning Herald mentioning her continuing denial that she named names:
The scientist who helped steer the FBI towards Hatfill, Dr Barbara Hatch Rosenberg of the Federation of American Scientists, says she has no regrets. "I know I've gotten a lot of flak. I don't care about that," she said, stressing that she never named Hatfill as a suspect. "My whole point was to make certain they were investigating some evidence that I learnt about from people with more knowledge than I in the case but who couldn't talk."So, if nothing else, we now have the FBI officially stating that she did indeed name Dr. Hatfill in that Senate staff meeting, although the date of the meeting is mysteriously uncertain. (Details of her "campaign" to point the finger at Dr. Hatfill are HERE.)
However, the government denies that "Special Agent Harp, anxious to respond to those concerns, directed the FBI’s full attention in the direction of Dr. Hatfill following the Rosenberg meeting."
This is one of those instances where exact wording is important. From this and other comments, it appears that the attention given Dr. Hatfill was far from the FBI’s "full attention", but was mainly a separate matter handled by other agents and employees and did not detract from work being done on the Amerithrax investigation. In other words, if no agents were taken off Amerithrax to investigate Dr. Hatfill, the FBI's investigation of Dr. Hatfill in no way affected or delayed or hindered Amerithrax. The Dr. Hatfill matter was, in effect, a separate matter handled by other agents.
Item 34 - The government responds that "after reasonable inquiry, the Agency Defendants are unable to admit or deny whether an employee of the FBI leaked information to the news media regarding the consensual search of Dr. Hatfill’s apartment."
Items 41 through 48 are responded to with identical boilerplate which, in effect, says that all the complaints about Dr. Hatfill losing his job at LSU because of actions by DOJ employees are covered in a motion to dismiss which is still pending.
Item 49 response says that the Agency Defendants "admit that, on August 22, 2002, during a press conference at the Robert Rodino Federal Building in Newark, New Jersey, Mr. Ashcroft, in response to press inquiries, refused to identify Dr. Hatfill as a suspect and instead stated that ‘Mr. Hatfill is a person of interest to the Department of Justice, and we continue the investigation. For me to comment further, it would be inappropriate".
Item 52 in Hatfill’s complaint contains this as the third sentence: "The designation ‘person of interest’ has no significance to any formal criminal process, but has been used recently as a euphemism for ‘the individual the government suspects is responsible for the offense." The response is that the Agency Defendants "deny the allegations" in that sentence.
Item 75 response is "Agency Defendants lack sufficient knowledge or information to admit or deny whether government agents leaked to ABC News information concerning anything recovered from any government search of Dr. Hatfill’s computer."
Item 76 response is the same thing regarding leaks to Newsweek about the bloodhounds.
Item 77 response is the same thing regarding leaks to Nicolas Kristoff.
Item 85 response is the same thing regarding whether or not "investigators with the FBI or DOJ provided information to ABCNEWS.COM concerning Dr. Hatfill" and how the FBI was attempting to clear everyone else so they could "focus entirely on Hatfill".
Item 86 is the same thing regarding reports on CBSNEWS.COM.
Item 87 is the same thing regarding reports in The Washington Post about the Maryland pond search.
Items 95 to 120 are all boilerplate.
Summing up: The government’s response appears to be mostly boilerplate denials. Other than acknowledging that Ms Rosenberg specifically named Dr. Hatfill at the Senate briefing, they just acknowledge established facts and deny all allegations.
And they say they have no information that any FBI or DOJ employee ever leaked any confidential findings to the media, which is what the ongoing discovery meetings are all about. Who did leak the information? The media says it was unnamed "law enforcement officials" and FBI insiders. It may have been. But who? To find the answers, Dr. Hatfill’s lawyers will have to use the waiver forms from potential sources to persuade reporters to divulge their sources. And the media will fight tooth and nail against revealing sources, even if those sources provided totally wrong information.
Meanwhile, there’s nothing in the government’s response that clears Dr. Hatfill, nor anything that points to him. But that won’t prevent people from making their own interpretations - including me.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2004, thru Saturday, November 6, 2004
November 6, 2004 - According to The (NJ) Star-Ledger, Dr. Berry pleaded guilty today to assaulting his wife and stepdaughter, receiving two years probation and a $1,000 fine. The anthrax case connection is summed up this way:
FBI spokesman Joseph Paris said the agency is still conducting the anthrax investigation, but would not comment on Berry's involvement in the case.While this court appearance may just represent the first day in the rest of Dr. Berry's ruined life, in other ways it seems like more "wrapping up" of the anthrax case.
November 5, 2004 - Yesterday two motions were filed in the Hatfill vs. Ashcroft case which give a tiny glimpse into what's going on. They appeared today on the US Courts filing system. It appears that after arguing for weeks about a protective order that would be broad enough to facilitate the exchange of information, the two parties could not agree on how to do it. So, each sent Judge Walton their proposed method, in effect asking for him to decide. The Plaintiff's Motion describes the disagreement this way:
Pursuant to Rule 26(c) and this Court's Order of October 21, 2004, plaintiff Steven J. Hatfill, M.D. hereby proposes the attached Protective Order to prevent public disclosure of the extremely limited information the agency defendants have offered to produce in response to plaintiff's discovery requests. The parties met and exchanged various drafts for a protective order that could be jointly proposed, but unfortunately no agreement was reached.It appears that the government wants to protect every single name on the list, regardless of how much discoverable information that individual might possess and regardless of whether Hatfill's lawyers might have already learned the name in question from other sources. Hatfill's lawyers say:
This would have the effect of actually restricting plaintiff's ability to use information that is already in his possesion.The government's response seems to boil down to this:
Releasing the names of such persons to the public could result in annoyance, harassment, and interference with an ongoing investigation. Line-level agents may take on undercover roles, and widespread dissemination of their identities is a danger to them and the the investigations on which they work. Moreover, non-supervisory personnel, like all other citizens, have a compelling interest in maintaining their privacy; given the level of public interest in the anthrax investigation, it is possible that members of the public who gain access to the names of persons associated with the investigation will see direct access to those persons in order to ask questions about or register criticism of the anthrax investigation, or, worse, to intimidate or threaten those persons.I can certainly understand the reluctance to make public the names of agents on the case. I've had more than one person try to get such names from me (even though I do not even attempt to collect such names) because they are upset that their own personal "suspect" (a neighbor, a tenant, a former acqaintance, a guy down the street who "just doesn't look right") has not been arrested. Each of them had talked many times to local FBI agents and got nowhere, so they want to talk with someone directly involved with the case - undoubtedly to demand that appropriate action be taken immediately.
The passion with which these people believe they are right about who did it is sometimes very scary - even when the only contact I have with them is via e-mail. I can only imagine what it would be like to talk with them face to face.
This, of course, has nothing to do with Judge Walton's order that the government respond by November 7 to the allegations in Dr. Hatfill's complaint. I'm still waiting on that. Since the 7th is a Sunday, presumably, that response will come Monday and be available on the US Courts site on Tuesday.
November 3, 2004 - I'm checking the status of the Hatfill vs. Ashcroft lawsuit every day in anticipation of a government response to the allegations in the lawsuit. Back on October 7, Judge Walton gave the government 30 days to come up with a response. Those 30 days will be up this coming Sunday.
Presumably, the response would address allegations like this one from page 2 of Dr. Hatfill's complaint:
The early stages of the anthrax investigation were motivated by a desire to apprehend the real murderers who mailed the anthrax letters. However, as time wore on and the investigation stalled, the Attorney General and his subordinates came to understand that for their own personal and political interests, as well as the institutional interests of the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI") and the Department of Justice ("DOJ"), it was essential to appear to know who committed these crimes. Thus, in the summer of 2002, they embarked on a highly public campaign to accuse Dr. Hatfill without formally naming him a suspect or charging him with any wrongdoing.Meanwhile, with the elections over, another milestone has passed. If there ever was a reason to delay an arrest until after the elections, that reason should now be gone. It might still be a big shock to many Americans that the anthrax came from a U.S. lab and was almost certainly made and sent by an American scientist (who is not named Steven Jay Hatfill), but there's no longer any real political advantage to maintaining the fiction that it could have come from Iraq or al Qaeda.
October 31, 2004 - While the
candidates seem unwilling to speculate on the significance of Osama bin
Laden's recent message, at least one person who truly believed al Qaeda
was behind the anthrax attacks has decided to give up and remove
from the Internet debates. It simply made no sense to him that
would take credit for 9-11 but not the anthrax attacks - unless al
had nothing to do with the anthrax attacks. And that realization
came as a second blow after Judge Walton's comment on the 21st: "There
are some very unique things the government is doing at this time.
If ... this were to be known to the perpetrator, it could have an
impact on the investigation." There
is just no way the FBI would be concerned about tipping off some al
member. If some al Qaeda member was a suspect, the FBI
make an arrest first and do the investigation afterward.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2004, thru Saturday, October 30, 2004
October 30, 2004 - NBC's fictional "Medical Investigation" show about anthrax last night was probably more accurate than The History Channel's "documentary" earlier in the week. But, to have ten people get inhalational anthrax from the leather covering a drum is ... quite a stretch ... so to speak.
I thought that I'd get e-mail saying the show was far-fetched. Instead, the only e-mail received was one stating the show was evidently based upon a real incident.
October 25, 2004 - The History Channel lived up to its name last night by presenting a show about the anthrax attacks which is well-known history. In fact, except for a brief mention of the Dr. Berry searches, it could have been filmed and aired two years ago. It showed Barbara Hatch Rosenberg voicing her conspiracy theories, Don Foster backing her up, and Marilyn W. Thompson of the Washington Post agreeing. Pat Clawson was there to support Dr. Hatfill, and all four of them harmonized on the same theme "The FBI is either inept or covering up who did it."
The "Voice of Reason" on the show was C. J. Peters, former Assistant Director at USAMRIID, who said the FBI would have its own goals and wouldn't cover up for USAMRIID. Government agencies may cover up their own mistakes, but they don't cover up for other agencies. Such a cover-up "makes no sense," he said.
For those who missed it, the show will repeat Wednesday, Oct. 26, at 11 p.m. ET, and on Saturday, Oct. 30, at 5 p.m., ET.
October 24, 2004 - In addition to the History Channel program about the anthrax attacks, which is on tonight (see the 2nd entry for Oct. 22 below), NBC's fictional medical show "Medical Investigation" also explores the subject of anthrax this week:
ALIENATIONStrangely, this TV show has NIH (National Institutes of Health) doctors doing what in reality is normally done by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control). But both the NIH's web site and the CDC's web site contain information about the show.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2004, thru Saturday, October 23, 2004
October 22, 2004 - This morning USA Today, The Washington Post and The New York Times all contain articles about yesterday's hearing in the Hatfill lawsuit. As usual, it's interesting to see how each reporter interprets what was said in the hearing.
While yesterday's report by Hope Yen of The Associated Press is headlined this way in The Boston Globe: "Journalists can be queried in anthrax-case lawsuit", Toni Locy at USA Today headlines her story this way: "Judge: Hatfill can't query scientists in anthrax case". She also begins her article with this valuable information:
A former Army lab researcher identified by the Justice Department as "a person of interest" in the 2001 anthrax attacks cannot question scientists consulted by the FBI because the investigation into the deadly mailings is at "a critical stage," a federal judge said Thursday.And Toni Locy adds this:
Investigators also have been working with biologists and others to develop scientific tests that could be used in court to link a suspect to the anthrax mailings.And one more bit of information from Toni Locy and USA Today:
On Thursday, Walton gave investigators until April 22. If they don't solve the anthrax mystery by then, the judge said, he likely will allow the lawsuit to move forward.Meanwhile, The New York Times and The Washington Post have their point of view, which is all about protecting reporters and their sources - evidently, even if the sources are uniformed, guessing, mistaken or deliberately lying.
Scott Shane begins his article in The New York Times this way:
In a development that could undercut reporters' ability to obtain confidential information, Justice Department officials agreed Thursday to distribute to dozens of federal investigators in the 2001 anthrax case a document they can sign to release journalists from pledges of confidentiality.Carol D. Leonnig at The Washington Post includes this comment in her article:
Journalists and free-speech advocates yesterday decried the maneuver as an attack on the public's right to know and news organizations' right to gather information from confidential sources.And this one:
"There's a full frontal assault on the First Amendment and the press," said Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. "The government is saying, 'We won't give you what you want, but we'll make it possible for the media to violate all of their fundamental principles.' There's something wrong with this picture."I find it very interesting that "Freedom of the Press" is seen as the central issue in this case by newspapers and reporters most involved in pointing the finger at Dr. Hatfill. Maybe it will end up in the Supreme Court someday. There are interesting questions involved: Can a reporter refuse to name sources when those sources were uniformed, guessing, mistaken or deliberately lying? And if it is subsequently proven that the sources were wrong, who is responsible for the damage done? Can the source be protected even if they deliberately did harm?
October 22, 2004 - The History Channel has an upcoming episode about the anthrax attacks in their series "Conspiracy?" The episode is described this way:
"Anthrax Attacks"October 21, 2004 - The latest two week delay in the Hatfill lawsuit is up, and according to the Associated Press, in today's hearing Judge Walton ruled that Hatfill and his lawyer can question reporters about their sources "so long as they aren't forced to violate confidentiality agreements with their sources."
Also, under provisions of the unusual agreement, the Justice Department will circulate waiver forms to its employees next month that would release journalists from any agreements to protect anonymous sources. If Justice employees choose to sign them, Hatfill's attorneys would then proceed to depose reporters.Also,
At the hearing Thursday, Walton agreed to extend a stay protecting Justice officials from depositions until April, citing the danger of inadvertent disclosure of sensitive information in an ongoing investigation. But he said Hatfill should be able to question journalists about leaks if their government sources don't object.So, the government has its additional six month delay for being questioned about details of the anthrax case, but reporters can be questioned about sources of information which suggested Dr. Hatfill was a suspect.
Judge Walton's order is HERE.
The next key "event" should be in early November when Judge Walton has demanded that the government respond in writing to the charges in the Hatfill lawsuit. But hopefully tonight we'll also get other reports on today's hearing which may include additional information about what happened and what was said.
October 17, 2004 - Although not specifically about the anthrax case, a new series in The Chicago Tribune about problems with forensic evidence titled "Forensics Under The Microscope" helps explain why there was a critical need to formally develop, recognize and validate the new science of "microbial forensics" before it could be put to use in identifying the anthrax mailer, or the originating lab, or anything else about the case.
The article illustrates problems with forensic methods which have been in use or many years. A new method will definitely be challenged by the defense, so it's critical to make certain the first case to use the new science is rock solid.
Here are a few key paragraphs from the article:
In addition to the advent of DNA testing, U.S. Supreme Court rulings have sought to impose greater scientific rigor on forensic testimony.And:
In 1993, the U.S. Supreme Court created the stricter Daubert standard, which held that trial judges also "must ensure that any and all scientific testimony or evidence admitted is not only relevant, but reliable."So, along with last week's USA Today article about "sloppiness" in USAMRIID labs, it's begining to look like the case for the defense is developing even before there is a known culprit to defend. On the other hand, it appears that the FBI is aware of that and is doing all the "testing, peer review and rates of error" work to head off problems.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2004, thru Saturday, October 16, 2004
October 15, 2004 - An article in yesterday's USA Today shows once again that even the top labs in the country make mistakes when they encounter something unexpected. The article says:
The formal probe of how the contamination occurred began April 24 , led by an Army investigator from Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. In 20 interviews over two weeks, investigators learned that some lab workers had been concerned about possible exposure for months, beginning with the botched handling of the Daschle letter that sent 16 people to the infirmary for preventive antibiotics.So, the Daschle letter contaminated people at USAMRIID just like the Brokaw letter contaminated people at the NYC Health Department's lab. They simply didn't realize how dangerous those letters were. They took normal precautions, but normal precautions weren't enough. It's another indicator that Kathy Nguyen was somehow infected this way and not by cross-contaminated mail.
The article also seems to confirm that the FBI's search of several USAMRIID labs back in July may have been about the reports of "sloppiness" rather than any actual search for "new evidence".
And experts say the "sloppiness" documented in the report may complicate prosecution if the anthrax killer is ever caught, especially if defense lawyers can cast doubt on USAMRIID'S reliability.The anthrax case has been extremely political from the very beginning. Many scientists still firmly believe that some illegal government bioweapons activity produced the spores used in the attack. If the FBI were to arrest a respected scientist who committed the attacks to make a political point, the Department of Justice may find that more scientists are lined up to help the defense than to testify for the prosecution.
October 14, 2004 - A visitor to this site pointed out something I missed:
The quote from NBC News says that "agents have now determined that 16 U.S. laboratories actually had the strain of anthrax used in the attacks..."
The BHR list of fifteen labs includes three NON-U.S. labs. Therefore, there is not one missing lab, but four.So, in theory, all four of the labs which NBC says are on the FBI's "short list" could be missing from the list created by Barbara Hatch Rosenberg. Or NBC could have gotten the information wrong. Or the missing labs could be all have been cleared. There's no way of knowing for certain. Someday we'll know, but for now all the information can be used for is to generate arguments.
BTW, in case you can't find the three non-US labs on BHR's list, #14 - Suffield (CA) is in Canada. The other two are in the UK.
October 14, 2004 - As the result of an argument about how much the powder in the envelopes weighed, - whether it was two grams per letter as countless articles say, or less than that as I remembered - I found an old article from The New York Times which provides an official amount:
Federal investigators saw the Leahy anthrax as an opportunity to clear up ambiguities and deepen the analysis. Since no powder had been lost in the letter's opening, they had more to work with. Still, the amount, typical of the tainted letters, was remarkably small — just 0.871 grams. A pat of butter weighs 10 grams.Checking through the main page of this site, I found no mention of how much the powder weighed, so I added a comment about the official weight to Section #3.
October 10, 2004 - As soon as
a list of the four most likely sources of the attack anthrax, I got an
email from a follower of the case who was upset because I didn't put
University of New Mexico on the list. He forwarded an article
the Albuquerque Journal dated Dec.
2001, which backed up his claim that UNM needed to be on the
There's nothing about the article that indicates UNM is more of a
source than any other, and, beyond the first three, I see very little
in who is #4, but I changed yesterday's entry to include UNM as number
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2004, thru Saturday, October 9, 2004
October 9, 2004 - While it may be "news" that the FBI has reportedly narrowed the list of labs which could have made the attack anthrax from 16 down to just four, it's not earthshattering news. Mostly it's just confirmation. A couple years ago, Barbara Hatch Rosenberg produced this list of labs which have worked with the Ames strain:
She furthermore indicated that the 8 labs listed above in red obtained their Ames directly or indirectly from USAMRIID. And since it's known that the DNA of the attack anthrax matches that from USAMRIID, that means the seven labs in black can be removed from a list of possible sources for the attack anthrax. Furthermore, Porton Down (#12) is known to have only a modified version of Ames which would not match the attack anthrax. (Correction made on July 26, 2005: Porton Down had both the original and the modified version of Ames. They obtained the original from USAMRIID and modified some of it.)
There are only 15 labs on this list and NBC says there were actually 16. We don't know which lab is the 16th. (Correction: A second reading of the NBC article indicates there may be three more "unknown" labs. See the comment for Oct. 14, 2004.)
For the past couple years, the general assumption by the media appears to have been that the anthrax came from USAMRIID. The "news" is that that assumption was never actually known to be true. And now we have confirmation that it isn't necessarily true.
In fact, at least one person who follows the case thinks there's a high probability that the attack anthrax did not come from USAMRIID.
Among those who follow the case closely, the list has always been narrowed down to just these three
with the possible addition of one of the following four:
4a. LSU College of Veterinary
So, the report that the list has been narrowed down to just four isn't BIG news. It's really just confirmation. But these days, confirmation of anything is also news. (Of course, there's no guarantee that the FBI determined the source was one of these same four labs, but that's the way the betting would go.)
What would be true news is if the list was further narrowed down to just one lab, and that lab was not USAMRIID. However, I think it's pretty safe to figure that when that kind of real news is announced, it won't be just a one-line mention in a small article written by only one media outlet.
October 8, 2004 - For a while yesterday I feared that AP would be the only media source to mention the latest developments in the Dr. Hatfill lawsuit. But, this morning I find articles from NBC News, from Scott Shane who is now at The New York Times, and from The Washington Post. So, we now have other reporters' views and interpretations of what happened yesterday.
NBC News reports something no one else mentions:
In a potentially key new development, the FBI say its agents have now determined that 16 U.S. laboratories actually had the strain of anthrax used in the attacks and the bureau has identified more than 1,000 employees of those labs who had access to it, all of them since questioned.And, as if to make certain that every anthrax theorist still has some ammunition to argue with, NBC adds this:
In one sign that there's still a long way to go, the FBI has not yet ruled out the possibility that the anthrax was made overseas.Scott Shane of the New York Times says:
A federal judge who reviewed a classified update on the F.B.I. investigation of anthrax-laced letters that killed five people in 2001 said on Thursday that he saw little chance of the case's being solved in the next six months.And Shane adds,
Elizabeth J. Shapiro, a lawyer in the civil division of the Justice Department, did not dispute the judge's conclusion but emphasized the difficulty in finding the anthrax attacker.Meanwhile, The Washington Post confirms some of what Scott Shane reported and adds this:
Raising his voice and shaking his finger, Walton told government lawyers that he was "extremely troubled" by recent newspaper articles that quote anonymous law enforcement sources as saying the FBI remains interested in HatfillAnd then this:
Law enforcement sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, recently said that they still have interest in Hatfill along with a small group of other scientists. No charges have been filed in the probe.And concludes with this:
[One of Dr. Hatfill's attorneys, Thomas G.]Connolly complained that Justice and FBI officials continue to engage in a "whisper campaign" against his client. The news accounts that prompted Walton's anger were quotes from confidential sources close to the investigation, published in Washington Post articles in March and July, which Connolly read aloud in court.In summary, while Shane and the Washington Post strongly indicate that Judge Walton feels the anthrax case is not about to be solved any time soon, Walton's comment was based upon a report he read three months ago. And it should be remembered that a solution to the anthrax case which doesn't involve Dr. Hatfill would be very embarrassing to The Washington Post, Scott Shane and Nicolas Kristof of The New York Times, and Brian Ross of ABC ... among others.
Meanwhile, NBC's report does give us some information we never had before: "16 U.S. laboratories actually had the strain of anthrax used in the attacks", and the FBI has "narrowed the number of potential source labs to four".
So, while the anthrax case almost certainly has nothing to do with Dr. Hatfill, Dr. Hatfill's lawsuit has a lot to do with the anthrax case. And, since we aren't getting regular news updates from the FBI , following the lawsuits seems one of the few ways to pick up tidbits of information about how things are going with the Amerithrax investigation.
Next update in two weeks? Another in 30 days?
October 7, 2004 - Again there's another delay in the Dr. Hatfill lawsuit against the government. And, as anticipated, Judge Walton is very upset by it. According to the Associated Press,
Walton told both sides to reach an agreement in two weeks, or face a court order. He also ordered government lawyers to file a written response to Hatfill's allegations — made more than a year ago — within 30 days.The government asked for another six-month delay, but Judge Walton wasn't buying it. He demanded a compromise by October 21.
So, it continues. But something might happen in two weeks. Or maybe not.
I contacted Assistant FBI Director Michael Mason (the chief of the Washington Field Office) and asked him a couple questions. When I asked if there had been any change in the management of the anthrax case, he replied, "Inspector Lambert remains in charge of the investigation." When I asked about the "self-imposed Oct. 1 deadline" Brian Ross of ABC reported, Mason replied, "There was no self-imposed date in October to bring this investigation to resolution."
So, things remain unchanged.
Meanwhile, I'm being bombarded with e-mails from people saying, "I told you so". One wrote, "This was indeed predictable. The FBI has no case against anyone. They haven't got a clue who sent the anthrax."
Stepping back from things a bit to take a look at the whole picture, here's what I see:
First, I see no reason to believe that Dr. Hatfill is or ever was a suspect in the case. Second, I think the anthrax refiner/mailer lives and works in Central New Jersey. Third, I think the FBI is working very hard to build a circumstantial case against the actual anthrax refiner/mailer. They've been working at it for nearly three years.
Therefore, the Hatfill lawsuit really has nothing to do with the anthrax investigation.
Plus, since the FBI is trying to make a case against the actual refiner/mailer, they can't allow any of their agents to sit down and be deposed by Dr. Hatfill's lawyers, because that might result in Dr. Hatfill and his lawyers being able to figure out who the FBI is looking at. It could jeopardize the anthrax case by turning the real anthrax mailer into the subject of a new media frenzy before the anthrax case is ready for court.
It might be analyzing or it might be rationalizing, but the fact that the FBI won't allow Dr. Hatfill's lawsuit interfere with the anthrax investigation doesn't change anything. The anthrax case is evidently still "intensely active". It will be resolved when it's resolved. What happens in the Hatfill and Stevens lawsuits won't change anything.
All we can hope to get from these hearings is some tidbit of information that can be interpreted and argued about, like the statement that the case is "intensely active".
October 7, 2004 - Today there should be something happening in Dr. Hatfill's lawsuit against the goverment.
Back on March 30 of this year, Judge Reggie Walton said he would "with reluctance" put off the bulk of the Hatfill vs Ashcroft lawsuit until Oct. 7. According to the Baltimore Sun: "The judge agreed to put off until at least October requiring the government to answer most of hundreds of questions submitted by Hatfill's lawyers."
I suppose it's possible that the government will ask for another delay, but there's no indication that they will. It's possible they may also answer some of the questions submitted by Hatfill's lawyers and argue about answering the other questions.
What bothers me as I await some news is that, as far as I can tell, NBC was the only media outlet to report that Hatfill filed a lawsuit against Don Foster on Monday. How many media people will be at today's court session? Some argue that the anthrax case is all but forgotten, yet the number of visitors to this web site is now double what it was in the past.
All the reasons given for delaying the case seem to have had plenty of time to get done. The work on formalizing "microbial forensics" is done. If there's still investigation work to be done, it would seem to be more like a matter of dotting i's and crossing t's.
The government might attempt to delay procedings until after the election. But what excuse could they give to a judge who seemed impatient to "get on with it" six months ago?
And we're still waiting news on the motion to dismiss the Maureen Stevens case. Does movement in that case depend upon the Dr. Hatfill case?
I'm going to wear a hole in the carpet from pacing the floor. I need to know if my working hypothesis is right, totally wrong or somewhere in between!
October 4, 2004 - Just three
Dr. Hatfill's case is again scheduled to be heard before Judge Walton,
News reports that Dr. Hatfill's lawyers have finally filed the
libel lawsuit against Don Foster, a practitioner of “literary
who teaches English at Vassar University. The lawsuit
seeks $10 million dollars in damages for defaming Dr. Hatfill in the
Foster wrote for the October 2003 issue of Vanity
October 3, 2004 - Today's New York Times contains an article about Dr. Berry which reports one new item of information which might help explain why Dr. Berry became a subject of scrutiny:
First, there's an item we've all heard before:
Indeed, federal investigators say that the raids were aimed more at eliminating the doctor as a suspect than at incriminating him. "They've actually said that they're doing all this to clear him," said John Moustakas, a lawyer for Dr. Berry.Then there's the new information:
In late 2000, Dr. Berry persuaded Mr. Patrick, the biodefense expert, to give him a two-day course on using pathogens, including anthrax, as weapons. Mr. Patrick agreed to the request but found it suspicious, he said in an interview.Anyone connected to William Patrick III is automatically a "suspect" in the minds of some conspiracy theorists. And if Patrick gave Dr. Berry "a two-day course on using pathogens, including anthrax" prior to the attacks, that would definitely raise large red flags and set off frantic alarms among those conspiracy theorists.
Which brings to mind the explanation the FBI gave to The Washington Post for draining that pond in Maryland:
Law enforcement sources said FBI officials knew the laborious undertaking was a long shot but, after much internal debate, decided to proceed rather than be second-guessed as to whether they were being thorough enough.When building a circumstantial case, it's important to thoroughly investigate all the known "possible suspects" which the defense might attempt to bring up in court to create "reasonable doubt".
October 3, 2004 - After months of arguing about coatings and other details of the anthrax case (arguments where the construction of the universe was used as "evidence" at one point), I finally decided that the previous introduction to my book was too light-hearted and didn't provide the true reason I am so fascinated by the case. What keeps me fascinated is not the fact that I have time on my hands. Nor is it the fact that there are so many interesting details to research. It's the fact that the arguments about the case are absolutely fascinating to the point of being mind-boggling. And the arguments aren't just about the evidence, they are about how and why different people can look at the same evidence and come to totally different conclusions. So, I rewrote the introduction to my book proposal. In a month or so I'll be starting a new campaign to get my book published - assuming that this situation - where it seems something is about to happen at any moment - finally comes to an end one way or the other, i.e., with an arrest or with some indication that there isn't likely to be enough evidence to make an arrest.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2004, thru Saturday, October 2, 2004
October 2, 2004 - The FBI's "self-imposed deadline", which Brian Ross at ABC news said was set for yesterday, appears to have come and gone with no news. Some might say it's further proof that the FBI is going nowhere. Others might say it's further proof that you can't believe the media when they don't name sources. Or, maybe, because we don't know the exact nature of the "self-imposed deadline", we don't know when and how the results will show up. Will we read months from now that someone was taken off the case? Or will soon we read that the investigation was actually completed yesterday? A "self-imposed deadline" certainly doesn't imply immediate public disclosure of results.
Meanwhile, according to The Star-Ledger,
Yesterday, the FBI refused to discuss the Berry case specifically, but a spokesman said the investigation into the anthrax mailings is "intensely active."And we also now know that the FBI's "media event" search of Dr. Berry's homes in August was not done without first trying to do it quietly:
Earlier in the summer, Berry had refused to voluntarily let the FBI search his New York home, and three months later he found himself the subject of a search that was publicized nationwide, Lazzaro [Dr. Berry's lawyer] said.There's an old saying: "Any day you learn something new is a good day." I've found that it's an even better day when something you previously believed - and were ridiculed for - becomes a verified fact.
But, with this "news" comes another "mystery". The Star-Ledger also reports:
Lazzaro said his client expects to be cleared in a matter of months and then would seek a written letter of apology from the FBI.Hmm. What could happen in a "matter of months" which would "clear" Dr. Berry?
October 1, 2004 - October begins with some actual news. According to the Associated Press, Dr. Berry claims it was his family who first started the fights that got Dr. Berry arrested. Also, AP reports that he's still in New Jersey somewhere. This may not be "good news", and it may not be "important news", but it is news.
September 29-30, 2004 - "Close enough for government work" is a statement I remember people saying very often went I was in the military long, long ago. I still hear it used occasionally when people talk about accuracy in government reports. The full context of what they are saying is: "It may not be totally right, but it's close enough for government work." In short: "Who cares about minor errors?"
The General Accountability Office (GAO) just released a report related to the anthrax attacks which they titled "U.S. Postal Service - Better Guidence Is Needed to Ensure An Appropriate Response to Anthrax Contamination". While it's an admirable work, and their unbiased efforts should be applauded, when they refer to the anthrax attacks of 2001 they still lapse into some common mistakes, common misunderstandings, common misinterpretations and bad terminology that were part of the initial response problem. It may be "nit picking" on my part, but such errors make it very difficult to hold an intelligent discussion when people cite government reports as "proof" of their beliefs, and I have to argue that those government reports are not quite accurate or very questionable.
1. In the footnote at the bottom of page 14 it says,
Investigators believe that she [Kathy Nguyen] was probably exposed to mail that had been cross-contaminated by its proximity to one of the letters containing the anthrax spores.In reality, while investigators may "believe" that, the cross-contamination scenario is also the one scenario their investigation has shown to be totally unlikely. And more likely scenarios were evidently never investigated.
2. On page 26 it says,
Over time, other important differences between the substances in the recovered letters became apparent. For example, on October 31, 2001, CDC testified before the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs that it initially assumed that the characteristics of the anthrax in all of the letters were the same. However, according to the descriptions that CDC received after the letters were recovered, the substance in the letter to NBC was brown and granular, whereas the substance in the letter to the New York Post was sandy.Huh? What's the difference between "brown and granular" and "sandy"? All this does is imply that those two media letters contained a different substance, while there is no real evidence that is true. The only known difference is that the Post letter and its contents somehow became damp, while that did not happen to the NBC letter.
3. Also on page 26, it says,
Furthermore, according to a report issued in February 2003 about the decontamination of the Morgan facility, the substances in both the NBC and New York Post letters contained compounds that did not appear in the highly milled and potent white powder that CDC was told that was found in the letters to Senators Daschle and Leahy.It may seem to be "nit picking" to complain about the term "compounds", but it's my understanding that the media letters contained "sporulation debris", which is very different from a "compound", which implies chemicals. (Note: I'm still hunting for this report to confirm that is what it actually says. It may be an EPA report.)
Plus, three years after the attack, they still use the term "milled" to mean that there were no large clumps, even though top experts have said the attack anthrax was not "milled". The fact that there were no solid clumps in the Senate powder was because of the nature of the materal, not because of any milling.
4. On page 46 it says,
although CDC asked the FBI for information on the size of the spores in the Daschle letter ...Anthrax spores only come in one size. Hopefully, the CDC knew that. So, the question was - or should have been - about the size of particles, not the size of spores. It's critical to understand the diffence between spores and particles,
5. ... because the same paragraph includes this:
According to the testimony of the Commanding General of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command before the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs on October 31, 2001, the Army Institute's analyses revealed particles ranging from single spores to aggregates of spores up to 100 microns or more in diameter. Furthermore, the spores had a "propensity to pulverize".There's no way a spore will "pulverize". It was the larger clumps or particles which "pulverized", i.e., they fell apart into single spores at the slightest touch.
In summary, there was a lot of bad information in circulation prior to the anthrax attacks about particles, spore sizes, compounds, milling and reaerosolization, and that bad information helped cause the delays in proper responses after the discovery that anthrax had been sent through the mails. So, it's important to both clear confusion about terms and to use proper terminology. Sometimes it may be okay to say, "It may not be totally right, but it's close enough for government work." But this isn't one of those times.
September 27-28, 2004 - A different kind of anthrax-related "October surprise" may be coming up. Or maybe not. The word is that Gary Matsumoto's new book, an exposé about problems with the anthrax vaccine used on troops in Iraq, may or may not be published on October 19th. According to Publisher's Weekly, the book now has the title "Vaccine A: The Covert Government Experiment That's Killing American Soldiers", and it was originally scheduled for publication by Basic Books last week. But earlier in the year that was changed to October 19. Now there's some question as to whether October 19 will be the date. Amazon.com says October 12 is the date. Publisher's Weekly indicates that some were wondering if it will ever be published at all.
Although the book isn't about the anthrax case, it apparently goes after Bioport, which many conspiracy theorists see as one of the Big Pharma "usual suspects" in the case.
Part of Amazon.com's synopsis is as follows:
Not only have military scientists performed unethical experiments on U.S. and British soldiers; not only are they refusing to admit either the experiments or the effects they caused; not only are they continuing to use a deadly substance in experimental vaccines - this substance is being developed for use in vaccines intended for mass immunization around the globe.Hmm. A "deadly substance". I wonder if that's anything like an "unnamed additive".
September 26, 2004 - New information seems to come from odd sources these days. Last night I was watching a TV show called "Medical Investigation" (which I'd taped a while back). On it, the fictional "medical detectives" from NIH were tracking down the cause of a mysterious epidemic - which eventually turned out to be hanta virus infections. They mentioned how the virus came from re-aerosolized particles from the urine or dried droppings of mice.
Looking for further details about the hanta virus on the Net I found:
The disease is caused by a microbe found in mice droppings, and the drier they become, the more dangerous they become, because the disease is pulmonary. The tiniest particle of it breathed into the lungs replicates, and causes death in 45%Source: http://www.player-care.com/hantavir.html
The viral particles are coated with secretions from the host and, as in the case for bacteria, there may be one to many in a single droplet. The size of a single viral particle is very small (a small fraction of a µm), but infectious droplets more usually occur within a larger size range (1 to 10 µm).Source: http://depts.washington.edu/pmcenter/pmappendix7b.pdf
So, it would appear that re-aerosolization of spore-size particles is known to occur with the hanta virus. Those who think such re-aerosolization of spores is impossible without a silica coating have to rethink. Re-aerosolization is the normal way hanta-laden particles manage to infect people. There are probably many other examples in nature, too.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2004, thru Saturday, September 25, 2004
September 24, 2004 - On "The
with Jon Stewart" Wednesday night, Stewart was talking with Republican
Governor Marc Racicot, who is chairman of the campaign to relect Bush
Cheney. Stewart asked Racicot if there was some kind of "October
surprise" coming up. Racicot responded that he wasn't aware
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2004, thru Saturday, September 18, 2004
September 18, 2004 - Today marks the third "anniversary" of the day the first batch of anthrax letters - the media letters - were postmarked. But October 5 will most likely be the day the case has its "recognized" anniversary. That's the day on which Bob Stevens died, and the day the case truly became a "case". Probably not coincidentally, October 5 is also the second anniversary of Richard L. Lambert being put in charge of the case. And, again probably not coincidentally, according to Brian Ross at ABC,
The FBI has set a self-imposed Oct. 1 deadline for its agents to build a case that will stand up in court, officials said.Meanwhile, yesterday, The Genome News Network published an article that contains some interesting comments related to the anthrax case. The article says,
Anthrax is perhaps the most interesting case to date, partly because there was a real episode and because scientists have now developed a genomic model for investigating the pathogen that can be applied to other agents of biological war—and possibly help in the unsolved letters case.The article seems to be saying that the genome work and the forensic work on the anthrax case is done. The two years of effort has paid off. And, it also says,
if anthrax from a research laboratory were used in an attack today, there’s a good chance investigators would identify the source laboratory in a matter of days or weeks.However,
Although the researchers are under a court order not to talk about the anthrax case, they are cooperating with the FBI so it’s safe to assume that their new tools and information have been in the hands of investigators.And the article ambiguously concludes with this:
If their system had been in place three years ago, would the case of the letters be solved by now?"It seems"?
September 16, 2004 - It
this is going to be another week without any news about the anthrax
I've abandoned the idea of talking with First Grade school teachers
the handwriting of first graders. They "don't want to get
and I no longer feel that such discussions would "prove" anything to
who cares. The only proof people following the case would accept
would be an admission from the culprit that he used a child to write
A powder of Bacillus subtilis spores obtained from Gustafson (Plano, Texas) was used without further purification. The concentration was 7.5 X 1011 CFU/g. The spore powder was mixed with (25% silica, fumed) to facilitate aerosolization and reduce clumping.While the "silica expert" considered this article to be further "proof" that spores cannot "fly" unless coated, I considered it to be just the opposite - further proof that spores will "fly" even when not coated. The scientists did NOT coat the spores. The article says they merely MIXED the spores with fumed silica. Presumably, the fumed silica falls away when the powder is released, so that the spore will float as easily as a spore floats in nature, without the added weight of the fumed silica.
Since no one saw any "fumed silica" in the attack anthrax, this argument is really only about this one batch of simulant. But it's also about the meaning of the word "coating". If spores are simply "mixed" with fumed silica, which causes the spores to be surrounded by silica while in a container, would some people say the the spores were "coated" with fumed silica, even though that is not literally true? Could a simple question of terminology be behind an argument that has raged for over two years?
The debate kept us at each other's throats for six days. Nothing came of it ... so far.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2004, thru Saturday, September 11, 2004
September 9, 2004 - News about the anthrax case seems to have totally dried up. The motion to dismiss in the Steven case evidently still hasn't been heard. Dr. Berry has not been heard from or about. The microbial forensic test results remain unreported. The next scheduled hearing in the Dr. Hatfill case won't be until October 7.
In hopes of generating some "news" of my own, I've been trying to contact First Grade school teachers in my area to talk with them about the handwriting of first graders, but I'm getting nowhere. Evidently, they just don't want to "get involved". But I'm still working on it.
Meanwhile, I notice that the report about anthrax that came out last week was actually finished in May, was peer reviewed in July and wasn't published until September. In a movie it would all happen in less than 2 hours, but in real life things take longer.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2004, thru Saturday, September 4, 2004
September 3, 2004 - The new article on anthrax from PSAS.org turns out to be highly technical, and a quick reading found absolutely nothing of direct or immediate interest to the anthrax case. But, because it is so highly technical, it could have great significance that is totally over my head. As feared, it is just about methodology. I apologize if I raised any hopes of learning something new about the anthrax case.
September 2, 2001 - The 4 new science articles for today appeared on the Proceedings Of The National Academy of Sciences web site at around 10:45 a.m., Central Time, and the new anthrax article wasn't among them. So, the article should appear tomorrow morning. The site says:
Because PNAS publishes daily online, you may read about an article in the news media on Monday or Tuesday, but the article may not publish online until later in the week.The information released on Monday came from a Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) press release. Looking back over the release dates on the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) web site, they don't seem to release reports on Saturday or Sunday. So, tomorrow should be the day.
The timing may be a total coincidence, but I can't keep from thinking about how dramatic it would be if President Bush released some key information at the GOP convention tonight, and then the NAS released the report tomorrow morning. But that's just too much like a movie plot. And, there's no solid reason to believe that the report contains anything truly dramatic about the anthrax case ... although, if one assumes that the report was given to Dr. Hatfill's lawyers before it was peer reviewed and it prompted the lawsuit against Kristof and The New York Times .... or if it expains what is meant by "a third party" in the motion to dismiss the Maureen Stevens lawsuit ...
It's going to be a big disappointment for me if the report is just about methodology and doesn't provide any new information directly related to the anthrax case.
August 31, 2004 - Yesterday, www.eurekalert.org announced that some essential work on the DNA of Bacillus anthracis has been completed. "The results are scheduled for publication online this week by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences." When the report is released, hopefully we'll also see some "experts" analyze what the new information may mean to the anthrax case.
According to the paper's senior author Dr. Paul Keim:
"This work now provides the raw material for highly specific and sensitive tests for anthrax in human cases, animal cases and within the environment. Specific and sensitive tests for this pathogen are needed for effective bio-defense and forensic investigation into previous events."If those "specific and sensitive tests" were needed for the "previous event" known as the anthrax case, hopefully we'll now learn a lot more - particularly which lab supplied the anthrax. It's doubtful that the upcoming paper will actually name the lab, but it should describe how evidence can be identified and classified:
TIGR's scientists sequenced the genomes of five isolates, or strains, of anthrax and then compared the results of each sequence to detect minute variations (SNPs). TGen and NAU researchers used that data to develop a typing, or identification, system for various anthrax strains.And in addition to the new identification system, the scientists will be able to testify in court as to exactly how scientifically reliable the findings are:
The SNPs described in this work were highly stable. Only one SNP was not entirely stable across the entire study, which means that diagnostic and forensic tests developed using this information will have extremely low false positive, or misidentification rates, a crucial criterion for advanced tests.Some of what the report may show may be far too technical for me to understand, but I'll be looking forward to reading more about what this means:
The work also shows for the first time that how researchers "discover" DNA fingerprints is crucial to what they can be used for.And this:
This study shows that diverse strains of pathogens will not be recognized unless they are contained within the scope for the discovery process.It seems to mean that if they hadn't done things the way they did them, the information could not be used in court. Or it could mean something totally different. I'll be looking forward to seeing what the experts say about the significance of this report.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2004, thru Saturday, August 28, 2004
August 22, 2004 - Each morning I hope there is some breaking news on anthrax so the case can be wrapped up (and so I can add it to this site), but on Sunday mornings it's a real need because people start to come to this web site looking for what's new in the anthrax case for the week. If there is nothing new to report by Wednesday, they begin to wonder if I'm on vacation or if I've been arrested by the FBI because I "know too much". In reality, it just means that there has been no news.
The only new report I can find today is from a columnist at The New York Daily News who feels that all the new work being done to "protect us from bioweapons" is making the world a more dangerous place, not a safer place. That's not a new idea, but it definitely comes up again and again and worries a lot of people. It worried people at the BTWC in July of 2001, and it worries them today.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2004, thru Saturday, August 21, 2004
August 20, 2004 - A report in today's Los Angeles Times could wholy or partially explain why the FBI was at USAMRIID in late July. "'Sloppy' researchers and 'disorganized' labs" are just the type of thing that could destroy an otherwise solid legal case.
August 19, 2004 - Although it's been known at least since the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review printed it on Sunday that Dr. Berry was going to take a leave from his job at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center at McKeesport until Nov. 8, when his contract there ends, that news was turned into back page headlines yesterday in Newsday and many other newspapers around the country. The fact that Dr. Berry evidently lost his job (at least in part) because of the FBI investigation, is another comparison people are making to the troubles suffered by Dr. Hatfill.
Meanwhile, The Fox News Channel yesterday reported some new details about the FBI's search of labs and files at USAMRIID in July. They say that
FBI agents carried out at least three coolers from the building where the dangerous bacteria is storedAnd,
at least four scientists affiliated with Fort Detrick were asked to testify before a grand jury, in Washington, earlier this summer.But it's difficult to determine what it was all about. While those who think Dr. Hatfill is the culprit believe otherwise, the USAMRIID investigation seems to have been more about procedures than about identifying any specific culprit:
In addition, FOX News has learned some scientists at USAMRIID were questioned about the data in their lab notebooks, which include the toxic agents, procedures and personnel present for all experiments.And, of course, the motion to dismiss in the Maureen Stevens lawsuit has not yet been heard in court, which is another unresolved question in the mix.
The Fox News Channel also said this:
The FBI considers the anthrax investigation its most complex ever.A "complex" case requires solid facts or a jury will be confused instead of convinced. So, while the investigation may be "complex", let's hope that the findings (if or when they become known) will turn out to be straightforward and convincing.
To make matters even more "complex", today The Danbury (CT) News Times gave all the conspiracy theorists something to chew on besides the fact that Dr. Berry's parents lived only 20 miles from anthrax victim Ottilie Lundgren. Click HERE for details.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
August 8, 2004,
thru Saturday, August 14, 2004
August 14, 2004 - Since this web site has supplemental pages filled with details about Dr. Hatfill and the "campaign" to have him investigated for the anthrax attacks even though Dr. Hatfill appears to be totally innocent and uninvolved, I felt compelled to put together a new supplemental page about "The Dr. Kenneth Berry Investigation" in which I compile and analyze all the information I've been able to find about Dr. Berry.
While I don't think Dr. Berry was directly involved with the anthrax attacks of 2001, it seems possible that he may know something or may know someone who was involved. (He may not even know what it is he "knows" if the FBI hasn't told him whom they suspect in the case.)
Unfortunately, unlike Dr. Hatfill where all the "evidence" his accusers were using against him turned out to be totally bogus, with Dr. Berry the "evidence" seems very vague, mostly unverified and definitely open to many interpretations. Hopefully, the new supplemental page provides an objective look at the facts as well as an analysis of what it all might mean if other facts about the case are also correctly interpreted.
August 12, 2004 - In today's Lawrence, Kansas, Journal-World, Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), says she's convinced the attacker will be caught. She says the FBI's work into the attacks is still "extremely active." And she is quoted as saying, "There is certainly a great deal of activity going on in the investigative front as well as on the microbiology front. I think we need to stay tuned on that whole investigation."
Sounds like a plan.
Meanwhile, I'm going through all the recent articles about Dr. Berry line by line to see if I missed anything. It's clear each reporter has his or her own idea of what is important, and, as a result, one has to read everything to get the whole picture. The most interesting new tidbit I missed on earlier readings is a single sentence from the August 8 issue of The Wellsville Daily Reporter:
Dr. Berry's wife allegedly gave a cell phone to the FBI while cooperating with the investigation which started a feud.So, the fight that resulted in Dr. Berry getting arrested for assault didn't really start as an argument over a cell phone (i.e., not sharing or talking to the wrong people on it), as most newspapers suggested, it evidently started because Dr. Berry's wife cooperated with the FBI andgave them a cell phone. Because she did that, "Three of the family members were treated for injuries" from being struck or knocked down by Dr. Berry.
August 10, 2004 - While the Dr. Berry story seems to have ended as suddenly as it began, local media outlets where Dr. Berry lived are still trying to figure out what it was all about while expressing outrage over the treatment of Dr. Berry. Buried in their articles are tiny tidbits of new information:
Today's Wellsville Daily Reporter reports:
On Thursday, Dr. Berry and his family went to breakfast in New Jersey. When they returned, the FBI was searching the summer home.Today's Times Herald reports:
Dr. Berry reportedly was held by the FBI for a time for questioning Thursday, but was later released.And WGRZ-TV reports:
Colletta says the FBI has been talking to her since last fall and made copies of her computer hard drives. "They are only seeking the truth," she says.They say that "true knowledge is in the details", but I'm not sure exactly what these details mean.
August 8, 2004 - The flood of information about the investigation of Dr. Kenneth Berry is beginning to slow, so there's now time to try to analyze it. Some key statements in today's New Jersey Star-Ledger seem to fit a pattern:
Berry became a born-again Christian at age 14, according to his father, William, and spent some time in a seminary. Berry was drawn to medicine after volunteering in a Danbury, Conn., hospital....
"I remember he would go on and on about bioterrorism defense and, specifically, it was the anthrax threat," Mary Colletta said in an interview Friday at her home....
Colletta said FBI agents visited her home Thursday and they spoke again by phone Friday. She would not discuss those conversations. But she said she handed over a taped speech, a Berry tribute to her common-law husband in which Berry made some "bizarre statements about the government."...
Mary Colletta said that at first, she and her husband dismissed Berry's passionate talk about bioterrorism. But soon it became clear Berry was "on a mission."So, we have a man "on a mission" to awaken America to the dangers of bioterrorism. But he's also a man who has no known access to Ames anthrax, no known capability to produce the powder found in the Senate letters, and no known associates who had such access or capability. In short, he's "a fellow traveler", someone who believed as many other concerned scientists believed, and someone who may have been contacted at some point in time by either the anthrax supplier or the refiner/mailer. But, if he was contacted at all, it would most likely have been to determine if he would be willing to participate in "Plan A". There seems no reason so far to believe that he was connected in any way to "Plan B", i.e., the actual anthrax attacks via the U.S. mails.
According to today's Buffalo News, Berry mentioned the investigation to his daughter Nicole months ago (possibly last year):
"He told me he was under stress because he was being investigated by the FBI" and that the investigation might have been prompted because, "in his line of work, he may know people who have access to anthrax."
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
August 1, 2004,
thru Saturday, August 7, 2004
August 7, 2004 - A clearer picture of the Dr. Berry events may be emerging out of the fog of "breaking news". I'll be spending the day trying to sort it out. Here's what it says in The (New Jersey) Times this morning:
Berry's father, William C. Berry, told The Star-Ledger of Newark that his son and Hatfill know each other. Berry's Web site says he presented a bioterrorism paper at Fort Detrick in January 1997.And here is what it says in the Star-Ledger this morning (a newspaper which is owned by the same company that owns The (NJ) Times):
Berry said he erred in an earlier interview when he said his son knew Steven J. Hatfill, another medical doctor investigated by the FBI in the anthrax case.The two papers also give a slightly conflicting picture of how the FBI searchs relate to the assault arrest. Today's New York Post seems to straighten things out. They say,
Jersey cops had no idea Berry was a federal target until they found the search warrant in his pocket — and Berry blurted out his declaration of innocence.From that, and the fact that the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review says that the FBI was already questioning Dr. Berry's neighbors months ago, it would appear that the FBI's searches were going on in secret, and only after Dr. Berry was arrested for assault did it become public knowledge.
Today's Star-Ledger also has all the details about the assault charges.
But what may be most interesting - if true - is a report from KDKA yesterday that the FBI considers Dr. Berry to be a material witness. That would make a lot of sense at this point in time if the FBI is wrapping up the case. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find any other source which confirms that Dr. Berry is a "material witness", but my working hypothesis has always had an opening for someone to play the role of "The speaker" in "Plan A".
Several hours after the searches began, Dr. Berry was arrested at the White Sands Oceanfront Resort and Spa in Point Pleasant, N.J., on four counts of simple domestic assault after the Point Pleasant police said he punched his girlfriend and her daughter.And,
Dr. Berry is the founder and chief executive of Preempt, an organization that advocates specialized training for medical professionals to respond to chemical and biological attacks. His organization's Web site describes him as an expert on bioterrorism and a consultant to the Pentagon on unconventional weapons.He seems like the type who might get involved in a plot to awaken America to the dangers of bioweapons, but he also seems the type who would have many enemies and a person who people might point at as being a likely suspect in the case. I've found nothing so far that links him to any source of anthrax, but NBC has some rumors about his expertise:
Sources told NBC 10 that he does have some expertise in anthrax. Sources say he was given a polygraph test and it came back inconclusive.Plus, the New York Post says:
Law enforcement sources said Berry was on a list of a handful of people who had access to labs capable of producing the anthrax used in the 2001 attacks.If true, he's been on the "person of interest" list for some time. Yet, I don't really see any reason to think he had the expertise to make the anthrax powder. So, if he was involved at all, it would seem most likely he was just a "connection" of some kind.
It's also important to note that several news outlets have indicated that this is an effort by the FBI to clear up "loose ends". According to the New York Daily News:
Four federal sources told the Daily News that Berry is not the main focus of the FBI's 2001 "Amerithrax" probe.Unfortunately, there could be very familiar aspects to all this. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports:
Berry's father, William C. Berry, told The Star-Ledger of Newark that his son and Hatfill know each other. Berry's Web site says he presented a bioterrorism paper at Fort Detrick in January 1997.Since Dr. Hatfill and Dr. Berry seemed to have similar thinking regarding bioweapons, it seems likely that they would know each other.
I don't find any reference in the Star-Ledger to Hatfill and Berry knowing each other, but the Star-Ledger does say this:
The father described Berry as exhausted and upset. He said his son has been interviewed before by the FBI because of his counterterror expertise.Three years? Presumably that would mean they think he's more than just someone who knows Dr. Hatfill. But I can't see any reason to think he's the culprit. At most, I can only see a possible connection to some true suspect in some way. Or, at worst, it's all just another Maryland pond type exercise as a result of a "tip".
August 5, 2004 - While working out at the health club this afternoon, Fox News was on TV and they began talking about anthrax-case-related searches going on "near" Buffalo, New York, and "in" Newark, New Jersey. When I got home, I learned that both searches were connected to someone I'd never heard of before: Dr. Kenneth Berry. The search in Wellsville, NY, is or was his home, and the search in Lavallette, NJ, is evidently his former summer home. The most informative reports so far are from Reuters, the Associated Press and NBC. What it all means is a mystery to me, but if I had to make a wild-ass guess, I'd say that Dr. Berry might be connected in some way to either the anthrax "supplier" or the "refiner/mailer".
Interestingly, it appears that Dr. Berry filed for a patent ten days after the first anthrax letters were mailed. The patent (#6,710,711) was for a "Method for identifying chemical, biological and nuclear attacks or hazards". It could just be that someone made that connection and saw something sinister in it, so the FBI is now checking him out. Who knows? Also, someone sent me an e-mail that says in December of 1999 Dr. Berry was implicated in a forgery scheme involving the last will and testiment of another doctor. Another piece to a puzzle that makes little sense so far.
Mostly this just further indicates to me is that things are really heating up. If this is somehow related to the findings from the microbial forensics tests, then my guess is that they know which lab supplied the anthrax, and now it's a matter of proving how it got from that lab to the lab where it was turned into a lethal powder. But that's just speculation. I could be totally wrong.
August 4, 2004 - While waiting for some indication of when or if the test results will be released showing which lab supplied the attack anthrax, I mentioned on a forum that I had a discussion with Michael Mason a couple weeks ago. Michael Mason is the Assistant Director of the FBI in charge of the Washington Field Office and the boss over Richard L. Lambert, who is in direct charge of the Amerithrax investigation.
I'd contacted Assistant Director Mason to see if he would clarify his role in the investigation. In Richard L. Lambert's Nov. 21, 2003, affidavit in the Hatfill lawsuit, Lambert had stated:
I am a Special Agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). I entered on duty with the FBI in July 1988. I have been a Special Agent for over 15 years. My education consists of a Bachelor's degree, Master's Degree in Political Science, Master's Degree in Public Administration and Doctor of Jurisprudence Degree. I am licensed to practice law in the State of Texas. Before entering on duty with the FBI, I practiced law in Austin, Texas. Since entering on duty with the FBI I served as a white collar and violent crime investigator in the St. Louis Field Office; as a Supervisory Special Agent in the Legal Counsel Division and Office of Professional Responsibility at FBI Headquarters; as Supervisory Special Agent of an Organized Crime/Drug Squad in the Norfolk Field Office; as an Assistant Inspector in the Inspection Division at FBI Headquarters; and as an Assistant Special Agent in Charge of counterterrorism and foreign counterintelligence matters in the San Diego Field Office. Since October 5, 2002, I have been assigned as the Inspector in Charge of the joint FBI/U.S. Postal Inspection Service investigation known as "AMERITHRAX".So, Lambert took charge of the Amerithrax investigation on October 5, 2002, exactly one year after the case began. Did that mean he reported directly to Director Mueller? On July 22, 2004, I asked Michael Mason, and he responded:
The Amerithrax investigation was originally being handle by my immediate predecessor [Van Harp] who was the Assistant Director in Charge of the Washington Field Office. He has been retired for approximately 18 months. The case was reassigned to an Inspector-in-Charge by the Director as, by then, a quick resolution was not in the picture. A newly promoted inspector assured a level of continuity. Inspector Lambert reports to me, however, he and I also meet with the Director on a regular basis. This investigation is of the highest priority to the Director and you would be surprised by his level of detailed knowledge regarding this investigation.I found it very interesting that this transfer of responsibility for the Amerithrax investigation took place without any notice by the media (or at least I've been unable to find any reference to the transfer anywhere). However, it made sense that the FBI would turn the case over to someone who could carry on after Van Harp retired.
The main reason I wondered about the chain of command was because Assistant Director Mason had expressed some very unencouraging comments about the case in an interview with the Washington Times back in February, yet Lambert seemed very encouraging in his affidavit. When I mentioned the disparity to Mason, he responded:
Contrary to what you may think, I have a great deal of confidence in this investigation.He also said,
I have to say that your perceptions involve far more "cloak and dagger" innuendo than exists in this case. I think that the truth would sometimes bore the public to death.The comment about boring the public to death generated the most discussion on the forum. The forum participants couldn't see how anything about the case would bore anyone. But the forum consists of people who are totally fascinated (if not obsessed) by the case and who definitely do NOT represent the general public. My experience with the "general public" is that unless there is an arrest, there's been "no change". Any details about complex DNA tests which take months to verify and which may or may not indicate a connection to the attack anthrax would definitely "bore the public to death". Mortgage payments and getting the kids to school on time are vastly more important.
Nothing in my discussion with Assistant Director Mason changed my view that the FBI has known since the fall of 2001 who committed the crime, but making a solid case that can be taken to court is what is occupying the time of the FBI agents involved.
Meanwhile, I continue to look for clues as to what is going on. Does item 16e in the Hatfill lawsuit indicate that Hatfill's lawyers have seen the forensic test results? Why else would they say Kristof made a false statement when he wrote:
that Dr. Hatfill was one of a "handful" of individuals who had the "ability, access and motive to send the anthrax."More than a "handful" had the ability, access and motive? Who says? I've been saying that for a long time, but when was it proven? Was it proven in the test results?
People tell me I'm "reading too much into such things", but I see it as "finding clues". And that's what this web site is all about. Time will tell if I'm right or wrong.
One last quote from Assistant Director Mason. He wrote me:
I look forward to the day when all that we have done can be revealed.My response to that comment was "You and me both!"
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, July
thru Saturday, July 31, 2004
July 25, 2004 - Current discussions about the anthrax case have boiled down to the meaning of this sentence in yesterday's Palm Beach Post:
In arguing against exceptions claimed by the family, the government argues that it had no particular duty of care toward Stephens in operating the laboratory, and that it did not have any duty to prevent the attack, which was carried out by a third party.The government may not have had any duty to prevent the attack, but they did have a duty to keep dangerous bacteria secure in their labs. But they wouldn't have any such duty if the anthrax came from a non-government lab.
While there may be a lot of hidden meaning between the lines of that one sentence, the biggest argument is over the significance of one word: "was". The attack "was carried out by a third party". It was? Who says? When was that determined!? That part of the sentence seems to say that they know who did it, and it was not a government employee nor anyone involved in a conspiracy with a government employee.
It doesn't help that the reporter didn't even know how to spell "Stevens" correctly. Did he also use words and phases which weren't in the actual motion?
My feeling is that the results of the scientific examination of the attack spores are complete and the results are about to be published. I hope I'm right.
One point came out in the discussions about publishing the test results: If the culprit is not Dr. Hatfill, unimpeachable scientific findings about the source and nature of the anthrax powder would be absolutely essential order to get the scientific community on the right track so that the arrest(s) won't appear to be totally out of the blue and baseless. A lot of scientists have firm opinions about the case that only solid evidence can change. If that evidence is from respected scientists in a form (such as a written report) which other scientists can study for themselves, then many minds may be changed.
We've seen many scientists point the finger at Dr. Hatfill and at suspected secret and illegal bioweapons programs. What we don't need is to have a huge mob of scientists declaring that the real culprit has been falsely accused as some kind of coverup.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, July
thru Saturday, July 24, 2004
July 24, 2004 - The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported today that the 6-month deadline in the Maureen Stevens case ends this coming Monday - two days from now. That answers one question that many have been asking for a long time.
The report also says:
Justice Department lawyers filed a motion Thursday asking Hurley to throw the suit out.The Palm Beach Post gives the reasoning behind the motion in their Police Blotter section, which indicates how low down on the priority list news about the anthrax case has fallen. The single paragraph includes this information:
the government argues that it had no particular duty of care toward Stephens in operating the laboratory, and that it did not have any duty to prevent the attack, which was carried out by a third party. The government has asked for a hearing on the motion to be set.So, things are going to be dragged out awhile longer. Presumably, the government will not have to present evidence that the attack was carried out by a "third party". But will the Judge rule without such evidence? Stay tuned.
July 21, 2004 - Scott Shane of The Baltimore Sun gave his opinion today in a new article about the closing of labs at Ft. Detrick. He even quotes Henry Niman who operates the forum where we routinely discuss the anthrax case. Niman is firm in his beliefs that Dr. Hatfill is the culprit, and, to my amusement, he has probably told me "You remain forever clueless" several hundred times. But the article includes an interesting fact (or "clue") in addition to the standard opinions and speculations regarding Dr. Hatfill:
In recent months, FBI agents have seized medical records and computer hard drives from the institute, causing friction with Fort Detrick officials, according to a source in contact with the Army institute's scientists.This would tend to indicate that whatever the FBI may be doing probably has more to do with allegations by Dr. Assaad that "there was a 'long history' at Fort Detrick of people pilfering 'anthrax and everything'" (from the Washington Post) and allegations from "a former army official" that "vials of anthrax were missing was public knowledge back in 1991" (from The Frederick (MD) Gazette).
Dr. Hatfill stopped working at Ft. Detrick in 1999, more than two years before the anthrax attacks, and we know that the anthrax spores were no more than two years old when they were mailed (and most likely only a few hours or days old). So, linking Dr. Hatfill to the current activities at Ft. Detrick is evidently just wishful thinking on the part of theorists who have a vested interest in finding Dr. Hatfill guilty.
Any case against the real suspect could depend upon clearing up all the rumors and allegations about security at Ft. Detrick - or at least making them irrelevant to the case.
Meanwhile, Brian Ross at ABC (another individual with a vested interest in finding Dr. Hatfill guilty) says that the FBI has set an internal deadline on the case - Oct. 1, 2004. I'm not certain what that would mean even if it were true.
But it seems clear that the work at Ft. Detrick won't take until Oct. 1. They started work on Friday, indicating that they didn't want to disrupt regular operations any more than necessary by working over the weekend, and, according to Scott Shane,
Debra Weierman, a spokeswoman for the FBI's Washington field office, said agents would be at the labs "for a few more days."July 20, 2004 - Fox News reported today that the Amerithrax investigation has taken over some sections of USAMRIID. The reason and the significance of this action are unknown at this time, but all the people who think Dr. Hatfill is the culprit are wetting their pants with excitement because they see it as further "proof" of their beliefs. The Associated Press also picked up on the news, which means it's being repeated nearly everywhere.
Meanwhile, those who have been saying that the FBI doesn't have a clue who did it and are just going through motions seem to be changing their minds.
To me it's another indicator that the case is about to break wide open in some way.
July 18, 2004 - Today's Washington Post contains an article which rehashes the anthrax case from the Post's point of view. To them, the "focus" of the investigation is still in the area of Ft. Detrick and Frederick, MD, and therefore probably still upon Dr. Hatfill. The article brings up one odd recent event: FBI agents evidently sat down with some elementary schoolers (and some adults) a couple months ago to ask if anyone knew whether "a certain blue-gray shaded envelope had been sold in the area."
Since the anthrax envelopes were not "blue-gray shaded", it's uncertain what they were looking for. But it could be that the FBI was talking about the envelope sent to authorities in September of 2001 which contained a letter accusing Dr. Ayaad Assaad of being a potential terrorist. No photos of that envelope have ever been made public.
The Post article also has some comments about the continuing scientific investigation:
The efforts in the Frederick area are being made as authorities try to finalize complex lab tests in hopes of tracing the anthrax to its point of origin. Scientists are hoping to match the gene sequence of the mailed anthrax or a contaminant found inside it to samples collected across the country and overseas, according to law enforcement authorities and other sources.Unfortunately, the Post doesn't seem to realize that everyone now knows (or should know) that "sources and scientists" can be found to support almost any position or theory regarding the anthrax case. So, comments by "sources and scientists" are no more trustworthy than comments by unnamed "law enforcement authorities and other sources".
I'm still hoping that the Maureen Stevens case will force the issue in some way, and, even if the FBI still hasn't yet completed its tests, I'm hoping that a person with an actual name - like FBI Special Agent Richard L. Lambert, chief of the joint FBI-U.S. Postal Inspection Service investigation - will supply an affidavit explaining the situation.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, July
thru Saturday, July 17, 2004
July 17, 2004 - Someone pointed out that Nicolas Kristof was already consulting with Barbara Hatch Rosenberg regarding Dr. Hatfill when on January 4, 2002, he wrote an OP/ED piece for the New York Times titled "Profile Of A Killer". The first sentence of the piece was:
I think I know who sent out the anthrax last fall.And he explains:
How do I know all this? Well, I don't exactly. But talk to the people in the spooky world of bio-terror awhile, sop up the gossip and theories, and as you put the clues together -- as bio-terror experts and F.B.I. officials are now doing -- a hazy picture seems to come into focus. It's not a certainty but an educated guess, circulating among many who know their business.Ah! Gossip was the "evidence" used to ruin a man's life. "An educated guess" was enough to initiate a seven month campaign to point blame at an innocent man. Of course. If it fits a political agenda, why not?
Also, the explanation for how Dr. Hatfill's lawyers got around the statute of limitations seems to have been resolved. It's a peculiarity in Virginia law. As stated in the lawsuit, "On or about June 18, 2003, Dr. Hatfill filed suit stating the claims here at issue against these defendants in Fairfax County Circuit Court." Evidently, that fulfilled all the requirements of the statute.
It appears that Hatfill's lawyers then voluntarily "unsuited" the lawsuit. I.e., they withdrew it. But, under Virginia law, they had filed during the 1-year time frame, and the fact that they withdrew the suit does not change that. They were free to file again later. One correspondent calls this "legal three card monte". I find it fascinating - and hilarious. I just love movies when the corporate bad guys get zinged unexpectedly by a sharp lawyer representing some "little guy".
Information about "unsuiting" a case in Virginia can be found HERE. Here's what it says:
4. WHAT IS A NON-SUIT?There is more information HERE. Here's what it says:
"....plaintiff's attorneys frequently file "shadow suits" against non-target defendants, particularly in medical malpractice cases. In almost every instance, these shadow suits are never served and are dismissed without the defendant ever even being aware that he has been sued. The reason for the shadow suits, as I understand it, is that plaintiff's counsel is not completely certain that he has the right defendants in his "main action," and wants to have a separate suit out there in case his main action faces problems. Because medical malpractice cases can take several years to resolve, particularly if the panel proceedings are delayed, the necessity of shadow suits is more important than the small problem with cases that are filed but never servced and then nonsuited when the failure to obtain service is raised.Another corresondent gave this opinion:
It's amazing to me that reporters never picked up on the filing in state court. Another sign that reporters no longer practice Journalism 101 and check their local courthouse for new lawsuits every day. Reporters can't seem to find a story anymore unless it's wrapped up in a neat package with a press release and sound bite - or unless it's something leaked to them by the FBI or some other "official" source. Most reporters are just too f**king lazy to do real reporting anymore, [...]. They need to get off their asses and pound the pavement to find news, not wait for it to come to them.I love it! I love it! What other "shadow suits" were filed? Time will tell. Why file the real suits now? Time will tell. I can't wait until the next installment of this drama!
July 14, 2004 - One of the long-awaited "other shoes" was dropped when Dr. Steven J. Hatfill filed a lawsuit against The New York Times and New York Times' columnist Nicholas D. Kristof, charging them with defamation. According to today's The Washington Post,
He accused Kristof of hurling "false and defamatory" allegations and the Times of engaging in "substandard and unethical journalism.''Also,
"The problem here is not simply defamation. It is defamation plus the arrogance of power,'' [Hatfill's lawyer, Victor M.] Glasberg said in an interview, adding that the Times's role as "the most distinguished daily newspaper in America" ensured that Hatfill's reputation would be harmed.Since Kristof's columns pointing at "Mr. Z" (a.k.a. Dr. Hatfill) were printed in mid-2002, questions about the statute of limitations abound in discussions of the new lawsuit. But evidently Dr. Hatfill's lawyers have found a way around that since they say in the lawsuit, "The instant case is filed within all relevant statutory periods of limitation."
What's most puzzling to me is the timing. Why now? Is there something else in the works? Do they have advance information about the FBI's microbial forensic findings in the anthrax investigation? I certainly hope so.
I haven't yet found a .pdf version of the lawsuit, but Ross Getman (who still believes al Qaeda sent the anthrax) has a text copy at the end of his comments HERE.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, July
thru Saturday, July 10, 2004
July 7, 2004 - Late yesterday, the Associated Press reported that the Justice Department provided U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton with the update on the anthrax investigation he had requested as a result of delays in the Dr. Hatfill lawsuit, and the information was then returned to the Justice Department vaults. There was no comment on what the information contained. But the people who regularly discuss and dissect the anthrax case feel they were being talked about in this sentence:
Disclosing such information would provide "a voyeur's window" into the investigation, Lambert saidThe only tidbit of information provided to the "voyeurs" was a repeat of something already well known. The AP article says:
FBI Director Robert Mueller has said the investigation, dubbed "Amerithrax," is focused on scientific tests to learn how the anthrax was made and who might have been capable of making it.Meanwhile, the 6-month delay in the Maureen Stevens lawsuit is evidently still nearing its end. While the government said it expected to complete some tests in June, it should be noted that the 6-month delay was requested in late January, and, no matter how you look at it, any 6-month delay which began in January would end in July and not in June. Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, no specific date has been set for the next hearing in the Stevens case. In Florida, "June" evidently means "June-ish", meaning June, July or thereabouts.
July 4, 2004 - In today's Baltimore Sun, Scott Shane reports that the anthrax used in the attacks of 2001 has a "very distinct signature". It's evidently "a mix of two slightly different samples", which should make it easier to match to a specific source.
However, these are not yet official findings. Scott Shane's report is based upon information obtained from "two non-government experts who have been told of the finding". That puts the information into the "leak" category, which is only slightly above the "rumor" category. But it's certainly a relief to see that the subject is once again in the news. It's been a long time since there was anything "new" to evaluate.
Basically, the article seems to be all about the attack anthrax being a mixture of two batches and the significance of that finding. The Sun article says:
That might mean part of the original sample was removed from a freezer and grown for a period of days, allowing very slight genetic mutations, and then recombined with the original sampleThis appears to be a fairly unusual practice. (I can see where having a "mixed batch" could invalidate certain kinds of scientific findings.) Evidently, the standard practice is to take a cryo-tube of anthrax from a freezer, to cause it all to vegetate, and to replace the cryo-tube with a fresh or cleaned cryo-tube filled with new anthrax from the new batch.
I'm gathering that in this situation it appears that someone took a cryo-tube of anthrax from a freezer, scraped out a portion of it, grew more anthrax from that portion, and then replaced the portion in the cryo-tube with anthrax from the new batch. And, evidently, some time later he used the entire cryo-tube of mixed anthrax to make another batch - the batch which produced the powder sent to Senators Daschle and Leahy.
To me, that would mean that the culprit probably had only one cryo-tube of Ames to work with. Possibly a stolen sample.
I think it would be extremely interesting to know if the New York Post anthrax is ALSO a mixture of two batches.
If it is not, then the scenario I see is as follows:
1. Shortly after 9/11 the culprit takes out the stolen cryo-tube of Ames he obtained some time prior (possibly a few days prior, possibly a year or two prior).
2. Uncertain if the anthrax is still viable, he uses only a portion of it to see it if will germinate. It does. He makes a new batch of vegetating Ames anthrax.
3. He then replaces what he took from the cryo-tube with material from the new batch he's made.
4. He then makes the media powder and mails it out.
5. He then returns the cryo-tube to its hiding place in case he might need it again.
6. When nothing comes of the first mailing (except one death which is being attributed to "possibly natural causes"), he again takes out the cryo-tube of Ames and uses its entire contents to make a new batch - the mixed batch.
7. Since he's afraid of getting caught, he uses the entire new batch for the Senate mailing, cleans up after himself, and leaves no trace of what he's done. (Or he put a fresh sample into a very secure place.)
The validity of this scenario depends upon one simple question: Is the New York Post anthrax also mixed?
However, even if the Post powder is also from a "mixed batch", it still seems much more likely that the mixing was done by the refiner/mailer than by scientists at the source lab.
The most likely reason for the "mixed batch" seems to be that there was a need to test the viability of the sample, and when the sample proved to be viable, the half-empty cryo-tube was refilled with newly grown bacteria.
No really important questions have yet been answered. But the fact that we're starting to get leaks and/or rumors is very encouraging. It means that something significant may happen soon.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, June
thru Saturday, July 3, 2004
June 30, 2004 - In an incident which seems totally unrelated to the anthrax case, the Associated Press reported yesterday that Steven Kurtz, a University at Buffalo professor, and Robert Ferrell, chairman of the University of Pittsburgh's Human Genetics Department, were charged in a four-count indictment involving the illegal transfer of harmful bacteria. And the transfer evidently took place very recently, since the discovery of the bacteria in a home lab happened in last month.
The article says that Kurtz intended to use the material in "an art project". One of the materials found was Bacillus globigii, which is best known for being used as an anthrax simulant. The types of "art projects" he was involved with are described:
Kurtz is a founding member of the Critical Art Ensemble, which has used human DNA and other bio-materials in works meant to draw attention to political and social issues, such as genetically altered foods.A scientist buying harmful bacteria for friend to use to draw attention to some social issue? After that, would it seem so strange for a scientist to turn over anthrax to another scientist for use in a "demonstration" about the dangers of bioterrorism?
June 27, 2004 - With only a few days left in the month of June, it seems time to review information about what is expected to happen this week and next.
Back at the end of March, The Washington Post reported:
Authorities said they expect to get results in June from a sophisticated battery of tests, which the FBI hopes will identify the laboratory that produced the anthrax used in mailings that killed five people and sickened 17 others in the fall of 2001. The tainted letters were mailed to media and government offices.Judge Reggie B. Walton stated in March: "I know there are going to be some events occurring in the near future." Presumably, the "near future" is about now, since, according to The Baltimore Sun, it was only "with reluctance" that Judge Walton put off the bulk of Dr. Hatfill's lawsuit until October 7.
On July 6, Judge Walton will get a private briefing "on the investigation's progress" to determine if things are going as expected, an indicator that he expects some results to be announced before then.
The "related anthrax case" mentioned in the Washington Post article is the Maureen Stevens lawsuit. Back in January, The Palm Beach Post reported that Richard Lambert had filed a motion before Federal Judge Daniel T.K. Hurley requesting a six-month delay in the Maureen Stevens lawsuit, and then for an opportunity to review whether another delay is necessary.
In an affidavit attached to the motion, Lambert, said that the investigation has yielded "subjects of the investigation" and said that a "specific forensic signature is continuing to emerge which characterizes the anthrax used in the attacks."
Things evidently move a lot slower in Florida, since on March 11 the Associated Press was reporting that Judge Hurley had still not ruled on the government's motion. The Feds offered to show Judge Hurley some "confidential" and "sensitive" information to help him make his decision. He agreed to take a look. Yet, it wasn't until April 28 that the Associated Press was finally able to report that Judge Hurley had agreed to delay the Stevens case "until June", which, fortunately, meant the six month delay was retroactive to January. However, the media didn't report that any specific date was set for the next hearing.
So, will something happen this week? Stay tuned. Maureen Stevens' attorney Richard Schuler and many others predict that the government will simply ask for another delay. But there still might be some news even if further delays are requested. Requests for court delays require explanations.
It's also important to note that Maureen Stevens' lawsuit basically claims that the U.S. government was careless in handling anthrax and allowed some to be stolen. It implies that the anthrax was stolen as a result of inadequate security and then later used in the anthrax attacks which killed Bob Stevens. Since the government has been saying that it is getting close to identifying the source of the attack anthrax, if that source turns out to be a lab other than USAMRIID or Dugway (as I suspect it will), the source would almost certainly be a non-government lab, making the Stevens lawsuit untenable.
On the other hand, determination of the source of the anthrax should have little effect on the Hatfill lawsuit. But if it turns out the anthrax didn't come from USAMRIID, all those who still believe Dr. Hatfill is the culprit will be forced to do some creative rationalizing.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, June
thru Saturday, June 26, 2004
June 23, 2004 - Dr. Fennelly responded to my e-mail as follows:
Dear Mr. Lake:So, he thinks it is "more likely that Kathy Nguyen was "infected from a source in the mail than from spores being brushed off of someone's clothes or other postulated mechanisms." I see things differently, and so do others. That's the way it goes. Unfortunately, we'll probably never know for certain.
Just for the record, I did not expect him to say, "Oh Jeeze! You know you're right! The CDC totally screwed up! Ohmygod! Thanks for bringing this to our attention! We'll fix it immediately! Wow!"
June 22, 2004 - A new report on the CDC's web site titled "Airborne Infection with Bacillus anthracis—from Mills to Mail" is perpetuating what appears to be a false assumption on the part of the CDC which they evidently do not see fit to correct or address. The apparent false assumption is that Kathy Nguyen was somehow infected by a cross-contaminated letter from the second anthrax mailing.
The problem with perpetuating this apparent false assumption is that it supports various theories that the powder in the media letters could not cause inhalation anthrax. And that theory is then applied to the AMI letter, which reenforces the idea that the AMI letter must have been from a separate mailing and perhaps even a different person.
As a result I sent the following e-mail to the primary author of the CDC report:
Dear Dr. Fennelly,If anyone sees any fault in my reasoning, please contact me. I'd definitely like to discuss this evidence regarding the Kathy Nguyen case with scientists in the fields of in microbiology and/or epidemiology. It's been nearly three years and still the apparent false assumption continues.
June 21, 2004 - Because the FBI has stated many times that Dr. Hatfill is "not a suspect" in the anthrax case, I attempted to use those statements in a debate today to indicate that "Dr. Hatfill is not a suspect". I was quickly shot down by people pointing out that in the Scott Peterson case the FBI said that Peterson was "not a suspect" even thought he clearly was a "suspect" (albiet not "officially), and in the "smiley face bomber" case a couple years ago, where Luke J. Helder planted bombs in mailboxes around the midwest, when the FBI was looking for Helder, the FBI said he was just "a person of interest".
So, evidently when the FBI says that a person is "not a suspect" it really means nothing. It certainly doesn't mean he is a suspect, but it also doesn't mean he is not a suspect. And when they say someone is a "person of interest", that doesn't mean he isn't or won't become a suspect.
I still don't think there is any chance that Dr. Hatfill is the culprit, but I can understand why people don't believe the FBI when they say he isn't a suspect.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, June
thru Saturday, June 19, 2004
June 19, 2004 - An editorial in yesterday's Wall Street Journal about people putting their own spin on the events of 9/11 to suit their own purposes puts this spin on events to suit the Wall Street Journal's purposes:
Another revelation concerns al Qaeda and anthrax. The 9/11 panel says al Qaeda had an "ambitious" biological weapons program and "was making advances in its ability to produce anthrax prior to September 11." It cites CIA Director George Tenet as saying that al Qaeda's ability to conduct an anthrax attack is "one of the most immediate threats the United States is likely to face." Given that we already were attacked by anthrax, and that we still don't know who did it, this sounds like news too.My spin on this is that The WSJ feels that until it's proven otherwise, they'll continue to believe that some evil foreigners were behind the anthrax attacks and that the FBI is stuck with a "mad scientist" theory and has never looked in the right direction.
Meanwhile, people who still believe Dr. Hatfill was behind the anthrax attacks - just because the FBI paid so much attention to him - are standing firm in their belief that the FBI is incompetent and the six month delay in the Hatfill and Stevens lawsuits was just a stall. That six month delay is just about up.
June 18, 2004 - An article in today's Maryland Gazette provides details about how the "live" anthrax shipped to the Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute was packed. The text also confirms that the shipment contained bacteria, not spores.
June 17, 2004 - Just when I thought that there would be absolutely nothing to comment about this week, someone pointed something out that came to light today during the 9/11 hearings:
On 9/11, Mohammed Atta phrased his message to the doomed passengers of AA Flight 11 this way:
"We have some planes. Just stay quiet and you'll be O.K. We are returning to the airport."And the second anthrax letter contained this sentence:
WE HAVE THIS ANTHRAX.Source: Yahoo News.
Could the use of "we have" indicate anything? I don't see what other two words would be more normal and could be used instead. And there's nothing particulary unusual about the sentence structure. To me it's just a common term needed in both occasions. Atta was part of a group, so using "we" was natural. And the anthrax letter writer was speaking for Muslims (or pretending to speak for Muslims), so using "we" was natural.
Discussing this with others, they bring up situations where foreigners twist words around - like saying "forth and back" instead of "back and forth". But I can't think of any language which would reverse "we have" to "have we". Such a reversal in all the languages I can think of would result in a question instead of a statement.
Others pointed out that it's been known since at least October 16, 2001, that Atta said "We have some planes", so that's not news.
Meanwhile, the fuss over the delivery of live Ames anthrax to the Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute seems to have been forgotten about. Big news one day, old news and boring the next day.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, June
thru Saturday, June 12, 2004
June 12, 2004 - According to today's Oakland Tribune, the live anthrax which was shipped from the Southern Research Institute (SRI) to the Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute instead of dead anthrax - was the Ames strain. Whether or not it is indistiguishable from the Ames strain used in the anthrax attacks of 2001 is now the big question. It's certainly the worst time for such a thing to happen, if you are trying to make a circumstantial case that depends upon limited distribution of the Ames strain.
The best known list of labs possessing the Ames strain did not include the Southern Research Institute. So, some reporters now seem to be scrambling to see if anyone from SRI could be a potential suspect - or person of interest - in the 2001 attacks.
To make matters worse, the Oakland Tribune article doesn't seem to distinguish between spores and bacteria, using the terms interchangeably. The article says,
According to Southern Research Institute, the Oakland researchers asked that the bacteria be killed by heat treatment in boiling water.And then it says this:
Hot water alone was unlikely to kill anthrax spores, other experts said.So, who tried to kill spores by immersion in hot water? The same Oakland Tribune article says that living bacteria was accidentally shipped, not spores.
And The Washington Post says that the bacteria "supposedly had been chemically deactivated". Supposed by whom -except the Washington Post? Everyone else seems to know that the bacteria was supposedly "deactivated" by immersion in hot water.
The impact of the shipping mistake made by the Southern Research Institute could be far-reaching, so it's a very good idea to at least try to get all the facts straight.
June 11, 2004 - A lot of people who don't like the idea of anyone working with dangerous bacteria are saying "I told you so" after reading the news that the Southern Research Institute (SRI) sent live anthrax bacteria instead of dead bacteria to the Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute. According to the Oakland Tribune, the Southern Research Institute is one of 350 entities authorized to work with live anthrax. And according to the Baltimore Sun, the anthrax evidently wasn't made "inactive" by the "standard procedure" of putting it into a bath of hot water before shipping. According to today's issue of The Scientist,
Thomas Voss, vice president of the Homeland Security and Emerging Infectious Disease Research Division at SRI, told The Scientist that his company tested the B. anthracis it shipped by trying to grow the material in a culture medium for 48 hours. The culture didn't grow, so SRI concluded that it was totally inactivated.That last paragraph indicates that while using hot water to "inactivate" bacteria might be "a standard procedure" as reported in the Baltimore Sun, it wasn't "the standard procedure" for inactivating anthrax at SRI.
The Scientist also adds this:
Petru speculated that the SRI material is a heat-resistant mutant strain of B. anthracis: "If the material was properly processed, I think you have to presume it must be mutant, because heat didn't kill it, that's how you define it, right?" Voss said no one knows at this point.So, everyone is scrambling to figure out what happened. Meanwhile, there's no reason to believe it was Ames anthrax [there is now, see June 12], there is no criminal act involved, and there's no reason to believe this accident has anything to do with the anthrax attacks of 2001.
June 6, 2004 - Last week, after discussing the anthrax case with someone from the media who questioned my analysis that the writing on the anthrax letters and envelopes was most likely the writing of a child, I decided to do some browsing with Google for information about "child-like" handwriting. In the process, I stumbled across a web site from November 2, 2001, which has this analysis of the anthrax letters:
The lettering style itself would seem most curious, but is quite simply the modified uncial style of lettering taught in American kindergarten and early first grade classes, using only all upper case letters. During most first grade classes young students learn both the upper and lower case alphabets. This would show the author of the letters went through kindergarten last year, and in the first weeks of September of this year when the letters were written had just started first grade but still had not yet learned the lower case letters. Nonetheless, to simulate the capital letters of proper nouns the students are taught to make the first letter larger. In all cases, on the anthrax letters and envelopes the writer uses this modified uncial style indicating that the author is a young boy just starting first grade in September 2001. Thus showing clearly the writer is about 6 years old.Source: http://www.brojon.org/frontpage/bj110201.html
Without a doubt, people will challenge the authority of the "Brother Jonathan" who owns that web site. And there is a letter at the bottom of the page where someone does exactly that. After the challenge, "Brother Jonathan" further expands upon his analysis of the handwriting:
A first proud achievement for all children is writing their own name in all upper case letters. This frequently precedes kindergarten and even learning the complete alphabet. During kindergarten many children learn to read and recognize words and text made of both upper and lower case letters, but writing lower case letters is a special challenge.
All upper case block letters are made quite simply from only four components: a vertical line (I), slanted lines (/), horizontal lines (--), and a curve or circle (C). Lower case letters contain more difficult combinations of letter components and also have the risk of confusing reversible letters such as "b"/"d" and "p"/"q" and even crossing a "j" instead of a "t." None of these problems exist in the upper case alphabet.While I didn't accept everything he wrote, I found it very interesting. The word "uncial" was unfamiliar to me, so I looked it up and found this:
Uncial (pronounced un:shel) is a term applied to a particular calligraphic style based on ancient lettering, and is often considered the most expressive calligraphy. Typically an uncial face features a combination of capital and lowercase letterforms without the separate capital set and lowercase set that we're accustomed to.Source: http://www.eyewire.com/magazine/columns/robin/uncial/
When I told others about this, they all automatically poopooed it. But I considered it worthy of adding to my page about the handwriting. And I also added a comment about it on the main page. Plus, I will be talking to first grade school teachers this fall to see if what "Brother Jonathan" says is correct about kindergartens using "the modified uncial style of lettering" (unless the question is somehow answered before that time).
In another discussion with a relative who had never closely examined the anthrax letters before, he noticed something he thought was very strange. He considered the R's to be very peculiar. I told him they seemed standard to me. He then realized something and said, "That's not the way we learned to make R's in Catholic school." And he drew the way he learned to make a capital R, comparing it to a Public school capital R:
A lot of people over the years have told me they thought the R's were very peculiar. Now we seem to have a possible explanation. I'll check further.
My relative then summed up the situation, "Well, I think it can be stated for certain that the culprit - regardless of how old he is - didn't learn to write in Catholic school."
So, I've added that tidbit of information to my page about the handwriting.
June 6, 2004 - One thing I've noticed when talking with others about all the "evidence" which indicates that a child most likely wrote the anthrax letters: People seem to believe that if alternative explanations can be found for items of "evidence", then those items are no longer "evidence".
That belief is totally false.
That is the nature of "circumstantial evidence". There are usually alternative explanations or all or nearly all such evidence.
Furthermore, if or when the anthrax culprit is caught and prosecuted, the evidence against him will almost certainly be entirely circumstantial - and there may even be alternative explanations for every single item of circumstantial evidence brought against him. If there was prima facie ("smoking gun") evidence to be found, the culprit almost certainly would have been in jail long ago.
"Circumstantial evidence" is defined this way in "The People's Law Dictionary":
Evidence in a trial which is not directly from an eyewitness or participant and requires some reasoning to prove a fact.The dictionary goes on to say,
There is a public perception that such evidence is weak ("all they have is circumstantial evidence"), but the probable conclusion from the circumstances may be so strong that there can be little doubt to a vital fact ("beyond a reasonable doubt" in a criminal case, and "a preponderance of the evidence" in a civil case). Particularly in criminal cases, "eyewitness" ("I saw Frankie shoot Johnny") type evidence is often lacking and may be unreliable, so circumstantial evidence becomes essential. Prior threats to the victim, fingerprints found at the scene of the crime, ownership of the murder weapon, and the accused being seen in the neighborhood, certainly point to the suspect as being the killer, but each bit of evidence is circumstantial.Alternative explanations for the above examples of circumstantial evidence:
Prior threats: Lots of people make threats, but they don't all go out and kill people.
Fingerprints: The suspect was in the house the day before the killing, not at the time of the killing.
Ownership: The weapon must have been stolen without the suspect knowing it.
Being seen: The suspect passed through the neighborhood on his way to see someone else.
Before he even goes to trial, the prosecuting attorney knows the defense will put forth alternative explanations - and he almost certainly even knew it before an arrest was made.
But if it's the only evidence available, and if any reasoning juror who looks at all of the circumstantial evidence should conclude that the suspect is guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt", then the prosecutor will almost certainly go forward with the trial.
That doesn't mean that the defense attorney won't be able to convince the jury that the accused is really a nice guy and would never do such a stupid thing.
Nor does it mean that some missed item of circumstantial evidence could have shown the accused was actually innocent.
But what better way to determine guilt is there?
Evidence is evidence whether it's believed or not, and whether there are alternative explanations or not.
Here is a partial definition of "evidence":
Every type of proof legally presented in a trial (allowed by the judge) which is intended to convince the judge and/or jury of alleged facts material to the case. It can include oral testimony of the witnesses, including experts on technical matters, documents, public records, objects, photographs and depositions (testimony taken under oath before the trial). It also includes so-called "circumstantial evidence" which is intended to create belief by showing surrounding circumstances which logically lead to a conclusion of a fact.When accumulating evidence in a case, sometimes things will pop out that really have nothing to do with prosecuting the case. You can find evidence for a totally different case (like the improper destruction of samples). You can find that prior beliefs about things are totally or partially wrong (like the difficulty of making anthrax powders, or the lethality of spores). You can uncover bungled handling of non-relevant matters (the Kathy Nguyen investigation, how the AMI building became so contaminated).
Or you can find something that doesn't fit any preconceived idea.
I have no idea whether or not any suspect or potential suspect had or even knew a six-year-old child in September of 2001.
I can only make wild guesses as to what might motivate a person to risk using a child to write such letters.
But evidence is evidence. Hopefully, time will tell exactly what it means.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, May
thru Saturday, June 5, 2004
May 31, 2004 - While looking around for anything new in the anthrax case, I found a transcription of an old White House press briefing from Oct. 25, 2001, that I'd never seen before. It appears that the press briefing was assembled in order to debunk an article printed in the Washington Post the previous day, an article titled: "Additive Made Spores Deadlier". The first paragraph of the Post article was:
The anthrax spores that contaminated the air in Senate Majority Leader Thomas A. Daschle's office had been treated with a chemical additive so sophisticated that only three nations are thought to have been capable of making it, sources said yesterday.It's interesting how General Parker from USAMRIID responded to the subject of additives when asked about them:
QUESTION: General Parker, can we ask you a question, sir? If you wouldn't mind stepping up to the podium. I take it that some of the tests that you were alluding to are on this chemical agent that's been mixed in with the anthrax to modify the electro-static properties of the anthrax. Can you tell us what your preliminary investigation shows about that? And who has the ability to alter the electro-static properties of anthrax spores?He seems to be confirming what I learned a few months ago: The traces of silica are most likely the result of elements being absorbed from the surroundings during the sporulation process, not from an additive.
During the briefing, General Parker made it very clear that the spores would float naturally in the air, and you did not need to change "electro-static properties" with an additive in order to make them float. He made that point more than once:
these individual spores are very light, and if given some energy from, say, wind or clapping or motion of air in a room, they will drift in the air and fall to the ground.and
When you look at it, it's like a very, very fine powder. And you can imagine, in your bathroom, if you take a fine talcum powder and you blow it, it drifts up into the air and then eventually drifts down to the ground and falls to the floor, where it sticks.However, as a result of the briefing, the Washington Post wrote this the next day:
Officials also confirmed that the spores sent to Daschle in a letter opened in his office Oct. 15 were very small, highly concentrated and of high quality.One might conclude that the question was indeed answered. Certainly it was made very clear that an additive was not needed in order to make spores float.
Unfortunately, some bad information also seems to have come from this briefing. Anthrax spores only come in one size, while particle sizes (i.e., the size of clusters of spores or other material) can vary greatly. It appears that Governor Ridge didn't know the difference between a spore and a particle, but General Parker did.
General Parker said:
I can say to you without question, this is anthrax, and the samples from New York, Washington and Florida are all from the same family or strain. That's been documented by DNA testing. When we look at these spores underneath the microscope, they are uniform in size and highly concentrated, and highly pure.Governor Ridge said:
It shows that the anthrax in the letter received in Senator Tom Daschle's office had some different characteristics. It is highly concentrated. It is pure. And the spores are smaller. Therefore, they're more dangerous because they can be more easily absorbed in a person's respiratory system.A lot of news articles were written as a result of this briefing. I find it very interesting to read what reporters interpreted and wrote about the briefing and what was actually said in the briefing. A lot of people appear to have accepted interpretations from the media without actually knowing or understanding what was really said. And we're still arguing about those interpretations two and a half years later.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, May
thru Saturday, May 29, 2004
May 25 - 27, 2004 - I’ve been asked many times about the status of my book "Analyzing The Anthrax Attacks". A lot of people have said they would like to read it. But getting a book published isn’t as easy as some people seem to think - and I can't let anyone (except agents and publishers) read it until it is published.
Since there doesn’t seem to be any anthrax news this week, here’s a status report on my book:
Back in December of 2003, after I finished a readable draft, I sent out 15 query letters to major literary agents in New York to see if any would be interested in representing my book. None were interested. Only one agent asked to read it. After she did, she told me she felt it would be a difficult book to sell at that particular time.
The basic problem seems to be that agents would have a hard time pitching a book written by "some guy on the Internet" with a theory about the anthrax case who doesn't name his suspect. If I was an FBI agent working on the case or a scientist with bioweapons credentials, then they might line up to represent the book. But right now even journalists with impressive credentials are having a hard time finding a publisher for a book about the anthrax attacks where the culprit isn't named.
And the fact that the end of my book suggests that a major break in the case could come late next month or early in July is also a serious problem. Why not just wait to see if I’m right? And if I am right, how right am I?
A couple weeks after sending the query letters to literary agents, I also sent 9 query letters directly to the few publishers who will accept such query letters (without a referral from someone they know, most publishers will only talk with agents). Three of the letters were quickly returned with standard, form-letter rejection slips saying they weren’t in the market for such a book right now. There were no responses to the other six query letters. Query letters are almost always answered (a self-addressed, stamped envelope is included to assure that there is a response), so those publishers could also be waiting to see if something happens this summer.
The subject of self-publishing is out of the question for the same reason. I need to wait to see if I’m right about something happening in late June or early July. If something does happen, then I’ll almost certainly need to do an overhaul of the book to merge in a lot of additional material. If nothing happens, I’ll have to try to figure out what went wrong. If something happens that says I was totally wrong about the case, then it will be a good thing I never spent any money on a self-publishing project.
And, of course, I have contacted some of the media reporters and editors I know to see if they can provide referrals to publishers, but their responses are always the same: They can't give me a referral until two things happen: (1) I tell them who I think did it, and (2) they read all the information I have about who I think did it. But, even then, I doubt they'd let me use their names in a referral until it's positively confirmed that the person who I think did it is the person who actually did do it.
So, right now I have a completed book (70,000 words on 370 pages, edited down from the original 82,000 words) and another 19,000 words on 132 pages about details of the case I can’t include in the book until I know for certain that I'm right about who sent the letters. It’s all just waiting to see what happens in late June or early July - if anything.
Meanwhile, I’m leaving the ad on this site because I want people to know that I have a book ready - or almost ready - just in case there is a break in the case.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, May
thru Saturday, May 22, 2004
May 19, 2004 - Today we have two newspaper reports which indirectly provide information related to the anthrax attacks of 2001. First, The New York Times has an article from AP in which another "expert" (Retired Lt. Gen. Patrick Hughes) says:
anthrax is easy to produce and disperse, he said, noting that the recipes for it and the deadly poison, ricin, are on the Internet. ``It's not hard to do.''So, is it easy to produce or difficult to produce? Evidently, it all depends upon whether or not the "expert" making the statement actually knows how to make it. If he or she knows how, it's easy, if he or she doesn't know how, it's difficult.
The second report comes from the 9/11 hearings via the Toronto Star which includes an interesting comment from Alan Reiss, the former World Trade Center director:
Reiss said he was more focused on fending off possible bioterrorism attacks such as anthrax, spending more than $100,000 (U.S.) to protect the building from such an assault.So, it appears that if the anthrax mailer sent his letters to awaken America to the dangers of bioterrorism, it's clear that some people were already awake to that danger. In fact, among experts, it may have been the most widely recognized danger.
May 18, 2004 - Yesterday, CNN added this comment about the recent interview of Dr. Assaad:
The government sources said the interest in Assaad centers on the so-called Quantico letter and the theory that whoever mailed it could have also been involved in sending the anthrax letters.There's a lot to be said for that theory. Whoever sent the anthrax letters could definitely have been trying to raise alarm about potential Muslim terrorists working in American labs. Even though Dr. Assaad is not a Muslim, that probably wouldn't matter to someone who was afraid of "sleeper agents".
May 17, 2004 - Yesterday, the Associated Press also wrote about the FBI "revisiting an old lead in the anthrax investigation" by talking with Dr. Assaad. The biggest question that came from the Hartford Courant article was: Why would the FBI ask Dr. Assaad about how to make powdered anthrax? No one on the discussion forums seems to have any idea. The AP article indicates that Dr. Assaad suggested that the spores could be created by spray drying, although the AP reporter's description of spray drying seems to be a recipe for "distilled anthrax", not dried anthrax:
He said he also discussed with them his theory of how one could make the type of anthrax used in the attacks by forcing steam from a hot, liquid mixture through a nozzle and collecting dried residue from the condensation.The AP article also mentions something else that wasn't in the Courant article:
They said the agents also seemed interested in an analysis of the letter's syntax by Donald W. Foster, an English professor at Vassar College, who wrote about it in the October issue of Vanity Fair magazine.It seems more reasonable for the FBI to ask Dr. Assad about the letter's syntax, but chances are that the real meaning behind these questions is known only to the FBI.
May 16, 2004 - An article titled "FBI Retracing Steps In Anthrax Investigation" in today's Hartford Courant once again plays a favorite theme for the Courant: The Assaad letter. It appears that FBI agents interviewed former Army microbiologist Ayaad Assaad for 2½ hours on Tuesday. On March 16th they'd asked his co-workers where he was at the times of the two mailings but didn't talk to him. So, Assaad expected this time they wanted to ask for his alibi, and he brought documents proving he was at a conference in Virginia from Sept. 18 to Sept. 20, 2001. The FBI assured Assaad and his lawyer that Assad is not a suspect. They accepted the documents, but there are indications that the FBI was more interested in something else:
They asked detailed questions about his knowledge of drying anthrax into a fine powder like that used in the attacks
Assaad said the agents also asked him what he knew about drying anthrax into a fine powder. He explained the process and said that it would be easy to do, but that he had never done it himself. He told them he had never worked with anthrax, and had never been vaccinated against the disease.The fact that even though Assaad never worked with anthrax but could describe in detail how the powder was made and said "it would be easy to do" seems an important item that is almost ignored in the article. It seems to be another nail in the coffin of the notion that the anthrax could only be made in massive government lab by a small number of highly skilled scientists.
The article also contains this tidbit of information:
Federal investigators also recently questioned a prominent, university-based anthrax researcher about discrepancies in records describing the quantities of anthrax in routine shipments to his lab from the Army's biodefense research facility in Frederick, Md.While the authors of the article seem to think that this is just another example of the FBI going over well-trod ground in a vain attempt to find new clues, to me that looks like the FBI could be wrapping up loose ends where some defense attorney might be able to generate "reasonable doubt" by pointing out some "missing anthrax".
The best thing about this article is that it brought discussions back to the anthrax case. For the past week most discussion has been about who is to blame for the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, May
thru Saturday, May 15, 2004
May 10, 2004 - When Farhad Manjoo of Salon.com was interviewing me for his article about the Lcpl Boudreaux photograph taken in Iraq, we got to talking about the anthrax case and how I expected that microbial forensics might soon lead to a break in the case. As a result, Farhad Manjoo has done further research and has written an article called "Microbes in court - Coming up next on 'CSI': Will the science of microbial forensics nail the anthrax killer?" I can't put a copy of the entire article on this site at this time, but it's available for reading by clicking HERE. (If you are not a subscriber, you will have to watch an advertisement before you can get a "day pass" read the article.)
One paragraph from the article says this:
The outcome of the Simpson case served as a wake-up call for those scientists who believed that juries would have no choice but to accept the conclusions of a forensic method that, to the scientists, seemed so obviously accurate. Instead, though, the Simpson jury apparently believed the defense's theories of DNA evidence -- that it could be "contaminated" by poor practices, and that, by itself, DNA didn't matter if you were dealing with a police force thought to be corrupt and racist.So, to avoid what happened in the O.J. Simpson case, the FBI is evidently trying to make certain that the evidence they obtain via microbial forensics for the anthrax case will be both overwhelming and unimpeachable when it is taken into court.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, May
thru Saturday, May 8, 2004
May 5, 2004 - Today I finished reading Bob Woodward's book "Plan Of Attack". As with Richard A. Clarke's book "Against All Enemies", Woodward's book leaves the impression that the entire U.S. government believes that the anthrax attacks were a domestic crime. The only mention of the attacks in Woodward's book is on page 5 and consists of one sentence:
Poisonous anthrax in mailings to Florida, New York and Washington had killed five people.That's it. And it would seem that with counter-terrorism expert Clarke looking for any sign of al Qaeda activity and the Bush administration looking for any justification to attack Iraq, the fact that no one could find any link between the anthrax attacks and al Qaeda or Iraq should put those boogie man theories to rest once and for all.
But, of course, the True Believers will just say that the fact that the government couldn't find any evidence just means they didn't look hard enough. Or they are covering something up. Clarke makes this point about conspiracy theorists:
Conspiracy theories are a constant in counterterrorism. Conspiracy theorists simultaneously hold two contrary beliefs: a) that the U.S. government is so incompetent that it can miss explanations that the theorists can uncover, and b) that theU.S. government can keep a big and juicy secret. The first belief has some validity. The second is pure fantasy.May 3, 2004 - Today in Louisiana, according to the Associated Press, "The man who admitted sending hundreds of bomb threats, some of which also were anthrax hoaxes, was sentenced to 30 years in prison by a federal judge". In case you've forgotten, those are the same anthrax hoax letters which Don Foster suggested in his Vanity Fair article were sent by Dr. Hatfill.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, April
thru Saturday, May 1, 2004
April 29, 2004 - According to the Associated Press, the judge in the Maureen Stevens lawsuit evidently finally ruled on a motion filed by the government back in January, when they asked for a six month delay to allow them time to complete their (microbial forensics?) investigation of the anthrax attacks. Why there was a four month delay in granting the six month delay is not stated. But, the good news is that the delay appears to be retroactive to January and evidently ends sometime in June. So, it continues to look like we can expect some breaking news in late June or early July.
April 25, 2004 - After reading more about "hydrophobic interactions" and similar arcane matters, it seems that the way I use scientific terminology regarding van der Waals' forces may be less than perfect. But, the overall scientific picture still seems sound.
And the technique of using dialectics to challenge statements of prejudice and belief is as sound as ever.
However, it's often said that the more we learn the more we realize how much we do not know. And it doesn't help when reports seem contradictory. In one recent discussion it was mentioned that Richard Preston's book includes this comment about how the Daschle anthrax looked to Peter Jahrling at USAMRIID:
The anthrax particles had an eroded, pitted look, like meteorites fallen to earth.Van der Waal's binding forces depend upon the surface of a particle being relatively smooth, so that was compared to the article HERE which says:
the surface of the dry spore is relatively smoothAs a result, I began looking for more information about what the surface of a spore really looks like. Very quickly I discovered something I'd noticed before but failed to give proper attention.
Anthrax spores have tiny hair-like appendages spouting from their outermost coating. The most common term for this is that the spores have "a hair-like nap". As soon as I looked up "hair-like nap" on Google, all sorts of new information poured out.
The DARPA web site located HERE has an illustration which shows those tiny "hairs" on an anthrax spore. Here's an edited version of that illustration:
The hairs are so small that you have to look close to see them, but the spore clearly has a fur coat! And the tiny "hairs" are made of non polar material, which could or should mean they would have the same effect as an artificial "coating" designed to keep spores from sticking together.
And according to the web site HERE,
spores produced by the Ames and Sterne strains appear to be essentially identical to spores of virulent strains except for superficial differences in the length of the hair-like nap on the spore surfaceSo, we're not only talking about anthrax, we're also talking about the Ames strain of anthrax.
And then the thesis located HERE was found. This mind-numbing 184 page thesis from a Marine Corps Captain named Ruth A. Zolock at the Air Force Institute of Technology includes images of anthrax spores obtained via Atomic Force Microscopy. That means the spores could be viewed as they really exist, without the need to coat the spores with metals as is required to keep bacterial specimens from exploding or collapsing in the vacuum of an Electron Scanning Microscope.
The AFM images show the surface of anthrax spores to be far from smooth.
Interestingly, the 184 page thesis was written after the anthrax attacks. It's dated March 2002. And it also mentions the fact from microbial forensics that B anthracis will absorb materials into its coat from its surroundings while sporulating. Plus it includes this drawing of the "hair-like nap" on anthrax spores:
This drawing makes the spore look like Nature created it with a method to overcome van der Waals' binding forces.
So, the evidence continues to pile up to debunk the theory that van der Waal's forces will cause spores to cling together in grape-like clusters unless treated with some kind of artificial coating of tiny silica particles.
On the other hand, can an artificial coating be seen via a Scanning Electron Microscope if the spore must be artificially coated with metal by the SEM operator to prevent the spore from exploding or collapsing in the vacuum within the SEM? It would all depend upon the coating. A smooth coating might not be seen, but a coating of small "separator particles" should definitely be seen. But what kind of smooth coating could be added which would not kill the spore? And, wouldn't a smooth coating cover the "hair-like nap"? How would that affect the viability of the spore? The questions seem endless.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, April
thru Saturday, April 24, 2004
April 22, 2004 - For the past four days I've been bombarded with a new flurry of e-mails from a scientist who is rabid on the subject of van der Waals' forces and the accuracy of this web site in general. Since Monday, I've received 55 messages from him, beginning with the one on Monday where he pointed out that The Washington Post had actually once reported the following:
"Investigators and experts have said the spores in the Daschle and Leahy letters were uniformly between 1 and 3 microns in size, and were coated with fine particles of frothy silica glass."This scientist always turns to insults and personal attacks when people don't agree with him, so I sometimes refer to him as "Dr. Insulter". He's a silicon "expert" in private industry. The e-mails were outside of the anthrax forums I use. Dr. Insulter has been thrown out of nearly all of the forums because he constantly turns to insults when confronted with questions he doesn't like. (He particularly likes to attack Professor Meselson of Harvard, and he'll frequently sidetrack almost any argument just to go into some attack upon Professor Meselson.) Although the recent e-mails weren't via a forum, Dr. Insulter carbon copied 3 others: computer expert Richard M. Smith, lawyer Ross Getman and an Instructor in Surgery who I sometimes call "Dr. Dubious".
After I responded to Dr. Insulter's first message by saying the article was filled with questionable information, he sent me a link to an article about how lactose particles are coated with silica to keep them from sticking together as a result of van der Waals' forces. And he suggested that the anthrax could have been made the same way. That article (located HERE) describes a process that involves putting spores directly into liquid nitrogen and - in effect - electroplating them with silica. I seriously doubted that the spores would survive such a process, but he had no doubt they would. "Of course a spore would survive a liquid nitrogen bath," he wrote me. Then he added this:
The surface composition of the lactose particle is pretty similar to an anthrax spore - mostly carbon and hydorogen.
van der Waals forces are active in any micron sized particle. It doesn't matter what that particle consists of, molecule single element or otherwise. All micron sized particles stick together if they come into contact with each other or any surface of any kind. That's just the way it is.And he added these comments just to make sure I understood his point of view:
Your warpage of the facts to support your agenda (your agenda appears to be to support Matthew Meselson, however insane it makes you look), borders on being criminal.One particular fact has always been foremost in my mind when talking about van der Waals' forces. That fact (from the website HERE) is:
It is important to remember that van der Waals' forces are forces that exist between MOLECULES of the same substance.That fact seems key because spores are living entities and do NOT consist of a SINGLE SUBSTANCE. Yet Dr. Insulter kept telling me over and over and over, "van der Waals forces are active in any micron sized particle. It doesn't matter what that particle consists of, molecule single element or otherwise."
In addition to that "fact", I also had a problem visualizing van der Waals' forces working on spores. Pictures of particles clinging together via van der Waals' forces always showed the particles looking like clusters of grapes. I.e., they were three dimensional clusters. Yet, I've never seen any such clusters of spores. There are lots of pictures of spores on this site, but none show spores clustered like grapes. Most don't show spores clustered at all, and the ones which show spores in clusters look like assemblages for a photograph, i.e, two dimensional groupings.
I've been arguing with Dr. Insulter for probably well over a year, so his personal attacks just float on by me. But I find him useful in arguing arcane subjects which interest me. Although he rarely provides any answers, he sometimes causes me to ask questions which I feel need answering - if not by him, then by myself. Here's what I asked him:
If van der Waals' forces work on ALL micron size particles, and if you consider living entities to be particles, why don't van der Waals' forces cause living bacteria to bind together?That led us into a more detailed argument about van der Waals' forces. "ALL PARTICLES, no matter what they are made of, just as long as they are micron sized, will stick to each other because of van der Waals forces," he ranted at me. And to prove it he provided a bunch of links:
The comments Dr. Insulter included with each of these links were pretty much all the same. They went something like this: "Quick Ed, write to them and tell them their entire webpage is wrong. You know van der Waals forces can't make cells stick to anything."
After skimming through the articles at those links, I asked him,
Is there any reason why you didn't furnish any documents which describe spores sticking to spores? That was what we were arguing about. Why change the subject?That's where the arguing suddenly became productive. Suddenly I was wondering about other forces. What the hell are "hydrophobic factors"? And did spores in nature really cling to surfaces but not to each other? Why?
It seemed logical to me that spores would stick to surfaces because of static electricity. But Dr. Insulter evidently couldn't accept that. He wrote:
Static electricity DOES NOT CAUSE PARTICLES TO STICK TOGETHER!When I pointed out that during the Cold War when making bioweapons was routine, the milling of spores caused a buildup of static electricity in the spores and they added silica to dampen the resulting clumping effect, he just would not accept that. He declared:
Any agglomerate of particles of any type is, by definition, held together by van der Waals forces.It took me time to read the articles. I'm no scientist, but I've read enough about science to get the gist of most subject which aren't filled with too many technical terms and mathematical equations.
In particular, I was interested in "hydrophobic interactions", a term that was totally new for me. So, I looked it up.
"Hydrophobic" means "fear of water", but in science it evidently means something more technical and less emotional. At the web site HERE I found this explanation:
When you add some drops of oil to water, the drops combine to form a larger drop. This comes about because water molecules are attracted to each other and are cohesive because they are polar molecules. Oil molecules are non polar and thus have no charged regions on them. This means that they are neither repelled or attracted to each other. The attractiveness of the water molecules for each other then has the effect of squeezing the oil drops together to form a larger drop.So, did that mean that van der Waals' forces work only on "polar molecules"? And if oil and spores are hydrophobic or non polar, why would van der Waals' forces work on them?
On another web site (HERE) I found this:
3. What is the capsule? What advantage(s) does it confer on bacteria?Aha! Bacillus anthracis has a glycoprotein capsule! And that capsule "enhances adhesion to surfaces".
So, these articles appeared to indicate that some particles do not stick to surfaces as a result of van der Waals forces, but as the result of static electricity or hydrophobic interactions. Specifically, Bacillus anthracis produces a hydrophobic glycoprotein capsule around the outside of the cell wall. That glycoprotein capsule acts as an adhesive and is what causes spores to cling to hydrophobic (water-resistant) surfaces.
It seemed to me that a bacterium may cling to a surface as a result of hydrophobic interactions, but I still tend to favor the idea of dry spores clinging to surfaces as a result of static electricity. Maybe it's because I see too many dust particles clinging to my computer screen right in front of my eyes every day.
These findings seem to explain a lot, but I'm no scientist, so I can't be certain of it all. I just feel that it's more likely correct than the proclamations from Dr. Insulter.
My findings made no impression on Dr. Insulter, of course. And I wasn't absolutely certain of it all, myself, so I sent off some e-mails to the authors of some of the articles to see if they would respond and clarify a few things for me. So far they haven't. That's one reason I go into the details here. Maybe there's someone out there who can provide more than just an opinion about this.
Meanwhile, in true form, Dr. Insulter changed the subject. He ranted:
There are only 2 scientists who say the anthrax spores had no silica coatings. Matthew Meselson and Ken Alibek.Dr. Insulter himself had informed me that FBI Scientist Dwight Adams had told a Senate committee that the anthrax spores had no additives. So, I replied,
Don't you consider Dwight Adams at the FBI to be a scientist?To which Dr. Insulter replied,
No, Dwight Adams is an apartchik, who will do whatever his boss, John Ashcroft, tells him.And William Patrick III?
his opinion is almost worthless since he didn't see ALL the data. Neither did Meselson or Alibek.And that "scientific analysis" from Dr. Insulter pretty much concluded the debate. All he really had to add were more testimonials about me and this site:
The reason this investigation proceeds with no progress is because of imbeciles exactly like yourself.
Is that a difficult concept for even a moron like you to understand?Etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc.
April 19, 2004 - This morning one of the people who truly believe that the anthrax spores were coated with fine particles of silica dug up an old article from the November 2, 2002, issue of The Washington Post which actually makes such a statement:
Investigators and experts have said the spores in the Daschle and Leahy letters were uniformly between 1 and 3 microns in size, and were coated with fine particles of frothy silica glass. The weaponized product was astonishingly pure -- 1 trillion spores per gram -- and so light that it simply floated into the air, ready to be inhaled, as soon as the envelope was opened.The article by Dan Eggen and Guy Gugliotta contains a lot of statements that seem to be interpretations by the authors instead of facts. The very next paragraph says this:
There are several ways to mix anthrax spores with silica, ranging from shaking the two ingredients together in the biowarfare equivalent of a plastic bag to sophisticated processes such as a "spray dryer," in which a water-mixed slurry of spores and glass particles is squirted into an enclosed chamber and combined with superheated air.But the article fails to mention that both of those techniques would involve adding a lot of material to the spores which would mean that you would no longer have a trillion spores per gram. And the added material would be clearly visible under a scanning electron microscope. Yet people who actually saw he spores saw no such material.
If this case is ever solved, it will definitely be extremelyworthwhile for someone to show "news" reports like these side by side with the truth.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, April
thru Saturday, April 17, 2004
April 13, 2004 - On the 9/11 hearings today a statement was made which can be interpreted as being meaningful to the anthrax case. It came up during questioning of former acting FBI Director Thomas Pickard by Governor Thompson:
THOMPSON: Mr. Pickard, since its declassification last weekend you've, I assume, read the PDB of August 6th.As I see it, the "al Qaeda Did It" theory about the anthrax mailings comes in two versions:
1. The Ghost Theory, i.e., a theory that ghosts of the dead 9/11 hijackers somehow came back to mail the letters a week and a month after they were dead.
2. The Invisible Man Theory, i.e., the letters were sent by some al Qaeda member for whom there is absolutely no evidence of existence.
The statements today relate to The Invisible Man theory.
April 11, 2004 - Another voice has been heard from, although there doesn't seem to be any way to determine if it's recent or very old. This morning someone sent me a link to a lengthy article on the Court TV web site. This voice belongs to Rachael Bell who writes about serial killers and white collar criminals. Her viewpoint is made clear in Chapter 12 of the article:
The FBI has been criticized in this investigation for making exclusionary decisions too early in the investigation. At some point, not long after the attacks, the FBI decided that the anthrax attacks were the work of a domestic terrorist and not a foreigner connected with Osama bin Laden. It's not clear what caused the FBI to put the blinders on with regard to Islamic terrorists, but they did. Consequently, any evidence or issues raised that were inconsistent with domestic terrorists were either ignored or discredited.She repeats all the standard arguments about al Qaeda being responsible, particularly the one about Al Haznawi's gash/lesion, describing how Johns Hopkins biodefense experts, Tara O'Toole and Thomas V. Ingles persuaded Dr. Tsonas to reconsider his original diagnosis, changing a "gash" in Al Haznawi's leg to a "lesion" that could have been cutaneous anthrax. And she describes how the FBI reacted:
The FBI found an expert to publicly rebut the diagnosis and put the episode on the shelf.She also points out:
To have a high-profile case remain unsolved for this period of time suggests a very carefully planned operation, not one that was opportunistically thrown together to ride on the coattails of the Muslim extremists.So, according to Ms Bell, it was a "carefully planned" al Qaeda operation which included medical advice to help the victims protect themselves, and involved numerous protective measures to make certain that minimal damage was done.
It's also interesting that Ms Bell concludes with a Chapter about the Indianapolis letters, i.e., the letters Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly claim were "the exact same handwriting" as in the attack letters. I once thought those letters were significant, too. But since that time, I've seen at least a dozen of samples of handwriting which people believe are "the exact same handwriting" as in the attack letters, but which I don't see as even being similar. I'd still like to see those letters, if just to see how similar the handwriting really is. My Freedom of Information request to the FBI came back with a form letter that said the FBI had no such letters. (A request to see pictures of the backs of the attack envelopes to see how they were taped came back with a note that said that information was part of an on-going investigation and couldn't be released. So, I think that the Indianapolis letters are being handled by the postal authorites, which probably means they are just another hoax unrelated to the anthrax case. )
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, April
thru Saturday, April 10, 2004
April 8, 2004 - Someone sent me a transcript of an NPR Morning Edition report from April 2, 2004, about the current situation in the anthrax case - i.e., the requested delays in the Stevens and Hatfill lawsuits to allow the FBI to complete a detailed forensic investigation. NPR makes this observation about the lawsuits:
"They forced the government to let two judges, two independent observers, get a look at the [anthrax] investigation."So, after looking at what the FBI had in the anthrax case:
Reggie Walton, the federal judge hearing Hatfield's lawsuit, has expressed sympathy for Hatfield on several occasions.Or, to put it another way, an "independent observer" looked at the FBI's case and then said,
"Hatfield has been injured. To keep him in limbo indefinitely is a problem."The NPR report also says this about the secret document shown to Judge Walton in the Hatfill case:
It seems likely the document describes the ongoing forensic work, work aimed at pinning down which lab the anthrax came from.And the report says this about the Stevens case:
Richard Schuler says that in February, he got a surprise visit from a team of government officials because Maureen Stevens' husband was killed in the crime, the officials gave them an update on the investigation. The officials said they were putting high stock in science to solve the case, but Schuler is not reassured.Professor Dan Richman from Fordham University School of Law adds this comment about the affidavit shown to Judge Walton in the Hatfill case:
If you're to take this affidavit on its face, and actually I do, this looks like a massiveApril 7, 2004 - Cliff Kinkaid, from an organization called "AIM" (Accuracy In Media), voiced his opinion on the anthrax case today. Kinkaid evidently still believes that al Qaeda was behind the anthrax attacks:
The unanswered question is whether some foreign terrorists on U.S. soil also carried out the anthrax attacks.And he's upset about the Hatfill case and the delay ordered by Judge Walton:
U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton has delayed a trial on Hatfill’s complaint. AP reported that Walton said, “At some point, Dr. Hatfill is going to have to have his day in court. I don’t think that point has occurred yet.”
In a story about Walton’s decision, the Washington Times reported that, “Government lawyers said Mr. Ashcroft’s reference to Mr. Hatfill as a ‘person of interest’ during an August 2002 news conference was an attempt to make clear that the bioweapons expert was not a suspect.” The government statement is absolute hogwash. There is no question that the government regarded Hatfill as a suspect. That’s why the FBI kept him under 24-hour surveillance and followed him around Washington in a car, even running over his foot on one occasion.Is there really "no question"? Or is there just "no question" in the mind of someone like Kindaid who has a firm opinion about what's going on?
The Times noted that the government wants his suit dismissed on the grounds that allowing it to go forward “will compromise and frustrate” the anthrax probe and could give Hatfill and others “a voyeur’s window” into the probe’s workings. That’s just another justification for a cover-up to conceal failure.If the case is solved - or if there is a major break in the case sometime this summer, the government will still need to explain a lot about the way they treated Dr. Hatfill. But I hope people will also remember to point out that "Accuracy In Media" is just another place where people voice opinions under the pretense of voicing the "truth".
On the other hand, I noticed that the "working group" to develop the new science of microbial forensics began work in June of 2002 and evidently completed their project late in September of 2003.
That is pretty much exactly the same time frame when the FBI and the Department of Justice were turning Dr. Hatfill's life into a living hell.
It makes me wonder about the old saying, "Idle hands are the Devil's workshop". If the FBI's lab technicians were saying that the anthrax case was going to be put "on hold" for a year while the science of microbial forensics was being formalized, how would that be viewed by field agents? Would they want to pursue their own "gut feelings" using old-fashioned methods, instead of just waiting around for the lab guys to get their act together? How did they feel about the delay? How did they feel when the pressure to "do something" became virtually unbearable?
Hopefully, someday someone from the FBI will write a book about that period of time and exactly why the FBI did what it did. Dr. Hatfill seems to have a good case against the FBI, but I don't think it has anything to do with the FBI not having a real suspect. I think it could have a lot more to do with some part of the FBI not wanting to wait around for a year while some other part of the FBI waited for a new science to be formalized. After all, any notion that the FBI is some kind of Borg collective where everyone thinks alike is total nonsense. There are almost certainly FBI agents in the Miami Field Office who think that al Qaeda did it. There are undoubtedly agents in The Washington Field Office who think Dr. Hatfill did it. And there are probably agents in the Newark Field Office who know who really did it (and if they told anyone else, there would quickly be leaks and the whole world would know).
Some day we may learn a lot more about this period of time within the FBI. I hope so. Meanwhile, it sure is interesting.
April 4, 2004 - Yesterday I did a Google search on "microbial forensics" and found 507 entries. But the vast majority turned out to be just duplicates of other items. There are probably less than 50 unique entries, with no more than four or five actual "news" stories. Most are scientific articles and announcements that new courses in "microbial forensics" are being added to college curriculums. For something so critical to the anthrax case, this seems inexplicable.
As a result, I’ve added a new section to the main page of this web site titled "Microbial Forensics", where I describe the importance of this new science to the anthrax case.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, March
thru Saturday, April 3, 2004
April 1, 2004 - Looking over the various articles resulting from Monday's hearing, it seems to me that Judge Reggie B. Walton is - in effect - saying (and confirming) that Dr. Hatfill is NOT a suspect in the anthrax case.
According to the Washington Post, Walton said the anthrax case, is now at a "critical" and "sensitive" stage and could unearth significant leads by early July. He wants the investigation to proceed "in an unfettered way."
The judge said that, for now, the complex search for the person who sent the anthrax-laced letters outweighs Hatfill's contention that Ashcroft and other federal authorities ruined his life by calling him a "person of interest" in the case.And Walton sympathizes with Dr. Hatfill's plight:
"I totally understand how his life has been, at least at this point, virtually destroyed," Walton said during that hearing.The Baltmore Sun confirms that Judge Walton sympathizes with Dr. Hatfill's plight:
Walton said he sympathized with the predicament of Hatfill, a former Army biowarfare expert who has been fired from two jobs since coming under scrutiny in the anthrax case.Plus, Judge Walton is letting many aspects of the Dr. Hatfill lawsuit to continue. He's merely delaying allowing Hatfill's lawyers to question the government about Hatfill's contention that he was targeted simply because the FBI has no other suspect in the case and just wanted to make themselves look good.
Walton referred obliquely to secret reports on the progress of the investigation provided to him by the FBI. In light of those reports, which neither Hatfill nor his lawyers have seen, Walton said he would "with reluctance" put off the bulk of the lawsuit until Oct. 7.So, does it seem reasonable that Judge Walton would allow Dr. Hatfill's case to continue in any way if he felt that Dr. Hatfill was a suspect in the case? And if there was any reason to think that Dr. Hatfill was the culprit, why would Judge Walton delay aspects of the lawsuit "with reluctance"?
It seems clear that Judge Walton does not think Dr. Hatfill is the anthrax mailer.
Most of what was said on Monday indicates that the FBI does not want Dr. Hatfill's lawyers questioning them in way that might expose where the FBI is concentrating its investigation or who the FBI is actually looking at. And Judge Walton agreed.
March 31, 2004 - The articles reporting on the Dr. Hatfill lawsuit during the past few days have once again shown how different news outlets view things differently. We now have The Washington Times' version of events. Evidently, they feel that the fact that the FBI talked with 14 EPA scientists about the Assaad letter is the most important recent news in the anthrax case, and what was said at the Hatfill hearing can merely be classified as "yada yada yada". But they did repeat (and rephrase) one key item regarding Dr. Hatfill which was mentioned by the Associated Press but ignored by The Washington Post and The Baltimore Sun:
Government lawyers said Mr. Ashcroft's reference to Mr. Hatfill as a "person of interest" during an August 2002 news conference was an attempt to make clear that the bioweapons expert was not a suspect.The Washington Post and the Baltimore Sun both mentioned that Dr. Hatfill was labeled a "person of interest" by Attorney General Ashcroft, but neither of them mentioned what was said at the hearing about why Ashcroft used that term. Evidently that explanation is something they consider to be "yada yada yada".
Also, the Global Security Newswire repeated and rephrased the statement about Dr. Hatfill not being a suspect in a slightly different way:
In his lawsuit, Hatfill has claimed that the Justice Department ruined his reputation by naming him as a "person of interest" in the anthrax investigation. U.S. Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bucholtz said during yesterday's proceedings, though, that Attorney General John Ashcroft had done so to "downplay" Hatfill's status and to make clear he was not a suspect in the case.Yet, the True Believers continue to say it means nothing and that Dr. Hatfill is still the government's prime suspect. "Actions speak louder than words," they say.
March 30, 2004 - New details about yesterday's hearing in the Dr. Hatfill law suit case are now appearing. In The Washington Post it says:
A federal judge said yesterday that confidential information recently provided to him by the Justice Department shows that the investigation into the 2001 anthrax attacks is now at a "critical" and "sensitive" stage and could unearth significant leads by early July.Judge Walton added:
"I know there are going to be some events occurring in the near future."Judge Walton will get a private briefing on the investigation's progress on July 6 to confirm that the probe is moving ahead in the way the FBI expects. The Post adds:
Authorities said they expect to get results in June from a sophisticated battery of tests, which the FBI hopes will identify the laboratory that produced the anthrax used in mailings that killed five people and sickened 17 others in the fall of 2001.This is undoubtely a reference to tests being done utilizing the new science of "microbial forensics" which was described last September by The New York Times. Another key paragraph in the Post article:
Investigators have narrowed the likely source to a short list of labs, including Fort Detrick, the Dugway Proving Ground in Utah and Louisiana State University, according to law enforcement sources who spoke on the condition that they not be named, citing government rules.But The Post adds a negative note at the end of the article which will be fodder for the people who still think Dr. Hatfill did it:
Hatfill continues to be a key focus of the probe, law enforcement sources said, but some of them doubt that the team of 25 FBI agents and 12 postal inspectors will find the evidence to make a case against anyone. Even if tests point to one laboratory, it may not be clear who had access to the infectious bacteria, they said.Note that the above paragraph refers to opinions from people who may or may not have any direct connection to the case.
Meanwhile, as if to prove that you have to read more than one newspaper to get all the facts, The Baltimore Sun adds these details:
the judge agreed to put off until at least October requiring the government to answer most of hundreds of questions submitted by Hatfill's lawyers.So, as I understand it, for all the other counts in Dr. Hatfill's lawsuit - except Count III (Hatfill's claim under the Privacy Act) - discovery will continue.
March 29, 2004 - According Associated Press, Judge Walton has listened to the pleadings of the Department of Justice and has again stayed action on Count III of Dr. Hatfill's lawsuit. His previous order delayed it until today. The AP article said:
"At some point, Dr. Hatfill is going to have to have his day in court," Walton said. "I don't think that point has occurred yet."And the hearing produced yet another statement by the government that Dr. Hatfill is NOT a suspect in the anthax case. According to the AP article:
Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bucholtz said Ashcroft's identification of Hatfill actually was an effort to "downplay" his status by making it clear he was not considered a suspect.However, I'm already getting e-mails from people who do not believe that's what was meant. These True Believers seem to think that when the DOJ says that Dr. Hatfill is NOT considered a suspect, what they really mean is he is a suspect. And no amount of arguing will convince them otherwise.
When one of them seemed unclear in his statements, I asked him, "Are you saying that the FBI and the DOJ do not consider Hatfill to be a suspect?"
The answer was, "Right. He is not A suspect, he is THE suspect."
It seems to me that, while it's possible to be A suspect without being THE suspect, there's no way a person can be THE suspect without being A suspect. But maybe I'm just being too logical.
If someone had asked Bucholtz if Dr. Hatfill "is a suspect" and Bucholtz had replied, "No, he's not 'a' suspect - hee hee (nudge nudge wink wink)", then one might see another interpretation. But that's not what happened. Bucholtz was explaining what Attorney General Ashcroft meant when he said Dr. Hatfill was "a person of interest".
It seems perfectly clear to me that the only reason Dr. Hatfill was considered to be "a person of interest" was because Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, Don Foster, Glenn Cross and maybe a few other "amateur detectives" were pointing the finger at Dr. Hatfill as being someone the FBI should investigate. As far as the FBI is concerned, though, Dr. Hatfill is not and never has been a suspect in the anthrax case.
Hopefully there were other reporters at the hearing and we'll get more information about all that was said at today's hearing.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, March
thru Saturday, March 27, 2004
Several people have pointed out that Richard A. Clarke's book "Against All Enemies" makes no mention of the anthrax attacks, even though Clarke was President Bush's counterterrorism chief at the time of the attacks. The lack of any mention seems to confirm that the anthrax attacks are considered to be a domestic crime and not an act of foreign terrorism. One person who wrote me was even confused by the fact that former Secretary of the Navy, John Lehman, who is on the 9/11 Commission and who mercilessly grilled Clarke yesterday, never mentioned the anthrax attacks during the grilling. Is it because the crime was of domestic origin, or is it because Lehman once had a very strong opinion on who sent the anthrax and didn't want to remind people about that? Or both? Back on July 15, 2003, The Weekly Standard printed this:
Former Navy Secretary John Lehman, a member of the congressional commission investigating the September 11 attacks, added to the intrigue this week when he flatly declared, "there is evidence" of Iraq-al Qaeda links. Lehman has access to classified intelligence as a member of the commission, intelligence that has convinced him the links may have been even greater than the public pronounce- ments of the Bush administration might suggest. "There is no doubt in my mind that [Iraq] trained them in how to prepare and deliver anthrax and to use terror weapons."So, the fact that there is no anthrax news right now is evidently very important and very puzzling news to people who still believe that al Qaeda and/or Iraq were behind the anthrax attacks.
Looking around the Net, I find that Richard Clarke was very concerned about anthrax attacks by al Qaeda before the actual attacks. According to Wire Magazine,
"Even before jets slammed into buildings, Richard Clarke was known in Washington for his dark warnings about anthrax attacks and al Qaeda devilry."So, if Clarke was very concerned about potential anthrax attacks by al Qaeda before the actual attack, then he must really really be convinced that al Qaeda was not behind the attacks if he doesn't even mention them in his book.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, March
thru Saturday, March 20, 2004
March 14, 2004 - Although it was announced last September, until last week I'd totally missed the significance of the fact that a whole new science of microbial forensics had to be developed before the FBI could truly dig into the origins of the attack anthrax. Without formalization of the science, presenting key information about the significance of trace elements in the anthrax would probably not be allowed in court.
That new science now keeps coming up in conversations, such as discussions of the commentary released by UPI yesterday with the title "Outside View: FBI behind the anthrax curve" ( which is just a repetition of the argument that if the FBI hasn't found the proof needed to accuse al Qaeda, then they haven't looked hard enough). In the commentary, the author makes some major blunders, including this statment:
Detailed analysis of the anthrax in the letters indicated that it was about two years old at the time of the attack.Actually, the analysis of the anthrax determined that it was "recently made", i.e., the spores could have been made the day the letters were mailed or up to two years prior. The scientific tests (at the time) couldn't get any more precise than that. The best article on that subject was in the June 22, 2002, issue of The Washington Post.
In addition, the UPI commentary again brings up the "gash" on Al Haznawi's leg without bothering to explain how someone who was dead for a month can mail letters. And it seems to suggest that Marwan Al-Shehhi's "cough" must have been inhalation anthrax, which must have been cured by taking Robitussin because that's what he was given, and he was still alive a month later when he participated in the 9-11 hijackings.
March 14, 2004 - I decided to do some housekeeping today. I revised the main page of this site to get rid of some unnecessary material, and to help speed up the downloading time for people with slow Internet connections. The changes are as follows:
1. I deleted the section called "Index to Supplemental Pages" because it seemed redundant. I always use the Table of Contents instead.
2. I added new links to the Table of Contents to allow readers to go directly to the start of the reference articles, or to Post-9-11 reference articles, or to reference articles from 2002, 2003 or 2004, or to the end of the list of references articles (where the latest articles are aways placed.
3. I deleted the section called "Three anthrax mailings" because I no longer believe that the "Indianapolis letters" received by Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and others had anything to do with the anthrax case. I also deleted other references to those letters. I've had too many people tell me they have samples of handwriting that they believe are "identical" to the anthrax letters but which seem totally different to me.
4. I deleted the "Mysteries" section because most of the "mysteries" seemed outdated and/or irrelevant.
5. I reduced the size of some images, providing "thumbnails" to the larger versions instead. I also eliminated two unnecessary images and text about them (the image of the Post letter overlaid on top of the Brokaw letter and a graphic about handwriting, which the Handwriting Supplemental Page makes redundant).
6. I added two additional significant dates to the Timeline section, specifically the dates October 24, 2001 (when Jahrling told the Cabinet that the anthrax could have been made in a regular lab) and July 29, 2002 (when the "Scientific Working Group on Microbial Genetics and Forensics" was put together by the FBI).
7. I added a paragraph at the end of the "Refining Anthrax" section describing the significance of trace metals found in spores.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, March
thru Saturday, March 13, 2004
March 11, 2004 - Discussions of the request by the FBI to delay the Maureen Stevens lawsuit caused me to go back and re-read two important articles from last September.
The first article is from the September 26, 2003, issue of Science Magazine and explains how and why the FBI put together the "Scientific Working Group on Microbial Genetics and Forensics". They were, in effect, developing a new science to investigate the anthrax case. It's the science of "microbial forensics", which is defined as "a scientific discipline dedicated to analyzing evidence from a bioterrorism act, biocrime, or inadvertent microorganism/toxin release for attribution purposes."
The second article is from the September 26, 2003, issue of The New York Times and explains some details. The article says,
The new group is aiding the effort to advance the new science of microbial forensics, which studies deadly germs usually invisible to the human eye. It seeks to identify where a living weapon arose by analyzing its signature features and tracing it back to a particular nation, region, laboratory or microbe dish.So, the FBI's case may have been delayed for a long time by the need to have such a group define the new science before any evidence from such a science could be used in court - and perhaps even before they could legally gather such evidence. And now they're scrambling to make a case for court using the new science.
March 11, 2004 - The Florida Sun-Sentinel is reporting that another hearing has been held in the Maureen Stevens case, and the government again asked for a six month delay to complete their scientific investigation. According to the article:
The FBI is at a crucial stage in its investigation into the anthrax attacks that killed five people and poisoned 17 others, with investigators hoping that an emerging biological signature will identify the source of the anthrax in the next six months, a Justice Department attorney told a federal judge on Wednesday.This fits nicely with the 18 "facts" about the FBI's investigation I listed yesterday.
And the article also points out something that the people who still believe Dr. Hatfill is the culprit tend to ignore:
Bucholtz told the judge that the government was 'not ready to stipulate the source of the anthrax was Fort Detrick or anywhere else.' He said the anthrax grown in the lab has been shipped to other sites over the years."March 10, 2004 - The anthrax discussion forums at coollist.com remain down (or they were down until I mentioned it here, but now they are back up), but in some continuing private e-mail arguments with various people who closely follow the anthrax case and who have other theories, I had to lay out some facts to counter their speculations and rumors. In doing so, I noticed that the facts seem to point to a very encouraging picture. Here’s basically the way I see things:
Fact #1: According to Richard Preston’s book "The Demon in the Freezer": USAMRIID scientists Peter Jahrling, Tom Geisbert and John Ezzell began studying the Daschle anthrax on October 16, 2001, the day after the Daschle letter was first opened.
Fact #2: These USAMRIID experts repeatedly state that the Daschle anthrax was "pure spores" or "almost pure spores". It looked nothing like Iraqi simulants made with bentonite. They all say that the powder was "pure spores" or almost "pure spores" and that there were a trillion spores per gram.
Fact #3: A single pure anthrax spore weighs about a trillionth of a gram. Therefore, any powder consisting of a trillion pure spores will weigh one gram.
Fact #4: If you add something to a powder of "pure spores" it will no longer be "pure spores", nor will it any longer be a trillion spores per gram. Whatever you add will make the powder "impure" and it will add weight. And such "impurities" should be visible under a scanning electron microscope (SEM).
Fact #5: Also according to Preston’s book: On October 24, 2001, Peter Jahrling was summoned to the White House where he told the Bush Cabinet, "This anthrax could have come from a hospital lab or from any reasonably equipped college microbiology lab."
Fact #6: The FBI was also there and asked if there were any "signatures" which they should look for to identify a specific lab. "Jahrling answered that a small lab for making anthrax might go virtually unnoticed, and in any case would be hard to recognize."
Fact #7: The next day, October 25, 2001, Tom Geisbert took a sample of the Daschle anthrax to AFIP (the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology) where it was put into "an X-ray machine to find out if the powder contained any metals or elements. By lunch time, the machine had showed that there were two extra elements in the spores: silicon and oxygen." .. "Silicon dioxide is glass."
Fact #8: In 1980 two scientific papers were written about finding silicon in spores similar to anthrax - spores of Bacillus cereus and spores of Bacillus megaterium. The papers included speculation that the silicon may have come from glass containers, but in one paper logic seemed to indicate that wasn’t true, and no true investigation was performed to figure out exactly where the silicon did come from. The two papers are:
1) M. Stewart, et al. (1980) Distribution of calcium and other elements in cryosectioned bacillus cereus T spores, determined by high-resolution scanning electron probe X-ray microanalysis. Journal of Bacteriology 143: 481-491.
2) K. Johnstone, et al. (1980) Location of metal ions in bacillus megaterium spores by high-resolution electron probe X-ray microanalysis. FEMS Microbiology Letters 7: 97-101.Unfortunately, I don’t have any .pdf versions of the reports and no easy way to include them on this site. Relevant passages from the first (Stewart) paper include:
"An unexpectedly high concentration of silicon was found in the cortex/coat layer."
"The silicon content of the cortex/coat layer may result from specific incorporation or from contamination from glassware or from silicone vacuum oils employed in the apparatus used to freeze-dry the spores. Since there was considerable variation in silicon content both within and between different spore preparations, we considered it unlikely that the effect could be due entirely to contamination. The presence of silicon might explain the ash deposits seen at the periphery of spores after microincineration [here reference is given to a 1964 paper by other workers]"Also relevant is image Figure 4b in the scan of an illustration from the report. The illustration can be found HERE.
Relevant passages from the second (Johnstone) paper include:
"Detectable amounts of zinc and silicon are located in the coat, and coat plus core, respectively."
"Linescans for silicon (unpublished results) confirmed the high levels of silicon in the coats and also the resolution of the method."
"The biological significance of the silicon observed in the coats and cortex is in doubt since it may be derived from glass culture vessels."Fact #9 : According to Gary Matsumoto’s article "Anthrax Powder - State Of The Art?" in the November 28, 2003 issue of Science Magazine,
Sources on Capitol Hill say that in an FBI background briefing given in late 2002, Dwight Adams, one of the FBI's top-ranking scientists, suggested that the silica discovered in the Senate anthrax was, in fact, silicon that occurred naturally in the organism's subsurface spore coats. To support his thesis, Adams cited a 1980 paper published by the Journal of Bacteriology-- a paper that Matthew Meselson, a molecular biologist at Harvard University, says he sent to the FBI.(This "background briefing" was evidently in response to a Washington Post article by Guy Gugliotta and Gary Matsumoto printed on Monday, October 28, 2002. The article was titled "FBI's Theory On Anthrax Is Doubted - Attacks Not Likely Work Of 1 Person, Experts Say". This article basically attempted to make a case that the FBI was wasting its time on its "lone culprit" theory and that the anthrax must have had some kind of additive for it to act the way it did.)
Fact #10: Around the time of the Capitol Hill "background briefing", the media began reporting that the FBI was attempting to "reverse engineer" the anthrax to determine how it was made - and maybe even where it was made.
Fact #11: There is no way that Bacillus anthracis can MAKE silicon. That would require nuclear fusion. So, the silicon and oxygen which were detected in the spores had to be either deliberately added or it had to come from the environment.
Fact #12: There could be forensic information in the silicon -- for example in its isotope ratios. There are three naturally-occurring silicon isotopes, with atomic masses approximately 29, 30 and 31. The ratios of the different isotopes in silicon from different sources are detectably different. This means that some sources can be ruled out and others singled out for more attention on the basis of silicon isotope ratios."
Fact #13: There might also be "detectably different" isotope ratios in other elements found in the spores, such as sulfur, magnesium, manganese, etc.
Fact #14: Utilizing specific ratios of isotopes to determine a source for anthrax (or almost anything else) would be totally new to the FBI and would require a lot of time and effort.
Fact #15: According to an article from Science Magazine found HERE, on July 29, 2002, the "Scientific Working Group on Microbial Genetics and Forensics" was put together by the FBI. The Science article also says,
"Although the FBI has at times reached outside its own laboratory for scientists to provide assistance in casework, analysis of materials from the anthrax letter attacks may be the first time that so many outside scientists with diverse expertise were employed."Fact #16: According to a Palm Beach Post article from January 31, 2004, in an affidavit presented in the Maureen Stevens lawsuit it says:
the investigation has yielded "subjects of the investigation" and says that a "specific forensic signature is continuing to emerge which characterizes the anthrax used in the attacks."Fact #17: And according to an Associated Press article dated February 3, 2004,
The FBI has focused in recent months on an intensive scientific effort to determine how the spores were made. That effort, nearly complete, will enable agents to narrow the possibilities in terms of who had the means to make them.Fact #18: According to a Washington Post article from February 3, 2004,
Richard L. Lambert, the FBI inspector-in-charge, said in an affidavit that a new series of more sophisticated scientific tests, expected to identify where the anthrax was produced, will be completed in the next six months.Conclusions: These facts would seem to indicate that there is every reason to be hopeful that the FBI will be able to announce some sort of break in the anthrax case very soon. Hopefully, they’ll even be able to make an arrest. At minimum, they should be able to definitively state how the anthrax was made.
March 10, 2004 - Today, some echoes of the type of testing developed for the anthrax case appeared in the ricin case. Click HERE.
March 7, 2004 - The argument over coatings continues even though the main anthrax discussion forum has been "down" since February 14th. One tidbit of information from a private e-mail source might illustrate what kind of testing the FBI could be doing on the attack anthrax:
"there could be forensic information in the silicon -- for example in its isotope ratios. There are three naturally-occuring silicon isotopes, with atomic masses approximately 29, 30 and 31. The ratios of the different isotopes in silicon from different sources are detectably different. This means that some sources can be ruled out and others singled out for more attention on the basis of silicon isotope ratios."There were hints of this sort of testing many months ago. Such testing would be applicable whether the silicon in the spore coatings was natural or deliberately or unintentionally added (like from some unsophisticated drying method). Presumably, it isn't just silicon which would provide such information about the source of the anthrax. Other elements may also provide such information. It's very technical stuff, and it takes time to accomplish, to verify and to evaluate.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2004, thru Saturday, March 6, 2004
March 5, 2004 - Close
the B in "BUILDING" on the Daschle envelope
that the Brokaw letter may have been addressed to NBC after all.
The writer just occasionally writes his B's a bit different. The
in Brokaw seems to be the exception instead of the
So, I deleted the changes I made to his site last week which theorized
that NBC may originally have been NPC. Sorry about
March 2, 2004 - Today's Chicago Tribune contains an article (or column) titled "FBI hits wall in anthrax investigation". It rehashes the case without offering anything new and suggests that the only clue the FBI has after two years is the "profile" - which the article then sets about criticizing. The writer's theme seems to be that the FBI can't do anything right and that the ricin case will probably remain unsolved, too, unless some private citizen steps forward with critical information. If the article had offered anything new, I might have felt discouraged. But, in reality, it's just an opinion piece. And all the opinions in the world do not add up to one solid fact about the case.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2004, thru Saturday, February 28, 2004
February 26-28, 2004 - On Thursday, someone pointed out something I'd never noticed before about the Tom Brokaw envelope, and I had to update my supplemental page on handwriting to cover it. It appears that the person who addressed the envelope first wrote NPC and then it was corrected to NBC. It's another indicator that the writer was copying something, and possibly another indicator that a second person was involved in the writing. In this case he copied the letters NBC incorrectly as NPC but immediately corrected his mistake. Or, more likely, it was immediately corrected by someone else. The same pen was used and the correction was made in a very careful, jittery and somewhat different way. I added new graphics HERE and HERE to help illustrate this oddity, an oddity that can be interpreted in many ways. Note: this change was later removed from the site. See the entry for March 5, 2004.
February 24, 2004 - Yesterday I wrote that the Washington Times article was "very depressing". That comment evidently needs further explanation.
Many people seem to view that article as proof that the FBI is and always has been on the wrong track. Some feel it proves the FBI is incompetent. Others feel it’s proof that the FBI should have been going after al Qaeda (as if they haven’t been going after al Qaeda), or Iraq (as if they haven’t been going after Iraq), or Dr. Hatfill (as if they haven’t been thoroughly investigating Dr. Hatfill) or the Camel Club, or that funny looking guy down the street who seems to be working on something in his basement.
Looking through my file of Washington Times articles, I find that the Assaad letter has been a big issue with the Washington Times for quite a while:
An article from Feb. 26, 2002, strongly suggests that Dr. Hatfill is suspected of writing the letter and that he’s the focus of the FBI investigation.
"There is a connection between the person who sent that letter and the person who sent the anthrax," said Rosemary A. McDermott, attorney for Mr. AssaadAn article from Aug. 10, 2003, is also about the Assaad letter and contains this:
Mr. Assaad said he's convinced it is linked to a person or a group responsible for the anthrax mailings that killed five persons.On the other hand, an article from Dec. 26, 2003, begins with this:
The CIA has been quietly building a case that the anthrax attacks of 2001 were in fact the result of an international terrorist plot.And then there’s the yesterday’s article, which basically says that the FBI is admitting that they can’t solve the case. At the same time the FBI states that investigating the Assaad letter is a "low priority". It appears the Washington Times reporters tried to press Michael Mason on their pet theory, the Assaad letter, and when Mason told them that the Assaad letter was a "low priority" item, the Times reporters decided to emphasize comments Mason made about how some cases "remain unsolved".
Like everyone else, except me, the Washington Times seems to feel that if the FBI isn’t working on their pet theory, then the FBI is not on the right track.
I’m excluding myself because I believe the FBI is working on my pet theory. I believe they are trying to make a case against a scientist who lives and works in Central New Jersey. But it’s a very difficult case to make. And no matter how much circumstantial evidence they may have accumulated, they can’t make an arrest until the scientific case is wrapped up. Until they can prove to a scientific certainty that the attack anthrax originated in a specific lab and that it was made in a specific way, it would be an almost hopeless case to take to court - or even to justify an arrest. There would be just too much "reasonable doubt". I also believe, however, that they are about to wrap up the scientific case. They’ve indicated so several times recently. According to the Palm Beach Post, in an affidavit presented in the Maureen Stevens lawsuit it says:
the investigation has yielded "subjects of the investigation" and says that a "specific forensic signature is continuing to emerge which characterizes the anthrax used in the attacks."And according to the Associated Press,
The FBI has focused in recent months on an intensive scientific effort to determine how the spores were made. That effort, nearly complete, will enable agents to narrow the possibilities in terms of who had the means to make them.And according to the Washington Post,
Richard L. Lambert, the FBI inspector-in-charge, said in an affidavit that a new series of more sophisticated scientific tests, expected to identify where the anthrax was produced, will be completed in the next six months.So, the Washington Times article was "very depressing" because it excites all those who think the FBI is on the wrong track. I believe the FBI is on the right track. I believe it’s just a very difficult case to make. The article is "depressing" because it gives ammunition to all those who think otherwise.
February 23, 2004 - Today's Washington Times has an article from what appears to be a exclusive interview with Michael Mason, the head of the FBI's Washington D.C. Field Office. Taken at face value, it's also a very depressing article.
Unlike FBI Director Robert Mueller, who feels the anthrax investigation is proceeding "apace", Mason suggests that the anthrax mailer may never be caught.
"Despite our very, very, very best efforts, we still might not be able to bring it home."
"This would not be the first case in the FBI's history that remained unsolved," he said. "It simply happens to be the first case that has received this level of publicity that has not yet been solved."Mason seems to indicate that the case is still very compartmentalized, and one might even wonder if Mason is in the "compartment" which has all the information.
Mr. Mason has said leaks to reporters about the anthrax case were damaging. He spoke cautiously about the investigation into the poisoned letters, which caused five deaths in October and November 2001.The exclusive interview may have requested by the Washington Times so they could attempt to clarify the Hartford Courant's report last week about FBI efforts to track down the writer of the Assaad letter.
The Times reported last week that the FBI recently had questioned at least one other EPA scientist about the anonymous letter, which accused EPA toxicologist Ayaad Assaad of being a religious fanatic with the means to use bioterrorism weapons.When asked about the ricin attacks, Mason seemed more defensive than confident:
He dismissed reports that the substance [found in Senator Frist's mail room] had not been ricin but rather a harmless paper byproduct.
"That's not the case," Mr. Mason said, adding that he had received confirmation from the chief FBI scientist Friday that the substance was ricin. "We did not shut down the whole of government for envelope droppings."If one can glean any "lesson" from reading the hundreds upon hundreds of newspaper articles about the anthrax case during the past year and a half, it's that - like everyone else in the world - reporters interpret what they are told, they match everything to their personal beliefs, and they report their interpretations. They emphasize what they think is important and ignore what they do not think is important. Just like everyone else.
While it might appear that the head of the Washington Field Office is saying that the anthrax case is going nowhere, one might also conclude that FBI Director Mueller realizes that case was damaged by leaks from when Van Harp was in charge of the Washington Field Office, and, as a result, he may have put Michael Mason in a position where he is not capable of leaking anything - because he's not in the right "compartment". But that may just be wishful thinking on my part - or my individual interpretation of someone else's individual interpretation. When I read something that doesn't match my view of things, I tend to want to see confirmation from elsewhere.
February 23, 2004 - Meanwhile, in the ricin case, the FBI has released pictures of the letter and the envelope sent to the White House - which should forever answer the question of whether or not the letter was postmarked in Chattanooga ... while raising the question of why FBI Director Mueller didn't know that tidbit of information. I've added copies of the pictures to my page about the ricin attacks HERE.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2004, thru Saturday, February 21, 2004
February 18, 2004 - I can usually work up some "likely" reason why the FBI is doing what it's doing, but its current investigation to identify the person who wrote the "Assaad letter" has got me stumped.
The Hartford Courant reported yesterday:
The FBI recently interviewed at least one scientist from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in connection with the deadly anthrax mailings to government and media offices in the fall of 2001, a document obtained by The Courant indicates.The Assaad letter has been the subject of many theories, but is it really all that unbelieveable that two weeks after Muslims flew airliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that someone would suggest that a Muslim who once worked for USAMRIID - and who had conflicts with other scientists at USAMRIID - might be up to something sinister? There was nothing in the letter about anthrax, but some theorists find its timing to be highly suspicious. According to the Courant:
The anonymous warning, which has intrigued federal agents and amateur sleuths on the Internet for years, was sent from a mailbox in northern Virginia and postmarked Sept. 26, 2001. That is a week after the first envelope containing anthrax was mailed from New Jersey, but before the first media reports about anthrax attacks through the mail, which came days later when the first victim was identified in Florida.And from that we get news outlets like WCAX-TV in Burlington, Vermont, producing headlines like "Suspect in Anthrax Attack" and stories whch begin: "The FBI appears to have a lead in the anthrax attack that targeted Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont."
There was nothing illegal about the letter. It was just an anonymous "tip" and probably just one of countless anonymous "tips" the FBI regularly receives. It appears that the accusations in the letter were baseless, but I wouldn't be surprised if 99 percent of the "tips" the FBI receives were baseless. If the sender of the tip knew the accusations were baseless, that could be a crime, but it's a crime that is nearly impossible to prove - particularly two and a half years after it was committed.
There are those who think Dr. Hatfill sent the Assaad letter. They believe Dr. Hatfill was behind every suspicious event for which no one else has been arrested. Could the FBI be trying to prove that Dr. Hatfill didn't send the Assaad letter? Does that make any sense? It would if federal prosecutors were trying to debunk every theory that might create "reasonable doubt" about the guilt of a real suspect. But it might do more harm than good to set such a precedent, and the government has said it will not identify "confidential informants" - even those who send anonymous and/or baseless tips. So, what do they hope to accomplish?
'Tis a puzzlement.
On the other hand, based upon the e-mails I received immediately after posting the above information, the FBI's actions make a lot of sense to people who believe that someone from USAMRIID's infamous "Camel Club" is the anthrax mailer - or maybe even the whole group. The people who believe this theory evidently include reporters from The Hartford Courant. It was reporters from Courant who helped bring much of the Camel Club's activities to light, beginning with an article from December 19, 2001, titled "Turmoil in a Perilous Place". And one of those same reporters also wrote yesterday's article. So, maybe the FBI's activities do make sense after all. Those who believed that Dr. Hatfill was the anthrax mailer haven't been able to get beyond rumors and inuendo to make their case to the FBI, and it could now be the turn for those who believe the "Camel Club" did it.
February 18, 2004 - The latest theory about the ricin "attack" upon Senator Frist's office is that it could all have been a big mistake. Click HERE for details.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2004, thru Saturday, February 14, 2004
February 9-10, 2004 - Ever since my debates with Gary Matsumoto back in December, I'd been planning to go to my local library and check out Richard Preston's book "The Demon In The Freezer" again, and I finally did it. On my first reading back in Feb. of 2003, I only made notes. This time I scanned all the pages about the anthrax attack into my computer so that they can be studied in detail.
The first thing I noticed was that I hadn't made notes about all the references to the "fried egg gunk" seen on the spores in an electron microscope by Peter Jahrling and Tom Geisbert of USAMRIID. There are lots of them, mostly on page 166:
"he noticed some kind of goop clinging to the spores."But, by far the most interesting and important item I failed to notice on first reading is that, on October 24, 2001, Peter Jahrling, the senior scientist at USAMRIID was summoned to the Roosevelt Room of the White House to talk with John Ashcroft, Cabinet officials, CIA, FBI and national security people about the Daschle anthrax. On page 185 Preston writes this:
The meeting raced off on the question of whether a "state actor" could have been behind the anthrax attacks. The atmosphere in the room started to feel like a war council deciding whether or not to attack Iraq.When I read that I just threw my hands in the air and moaned. If only I'd had that in my notes when Gary Matsumoto was arguing that the anthrax had to come from some top-notch laboratory staffed by scientists trained to make anthrax powders. The senior scientist at USAMRIID who had been studying the anthrax spores had told top officials in the White House that "This anthrax could have come from a hospital lab or from any reasonably equipped college microbiology lab."
And taking another look at what Gary Matsumoto used as "proof" of his theory from Preston's book, that, too, now seems different. It's all from one chapter that is less than two pages long.
Preston says that on October 25, 2001, Tom Geisbert drove to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP) to find out if the anthrax powder contained any unusual metals or elements. AFIP examined the spores and determined that they contained silicon and oxygen. From that fact, Preston (and probably Geisbert) conclude:
The anthrax terrorist or terrorists had put powdered glass, or silica, into the anthrax. The silica was powdered so finely that under Geisbert's electron microscope it looked like fried-egg gunk dripping off the spores.Preston then describes how easily anyone can buy superfine powdered glass "known as nanopowder". But he also says,
If an anthrax spore was an orange, then these particles of glass would be grains of sand clinging to the orange.But that's not what they looked like. Preston repeatedly described the spores as having something inside them that oozed out. The spores sweated the substance and it dripped from them. He never described the spores as being coated. Never. Not once.
Unfortunately, that page ends the description of the spores. It's an inconsistency that is left unresolved. So, the subjects of coatings and additives can still be debated. But it seems clear that there can no longer be any debate over whether or not the top "experts" believe the "anthrax could have come from a hospital lab or from any reasonably equipped college microbiology lab." The government's top expert examining the anthrax said exactly that to John Ashcroft and about 20 other officials in the White House on October 24, 2001.
February 8, 2004 - In an article with a lot of interesting details about the ricin attacks in today's Washington Post, particularly regarding DNA tests, Marilyn Thompson makes this comment about the anthrax attacks:
Genetic analysis also has been an important FBI focus in the investigation of the unsolved 2001 anthrax mailings to Capitol Hill and to media outlets in New York and Florida, which left five people dead and 17 ill as the lethal microbes were spread. Those tests, some of which have been specially developed for the FBI, are incomplete, but the FBI said recently that it expects definitive results on the source of the anthrax bacteria within six months.Is that really what the FBI said? Or did they say a "specific forensic signature is continuing to emerge which characterizes the anthrax used in the attacks," they believe their scientific analysis is "nearly complete", and they requested six month delays in the Hatfill and Stevens lawsuits?
Meanwhile, an article in this week's issue of Time Magazine provides an interesting detail about the ricin found in Senator Frist's mail room:
Beyond that, investigators tell TIME that the powder found in Frist's mail room was mostly paper dust, with traces of ricin so minute, they can't even be evaluated for particle size or purity.To reduce the clutter on this page, news reports about the ricin attacks are being tracked on a separate web page which can be accessed by clicking HERE.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2004, thru Saturday, February 7, 2004
February 7, 2004 - In today's Baltimore Sun, Scott Shane reports that Judge Walton has sided with Dr. Hatfill in Hatfill's lawsuit against the FBI and government officials, declaring that he will "permit Dr. Hatfill's attorneys to submit questions and request documents from the government and news organizations."
The Justice Department has argued that permitting Hatfill's attorneys to question the government about leaks would interfere with the FBI investigation.It's difficult to determine if this indicates anything about how close the FBI may be to making an arrest in the case. It seems that the judge saw nothing in the FBI's "secret memorandum" which indicated that the anthrax case may be near a resolution. But that doesn't mean that it isn't near an end.
The judge appears to have taken a very sensible path: Dr. Hatfill's lawyers will have to "submit written questions and document demands" and the DOJ will have to explain how "answering the questions will do harm". Presumably, the explanations will be made to the judge. That should allow him to determine if it's just a stalling game or if they definitely have good reason for fearing that the anthrax case will be harmed. Answering questions about specific "leaks" regarding the BT in Hatfill's refrigerator, the bloodhounds, the results of lie detector tests, etc., shouldn't harm the anthrax case. But questions designed to determine if the FBI really does have a real suspect in the case, or if they were just harassing Dr. Hatfill to make it look like they were accomplishing something, could harm the investigation - if they have a real suspect.
According to The Washington Post, however,
Walton also dealt Hatfill's attorneys a setback. He agreed to let the government put off for six more weeks answering or providing any government information to Hatfill in the civil case. Government lawyers maintained that the anthrax investigation is at a critical stage and sought a six-month delay in answering the lawsuit, which Walton deemed too long a wait.So, I guess I'm missing something. It appears that The Baltimore Sun says Dr. Hatfill's attorneys have until February 27 to submit questions, and the Washington Post says that the government doesn't have to answer anything for another six weeks. Could that be right? Or could it be two different aspects of the case? I hate legalese! I'm trying to find someone who can explain it in layman's language.
February 5, 2004 - While there is almost certainly no connection between the ricin attacks and the anthrax attacks, and it's not even certain that the ricin found in Senator Frist's office is from the same source as two ricin letters from "Fallen Angel" found in October and November of 2003, I decided to collect a few key articles about the ricin attacks. To keep this page from being too cluttered, all the information is available by clicking HERE. Now that the whole world knows about these ricin attacks, it possible that the culprit will be arrested soon. So, the new ricin page will hopefully end up being very short.
For what it's worth, someone on the FreeRepublic.com forum pointed out that science fiction writers Jerry Pournelle, Larry Niven and Michael Flynn once wrote a book titled "Fallen Angels". According to one review on Amazon.com, "in this book, the enemy is the 'Greens'. This group includes those who consider burning fossil fuels to be a bad idea". Another review says the hero "finds himself on the run in a world vehemently opposed to everything he represents. The Earth is slipping into a new Ice Age, even while zealous Greens and 'Eco-Fascists' put a stop to any technology that might lead to global warming." While there are certainly many other references to "Fallen Angels" around, I like this one.
February 4, 2004 - An Associated Press article today reports that the "powder found in an envelope at the Wallingford mail processing center has tested negative for ricin and appears to be wood ash".
Meanwhile, The Washington Post has reported that a letter containing a vial of ricin was sent to the White House in November. That letter appears totally unconnected to the anthrax attacks. Whether or not it is connected to the ricin found yesterday in the Dirksen building is not yet known, but, according to another article in The Washington Post, "Investigators Seek Ties In Anthrax, Ricin Cases". A connection is probably something that would have to be checked out, but such a connection seems highly unlikely. It seems primarily an opportunity for the media to again mention Dr. Hatfill and the fact that the anthrax case remains unsolved.
February 3, 2004 - An Associated Press article today confirms that the FBI is still focused on trying to determine all they can about the anthrax and how it was made, but adds that the effort is "nearly complete". That tidbit of information fits nicely with the fact that the government has asked for delays in responding to the Stevens and Hatfill law suits. I'm not going to get my hopes up, since I've been disappointed so many times in the past, but there are definite signs that there might be some movement in the anthrax case soon - - "soon" meaning within the next two or three months. Since the compartmentalized case may be opening up to let judges and prosecutors in on the secrets, rumors and leaks may run rampant long before anything official is announced.
Meanwhile, everyone seems to be talking about the discovery of ricin in the Dirksen Senate office building and the discovery of a "suspicious powder" at the Wallingford Mail Center in Connecticut, as if they meant something to the anthrax case - particularly since they both powder discoveries happened on the same day. Until there is evidence to the contrary, however, all it really proves is that there are a lot of nut cases running around out there. An arrest in the anthrax case won't cure that particular problem. However, it would be nice if more people understood the difference between being jittery and being alert.
February 2, 2004 - In a very enlightening demonstration of how the Internet has changed the way we get our news - and how we need to thoroughly examine and evaluate what news we get - a battle of opinions that apparently began in the relative privacy of the FreeRepublic.com discussion forum now appears at or near the top of the list when you look up "anthrax" on news.google.com.
Over the past many months, I've had various people tell me about this debate and how someone on the FreeRepublic.com forum who called himself "The Great Satan" was suspected of being the anthrax culprit. Evidently, in some message posted at some time in the past, "The Great Satan" wrote something that people interpreted as being a "confession". Since then, some True Believers seem to be able to talk about nothing else. Some have even been thrown off other forums because they wouldn't shut up about it and they are boring people to tears.
Although today is Groundhog Day and not April Fool's Day, which would be much more appropriate, the lead story when you look up "anthrax" on news.google.com is an "article" supposedly written by "Bob Woodward" headlined "Graduate Student Fired for Harrassment in Anthrax Case". And just below it is another "article" by "Sir Nayland-Smith" titled "Luigi Warren solves anthrax case". But things really get interesting when you go to the link to the site called "The Hatfill Project" where names are named and Luigi Warren (a.k.a. "The Great Satan"?) rips into Ross Getman, Stuart Jacobsen and others over differing opinions about the case. I'd have felt left out if I wasn't also mentioned. I am. The site says this about me:
Most innocuously, Hatfill cultivated Ed Lake, a hard-working but rather dopey web "expert" on the anthrax case who offered up a theory that the anthrax letters were written by a child because they were in block capitals. Clawson also cultivated Lake, driving hundreds of miles to meet him for dinner.The site even includes .mp3 voice mails said to be from Getman and Jacobsen. And it's filled with odd-ball "facts" which may or may not really be facts.
While most of the world seems to believe there isn't anything happening in the anthrax case, it really all depends upon your point of view. The pace of the drama may be slow, but the comedy aspects often make it truly fascinating. There's a common abbreviation they use on the Internet that says it all: ROTFLOLAPMP
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
thru Saturday, January 31, 2004
January 31, 2004 - It appears that the federal government isn't only concerned about Dr. Hatfill's lawsuit screwing up their anthrax case, they also want to delay for at least six months any action in the lawsuit filed against the goverment by Bob Stevens' widow. In today's Palm Beach Post, it says:
In motions filed this week in federal court, lawyers for the government said, "... a stay of this civil suit is necessary to avoid compromising the United States' active investigation of the anthrax attacks of fall 2001 and to avoid public disclosure of sensitive information concerning biological weapons such as anthrax."Even more interesting, in an affidavit attached to the government's motion, Richard Lambert, the FBI's inspector in charge of the FBI/U.S. Postal Service's anthrax investigation, provides some intriguing information:
The affidavit says the investigation has yielded "subjects of the investigation" and says that a "specific forensic signature is continuing to emerge which characterizes the anthrax used in the attacks."This seems to say that the FBI is looking at specific people in the case, and the FBI is continuing to search for ways in which the exact source of the anthrax and its exact processing methods can be determined to a scientific degree which would make the information admissible in court.
Since Maureen Stevens' lawsuit specifically "names the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases [USAMRIID] at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md., as the source of the Ames anthrax strain that Stevens believes infected her husband", it's easy to see why the feds might not want - at this point in time - to show scientific evidence that the anthrax did not come from USAMRIID but came from a different lab.
Many will undoubtedly just see this as just another stall by the feds to cover up the "fact" that they have no suspect and the case is hopelessly bogged down. However, if taken at face value (which is a good way to go if you have no solid proof to the contrary), the affidavit says that the FBI is still trying to make a solid case to take to court - a case that would virtually guarantee a conviction (or convictions).
January 27, 2003 - In today's Baltimore Sun, Scott Shane reports that Judge Walton, the judge hearing Dr. Hatfill's claim that government leaks have wrecked his career, "is not convinced that allowing a lawsuit by Dr. Steven J. Hatfill to proceed will endanger the FBI's investigation of the anthrax letters".
Walton said the government's voluminous court filings have not persuaded him to postpone the suit until the anthrax case is solved, as Justice Department lawyers are seeking.
"Is Mr. Hatfill still a suspect?" Walton asked. "Are there any suspects? At some point, it seems to me, if Mr. Hatfill did not commit this crime, he should get his life back."The motions hearing was held yesterday, and later in the day Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark E. Nagle provided the judge with "an affidavit containing secret additional information on the progress of the anthrax case".
Walton said that after reviewing the government's secret affidavit, as well as more information [one of Dr. Hatfill's attorneys Mark A.] Grannis promised to provide on Hatfill's behalf, he will either issue a written ruling on the government's request to freeze the lawsuit or hold an additional hearing Feb. 6.While I certainly hope that the case will be allowed to proceed so that Dr. Hatfill can attempt to clear his name - and also in hopes that there might be some new information to help end some of the endless debates about the anthrax case - I also fear that the U.S. Government can make a compelling argument for delaying Dr. Hatfill's case until an arrest is made in the anthrax case. I do not feel that they are just stalling because they have no other suspects. I feel they are making a case against someone else, and I can see ways that Q&A discovery sessions in the Dr. Hatfill's case would harm or complicate that other case - the vastly more important case, as far as this country is concerned.
An indefinite delay, however, would serve no one's interests. Hopefully, the judge will not agree to an indefinite delay no matter what government's affidavit says.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2004, thru Saturday, January 24, 2004
January 24, 2003 - In a discussion on one of the FreeRepublic.com forums yesterday, someone pointed out an AP article from December 21, 2001, which seems to contradict the Wall Street Journal article from December 3, 2001, quoted here two days ago.
The AP article says,
[William] Patrick said the spores mailed to the senators' offices are "one step removed from weapons grade."
"It has small particles, with good concentration, (but) it is electrostatic (carries an electrical charge)," said Patrick.
To make the mailed spores suitable for military weapons, the electrical charge would have to be removed. The electrical charge helps make the spore become airborne at the slightest puff of air.
Investigators have said that the anthrax spores in the letters sent to the senators' offices were so charged that they tended to jump off microscope slides and fly about the chamber where they were being examined.
Patrick said the same thing would have happened to anyone who made spores for the anthrax-by-letter attacks.
"It would have been flying all over the room," he said, with up to half the material lost.The statements by William Patrick seem contradictory. First he says that the spores mailed to the senators' offices are "one step removed from weapons grade" and that the electrical charge would have to be removed to make a good weapon, and then he seems to say that "The electrical charge helps make the spore become airborne at the slightest puff of air," which would seem a desirable attribute for a biological weapon.
It would be nice to have an expert explain exactly why the statements may seem contractidory but are not.
Meanwhile, it seems to me that he's saying that if the spores have an electrical charge they are unpredictable. They will cling to certain objects and jump away from other objects. They will be overly difficult and dangerous to work with when putting together a weapon. So, to make a "good" biological weapon, the electrostatic charge should be removed. That way the spores will act predictably - floating around in the most desirable way - like easily inhaled smoke particles. The sentence "The electrical charge helps make the spore become airborne at the slightest puff of air" could be an interpretation by the writer of the article. Everything seems to indicate that static charged spores would tend to cling and be less affected by "the slightest puff of air". It isn't air currents which affect them, it's the proximity to the electrical charges in other objects. But I could be wrong about that.
One fact seems evident in all the articles: Spores in a biological weapon should not have an electrostatic charge. The unanswered questions are about why that is true.
January 22, 2004 - Gary Matsumoto's Nov. 28, 2003, article in Science magazine still seems to be the favorite topic for anthrax debates.
Some people interpret the Science article as saying that the static electricity in the spores in the Daschle letter is what makes the spores so dangerous. They appear to believe that when the letter was opened, static electricity caused the spores to burst out of the letter like confetti or streamers from some party favor. Actually, just the opposite is true. Static charges in the spores probably saved lives by keeping the spores from being easily dispersed. A Dec. 3, 2001, article in the Wall Street Journal described the effect this way:
According to scientists who have made anthrax for use in weapons in the U.S. and the former Soviet Union, the presence of an electrostatic charge may have saved American lives. While some of the charged particles can still become airborne -- where they are the most deadly -- much of the material tends to cling to surfaces.And:
The sticking tendency may have made cross-contamination of mail more likely, according to one senior Federal Bureau of Investigation official involved in the investigation, because the spores would have been prone to attach themselves to envelopes and surfaces.
However, the spores would be less likely to float. "Electrostatically charged materials are very hard to disseminate," explained Bill Patrick, a scientist who helped develop anthrax-loaded weapons for the U.S. in the 1950s and 1960s.The Science article says just the opposite:
The Senate anthrax spores carried like electrical charges, and some experts believe that they were added deliberately to aid dispersal.And:
[Stuart] Jacobsen says that friction would add static electricity only to surfaces: "If anything, the sorting machine's pinch rollers and the envelopes should get charged," he says, "not the spores inside."But according to the ESD (Electro Static Discharge) Journal:
The Anthrax may have had its static charges removed before mailing. However, normal handling may have reintroduced electrostatic charges. We in the ESD industry know that mail-sorter machines could have created triboelectric charges by jostling the letters containing the powder.So, the static charge was created by "jostling the letters". The powder inside was jostled around, and that's what caused the spores to pick up the static charge. And,
These static charges also promoted contact cross-contamination with mail and mail sorting machines. However, they also helped to keep the spores from becoming airborne which would have posed a much greater threat.So far, there doesn't seem to be anything in the Science article that holds up under close examination. It seems to be totally based upon rumor and speculation - while ignoring facts and direct observation.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2004, thru Saturday, January 17, 2004
January 16, 2004 - While putting together an index of the 15,000+ anthrax-related e-mails I have in my files, I found a critical message from Professor Matthew Meselson that I'd totally forgotten about. It relates to my dispute with Gary Matsumoto as described on my supplemental page about coatings on the anthrax. The message is dated Oct. 29, 2002, and it was sent as a result of the controversy over the article published in the Washington Post that day by Guy Gugliotta and Gary Matsumoto. The key information is in the final paragraph:
Dear Mr. Lake,
As you know, despite claims in Monday's Washington Post and in Richard Preston's newest book, there is no official confirmation that anything was added to the B. anthracis spores in the Daschle or Leahy material.
I have carefully examined scanning electron micrographs of the former and saw no evidence of nanoparticles or any other foreign material, just anthrax spores. Ken Alibek is quoted as saying the same. I know of no qualified observer of the EM photos who concludes differently.
You should insist on official confirmation of any claims of additives before believing there are any in the Daschle/ Leahy material.
Another confusion surrounds the question of spore size. All mature spores of B. anthracis are the same size, egg-shaped and about a micron in average diameter. What varies is the clumpiness. Under the scanning EM I saw some single spores but the great majority of spores were in clumps of many spores. Whether that was the case with the material in the envelope when it was opened is a different matter. Perhaps yes, perhaps no.
A third point of interest is that the B. globigii spore perparation used by the DRES in Canada and provided by the US Army lab at Dugway was both impure and, in the EM photos I saw, clumpy. I understand that it was not treated with anything. Yet, if the data in the report are accurate, opening even the envelope with only 0.1 gram of spore preparation would have delivered large doses to unmasked individuals in the room during the ten minutes after the letter was opened. Even impure apparently clumpy spore preparations can put large numbers of spores into the air under the conditions of the Canadian experiments. From their data, one may estimate that the amount that became airborne was a few percent of what was in the envelopes.My response to Professor Meselson at the time was that I didn't see how the presence or absense of silica would help identify the culprit. So, I never used the information on my site. And I totally forgot about it.
However, it now appears that it is highly relevant to the debunking of the November 28, 2003, Science Magazine article written by Gary Matsumoto. The entire premise of the Science article was that the simulant used in the "Risk Assessment of Anthrax Threat Letters" performed by the Canadian military was made with some secret U.S. process involving a silica coating, and that those tests demonstrated that uncoated powders would not work anywhere near as well. Specifically, the particles would lack "floatability".
It never made any sense to me that a valid test could me made with some coated powder that could only be made in a large lab with secret processes. The idea was to see what damage a terrorist with limited resources could do with anthrax sent through the mails. So, to simulate something made by a terrorists, the simulant powder should have been made with simple processes - and it evidently was. And, just in case you missed the key points in Professor Meselson's e-mail, here they are again:
the B. globigii spore perparation used by the DRES in Canada and provided by the US Army lab at Dugway was both impure and, in the EM photos I saw, clumpy. I understand that it was not treated with anything.Although the debate with Gary Matsumoto has been over for a many weeks, I'm still getting e-mails about it. An increase in e-mails began a couple days ago when the web site run by author Edward J. Epstein indicated that he seems to believe Mastumoto.
Based upon my e-mails, the entire subject of coatings is very definitely a heated and critical subject with scientists. Everyone wishes the matter would be resolved. But how can a matter be resolved when experts who have actually seen the anthrax and experts who know how it was made are on one side, and the media - using only speculation instead of facts - is on the other side? Do we really want some expert to describe to the media (and terrorists) in great detail exactly how the Senate anthrax was made?
January 13, 2004 - Two years ago today, I purchased the rights to the domain name anthraxinvestigation.com for two years and moved everything from the original site to this one. I've just renewed the rights to that domain name for another two years. But I'm beginning to feel that if no arrest is made in the case as of this time next year, then it's probably going to be one of those cases like the Tylenol killings, where the authorities believe they know who did it, but they do not have the necessary proof to take to court. Currently, I believe that an arrest will be made sometime within the next six months. But maybe it's more of a hope than a belief. I've felt the same way several times in the past, but nothing ever came of it.
Meanwhile, the only event visible on the horizon is the hearing scheduled for February 6, 2004, in Dr. Hatfill's lawsuit against John Ashcroft, the FBI and various officials.
However, even if there is no imminent break in the case, we can still hope that some of the political aspects of the case get formally and officially debunked. If we learn exactly why the FBI spent so much time investigating Dr. Hatfill, and/or if we learn whether or not the anthrax spores were coated with silica, maybe we can stop wasting so much time on debates and spend more time on looking at the evidence and what it really means.
|Updates & Changes:
January 1, 2004, thru Saturday, January 10, 2004
January 10, 2004 - According to today's Lafayette Louisiana Advertiser, the person who actually sent the Louisiana hoax anthrax letters - which Don Foster suggested in his Vanity Fair article were sent by Dr. Hatfill - was convicted of the crime today.
January 5, 2004 - Ross Getman, who runs a web site dedicated to proving that al Qaeda was behind the anthrax attacks of 2001, has put 2 and 2 together by connecting two al Qaeda sympathizers Michael Ray Stubbs and James Stubbs arrested in the Philippines on December 13, 2003, to the two anthrax attacks. Philippine authorities said the brothers met with charity groups believed to be fronts for Al Qaeda and violated immigration rules by soliciting charitable funds while having only a tourist visa. In an article posted on a Belgian "Independent News" web site where the operating slogan is: "DON'T HATE THE MEDIA >> BE THE MEDIA !!", Getman points out that Michael Ray Stubbs was a HVAC technican at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories (LLNL) until March 2000, and that facility has done DNA testing and other work on anthrax. So, he seeks proof that Stubbs could not have obtained the attack anthrax there. He doesn't know if LLNL ever had Ames anthrax or if they ever had any live anthrax of any kind at LLNL, but, evidently, until such proof is provided, his assumption will be that that's where al Qaeda got the attack anthrax. After two years of trying to prove that al Qaeda was behind the attacks, he at last has found what he apparently thinks is a "connection". And in his e-mails to me he indicated that he's upset that others aren't as excited about this "connection" as he is.
Meanwhile, Cliff Kincaid of AIM (Accuracy In Media) is still trying to make the case that Iraq and Saddam Hussein were behind the attacks. In an article titled "Saddam Behind Anthrax Attacks?" he reports "there is evidence to indicate Saddam’s anthrax program was capable of producing the kind of anthrax that hit America shortly after 9/11." And, since there's absolutely no evidence that Iraq ever had the Ames strain, his logic is to forget about the strain and to go with the tactics of Gary Matsumoto in the Science article of November 28, 2003, and concentrate on the technology that "must" have been used.
So, we begin 2004 with the same people believing the same things about the anthrax case as they did at the start of 2003. And I'm no exception. I still believe that if I cannot prove that something is not true, that does not mean that it is true.