|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2005, thru Saturday, December 31, 2005
December 31, 2005 - I'd hoped that my last comment for 2005 would include some details explaining the recent docket entry in the Hatfill v Foster et al lawsuit which states
RESPONSE TO THE GOVERNMENT'S LETTER DATED 12/15/2005. The government has sent me a letter after receiving the subpoenas addressed to various Government agencies...(Signed by Judge Colleen McMahon on 12/16/2005). "Copies Sent By Chambers". (mde, ) (Entered: 12/19/2005)I'd certainly like to see the government's letter and Judge McMahon's response, but neither appear to be available on-line.
The Washington Post newspaper reporters promoting the conspiracy theory began with the false premise that the spores must have been coated with silica because AFIP detected silicon and oxygen in the Daschle anthrax. That false premise fitted nicely with the idea that the anthrax came from an illegal bioweapons program being run by the Bush administration, which, of course would be covered up by a vast conspiracy.
When bioweapons experts and microbiologists told them their basic premise was false and that there was no need to coat anthrax spores, the reporters simply went looking for "experts" who would tell them what they wanted to hear. They found "experts" who knew nothing about bioweapons or microbiology or spores. They found "experts" who knew only about coatings - primarily chemical engineers who routinely coat chemical substances. The application of coatings to tiny particles is routine in the manufacturing of medicines. Since chemical engineers know how to coat tiny particles of lactose (or phosphors), for example, the conspiracy theorists and their "experts" just falsely assumed the same technology could be applied to coating spores.
All they had to do was ignore the fact that a spore is a living entity. It is not a chemical substance like lactose. A spore can be killed if it isn't handled properly.
One reason for coating chemical substances like lactose is because van der Waals forces will cause the tiny lactose particles to bind together if they are not coated. That will make it difficult to use the tiny particles of lactose in nasal and throat sprays.
The reason lactose particles bind together is because lactose is a carbohydrate and "carbohydrates are polar molecules", i.e., "The geometry of atoms in polar molecules is such that one end of the molecule has a positive electrical charge and the other side has a negative charge." So, like little magnets, particles made from such molecules will tend to stick together. The same is true for "Electrically Charged Granular Matter."
Spores on the other hand are primarily made up of non-polar compounds. "A non-polar molecule is one that the electrons are distributed more symmetrically and thus does not have an abundance of charges at the opposite sides. The charges all cancel out each other." So, they do not tend to stick together in any significant way. To get around that major difference, all the conspiracy theorists have to do is ignore science.
NOTE: The two paragraphs above were modified on Jan. 12, 2006, to correct errors.
They also ignore basic science when they imagine that coatings of fumed silica can be applied to spores in the same way they are applied to tiny particles of lactose. With lactose, it's typically done by first suspending the polar lactose particles in a non-polar liquid -- such as liquid nitrogen -- to prevent the individual lactose particles from clumping before they can be coated. This works well with lactose because lactose particles are solid spheres of chemical material. Spores, on the other hand, are organic and have pores, which the spore uses to sense the environment to determine if the conditions are right for germination. Liquid nitrogen would quickly get inside the spores through the pores, and when returned to room temperature, the liquid nitrogen would turn to a gas causing the spores to pop like popcorn! And that's not all ...
The conspiracy theorists and their "experts" also ignore a basic scientific guideline:
Like dissolves like. Polar solvents dissolve polar solutes and non-polar solvents dissolve non-polar solutes.So, polar lactose will not dissolve in non-polar liquid nitrogen. But what would happen to non-polar spores in a non-polar liquid? The conspiracy theorists don't bother to ask.
The best example of reporters using this conspiracy theory methodology was in The Washington Post's October 28, 2002, article "FBI's Theory On Anthrax Is Doubted". Instead of talking with people who know about spores, like bioweapons experts or microbiologists, the reporters used as their "experts" 3 chemical engineers, a "pharmaceutical chemist", a manufacturer of spray dryers and a biologist who openly admitted he knew nothing about coating spores and would need a year and a team of technicians to help him figure out how to do it.
Two actual bioweapons experts wrote a letter to the editor of the Washington Post telling them that the fictitious coatings described in the article would be easily seen, there were no such coatings, and advised: "statements attributed to anonymous sources or from persons who have not examined the actual evidence should be greeted with caution."
But that didn't stop the conspiracy theorists. A year later, one of the reporters behind the Washington Post article, Gary Matsumoto, wrote an article for the November 28, 2003, issue of Science magazine titled "Anthrax Powder -- State of the Art?" In it he used the same tactics as he used previously. He separated the "experts" into two "factions", one "faction" which knew about spores and bioweapons and another "faction" which believed Matsumoto's conspiracy theory. Here's how the two "factions" are described:
One group, comprised mostly of microbiologists and molecular biologists, argues that this material could have been a do-it-yourself job, made by someone knowledgeable but with run-of-the-mill lab equipment on a modest budget. This contingent includes one well-known bioweaponeer, Ken Alibek, who defected from Russia to the United States in 1992.In my book, I described this dispute as being between microbiologists and engineers. I now see that isn't entirely correct. It's just that the conspiracy theorists will more easily find supporters among engineers, chemists and chemical engineers who know only about coatings and nothing about spores. It's really a dispute between experts who know all the key facts and non-experts who just imagine what the facts are.
And that poses a question once asked by comic strip character Dilbert: "when did ignorance become a point of view?"
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2005, thru Saturday, December 24, 2005
December 22, 2005 - I modified the content and format of this "new" main page to be more compatible with the original main page and with the ongoing investigation. I added a totally new Overview Section which explains why I couldn't continue with the original main page and lists the findings of my analysis with links to both main pages. I deleted the Reviews Section from the new main page, replacing it with a link to the equivalent Supplemental Page. I modified and changed the name of Section 2 to be "'New' Information since Jan. 1, 2000", and I modified and changed the name of Section 3 to be "Pending Events".
One purpose of these changes is to make certain that people who visit this site for the first time get the "overview" of the entire site and don't just see it as a small site about my book.
December 19, 2005: There have been some docket entries in the Hatfill v Foster lawsuit which I failed to notice because the clerk didn't change the "Date Of Last Filing" until today. (I can check the "Date of Last Filing" for free, but it costs me 8 cents to actually look at new entries!) Unfortunately, none of the documents are available via PACER. The key docket entries are these:
no pleading may be amended after 01/27/06;So, we can't expect to see a trial in this case before November of 2006. And we probably can't expect a settlement before then, either, since there's a lot of money involved.
(I blew another 8 cents checking for new entries in the Hatfill v Ashcroft lawsuit, but there haven't been any since the "Date of Last Filing" Dec. 7, 2005.)
December 18, 2005 - Yesterday, I watched a TV program titled "Bioterror Alert" on the National Geographic Channel. It was about the "big six" biological threats: anthrax, smallpox, plague, tularemia, botulism toxin and viral hemorrhagic fevers. The subject of anthrax and the anthrax attacks of 2001 took up the first 12 or 15 minutes of the program. Dr. Peter Jahrling of USAMRIID talked about the Daschle anthrax, saying:
What impressed us was the purity. We saw nothing but spores, no vegetative material or debris or anything that would suggest this was crude material. This was highly concentrated and purified anthrax spores.He also commented that the spores would aerosolize "like smoke" if disturbed.
Yet, some chemical engineers keep telling me this is impossible and that the spores would have to be coated with silica or some other substance for them to act that way. One of them pointed out this comment from THIS LINK about "fine-grained particles":
the processing of fine-grained particles with diameters between 1 and 10 microns is complicated due to strong van-der-Waals attraction forces. With increasing fineness of the particles, the van-der-Waals-force between the particles increases in comparison to the gravity force. This effect causes the particles to agglomerate or to stick to surfaces. In order to improve the handling properties, the fine-grained particles (host-particles) are coated with various nano-particles (guest-particles).The same sort of thing is repeated on pages 271-273 at THIS LINK where engineers or chemical engineers state that
the relative strength of van der Waals forces acting upon small particles, increases with decreasing particle size. Thus, powders of very small particles with diameters of only some microns tend to clump and form aggregates.Yet, microbiologists who work with spores every day know that the effects of van der Waals forces on spores are negligible. As long as the spores are totally dry, spores brought together will not bind in any significant way and will easily separate again.
NOTE added Dec. 19: It's no coincidence that when the Washington Post wanted to promote a conspiracy theory about coatings on the attack spores with their Oct. 28, 2002, article "FBI's Theory On Anthrax Is Doubted" they didn't use any microbiologists, they relied upon 3 chemical engineers, a "pharmaceutical scientist", a manufacturer of spray dryers and a biologist who openly admitted he didn't know anything about anthrax spores. Lesson: If you want to promote a theory about coatings on spores, you get experts who know about coatings, you don't go to experts who know about spores - because they'll tell you coating spores is nonsense. End of added Note.
I discuss this argument on page156 of my book, but I leave it unresolved. Subsequent research indicated to me that spores do not bind in any significant way because they are non-polar, and van der Waals forces apply primarily to polar substances. But my research falls on deaf ears when talking with engineers. They simply cite quotes from engineering text books or from articles like the ones above and suggest that all the microbiologists in the world are either mistaken or are part of some grand conspiracy involving the FBI, USAMRIID, top bioweapons experts and everyone in the world who disagrees with engineering facts about van der Waals forces.
It seems to me there MUST be some source which can permanently and authoritatively resolve this dispute. Simple facts alone wouldn't be enough. They'd have to be facts which specifically and scientifically address the subject of how van der Waals forces affect spores and why the effect on spores is different from (or the same as) the effect on other substances. Plus, the engineers I deal with would only be swayed by facts and authority. They won't even listen to someone who doesn't have unimpeachable credentials.
I can see from the activity logs that nearly every college and university in the world visits this site from time to time, so if anyone has anything that can help resolve this dispute, I'd certainly like to see it.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2005, thru Saturday, December 17, 2005
December 13, 2005 - This morning someone pointed out another theory about the anthrax attacks of 2001 which has been brought to the attention of the FBI by someone with impressive credentials. The theory is evidently about a South African drug company and can be found HERE, HERE, and HERE. It was brought to my attention via a copy of a letter sent to the FBI two months ago which included this statement:
until the FBI's Amerithrax investigation examines seriously questions related to possible South African involvement, it will be woefully incomplete and blindered.Interestingly, "Molly" (see the comments for December 5-7) wrote this to the same forum at the same time:
If they did not look into my story, then a defense lawyer would bring it up and send the trial into chaos.One can only wonder how many theories the Amerithrax task force has been forced to check out. They've stated that they drained that pond in Maryland and investigated Dr. Berry because, if they didn't, they'd have been accused of not being thorough.
Over the years, I've had at least two dozen people get upset with me because I don't believe their theories. I imagine the FBI has had hundreds do the same.
December 12, 2005 - I'm frequently sent scientific papers written by scientists who fail to see that what they are writing about the anthrax case is totally ridiculous because they were misled by the Gary Matsumoto article in Science Magazine. Today another such scientific paper was brought to my attention. It's titled "Literatur Review and Parametric Study: Indoor Particle Resuspension by Human Activity" and was written by 4 engineers at Pennsylvania State University and someone from Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland. On the third page it says,
In a recent study (Matsumoto 2003), researchers found that anthrax used in the attacks against the US 2001 were intelligently weaponized by using a layer of silicon bumps around the anthrax spores. The addition of these silicon bumps reduced the particle adhesion forces, thereby increasing the chance of particle resuspension.Did these scientists simply assume that Gary Matsumoto is a "scientist" instead of a newspaper reporter because his article was printed in Science Magazine?
And who are these "researchers" who they believe "found that anthrax used in the attacks against the US 2001 were intelligently weaponized by using a layer of silicon bumps around the anthrax spores"? Wouldn't they be surprised to learn that those "researchers" consist of one person who knows absolutely nothing about bioweapons and just made it all up to promote a conspiracy theory!?
Finding this and other articles that popped up in the past week reminds me of a recent (and hilarious) dispute over the article titled "2001 anthrax attacks" in Wikipedia, "the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit". (Wikipedia has been in the news recently because of an article someone wrote as a lark which stated that John Seigenthaler Sr. was once "thought to have been directly involved in the Kennedy assassinations of both John, and his brother, Bobby." The news articles are HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE.)
A couple weeks ago, several of the people listed under "Amateur investigators and journalists" tried to alter what was said about them. Mostly they wanted the text to be more flattering. "Puffery" is the word used by the editors who removed the added material. One of the "amateur investigators and journalists" then tried to get his entry removed, but the editors kept putting it back - without the "puffery". Watching the entry get added, remove, added, removed, added over and over was hilarious.
Since I was looking at the article anyway, I checked the entry about me and made a different kind of change. The entry said,
Ed Lake operates the web site http://www.anthraxinvestigation.com, which contains most if not all of the published information relating to the case.I changed it to read,
Ed Lake operates the web site http://www.anthraxinvestigation.com, which contains hundreds of news articles and scientific reports, plus many legal documents concerning the incident.But the editors changed it back. I didn't feel it was worth arguing about, but I certainly do not have all the published information relating to the case, and I'm not even sure I have most of it. I've collected everything I can find that contains anything new, but in just the past week I learned I didn't have the transcript of General Parker's testimony of Oct. 31, 2001. I only had his opening statement. I found I didn't have the San Francisco Chronicle article which says the attack anthrax contained silica grains. I didn't have the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory report. And I didn't have the "Indoor Particle Resuspension by Human Activity" report. Who knows what else I've missed?
The images directly relate to a controversial article printed in The Washington Post on October 29, 2002, titled "FBI's Theory On Anthrax Is Doubted", which said:
A significant number of scientists and biological warfare experts are expressing skepticism about the FBI's view that a single disgruntled American scientist prepared the spores and mailed the deadly anthrax letters that killed five people last year.In order to create a speculative theory that the attack spores were coated with fumed silica a full year after the anthrax attacks, the authors evidently had to rationalize one simple and basic fact which they mention in their own article: fumed silica would be CLEARLY seen under an electron microscope.
Bioweapons experts Matthew Meselson and Ken Alibek pointed that fact out in their letter to the editor of The Washington Post dated November 5, 2002:
The Oct. 28 front-page article "FBI's Theory on Anthrax Is Doubted" reported that silica enabled anthrax spores sent through the mail last fall to become airborne. The article quoted unnamed sources as saying that the spores had been formulated with a product called fumed silica, which, under an electron microscope, "would look like cotton balls strung together into strands that branch out in every direction."So, while "Several sources agreed that the most likely way to build the coated spores would be to use the fine glass particles, known generically as "fumed silica", it appears those sources hadn't seen the spores, so, the Washington Post article was based upon ignorance of the facts. The image on the right below is from Stephan P. Velsko's article "Physical and Chemical Analytical Analysis: A key component of Bioforensics"and shows what a spore coated with fumed silica actually looks like:
Plus there's an image of spores imbedded in fumed silica at the bottom of page 262 of "Microbial Forensics".
It seems inconceivable that a reporter would continue to believe the attack spores were coated even after top bioweapons experts said they saw no such coating, and after USAMRIID released a photo of a "reference sample of pure anthrax spores similar in character" to what was in the Daschle letter, and after General John S. Parker, the head of USAMRIID, told Congress this on October 31, 2001:
USAMRIID next began investigating the dry powder on 18 October by scanning electron microscopy (SEM). This method revealed particle aggregates of varying sizes comprised solely of spores without a visible binding matrix. The material seen under SEM ranged in size from single spores to aggregates of spores up to 100 microns or more. The spores within the aggregate were uniform in appearance. The aggregates had a propensity to pulverize.Yet, two years after General Parker's testimony and a year after the Washington Post article, on November 28, 2003, one of the same reporters who wrote the Post article had somehow found more scientists who were willing to speculate about coatings on the attack anthrax. And he wrote an article for Science Magazine describing a totally preposterous and totally imaginary coating method which would also be clearly visible to anyone viewing the spores under an electron microscope.
It also seems inconceivable that such nonsense articles would be mindlessly reprinted all over the world. But they were. Since such coatings would be visible to any expert looking at the spores under an electron microscope, the articles imply that there's a vast conspiracy to hide the fact that the spores were coated in some way, and people love conspiracy theories - no matter how preposterous those conspiracy theories are.
As a result, it's clearly important to correct popular misconceptions when discussing the subject of microbial forensics in court. If you don't, the popular misconceptions could be on the minds of jurors and affect their decisions. The authors of "Microbial Forensics" did that with their pictures of coated spores. They provide pictures which prosecutors can show to jurors to help prove that the media's reports about coatings on the attack anthrax are total fiction and should be ignored.
Forensics is about proving things in court. Sometimes you can't prove what needs to be proven without first clearing up popular misconceptions generated by the media.
As I was writing the above comments, I began wondering why General Parker thought it was significant that the attack anthrax did NOT have a "visible binding matrix".
Researching the term, I found that a "binding matrix" is used to extract DNA, and the binding matrix consists of "silica beads that trap DNA".
So, it seems the absence of a "binding matrix" was viewed as significant to General Parker because it indicated that the detected silicon and oxygen (at the time thought to be silica) did not come from such a compound. They'd looked for silica particles and found none.
Plowing on further through articles mentioning "binding matrix", I stumbled upon a report produced for the Hazardous Materials Response Unit (HMRU) division of the FBI by the Center for Environmental Biotechnology at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The report can be accessed by clicking HERE.
Among other things, the report explains how they refine and dry pure spores using procedures which were known long before 9/11. It says on page 4:
Purified spores (Figure 2) were freeze dried and stored at -20°C. Reproducibly, a batch of twelve 2 x SG plates yielded ~200 mg of pure spores with a spore density of ~10¹² spores/g.Pure spores with a spore density of ~10¹² spores per gram is a TRILLION SPORES PER GRAM, exactly what was in the anthrax attack envelopes. And the procedure is "reproducible", meaning it can be done again and again as often as needed.
So, this report confirms what some experts have been saying for the past 4 years: Creating trillion-spore-per-gram concentrations is a routine lab procedure!
The authors of the Washington Post and Science Magazine articles either simply didn't bother to learn the differences between what was created via 1950s mass production techniques and what can be easily created in a lab - or they ignored those differences. They were promoting a conspiracy theory, and when you are promoting a conspiracy theory, you ignore the facts which do not support that theory.
The same thing happened with the journalists who helped Barbara Hatch Rosenberg promote her conspiracy theory about the FBI covering up for Dr. Hatfill.
When I'd completed writing the above comments, I began wondering again about General Parker's testimony. The quote I used was from this Opening Statement. Was the actual testimony on-line somewhere. As it turns out, it is. It's HERE. I don't think I've ever read it before, but it contains a lot of interesting material, particularly about the confusion over the meaning of the term "weaponization". At one point, General Parker says,
The term ``weaponization'' has no real scientific or medical meaningAnd later, Dr. Tara O'Toole from Johns Hopkins University says,
"Weaponized"' says more than we know. What we really mean is that it is highly energetic and it can float around in the air.Which, of course is what natural uncoated spores did in the wool sorting factories of the 1880s. That's why people died back then.
Back in Febuary of 2003 I wrote a section titled "Weaponization is just a Buzz Word" for this web site. Clearly it's still just a buzz word. Few can agree on what it truly means.
In discussions about the above comments, someone who continues to believe that the attack anthrax spores were coated pointed out an article titled "Silica grains detected in anthrax letter are tiny clues" which appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle immediately after the testimony by General Parker. Where did they get the idea that there were "silica grains" in the Daschle anthrax? Neither the word "silica" nor the word "grains" appears anywhere in General Parker's testimony. Was it assumed because General Parker said they had detected "silica"? General Parker certainly said nothing about "silica grains". In fact, he suggested just the opposite when he said there was "no visible binding matrix". And here's another statement from the Chronicle which appears to have come direct from the imagination of the reporter:
Yet the silica found in the Daschle letter, which contained a high concentration of anthrax spores and had a milled appearance, could account for its efficient spread.A milled appearance? The silica had a milled appearance? Where did that come from? All the top experts have said the SPORES were NOT milled. And who ever said the silica had a milled appearance?
There seems no end to the nonsense printed about the attack anthrax by the media.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2005, thru Saturday, December 10, 2005
December 7, 2005 - According to the Docket, a "Joint Report of Parties' Conference" was filed in the Hatfill v Foster lawsuit today. It contains the plan for discovery (and possibly the planned trial date), but the document isn't available for downloading via the Net.
December 5-7, 2005 - One of the people with whom I regularly discuss the anthrax attacks is Ross E. Getman, an attorney residing in New York State who maintains a web site which describes in great detail his belief that al Qaeda was behind the anthrax attacks. Today (Monday) he updated his site with some interesting (but confusing) information about the route the Ames strain took between its discovery in Texas in 1980 and its use at the USAMRIID labs in Ft. Detrick, Maryland. His new information can be accessed by clicking HERE.
NOTE added June 25, 2006: The information in this comment is contradicted by solid facts and is no longer considered valid. See the entry for June 26, 2006.
The information actually comes from a woman who is also involved in our discussions and who was a student at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, around 1990. She talked with Ross E. Getman because she also believes that al Qaeda was somehow behind the anthrax attacks of 2001. I'll call her "Molly" to keep her anonymous. Molly has been trying to get the FBI to address her beliefs for years. Among other things, her beliefs relate to a package she received while she was a student at ISU and to something that she saw when visiting a student health center. Here's how she suggested I should describe the incident:
Molly was contacted because she was a student at Iowa State University and had witnessed a strange incident that at the time she could not explain. The incident involved a mis-delivered package and anthrax-like sores. The sores that Molly saw [on a patient in a student health center] were not painful and dripped profusely. For some time Molly thought that they were NOT anthrax, but then read GERMS by Judith Miller. One quote peeked her interest. It is a statement by Margano, one of the postal employees that had contracted cutaneous anthrax, saying that his sore "dripped, dripped, dripped like a faucet."Evidently, some time in the past few weeks, three postal inspectors flew out to the Midwest to visit with Molly at her home and office, and Molly told Ross Getman all about their visit. There are no "state secrets" being revealed here. According to Ross Getman, the postal inspectors told Molly,
(1) They have no problem with the information being made public. [Molly] expressly asked them and they assured her there was no problem in disclosing anything they told her. So getting this fact straight will not impair the investigation.It's anybody's guess as to why the postal inspectors chose this time to talk with Molly. She tells me, "They came to take a look at me for own information to see if I was a credible person." Nevertheless, it's hard to believe three postal inspectors flew all that way just to look her in the eye.
The key fact Molly learned was that the Ames stain of anthrax apparently did not get shipped directly from Texas to Ft. Detrick in 1980 as is generally believed and as was reported in The Washington Post and The New York Times.
Instead, two vials of what would be later become known as "the Ames stain" were first shipped to the USDA labs in Ames, Iowa. A sample (one of the vials?) was then sent on to Ft. Detrick in response to a circulated request from Ft. Detrick asking for new samples of anthrax. NPR got it right when they reported:
[Mr. CONRAD EUGSTER (Director, Veterinary Diagnostic Lab, Texas A&M University] says they either sent it directly to Ft. Detrick or to the USDA in Ames, which sent it along. Either way, when it arrived at Ft. Detrick, the return address read `Ames.' From that point on, it was known as the Ames strain, even though it came from Texas.While the Washington Post and the New York Times may have been wrong about how the Ames got to USAMRIID, Molly points out that Iowa State University sent out a press release some time in 2001 or 2002 which said,
We have responded to over 80 telephone calls from reporters and have had 7 television interviews dealing with inaccurate information regarding anthrax in Iowa. Our message is that there is no research underway and there are no stocks of the Ames strain of Bacillus anthracis (the causal bacterium of anthrax) stored in the College of Veterinary Medicine. There were cultures of historic interest - dried specimens dating from isolation in 1928 that had been maintained in the college over the years. After contacting appropriate authorities, these specimens were sterilized and incinerated.(By the way, CNN was the first to report on the Iowa link with this totally inaccurate headline: "Anthrax found in Boca appears to be manmade in Iowa lab".)
A lot of the confusion results from the fact that there are at least two labs storing anthrax samples in Ames, Iowa: the USDA lab (which has Ames and other strains) and the labs at the Iowa State University (which has other strains). The USDA lab is the one which received the Ames and forwarded it to Ft. Detrick (it's location 3 on the map below).The ISU labs (location 1 on the map below) have no record of ever having any sample of the Ames strain.
The fact that unwanted samples of bacteria were destroyed by ISU is a big part of many conspiracy theories.
Whatever the reason for postal inspectors contacting Molly, this information shows (1) that the Ames strain went to Iowa but (2) it never went to Iowa State University where Molly was a student when she received the suspicious package.
For those following the anthrax investigation, however, we now know that there is another possible source for the Ames. Unless there's some way to firmly prove via the DNA that the attack anthrax didn't come from the USDA labs, those USDA labs are a "possible" source for the attack anthrax - even though the USDA says there have been no thefts from their facility. And for those who believe al Qaeda was behind the attacks, that's just one more place where al Qaeda could have gotten it.
NOTE: The above entry has probably been modified about 10 times over 3 days as new information and corrections continued to come in.
December 4, 2005 - When I checked the Docket in the Hatfill v Ashcroft et al lawsuit yesterday, I found some new entries where the government requested more time to respond to Dr. Hatfill's amended lawsuit. But, it also appears that Dr. Hatfill will be filing another amended version of his lawsuit sometime this week, so the government won't even have to respond to the first amended suit because they can just wait and respond to the next amended version. In a "Stipulation" that was also filed, there was an agreement that Dr. Hatfill's lawyers could depose twenty "current and former government employees", but "Dr. Hatfill reserves the right to seek leave of the Court to take the deposition of additional government witnesses, in excess of the twenty agreed by this stipulation." So, I guess it's an agreement unless Dr. Hatfill decides to go beyond twenty "for good cause".
Evidently, the depositions of FBI agents and DOJ employees are turning out to be a cornucopia of great witnesses for Dr. Hatfill's side.
I've been told that John Ashcroft will be deposed this week.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2005, thru Saturday, December 3, 2005
November 27, 2005 - During the past week I read sections of "Microbial Forensics", a book of scientific articles compiled and edited by Roger Breeze, Bruce Budowle and Steven Schutzer. (Roger G. Breeze works for Centaur Science Group in Washington, DC. Bruce Budowle is a senior scientist in the Laboratory Division of the FBI headquarters in Quantico, VA. Steven E. Schutzer is a physician-scientist who works in the Department of Medicine at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey at Newark.)
While it's very heavy reading, and while only a few chapters in the book directly relate to the anthrax attacks of 2001, a careful reading will uncover key information about "weaponized" anthrax spores. The first item of importance I noted was that van der Waals forces never mentioned in the book, a good indicator that those forces are of little or no importance when discussing spores in the context of microbial forensics.
There are a couple chapters about DNA forensics, but basically those chapters just indicate that the DNA of the anthrax powder by itself would be insufficient to identify a specific lab, much less a specific culprit behind the attacks of 2001. What is needed to identify a lab and/or culprit is what is described in great detail in Chapter 13: "Non-DNA Methods for Biological Signatures". Authored by 21 scientists, it says this on page 252:
According to Webster's Dictionary, a signature is "a distinguishing or identifying mark." Signatures are commonly used in the process of "attribution," defined by Webster's as the "process of ascribing (an event) to someone or something." A common signature is our name signed at the bottom of a letter; retinal scans and palm prints are becoming more common. This chapter is concerned with methods that can determine chemical or structural features of biological agent particles that are signatures of particular methods of growth and post-growth processing (often referred to as "weaponization"). The detection of these signatures in a sample of a bioweapon (BW) agent can aid the attribution effort by indicating the level of sophistication of the producer, his access to particular types of agent weaponization information, and the likelihood that he could produce - or has produced - the material at a significant scale, and by providing essential sample matching data for ascertaining a putative relationship with other samples obtained in other venues. In addition, it may be possible to identify at least some of the materials used in the manufacturing process, correlate them with reference materials that have known geographic or temperal provenance, and determine the date of manufacture of the agent within months or weeks.It's important to note that the authors' definition of "weaponization" is simply that spores were "processed" after being grown. The authors appear to refer to the spore powders as being "weaponized" whether or not spores have been coated, whether or not the powder contains additives, and, most importantly, whether or not the resulting powder would be effective as a bioweapon.
Sample "weaponized" spore prepartions were evidently created by simulant vendors to see what the scientists could learn about the preparations by doing various tests utilizing scanning electron microscopy (SEM), energy dispersive X-ray microanalysis (EDX), atomic force microscopy (AFM), Raman and surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS), Bio-Aerosol Mass Spectrometry (BAMS), Time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectometry (ToF-SIMS), accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS), etc.
Slogging through the technical details can be fascinating, but, as a non-scientist, I have to be careful about getting and reporting mistaken impressions. It says that SERS "has made it possible to acquire Raman spectra for single molecules." If I understand this correctly, it means they might be able to (for example) distinguish one kind of glass particle from another and thus possibly identify the glass manufacturer in much the same way as police department forensic experts can now identify the manufacturer of a specific type of car tail-light glass found at the scene of a hit-and-run by going through a database of tail lights. All that is needed is to develop the database (which is no small task). If you have the database, a molecule-size particle of glass aborbed into the coating of a spore could possibly be traced back to the manufacturer of the piece of lab equipment the glass came from, which would in turn provide information about processes used to create the spore, etc.
On pages 262 and 263 they provide illustrations of 4 sample "weaponized" powders containing silica, including (a) spores mixed with silica particles, (b) spores imbedded in fumed silica, (c) individual spores coated with silica, and (d) a single spore coated with colloidal (spherical) silica particles. Except for illustration (a), the preparations seem to show "weaponized" spores which would be almost totally worthless as a bioweapon.
I don't know if the authors were deliberately trying to show how ridiculous it is to believe that the spores used in the attacks of 2001 were coated, but the pictures have that effect, since it would be totally impossible to fail to notice such coatings or additives when examining the attack spores. Yet, due to inaccurate reporting and silly scientific articles, some people continue to believe the spores were coated even though in the past four years no one has actually claimed to have seen any coatings on the spores.
The scientific reason behind the preparation illustrations in Chapter 13 of "Microbial Forensics" was to show just a few of the preparations they analyzed. The overall idea, apparently, was to analyze many such preparations and then to check with the suppliers to see how close each analysis was. If they missed important things, they could then develop new techniques to find the things they missed when doing further tests.
They have the tools to do the job, and they have much of the expertise. They just don't have formalized procedures and scientifically verified techniques which would hold up in court when prosecuting a bioterrorist. That's what they're working to develop. They sum it up this way:
Webster's defines "forensic" as "belonging to courts of judicature" and "used in legal procedings." The ultimate goal of forensic sciences is to find evidence or information that will either incriminate or exclude a subject, enabling arguments in court that can prove to a reasonable degree of certainty that the crime was or was not committed by the accused. As such, many signatures comprise a forensic study. One signature alone is must often insufficient to convincingly prove guilt or innocence. It is the great preponderance of evidence, rather than the "smoking gun," that most commonly convicts a criminal.The last chapter in the book is titled "Admission Standards for Scientific Evidence", and it describes what is required before a proscecutor or defendant's attorney can present in court any scientific evidence based upon new scientific techniques. As it says in my book, the standard being applied is called the "Daubert Standard" which resulted from a Supreme Court decision handed down in Daubert v Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals. And the best way to make certain that a new science will meet the "Daubert Standard" is to have the science developed under the auspices and guidance of a "working group." That was done with microbial forensics. The FBI helped create the Scientific Working Group for Microbial Genetic Forensics (SWGMGF) to make certain the new science would have a solid foundation before anyone took anything to court.
A couple points to remember: (1) There is no statute of limitations on murder, and (2) even though certain types of forensic evidence might not be useable in court at this time, it can still be used in an investigation to generate leads and to narrow down the list of suspects.
Meanwhile, someone pointed out that a recent book titled "No Place To Hide" by Robert O'Harrow contains some information which seems to verify what I say in my book about the reason Senators Leahy and Daschle were picked as targets for the second anthrax attack. The book is all about how we are all under surveillance in many different ways during our normal everyday lives. And it describes in great detail the debates over various provisions in the Patriot Act which were raging at the time the second batch of letters were mailed. The book says on page 29:
On October 17, the capital was confronting a new threat: anthrax. It was contained in a letter mailed to Daschle, and no one knew how many people might have been exposed. Were there more letters? Were anthrax spores floating through the Capitol's ventilation system? Suddenly, it became more urgent than ever to get the Patriot Act to the president's desk.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2005, thru Saturday, November 26, 2005
November 20, 2005 - Looking over the amended complaint in the Hatfill v Ashcroft lawsuit, I see that two new defendants have been added: the current Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Tracy Henke, a DOJ employee. Shorter versions of most of the statements below were in the original, but the mention of Don Foster is new, so is the mention of Nicolas Kristof, and the key information in paragraph 30 is entirely new, confirming what is in my book about the FBI being pressured to investigate Dr. Hatfill:
From pages 9 through 12:
25. As time went by without any announcement of a breakthrough in the Amerithrax investigation, a number of armchair detectives began to advance their own theories about likely perpetrators. Among these amateur investigators was Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, a professor of Environmental Science at the State University of New York, at Purchase.On pages 36 and 37 the allegation that the FBI was "anxious to placate the senators" to ward off any thought of turning responsibilities for investigation domestic terrorism over to another government agency is turned into a claim:
By leaking false and misleading information to the press (and in some cases by making false and misleading public statements), while withholding facts tending to show Dr. Hatfill's innocence, the Attorney General and his subordinates succeeded in using the news media to deflect congressional and media scrutiny of the FBI's competence and effectiveness in the fight against domestic terrorism. They also misled an anxious public into thinking that the Attorney General and his subordinates were making progress in the investigation of the anthrax mailings. The truth is that there has never been any credible evidence linking Dr. Hatfill to the anthrax mailings and investigators have made little or no progress toward identifying and apprehending the mailer(s).It may be difficult for many people to imagine that an Assistant Director of the FBI can be forced to apologize to some "armchair detective" 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," but it evidently happened. It's just one example of how the FBI was pressured to do what it did.
At the bottom of page 18 the amended lawsuit begins describing why Tracy Henke is now on the list of defendants. Alberto Gonzales is evidently now on the list because the nothing visible has been done to clear Dr. Hatfill.
On page 27 is says this about Newsweek's article about bloodhound "evidence" and what the testimony from Van Harp and others obtained during depositions showed about how Van Harp dealt with the media:
Defendant Harp willfully and intentionally confirmed these factual assertions in a telephone call with Eleanor Clift of Newsweek, telling her that the article contained "pretty accurate information."Page 39 and 40 have other good examples of what is being learned during depositions:
FBI media representative Debra Weierman testified under oath that she herself, acting on orders, disclosed previously secret details about the search of Dr. Hatfill's apartment on August 1, 2002, including the existence of a search warrant. Defendant Harp has testified that he frequently confirmed information for reporters if they asked him, and that on the many occasions when he was asked by his superiors to do "backgrounders" for the press he felt himself at liberty to speak more broadly than he understood the rules to otherwise permit.The biggest addition I found in the amended complaint is the exhaustively detailed descriptions of the type of information allegedly leaked to the media by FBI and DOJ officials. The original complaint was 40 pages, the amended complaint is 66 pages.
So, the amended complaint adds two new defendants, it makes it clear that Van Harp, Tracy Henke, Timothy Beres and Darrell Darnell are still being sued as individuals (which the government is actively protesting via motions) as well as in their "official capacities", plus it provides additional details about how Dr. Hatfill's rights were violated, allegedly because the FBI was worried that it might lose its authority to investigate domestic terrorists. Unfortunately the new document doesn't provide any new insights into the Amerithrax investigation. The comment "investigators have made little or no progress toward identifying and apprehending the mailer(s)" is still just the viewpoint of outside lawyers with no actual access to Amerithrax files.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2005, thru Saturday, November 19, 2005
November 19, 2005 - Dr. Hatfill's amended lawsuit against John Ashcroft et al wasn't on line when I signed off last night, but it's on the Docket this morning. It can be accessed by clicking HERE. I'll read it over and make comments tomorrow.
There's still no word on what happened at the scheduling conference in the Hatfill v Foster lawsuit which was supposed to have taken place yesterday.
November 15, 2005 - I just noticed an entry in the Hatfill v Foster Court Docket calling for a scheduling conference on November 18, this coming Friday, which could be a scheduling conflict with Hatfill v Ashcroft, since that Docket says Dr. Hatfill should be submitting an amended lawsuit on or before that date.
November 13, 2005 - While I found the book "Germs: Biological Weapons and America's Secret War" by Judith Miller, Stephen Engelberg and William Broad (released in September of 2001), to be very informative and interesting reading, page 234 contains an error worthy of comment:
The March 17, 1998, speech was vintage Cohen, quoting the poets T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, and Seamus Heaney, as well as Sun-Tzu, the ancient Chinese military theorist. [Secretary of Defense William S.] Cohen paraphrased Winston Churchill as he summed up the dangers of new biology, saying: "We can return to the Stone Age on the gleaming wings of science just as quickly as we can glide into the twenty-first century. The defense secretary did make one error of scientific fact, asserting that a person could die from inhaling a single spore of anthrax. In fact, the fatal dose is several thousand spores.One would assume that before saying the Secretary of Defense made an "error of scientific fact," a lot of checking was done first to verify that it was truly an error.
But was it?
While I was returning "Germs" to the library, I looked through the section on bioweapons and found a book titled "Biological Warfare - Opposing Viewpoints". It contains an article dated October 18, 2001, by a scientist named Steven Milloy who operates a web site called JunkScience.com where he supposedly debunks "junk science". The article is titled "The Threat of Anthrax Has Been Exaggerated" and says this:
Alarmists say, "One billionth of a gram [of anthrax], smaller than a speck of dust can kill." But one anthrax spore, even thousands of spores will not kill anyone.So, do these two sources prove that Secretary of Defense Cohen was wrong? Was he exaggerating the lethality of spores? In my comment for October 30, 2005, I mentioned how Secretary Cohen did exaggerate the harm that could be done by 5 pounds of spores. Does that exaggeration mean that everything else he said about anthrax was probably also an exaggeration? There are a lot of people who seem to like making that kind of assumption.
And, if I tried hard enough, I could probably find dozens of newspaper articles and web pages which say that it takes thousands of spores to cause inhalation anthrax. Here are a couple links:
And to get a fatal dose, each person would have to inhale roughly 5,000 to 10,000 spores deep into his lungs.my book, it says something very different:
Today - ever since the Ottilie Lundgren case in Connecticut - it is believed that an elderly person or someone with a weakened immune system or other susceptibility to disease might be stricken down by just a few spores. In reality, there is no reason to believe that a single spore couldn't kill someone who was particularly susceptible.While I was at the library, I also found this on page 174 of Jeanne Guillemin's book "Biological Weapons" (published in January of 2005):
[Fort Detrick scientists] could have told the CDC officials that, over the years, the Army routinely used an LD50 of eight thousand to ten thousand inhaled spores to estimate standard doses on which to base munitions fill. This extrapolation from animal research was never intended to convey a threshold below which an exposed individual was safe. Although very unlikely, even a single anthrax spore or a small number deposited in the lungs might successfully germinate and cause infection and death ...""LD50" is the Lethal Dose which would kill 50 percent of the subjects. It does not mean 8,000 spores is the lethal dose. Is that how all those people got the wrong idea about how many spores are needed to kill - by assuming that if it took 8,000 spores to kill the average person, anyone inhaling 7,999 anthrax spores would be safe? Did they just read "Lethal Dose" and ignore the "50" part. Didn't they understand what it meant? Or were they just parroting what someone else wrote?
The true facts have been around for a long time. A May 1, 2002, report from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) says this:
Recently published extrapolations from primate data suggest that as few as 1 to 3 spores may be sufficient to cause infection. The dose of spores that caused infection in any of the 11 patients with inhalation anthrax in 2001 could not be estimated although the 2 cases of fatal inhalation anthrax in New York City and Connecticut provoked speculation that the fatal dose, as least in some individuals, may be quite low.Last month's press release from Sandia Labs included this information:
The most widely accepted estimate of inhaled spores required to produce a lethal dose in 50 percent of the population is 8,000. However, researchers at the University of Texas Medical Center using “probit” models, estimate that only 98 inhaled spores may cause lethal infection in 10 percent of the population.So, if "98 inhaled spores may cause lethal infection in 10 percent of the population," does that mean that no one can be killed by inhaling 97 spores? No, of course not. It just means that no one has done any tests to determine how many inhaled spores can kill a smaller percent of the population.
The total population of the United States is around 290 million. Therefore, there are approximately 145 million Americans (50 percent of 290 million) who would have to inhale at least 8,000 spores before their immune systems would be overcome, and there are approximately 29 million Americans who could be killed if each inhaled just 98 anthax spores.
The raw numbers seem to indicate that approximately 290,000 Americans have weak immune systems which would allow them to be felled by a single spore - assuming the spore was from a strain as virulent as Ames.
Anyone doing research about the anthrax attacks of 2001 should be aware that there is a LOT of bad and incorrect information in books, scientific articles and on the Net. If you want to be accurate, you can't just trust a source and parrot what they say, since "trusted sources" are sometimes wrong, too. Very wrong.
There's only one way to be reasonably certain your facts are right: understand the facts.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2005, thru Saturday, November 12, 2005
November 9, 2005 - I obtained a .pdf copy of the Decision by Judge Colleen McMahon to allow the lawsuit filed by Dr. Hatfill against Don Foster, Conde Nast Publications, Vassar College and The Reader's Digest Association to go forward. And I've also created an edited version of the Court Docket for that case.
Judge McMahon's Decision is absolutely fascinating reading.
Here are some of my favorite passages from the Judge McMahon's Decision:
I turn, then, to the real question raised by the defendants' Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss -- whether the articles in suit are capable of defamatory meaning. I conclude that they are.The Decision appears so damning it seems unlikely the lawsuit will ever go to trial. It seems more a matter of how much in the way of damages Dr. Hatfill will settle for. But, I'm not a lawyer, so who knows?
November 8, 2005 - Today's issue of the New York Law Journal reports that the lawsuit Dr. Hatfill filed against Don Foster and Vanity Fair Magazine will go forward:
Articles in Vanity Fair and Reader's Digest that pointed to a former Army bioweapons researcher as the perpetrator behind the 2001 mailings of anthrax that led to the deaths of five people are per se defamatory, a federal judge has ruled.I particularly like this part:
"The Message in the Anthrax," McMahon said, "does contain references to the fact that the FBI was conducting an investigation into the anthrax mailings that occurred in the autumn of 2001.""Foster's investigation" went hand in hand with Barbara Hatch Rosenberg's "investigation", and both "investigations" produced "evidence" with was really just rumor, insinuation and speculation - and mostly false. But they got the media, the public and politicians to pressure the FBI to publicly investigate Dr. Hatfill.
November 7, 2005 - Here are some additional comments about "weaponizing" spores by removing the static charge. (See yesterday's comments for further details.)
Passing hot, dry air over an object can cause the object to pick up a static charge. Spray drying spores will give them a static charge, as will other drying or grinding processes. Removing that static charge can be viewed as "weaponizing" the spores.
However, when you put a "Bounce" or "Snuggle" anti-static sheet into the dryer with your newly washed clothes, you are not "weaponizing" your clothes by eliminating the static charge drying would put into them. There are also sprays which will reduced the static charge in clothes and on surfaces such as computer screens. Obviously, There is no "weaponization" involved in such activities.
The definition gets tricky when a manufacturer prepares dry Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) spores or Bacillus globigii (BG) spores to make insecticides. If he removes the static charge, is he "weaponizing" the spores? He hasn't created a weapon, since the spores are relatively harmless, and he's using them for good purposes. But, if he prepared the spores to sell as an anthrax simulant to makers of testing equipment, he has simulated the creation of a weapon, so in that context he is "weaponizing" the Bt or BG.
The point is: While removing the static charge from anthrax spores can be considered to be "weaponizing" the spores, the techniques for removing such a static charge are not something only a professional bioweapons expert would know. But removing the static charge is something else the culprit would have needed to know how to do, and removing the static charge is something else the culprit could not do without access to the right chemicals and/or equipment.
November 6, 2005 - While I feel reluctant to put up links to college papers and college course materials which parrot nonsense from Gary Matsumoto's November 28, 2003, article in Science Magazine, I don't have any problem with showing other kinds of links.
This is from The Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota and is dated July 30, 2004:
The anthrax spores used in the 2001 attack were electrostatically charged to make them more easily dispersible, and they were covered with polymerized glass and silica to prevent clumping.Even though no one ever actually saw any coatings on the attack anthrax, the nonsense about coatings continues to be believed.
But it isn't just the nonsense about coatings, it's also the nonsense about the spores being "electrostatically charged to make them more easily dispersible". That is not only total nonsense, it is just the opposite of what is true. The Science magazine article is a primary source for that, too:
The Senate anthrax spores carried like electrical charges, and some experts believe that they were added deliberately to aid dispersal.There is a lot of confusion about whether or not the anthrax spores in the Daschle letter actually contained a static charge. And, if there was a static charge, how did it get there? According to a Wall Street Journal article from December 3, 2001:
Investigators say whoever is behind the anthrax attacks may have missed a crucial deadly detail. They suspect the perpetrator failed to remove static electricity from the powder containing the deadly spores.During the past week, the presence or absence of the static charge came up as a result of reading the book "Reopening Public Facilities" which says on page 83:
For the case of biological agents, there is also the possibility of weaponization -- engineering of the organism to improve its stability or other properties. In general, weaponization begins with the growth of the agent (lag, log, and stationary phases each have unique properties mixed in with the culture media), then fermentation; centrifuging and separation; drying; milling for respirable particle size; additives to prevent aggregation and clumping, neutralize electrical charge, and increase survival in air; and microencapsulation for stability and viability.That reference generated arguments over the meaning of the word "weaponization," since it seems to be providing a new definition of the word. It's a very general definition, and the book seems to apply it to both the powder in the media letter and the powder in the Senate letters, plus just about any other powder created as a weapon. That doesn't help the arguments which have been raging off and on since a few days after the attacks. Back in February of 2003, I even vented my frustrations by creating a web page about how the word was being used and misused.
The U.S. Army Center from Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine's Technical Guide 275 dated August 2003 contains the following paragraph on page A-5, and the last sentence gives another new definition "weaponized" which pertains directly to the attack anthrax and may be the current definition:
According to Hinds (1999), while individual particles less than 10µm are not likely to be removed from surfaces by common forces, a thick layer of such particles may easily be dislodged in large (100 µm to 10 mm) chunks when blown or shaken from the surface (Ref. 92). It should not be construed from the previous sentence that particles less than 10µm can not be reaerosolized by common forces, since we now know that it is not necessarily the case if the biological agent is weaponized. For example, we now know that settled weaponized anthrax spores (about 1µm in physical diameter) can be aerosolized, as individual spores, as spore agglomerates, or when adhered to other particles (e.g. dust), particles sizes that, when inhaled, can penetrate and deposit into the thoracic and respirable regions of the respiratory tract (Ref. 157). Anthrax spores may be weaponized by reducing the electrostatic charge in a fashion that makes them less able to stick together and therefore have less potential to agglomerate and make larger particles.That Technical Guide uses as "Ref. 157" an article from the The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) which describes how the attack spores could be easily reaerosolized. The purpose of the JAMA investigation is described this way:
The purpose of this investigation was to evaluate secondary aerosolization of viable B anthracis spores under both quiescent and active office conditions. Understanding secondary aerosolization (reaerosolization) of B anthracis spores in building environments is essential for exposure assessment and risk evaluation following bioterrorism attacks. Such understanding will also guide cleanup strategies for readily dispersible bioaerosols.If the anthrax spores had a static charge, they'd cling to surfaces and wouldn't easily reaerosolize. But the JAMA tests indicated they did easily reaerosolize. So, it appears the spores were not given a static charge by the person who made them, but just the opposite: the person who made the spores neutralized the static charge which such particles would usually pick up during processing. However, some spores may have picked up a charge later when the letters were processed through postal sorting equipment and by other handling.
That makes a lot of sense, since it explains how the culprit got the spores into the letters in the first place. Putting statically charged spores into an envelope would be like putting smoke into the letter with the intention of having the smoke burst out and fill the room when the letter was opened. (I asked one of the people involved with the Science article how he figured it was done, and his response was that the spores were injected into the sealed envelopes using a hypodermic needle. When I pointed out to him that, because of the pharmaceutical fold, that can't be done without leaving a hole in the letter, and there are no holes in the letters which were found, he just stopped responding to my questions.)
The culprit evidently neutralized the static charge in the spores before putting them into the envelope. That's always been assumed to a degree in spite of the newspaper stories which indicated otherwise, but now it seems an established fact. And the act of neutralizing the static charge seems to be an act of "weaponizing" the spores -- according to the current definition.
I suppose I should point out that the Science magazine article wasn't wrong about everything. It did get at least one fact right: the American anthrax bioweapons of the 1950s "had no electrostatic charge". And, in a posting to the Federation of American Scientists CBW forum on December 3, 2003, Gary Matsumoto made this noteworthy comment:
In previous interviews that I have conducted with Dr. Ken Alibek, he said the anthrax powder produced by the former Soviet Union contained no electrostatic charge.But people will believe what they want to believe about adding a static charge to the spores to make them aerosolize better, even if it makes no scientific sense.
And, even though the definition of "weaponized" seems to have changed, that won't stop the same people from continuing to believe that any time the word "weaponized" is used, it means to coat the spores with some science-fiction based coating of silica and polymerized glass (with resin used as "glue").
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2005, thru Saturday, November 5, 2005
November 5, 2005 - According to today's Palm Beach Post, the FBI has asked to have a meeting next week with Maureen Stevens, the widow of Bob Stevens who died of inhalation anthrax in 2001. Mrs Stevens didn't know what the meeting would be about, and the spokesperson for the FBI couldn't be reached for comment. However the Palm Beach Post was evidently able to reach someone at the Department of Justice:
Paul Bresson, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice, said he could not comment on the lawsuit or Stevens' allegation that government lawyers were preventing her from proceeding with her lawsuit through a series of legal delays.Those last two sentences indicate, once again, that they know who the culprit is, but knowing something and proving it in court are two very different matters.
Meanwhile, the Sun-Sentinel says:
The Department of Justice earlier this week filed documents with a federal appeals court in Atlanta calling for Stevens' lawsuit to be thrown out as baseless and a threat to "an ongoing nationwide criminal investigation." The court has yet to rule.November 2, 2005 - The Court Docket shows that yesterday, Dr. Hatfill filed a motion to delay his amendent to his lawsuit against John Ashcroft et al by two weeks - until November, 18, 2005. Here's the explanation:
The identities of key witnesses and potential additional defendants have been recently revealed to Dr. Hatfill through depositions and the limited amount of discovery obtained since the stay on discovery to Dr. Hatfill's Constitutional claims was lifted by the Court's resolution of the individual defendants' motion to dismiss on September 16, 2005. Additional time is necessary to allow Dr. Hatfill and the defendants to coordinate depositions and to obtain critical discovery related to these individuals, so that Dr. Hatfill can properly assess any amendment to his Complaint and joinder of additional parties.A two week delay isn't difficult to understand in a case where delays have usually been for six months or even a year or more. Hopefully, the amended complaint will name those "key witnesses". This is one document I'm really anxious to read.
October 30, 2005 - During the past week, the reports of people in the White House twisting intelligence information prior to 9/11 in order to create support for the war they wanted against Iraq have led conspiracy theorists to raise their voices once again to suggest that the Bush Administration may also have sent the anthrax letters through the mails to generate support for their planned war against Iraq. And the fact that Judith Miller is involved adds fuel to the fire. The book Judith Miller, Stephen Engelberg and William Broad wrote about bioterrorism "Germs: Biological Weapons and America's Secret War" was released on September 1, 2001, and put on Amazon.com on 9/11.
Interestingly, "Germs" shows that staging a bioweapons "demonstration" to awaken America to the dangers of such weapons and/or to justify an attack upon Iraq has actually been done. The book describes in detail a bioweapons demonstration staged for those exact purposes. It happened during the Clinton administration, 5 years before the actual anthrax attacks of 2001.
On Saturday, November 15, 1997, President Clinton's Secretary of Defense, William S. Cohen, was preparing for an appearance the next day on the ABC Sunday news show "This Week". The following quotes are from page 214 through 216 of "Germs":
After admitting that he had lied about his germ programs, Saddam Hussein had refused to permit United Nations inspectors back into his country. Cohen's immediate goal that weekend was to build public support for the administration's plans to bomb Iraq if Baghdad did not relent. He also wanted to prepare the public for the anthrax vaccinations, which he planned to announce shortly. In their conversations that Saturday, Cohen's aides were searching for a way to dramatize the biological threat. ...The book goes on to describe "the great sugar debate" that followed the broadcast:
Yes, a five-pound bag of anthrax bacillus spores could theoretically kill half of Washington's population - or about 300,000 people - but only if the atmospheric conditions for such an attack were perfect, the germs very potent, and the dispersal highly efficient. If an attack occurred during a rainstorm or at midday in hot, sunny August, the germs might not harm anyone. Some experts privately grumbled that Cohen had presented a worst-case casualty estimate to terrify Americans.And it adds on page 217:
The secretary might have overstated the lethality of anthrax, but he had publicized a threat that had been largely ignored.So, a dramatic demonstration to awaken America to the dangers of a bioweapons attack and to justify an attack upon Iraq was seen as a necessity by the Secretary of Defense five years before 9/11. How important did it seem after the world watched terrorists fly two commerical airliners into the World Trade Center?
One cannot help but wonder what effect that demonstration may have had upon the person who actually sent the anthrax letters 5 years later. If somehow he'd forgotten about it, and if the attacks of 9/11 didn't remind him, he could have been again reminded of the need to "awaken America" when the book "Germs" came out. It's the type of book a scientist interested in bioweapons would definitely be first in line to buy and read.
As a "demonstration," there's a big difference between holding up a bag of sugar on TV and asking people to imagine it's anthrax, versus actually sending anthrax through the mails.
Could there have been a massive conspiracy by the Bush administration to perform such a demonstration?" Although it's certainly possible, it simply does not make sense when looking at the facts. The strain used was Ames and it was quickly traced back to USAMRIID as the prime source. Wouldn't the U.S. government have used the Vollum strain and mixed bentonite with it to give it Iraq's "signature"?
And there are bigger questions: Do conspiracy theorists really believe it is so easy to recruit scientists to commit illegal acts? Even attempting to recruiting someone to commit a crime is illegal. Do the conspiracy theorists believe all scientists will lie and help with a coverup when their crime causes the deaths of innocent Americans? Do the conspiracy theorists assume that every scientist will be eager to go along with both the crime and the coverup? If all scientists are not willing to go along, how many potential witnesses would the conspirators have to ask before they find someone agreeable? And do the conspiracy theorists also believe that all those potential witnesses will keep quiet out of fear if they even think of opening their mouths the administration's secret band of black-hooded Ninja assassins will drop from black helicopters to kill them?
On the other hand, if the "demonstration" was thought up and executed by a scientist who had the anthrax, abilities and equipment available, then there would be no need to recruit anyone.
It's the need to recruit assistance which makes it unlikely that some Bush administration official could have been been behind the crime. They're all lawyers and politicians. They didn't have the ability to do it by themselves - or even together.
On the other hand, history is filled with examples of lone
who are incited into terrible actions by scary warnings or fear
they read in the papers, heard on the radio or saw on TV. Since
don't want to believe that a lone person can kill a President, start a
war, or cause the deaths of thousands, people always want to believe in
some grand conspiracy, but solid evidence to support such beliefs is
There's another paragraph in "Germs" which looks at the need for solid evidence from different angle. It also relates to the Bush administration's desire to start a war with Iraq.
This paragraph from page 109 shows how "Scooter" Libby was thinking during the invasion of Iraq during the first Gulf War:
Within weeks of the invasion, the intelligence reports about Iraq's biological program came to the attention of more senior officials in the Pentagon. One who felt particularly frustrated by the report's carefully hedged language was I. Lewis Libby, a trim, boyish lawyer and one of the Pentagon's top policy officials. His job, as deputy to Paul Wolfowitz, the undersecretary for policy, was to think two or three steps ahead on the international chessboard. Where was the next hot spot? What could be done to head off trouble? What were policy makers overlooking as they coped with the rush of day-to-day crises. To Libby, the words "probably" and "possibly" jumped out of the reports about Iraq's biological program. He thought the analysis was cogent, as far as it went. But it left open the most important questions about Iraq's intentions. Libby knew the United States had few spies inside Saddam Hussein's secretive regime who could provide so-called real-time intelligence. The reports on biological weapons drew largely on satellite photographs of suspect sites, snatches of intercepted telephone conversations, and interviews with Western businessmen who had sold equipment to Iraq. Libby told colleagues that intelligence analysts had an unfortunate habit: if they did not see a report on something, they assumed it did not exist. Or, as another veteran intelligence officer put it, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.Once a government official becomes convinced of someone else's intentions, even though he has no evidence or facts to solidly support his convictions, he has ventured into the highly dangerous area of attempting to read minds. That is always dangerous, but it is infinitely more dangerous when trying to read the minds of people in another part of the world who have a very different culture developed over thousands of years.
if they did not see a report on something, they assumed it did not exist.To describe this as an "unfortunate habit" shows a basic lack of understanding of how an "intelligence analysis" is performed. Many people just can't understand that there is a different way of thinking involved! It's not a "habit". It's a very deliberate procedure.
If an analyst doesn't see any evidence to support some possibility, he can't truly evaluate that possibility. Contrary to Libby's beliefs, however, the analyst does not assume the possibility doesn't exist. He just gives little or no weight to possibilities, theories and ideas which are not supported by evidence. That's what intelligence analysis (and this site) is all about: Weighing evidence. If an analyst has no evidence, he has nothing to weigh.
An intelligence analyst only evaluates what the evidence says. The purpose of such an analysis is to remove bias, conjecture, speculation and fears from one's thinking. He lets the evidence speak for itself! However, i also means you have to weigh evidence which may or many not be reliable, usually based upon the nature of the source or sources. That's where things really get tricky, since a biased politician reading the analysis may put a lot more weight (or a lot less weight) on the word of a specific informant than an unbiased analyst.
A politician doesn't have to believe the analysis. It's provided as a tool for decision making. But, if he ignores the facts and decides to go with his personal beliefs, he should be prepared for the consequences if his beliefs are found to be wrong.
Examples of improperly weighing evidence in the anthrax investigation can be seen in the way conspiracy theorists evaluated their "evidence" to point the finger at Dr. Hatfill. Initially he was believed to be a rogue CIA operative serving the policies of the Bush administration to discredit the Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention. Everything from the "CIA safe house" used to make the anthrax to being up-to-date on shots turned out to be simply idiotic rumors, speculation and false innuendo. They believed they knew the Bush adminstration's intentions, and they dug and dug until they found "evidence" which they felt supported their beliefs. Since they needed the "evidence" to support what they wanted done, they never weighed the evidence to determine its reliablity. They put their biased beliefs on the same side of the scale as their "evidence" to get the results they wanted.
The problem with "facts" is that they do not always support what people believe. The solution for some may be to hide the facts or attack the source of the facts, but as we are seeing, that's also a good way to start unnecessary wars, to destroy the lives of innocent people - and to end up in jail.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2005, thru Saturday, October 29, 2005
October 25, 2005 - A press release from Sandia Labs today has some interesting information about anthrax that I've never seen before. The most interesting bit of information for me was this:
The most widely accepted estimate of inhaled spores required to produce a lethal dose in 50 percent of the population is 8,000. However, researchers at the University of Texas Medical Center using “probit” models, estimate that only 98 inhaled spores may cause lethal infection in 10 percent of the population.That would certainly seem to confirm that 94-year-old Ottlie Lundgren could easily have received a lethal dose from a cross-contaminated letter. (Technically, there is no reason to believe she couldn't have been in an even smaller percentage of the population which could be killed by a single spore.)
The main thrust of the press release is about the reliability of detecting contamination:
The sampling team found that none of the sampling methods was very efficient.This finding seems to fit well with a book I read over the weekend titled "Reopening Public Facilities After a Biological Attack". It says over and over that
A contaminated facility cannot be guaranteed to be agent-free even after cleanup because it is impossible to prove the complete absence of an agent.If it was "impossible" before the Sandia study, it's even more impossible now that we know swab, wipes and vacuum sampling procedures always miss a lot of spores.
I went through the book looking for any new tidbit of information about the anthrax attacks or the science involved, but it seems too general to use for arguments.
October 23, 2005 - During the past week I was bombarded by e-mails (all from one person) containing links to articles and papers which accept as fact the unscientific, made-up theories described in Gary Matsumoto's article in the November 28, 2003, issue of Science Magazine.
Most disturbing were all the doctorial degree dissertations, student papers and even lecture notes which use that article as a source. The Science article is purely political! It dismisses all the facts and statements provided by actual bioweapons experts as simply "other viewpoints" and relies instead upon the totally made-up theory of a person who has absolutely no experience with bioweapons.
It's tempting to post links to the dissertations and lecture notes, but I don't want to put anyone on the spot simply because they believed that what was written in an article in Science magazine by a politically motivated newspaper reporter must be true.
The current Sample.pdf on this site is still the chapter titled "To Err Is Human" from my book. That chapter explains in detail how simple mistakes were made by scientists at USAMRIID and AFIP which led to the erroneous reports in the media about fictional additives and coatings on the spores. This isn't just my opinion, General Parker of USAMRIID even testified before a congressional committee on October 31, 2001, where he acknowledged some of the mistakes and how they were made. Plus, author Richard Preston was actually interviewing key USAMRIID personnel at the time the mistakes were made, and he says in his review of my book:
Lake brings a wealth of detailed knowledge to his account, and he comes to provocative conclusions that not everyone will agree with. He is highly critical of the media at times--sometimes critical of my book, The Demon in the Freezer--but so what, we in the media ought to be able to handle criticism just the way we dish it out, and I think Lake's work deserves to be taken very seriously.Plus, America's leading expert on bioweapons wrote in his review of my book:
The author does not have a political agenda; he is not a conspiracy theorist; and he sets out the facts in a clear and concise, highly readable narrative. As a result, many of the concepts and conclusions set forth in other print media are shown to be wrong and based upon faulty analysis. I have read many books on this subject, and this book is by far the most informative!It's one thing to see an article printed in the media which is filled with errors, but it's something totally different to see that article used as a factual source in schools and universities. There isn't much I can do about it but mention it here. I'd certainly like to see the whole matter of coatings and additives cleared up definitively. But if the media thinks facts provided by the government are just attempts at a coverup, how can we get any definitive information?
Meanwhile, I've changed the "Corrections and Confirmations" section of this web page to include some of the information I learned a few weeks ago about what the drawing of the letter R tells us about the person who wrote the anthrax letters and addressed the envelopes. I tried to get alternative explanations from people, but all they would say is that there could be some alternative explanation which proves what they believe, and I can't prove otherwise. Instead of just letting this information fall off the main page of this site into "history", I decided to keept the information on the main page, because it could be a key to identifying the anthrax culprit.
Plus, during the past week I found an article on a "news source" which says that because the American stamp on the pre-stamped anthrax envelopes show a "blue-green" eagle, that somehow helps prove the letters were the work of Muslim terrorists, since a "green bird" is mentioned in writings expressing Muslim beliefs. And of course, "Greendale School" has the word "green" in it and is further evidence of Muslim involvement. The article is an interesting view into the mind of a True Believer who can twist any bit of information to "prove" what he believes.
Finally, the discussions during the last week also uncovered a couple sentences from the October 29, 2001, issue of Newsweek article where a technical problem with making anthrax bioweapons back in the Cold War days of the 1950s was described:
At Camp Detrick, America’s anthrax warriors grasped the need to aerosolize the germ. They produced some 5,000 anthrax bombs, but even the most effective released only 3 percent of its spores; the rest got blown into the ground or vaporized by the heat of detonation.What this information does is describe the problem which was solved by Ken Alibek's formula for mixing spores with silica and resin particles. This problem would not be solved by the media's erroneous interpretation of Alibek's formula; it would only be solved by the interpretation he provided to me last December and which I described in my comments for December 19, 2004, and on page 157 of my book. So, it's yet another confirmation of what's on this site and in my book.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2005, thru Saturday, October 22, 2005
October 20, 2005 - According to The Daily Record, The New York Times isn't likely to appeal to the Supreme Court to get the lower courts' decisions reversed.
Gregg Leslie, legal defense director of Alexandria, Va.-based Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said that not taking the case further up the legal ladder could be a good practical decision for the Times.So, unless there's a settlement, there'll be a trial sometime next year. Same with the lawsuit against John Ashcroft et al. And the lawsuit against Vanity Fair and Don Foster could also be next year - if it isn't settled. (I haven't heard anything about that lawsuit since the venue was changed to the federal court in New York City.)
October 19, 2005 - The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that yesterday, in a 6-6 vote, a federal appeals court in Richmond, VA, allowed the lawsuit Dr. Hatfill filed against the New York Times to proceed. So, unless there's a settlement, we should have a trial in this lawsuit - probably next year.
Interestingly, a lot of people seem to be getting a totally backward idea of the ruling, probably because of headlines like this one:
Appeals court denies to rehear libel lawsuit against NY Times
And this one:
Appeals court declines to rehear libel lawsuit against New York Times
The New York Times was doing the appealing this time, so it's the New York Times that lost the appeal. Hatfill won his appeal; the NYT appealed that ruling and lost.
October 17, 2005 - According to the Court Docket for the Hatfill v Ashcroft lawsuit, on Friday, Dr. Hatfill's lawyers filed a opposition motion in response to a motion filed on September 30, 2005, by the government's lawyers to get a "more definite statement regarding the factual basis for the remaining due process claim, the nature of the equitable relief he seeks on that theory, and the identity of the parties against whom or which he seeks relief." Whatever they're trying to accomplish with this legalese, it's clear in the motion filed on Friday that we're going to see some important changes to the lawsuit. And we may learn some new facts. The new motion says:
Dr. Hatfill hearby notifies the court that recent discovery has revealed the names of additional defendants whom Dr. Hatfill must name by November 5, 2005. See Scheduling Order (Jun. 6, 2005). Explaining the part these new defendants played in the scheme to smear Dr. Hatfill and his firing from Louisiana State University will necessarily require the inclusion of additional factual details in the Complaint, also drawn from discovery.November 5 is a Saturday, which probably means we won't learn the names of the new defendants and the "factual details" about their alleged actions until the following Monday, November 7, which is 3 weeks from today.
October 16, 2005 - Starting today, Sample.pdf, which is the sample chapter of my book available for reading on this site, is Chapter 15. Titled "To Err Is Human", the chapter describes exactly how some critical mistakes were made by key scientists in the panicky days of October of 2001 after it was discovered that lethal anthrax spores had been sent through the mails. The chapter also describes how rumors, leaks and false assumptions resulting from those mistakes caused the media to generate false headlines and totally false information which misled the world about the true nature of the anthrax powder and continues to mislead the world to this day.
It was the discovery of the source of this false information which compelled me to write my book "Analyzing The Anthrax Attacks". The chapter consists of solid evidence which no one else had previously put together, and the findings explain a great deal about what happened in the days, months and years following the anthrax attacks.
Like so many other details, the details about my initial discovery were put on this site in the form of a "comment", which I posted on December 6, 2004. For me, it was an "Aha!" moment when many many pieces fell together and I knew with absolute certainty that previous suspicions were true. And it was that discovery which prompted me to contact Ken Alibek later that month to discuss various aspects of bioweapons and to further confirm numerous other details described on this site and in my book.
Up until that time, I had been trying in a half-hearted way to get some major publisher interested in publishing my thoughts and findings about the anthrax attacks, but it was really a book without an ending, since the crime hadn't been solved. Plus, I had found that no regular publisher was interested in publishing a book about the anthrax attacks by "some unknown guy on the Internet" unless it promoted some conspiracy theory about sinister goverment plots, and my book didn't do that. It just laid out the facts and explained what the facts indicated. There isn't much of a market for that kind of book.
But my discoveries in December of 2004 changed my view of the book. Suddenly, it was no longer a "true crime" book about an unsolved mystery. It had become a scientific analysis which showed with documented evidence that commonly held beliefs about the attack anthrax were totally wrong. And, as a result of my analysis, I was even able to provide a step-by-step explanation of how so many people came to be so wrong.
I knew there was no point in trying to get some regular publisher to publish such a book. I didn't have the right "credentials" to do what I was doing. When you write a book that points out mistakes made by numerous government agencies, by the media and by many respected scientists, you really need powerful "credentials" to be believed. And even with the right credentials, it would be difficult for many to accept findings such as these:
1. Dr. Steven Hatfill is innocent of any connection to the anthrax attacks, and his life was ruined by a band of politically-motivated conspiracy theorists who conned the media, the public and government officials into forcing the FBI to publicly investigate him.On January 2, 2005, I finished the modifications to include the new information, and I began looking into self-publishing. Exactly two months later, on March 2, 2005, I had a published copy of "Analyzing the Anthrax Attacks" in my hands. Four days later, on March 6, 2005, Amazon.com started taking orders for the book.
I sent review copies to many reporters and scientists I knew, but only one reporter - Debora MacKenzie of New Scientist Magazine - chose to review the book. No other media person has even mentioned it, even though emerging details continue to confirm what I wrote. Bioweapons expert William Patrick III's rave review should have helped sales, but the reality is that no one can find out that he highly recommends the book unless they visit this web site, attend one of his lectures, or somehow stumble across the web pages where the book is being sold on Amazon.com and BarnesAndNoble.com.
Because I self-published my book on a budget, I didn't have the money to advertise in newspapers and magazines, much less pay for nation-wide book-signing tours. And that means I didn't have a "proper marketing plan", which major booksellers like Barnes & Noble, Borders and others require before they will actually put a book on their shelves in their stores. (I've mentioned in comments on this site that Barnes & Noble keeps running out of stock, but that's because they were only stocking 2 or 3 copies at a time, and it takes a month for them to restock when they run out.)
But, I planned for most of that when I published the book. I had each copy shrink- wrapped in plastic, so they'll keep in mint condition for a long time. The book will continue to be sold until the findings are either confirmed or disproven - even if that takes years. (That's why I added a section to this web site to keep track of such things.)
And, even though the book is titled "Analyzing The Anthrax Attacks - The First 3 Years", it isn't likely to become "outdated" very quickly. Certainly, nothing significant happened in the 4th year which affects the book or the investigation.
I fully expect that my findings will be eventually proven true by new facts coming to light. In the coming year there should be trials or settlements of various lawsuits filed by Dr. Hatfill which may clarify exactly how he became a "person of interest". Forensic details about anthrax powders will eventually show that the commonly held beliefs about fictitious silica coatings which can't be seen by anthrax experts are just plain silly.
And, if all goes as I hope, eventually scientists and the media will start looking in the right direction for the person who sent the anthrax, and some scientist who previously mistakenly believed that the anthrax must have come from some secret and illegal U.S. government bioweapons program may realize he has solid evidence of who actually committed the crime, and he or she may turn that evidence over to the FBI.
That is the purpose of my book and why I felt I had to self-publish it once I made the discoveries described in Chapter 15.
By the way, one problem with self-publishing on a budget is that you have to do your own proof-reading. On page 139 of Chapter 15 is an example of a typo I failed to catch. Although I wrote about the smallpox virus elsewhere in the book, about a third of the way down that page I wrote "smallpox bacteria". Richard Preston pointed out that error for me.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2005, thru Saturday, October 15, 2005
October 9, 2005 - A couple days ago, someone sent me a terrific presentation paper dated February 15, 2005, which I'd never seen before. The title of the paper is "Physical and Chemical Analytical Analysis: A key component of Bioforensics," and it was written by Stephan P. Velsko of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. It took several readings to grasp all the implications and technical details, and there are lots of them.
The first "implication" I noticed in the paper is that it seems to imply that Stephan Velsko has inside knowledge of how much bioforensic data has been collected in the Amerithrax investigation. On page 4 he states
In principle, the morphological and chemical properties of an agent contain information about the methods and materials used to generate it.And by doing an instrumental analyis of the "agent" - such as anthrax spores - it may be possible to deduce the "recipe" used to make it, and the "recipe" can then be validated by making a a new batch and doing tests to confirm that the results match the evidence sample.
This type of information is of value to an investigation to the extent that it constrains the pool of suspects to those that have access to the equipment, materials, and the information necessary to carry out specific "recipes". In practice, however, outside of the very specific information that was gathered in the Amerithrax investigation, the knowledge base from which such deductions may be drawn is currently quite sparse, and what information exists is not easily accessible to investigators - or if of questionable reliability.So, for any analysis outside of the Amerithrax investigation the knowledge base is very limited. Presumably, that implies that the Amerithrax investigation has established an extraordinarily large knowledge base.
The "technical detail" in the paper which generated the most discussion for the past couple days is the appearance of the first micrographs which actually show what silica coated spores look like:
The photo on the right appears to show a coating of fumed silica, since the strands of fumed silica are quite distinctive. The photo on the left evidently shows what a coating of silica nanoparticles looks like. (It looks much like the starch coating on Bt spores in the section of this site where I debunk Gary Matsumoto's article in Science magazine.)
Top bioweapons experts have examined micrographs of the spores used in the anthrax attacks of 2001 and stated they saw no trace of silica and that the spores were definitely NOT coated. Is it even possible to believe that coatings such as seen in the above micrographs would not be noticed by bioweapons experts and scientists looking at the attack spores through scanning and transmission electron microscopes?
The people who persist in believing that the attack spores were coated with silica can rationalize what's shown in the pictures is not the actual coating technique used, since the actual coating technique is highly classified and part of some secret and illegal U.S. government bioweapons program. And that probably implies that, because he provided these photographs to everyone, Stephen Velsko must be part of the grand conspiracy to mislead everyone about the silica coatings. Who can prove otherwise?
But, if we look at the pictures instead of dreaming up reasons why the pictures don't disprove some pet conspiracy theory, we can see that coating anthrax spores by either of of these two techniques would produce a "bioweapon" that is much less effective. The silica coatings would increase the weight of the spores, reducing their ability to float on air currents, and the covering would reduce the spore's ability to detect that it is in a suitable growth environment. Clearly, such coatings reduce the spore's lethality - possibly even down to zero.
Then there's this very interesting sentence from page 8 of the Velsko paper:
Certainly, if an agent contains additives (for example the putative added silica that received so much media attention in the Amerithrax investigation) the trace element and isotopic profiles of the additive would provide a possible basis for locating the origin of its manufacture.Putative? Putative!? Here's the definition of "putative" from my law dictionary:
putative: adj. commonly believed, supposed or claimed. Thus a putative father is one believed to be the father unless proved otherwise, a putative marriage is one that is accepted as legal when in reality it was not lawful (e.g. due to failure to complete a prior divorce). A putative will is one that appears to be the final will but a later will is found that revokes it and shows that the putative will was not the last will of the deceased.Is the author stating or suggesting what I've been saying, that the media reports of "added silica" are pure fiction? He's clearly saying that the reports of silica coatings are NOT verified. The meaning of the sentence changes dramatically if the word "putative" is left out. If he had used "supposed", that's a word more people are familiar with than "putative", and there would be less argument that he was suggesting that the presence of silica additives is NOT verified and may be purely imaginary. However, the law dictionary definition makes it absolutely clear that is what he is saying.
However, at the same time, he's saying that IF such traces were found, they "would provide a possible basis for locating the origin of its manufacture". So, he's verifying that IF they found traces of polymerized glass in the natural coating of the spores, that "would provide a possible basis for locating the origin of its manufacture". And that also confirms what I've been saying for quite some time.
The paper provides some additional somewhat "positive" and possibly even "inside" information about the Amerithrax investigation on page 7:
There are many standard analytical techniques that can be applied to bulk quantities of pure agent, when it is available. In this sense, it was fortunate that several letters containing substantial quantities of powder were secured during the Amerithrax investigation. To aid the FBI, the scientific community was able to offer a number of reasonable methods for addressing important questions about this material. However, even here some studies were constrained by available sample size. Moreover, at some Amerithrax crime scenes bulk powder evidence was not available, so these methods could not be applied.The paper is very careful to avoid generating any great expectations as to what can be quickly determined via a "physical and chemical analytical analysis", but it does list some which are key to the anthrax investigation. Such an analysis may
indicate if the agent was "weaponized" by a crude or a sophisticated method, or by a method that lends itself to making large quantities;In regard to the last item, the report mentions that the carbon dating method has some inherent problems:
Strictly speaking, the method only establishes the date that the nutrient compenents of the growth medium were manufactured. Thus the inferred date may reflect more the history of the distribution and storage of the nutrients rather than the date the organism was grown. Moreover, growth media are often the mixture of more than one nutrient from different sources and manufacturing dates.This is just one example of the complications involved in getting "evidence" that can be used in court from something like an anthrax spore. Instead of my going through them, anyone interested should simply read the report. It's certainly worth the time.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2005, thru Saturday, October 8, 2005
October 6, 2005 - An article on CBS News yesterday shows one problem with the "news" we're getting these days about the anthrax investigation.
What value there is in getting quotes about the progress of the Amerithrax investigation from people who are not directly involved with the Amerithrax investigation? If a reporter can't get quotes from people directly involved, then he's probably just getting quotes from someone who agrees with what the reporter believes or what the reporter or his editor wants to report. One quote from the article is:
"To the best of my knowledge. There are no suspects, no significant leads," said [former FBI lab manager Randall] Murch.How good is Randall Murch's knowledge of the case? Probably not very good at all, since everyone has known for years that the investigation has been compartmentalized to unprecedented degrees keep it leak-free.
The key quote in the CBS article may be this one:
"We have a situation where there is no smoking gun per se. There is no link, no direct link between the person and the event and the material used."It's pretty obvious that statement is true, since if there was a direct link there would also be grounds for an arrest.
And it should also be obvious that the scientific investigation (using microbial forensics) is attempting to establish a "direct link between the person and the event and the material used."
Are they getting closer or is an arrest becoming less and less likely? Doesn't it really all depend upon what they are doing in the scientific investigation? They could be getting closer to having the information base they need to make firm statements in court, or the could be getting closer to running out of worthwhile tests, meaning they didn't find anything conclusive.
Who knows? Without inside information, I certainly don't. But I very seriously doubt that the FBI has "no suspects".
October 4, 2005 - This was on the Associated Press newswires last Friday:
September 30, 2005I mentioned this article to others, reminding them that this wasn't just a Muslim conspiracy theory, since the same theory made the news a back in June when it was voiced by a former member of the Bush administration. Here's what the Washington Times reported on June 14, 2005:
A former Bush team member during his first administration is now voicing serious doubts about the collapse of the World Trade Center on 9-11. Former chief economist for the Department of Labor during President George W. Bush's first term Morgan Reynolds comments that the official story about the collapse of the WTC is "bogus" and that it is more likely that a controlled demolition destroyed the Twin Towers and adjacent Building No. 7. Reynolds, who also served as director of the Criminal Justice Center at the National Center for Policy Analysis in Dallas and is now professor emeritus at Texas A&M University said, "If demolition destroyed three steel skyscrapers at the World Trade Center on 9/11, then the case for an 'inside job' and a government attack on America would be compelling." Reynolds commented from his Texas A&M office, "It is hard to exaggerate the importance of a scientific debate over the cause of the collapse of the twin towers and building 7. If the official wisdom on the collapses is wrong, as I believe it is, then policy based on such erroneous engineering analysis is not likely to be correct either. The government's collapse theory is highly vulnerable on its own terms. Only professional demolition appears to account for the full range of facts associated with the collapse of the three buildings."In response, I was sent an article from a couple weeks ago which reported:
Fri, Sep. 23, 2005While these conspiracy theories may seem ridiculous to most people, there are certainly a lot of people who believe them. And it shouldn't be surprising. After all, there was a French bestseller several years ago which said the the Pentagon wasn't struck by a Boeing 757 but by a U.S. government guided missile. (I haven't read the book, so I'm not sure how it explains the disappearance of American Airlines flight 77 and all of its passengers.) A site debunking that conspiracy theory is HERE. And, lest we forget, it's been widely reported for years that "up to" 20 percent of Americans believe that the moon landings were all a hoax and just a gigantic government conspiracy. NASA even attempts to debunk that conspiracy theory on their web site HERE.
But it is interesting to see Barbara Hatch Rosenberg's name mentioned in connection to conspiracy theories. That's become very rare (except on this web site). It's more common to see the media blaming the FBI for what she did.
One thing I've repeatedly seen as I've discussed these conspiracy theories with the people who believe them: They do not consider themselves to be conspiracy theorists. And they get upset when I label them as being "conspiracy theorists". From their point of view, they just know the truth. And if I don't accept their version of the truth, then I'm part of the problem.
However, this isn't Roswell in the late 1940s. Thanks to TV, we were all there at 9/11. We saw the planes hit. We saw the towers fall. We all saw the same things. And we probably all found it hard to believe. But most of us eventually managed to believe it. And a few of us even spent some time to learn "Why the towers fell".
So why do some insist on believing conspiracy theories instead of facts? The answer seems to be in the old sayings "We see what we want to see" and "We believe what we want to believe." If you look for the facts, you'll find them. If you look for support for your beliefs, you'll find that, too, if you look hard enough and ignore the facts that don't support your beliefs.
Today on the laughably named "Accuracy In Media" web site AIM.org we have this comment:
The twist in the Oklahoma City case is that the "angry white men" blamed for the bombing, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, are seen by many as part of a much larger conspiracy. The best book on this subject is The Third Terrorist, by Jayna Davis.So, it goes on and on. That black "gash" on the leg of 9/11 hijacker is a fact which has "only one interpretation" - if that "one interpretation" is what you want to believe. If you look at it together with all the other evidence, you see an entirely different picture. So, the solution to that is easy: Don't look at it together with all the other evidence.
And, of course, if you carefully examine all the evidence and come to conclusions which disagree with the conclusions of the conspiracy theorists, they have a simple answer for that: You're just seeing what you want to see and believing what you want to believe.
In the end it all boils down to this: One methodology is based upon examining the facts and the other methodology is based upon ignoring, rationalizing or twisting the facts.
October 2, 2005 - As of this morning and for the next two weeks, Sample.pdf, which is the sample chapter of my book available for viewing on this site, is Chapter 7, which is titled "More About The Florida Cases".
Four years ago this week, Bob Stevens was diagnosed with inhalation anthrax and died a few days later. Because he lived in Florida and because some of the 9-11 hijackers had stayed for awhile in Florida, many people continue to believe al Qaeda must have been behind the anthrax attacks. And it doesn't make any difference to them that the evidence says otherwise. The way events unfolded in the media resulted in a lot of misconceptions which persist to this day. In Chapter 7, I sort through the evidence to find the most likely way the AMI building became so thoroughly contaminated, and the way Bob Stevens contracted inhalation anthrax. That finding is in conflict with the way the FBI says the building became so thoroughly contaminated - a way which doesn't explain how Bob Stevens became infected.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2005, thru Saturday, October 1, 2005
September 29, 2005 - This morning's Washington Post contains a letter to the editor from Michael Mason, Assistant Director of the FBI and head of the Washington Field Office. The brief but very pointed letter says:
The Sept. 22 editorial "The Anthrax Metaphor" may have misled readers on the progress of one of the largest, most complex investigations ever conducted by law enforcement.So, once again it is pointed out that the case is focused on the scientific investigation. They're not looking for "clues", nor is it just a gathering of "evidence". It appears to also be a validation process where the scientific evidence itself is evaluated to make certain it is both relevant and reliable. It must meet the new Supreme Court standard of Daubert vs Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals. As it says on page 164-165 of my book, new forensic testimony cannot simply meet existing standards of acceptance in its field, but must also "address some of the hallmarks of scientific inquiry -- testing, peer review and rates of error." In short, they must make certain the evidence cannot be challenged in court by other scientists who can prove that the evidence is not reliable.
September 27, 2005 - Yesterday's Albuquerque Tribune contained an interesting article about advances in the new field of bioforensics (a.k.a. "microbial forensics"), the same scientific field which is being used to hunt for evidence which might link the anthrax mailer to the anthrax he used. Of key interest in the article are these paragraphs:
Both Sandia and Los Alamos have several instruments that can look at tiny chemical components and shapes inside tiny samples.The anthrax sent though the mails in 2001 reportedly contained tiny traces of "polymerized glass" which other scientists are evidently trying to trace back to specific lab equipment which might then be traced to a specific lab and a specific person. But such evidence has to be conclusive to a specified degree or it will not be allowed to be presented in court. In other words, a database of test results has to be established which can be used to state with great certainty just how accurate such test results really are.
September 25, 2005 - While Chapter 5, "The First Anthrax Attack", is the sample chapter of my book currently available for reading on this site, discussion last week still focused on Chapter 3 and the evidence to be found in the handwriting.
The main discussion during the past week was about the question: Is the handwriting the writer's natural style, or is it "disguised" handwriting?
The fact that the handwriting is in all capital letters doesn't automatically mean it is "disguised", since almost every adult writes in all capital letters from time to time. It's quite natural. For example, whenever I fill out a deposit or withdrawal ticket at the bank, it asks me to both print my name and sign the form. So, I print my name in block letters. Many other forms also ask for printed characters instead of handwriting in script.
Writing in all capital letters certainly doesn't make your handwriting like everyone else's. A forensic handwriting expert can work with any kind of writing sample.
It's not as easy to disguise one's handwriting as many people seem to think. There are routine and simple ways of doing it, but the results all clearly appear as disguised handwriting. I know of four basic ways to disguise one's handwriting: (1) using your "wrong" hand, (2) tracing, (3) copying and (4) "making it up as you go along".
We're all familiar with other ways to avoid having your handwriting identified, such as pasting together words cut out of newspapers or typing on someone else's typewriter or computer. Those methods are similar to what appears to have been done in the anthrax case: having someone else do your writing for you.
As it states on the handwriting page of this web site, there is absolutely no reason to believe that the handwriting was "disguised" by writing with the "wrong" hand. Such handwriting usually appears very "unnatural" (as on the Troxler envelope), and generally looks shaky, as if the writer had some form of palsy. Everything about the handwriting in the anthrax samples says it was written naturally.
There is also no reason to believe that the handwriting was disguised by tracing letters and numbers placed under the writing paper. If that had been done, every character would be virtually identical in shape, and that is definitely not the case with the anthrax writings. (A similar method of "tracing" is to put graph paper under the writing paper and tracing the lines on the graph paper as you draw letters and numbers.)
There is also no reason to believe that the handwriting was disguised by copying, which is similar to tracing except that, instead of actually tracing over characters, you have samples of all the letters of the alphabet and numbers in front of you which you methodically copy. The end result still looks unnatural, since the individual characters are too similar in shape. (This is different from copying a message. When copying a message you use your own handwriting. When copying a writing style you try to imitate that style.) Another method of copying is the forger's method: You have a sample of another person's handwriting and you copy the style. That takes considerable expertise to pull off, and there's no reason to believe it was done with the anthrax writings.
The method which I call "making it up as you go along" consists of deliberately writing in a way that is not your unusual style, e.g., turning your O's into little hearts, rounding your M's and writing N's like a sideways S, etc. There is certainly no sign that the writer did anything like that in the anthrax mailings.
As everyone should know, we never write our own signature twice exactly the same way. If you take all the checks you wrote for the past year and hold them up to the light two at a time to see if the signatures are exactly identical, you'll see that they never are. There are always natural variations. Only a machine can write exactly the same every time. That holds true whether you are writing in script or in all block letters.
There is nothing about the handwriting on the anthrax letters and envelopes which clearly says that the handwriting is disguised. There are no indications that the writer used any of the four standard methods of disguising one's handwriting, and the variations in style seem "natural". The only "unnatural" variation seems to be in the way the date was written on the first letter - it varies from the rest of the writing in three ways. One variation would be common, two would be suspicious, but three variations indicate it was most likely written by a different writer. (The three variations in the handwriting for the date are: (1) the way the writer wrote the number 1's with unusually large serifs across the bottom, (2) the way the writer failed to close the second zero in the date (it's the only example of him doing that, and he seems very deliberate in closing his O's and Zeroes even to the point of continuing on for a quarter of the circle when writing small o's), and (3) the date on the media letter appears to have been written with a lighter touch than normal.)
All of this has been discussed many times before, and much of it is in the handwriting page on this site and also in my book. But one new item showed up this week which I never noticed before and which no one else had pointed out to me before. It's the way the writer drew the letter "R". Many people had previously noticed that the writer used the public school "R" and not the Catholic school "R". That may appear unusual to people who went to Catholic schools or who write in the Catholic school way, but it's perfectly normal to everyone else.
What I learned this week that is very unusual about the way the anthrax letter-writer wrote R's is that he began by drawing the loop of the R as a full circle. Here is how he drew R's on the first anthrax letter:
That I never noticed before. And note the way he closes his circles on his R's in a way that is very similar to the way he closes his O's. That's an indicator that he's writing in his natural style. The R's vary in a natural way. This doesn't fit any known pattern of disguising ones handwriting. It's a natural variation.
When writing an R for the media letter, he appears to first draw the vertical line, then he draws the circle with part of the circle tracing part of the vertical line, and then he draws the extender. Why? Who draws R's that way?
It seems to me that it is most likely the way he figured out how to write R's in kindergarten, where you copy what you see on a wall and do not typically get the individual instruction you get in first grade where writing is truly learned. Writing an R this way is good enough for kindergarten. But how many adults write R's that way?
He also appears to have written the P in "PENACILIN" in a very similar way, which would tend to confirm that this is his natural way of writing P's and R's and he wasn't "making it up as he went along". Although we can't be absolutely certain he completed the circle on the P, he definitely appears to have drawn most of it:
As can be seen in how he wrote this P, he began the loop by tracing over the vertical line. That seems to be the way he figured out how to write a P. As far as I know, no school teaches writing P's that way.
But a short time later he wrote P's and R's in an importantly different way.
In the period of time between the writing of the media letter and the addressing of the media envelopes, he seems to have been taught the proper way to write the letters R and P. In the media letter he wrote them all with tiny circles, but from that point on he rarely drew the complete small circles. He seems to have been instructed where to begin drawing the loop. On the Brokaw envelope, we can actually see that he has been taught to start the loop at the top of the vertical line, and to stop by tracing the vertical line.
Here are the R's from the Brokaw envelope:
Note that the three smaller R's show he now knows he is supposed to write the loop by starting at the top of the vertical line and that he should draw only part of a circle. On those three R's, when he starts drawing the loop he didn't put the pen down in exactly the right place. He started next to the vertical line, not atop it. Clearly, the larger the R, the more correctly he writes it. This seems to be another indicator that he lacks the hand/eye coordination of an adult and/or that he sees a small R as being different from a large R. (Examples of writing in lower case are probably all around him.)
It takes 30 seconds or less to teach someone how to draw an R correctly. From that point on the pupil knows how to do it, but it takes much longer to develop the motor skills which will enable him to write the new way without thinking about it.
The change in the way R's and P's were written on the media letter versus the way they were written on the media envelopes could mean he learned very quickly, but it could also mean that the anthrax letter was written days before the envelopes were addressed.
The letter P in the word "PLAZA" on the Brokaw letter shows no sign of having drawn a circle as he did with the P in "Penacilin":
The way he addressed the envelope to the New York Post seems to confirm that the larger the character, the more correctly he could draw it:
Note that the R's in EDITOR and AMERICAS are almost complete circles. He knew the correct way, but old habits are hard to break. Plus, he's copying the address from somewhere, which is a reminder of how R's and P's are supposed to look.
When I look at the R's and P on the Post envelope, I see them as illustrations of a child struggling to write the way he has been recently taught. Others see them as illustrations of an adult trying to write in a disguised way. But what "disguised way" was he using? Imitating the natural writing of a child?
Are we to believe that the writer tried writing R's with circles as a method of disguising his handwriting, but lapsed into his normal style when addressing the envelopes? Are we also supposed to believe that, for some unknown reason, he lapsed more with writing small R's than when writing large R's and the P? I certainly cannot prove that is not the case, but it seems infinitely more logical that between the writing of the media letter and the addressing of the media envelopes he received some instruction on how to write R's and P's more properly, and because he has the hand/eye coordination of a child, he does a better job drawing large characters than when drawing small characters.
If an adult did this as "disguised" writing, wouldn't he see that he was lapsing back into his normal writing style and redo the addressing of the envelopes?
Everything seems to indicate that the change in the way he writes R's and P's is the result of lessons learned from his teacher and/or lessons learned during the first weeks of first grade. And don't forget: This is just one indication from among MANY that the handwriting is that of a child in the first weeks of first grade.
So, how did he write R's and P's three weeks later for the second mailing?
In my book and on this site I point out that in the second mailing the writer wrote smaller, making his characters on the letter and the envelopes roughly half the size of the way he wrote for the first mailing. One thing we do know is that writing smaller is one of the first things taught in the first weeks of first grade, and at the time the letters were written, schools were in the first weeks of a new school year.
Can anyone believe that writing smaller or writing larger is an adult's way of disguising his handwriting? Which did he do by mistake, writing too large on the first mailing or writing too small on the second mailing? Are we supposed to believe that the adult writer failed to notice that he had lapsed back into his normal size of writing?
Here are the P and the R's from the letter sent to Senators Daschle and Leahy:
This is a very good example of how a person's handwriting will differ slightly every time he writes, and yet it is still recognizably written by the same person. That's almost as true when writing block letters as when writing in script. What we see here are natural variations. Even though no two of the's characters are exactly identical, there are no artificial similarities, nor any artificial differences, as would be seen in attempts to disguise one's handwriting. The writer is writing in his natural way.
As can also be clearly seen, he still has the tendency to write the loop on his R's and P's as a circle, similar to the way he wrote in kindergarten, not the new way he was taught. Here are the school models again:
When compared to the anthrax writer's handwriting, you can see there are almost no horizontal lines when he writes R's and P's. He is still drawing parts of circles as he did in kindergarten.
And he did the same thing when he addressed the envelope to Senator Daschle:
His tendency to want to draw circles couldn't be more clear than in the P and R in PARK.
He did the same things when addressing the envelope to Senator Leahy.
Those who were arguing that the writer is an adult who was disguising his handwriting argued that he wrote in an disguised way when he made the full circles in his R's and the P in the first letter, and that he was unintentionally reverting to his natural (correct) style later when he stopped drawing full circles. But is it reasonable to believe that an adult would be unable to continue writing in the way he wrote the media letter and would revert to his natural way of drawing R's but still show a very clear tendency to write with circles? Isn't it infinitely more reasonable to conclude that writing R's with full circles is the natural (kindergarten) style he still used in mid-September, and in early October he was learning to write more correctly?
Can anyone write in some "disguised" way - without using visual references - and make it look natural? Isn't that like an average American from Wisconsin suddenly deciding to talk with a perfect English accent and doing it perfectly?
There certainly is absolutely nothing about this writing which indicates that it is the handwriting of some adult terrorist who is accustomed to writing in Arabic.
Previously I said the handwriting on the anthrax letters and envelopes was "most likely" the handwriting of a child in the first weeks of first grade. But after studying in greater detail the way he writes his R's and P's - and taking into account all the other items of evidence described in Chapter 3 of my book - I have to upgrade my evaluation and say that the handwriting is almost certainly the handwriting of a child in the first weeks of first grade. Furthermore, everything about the handwriting says it is not the handwriting of an adult attempting to write in a disguised way.
This discussion also illustrates why I continue to argue details about a case which remains unsolved after four years. There are still new things to be learned, and you can never tell where or how those new things will appear. I always hope someone will find something truly new and bring it to my attention, regardless of whether they think what they found proves or disproves my analysis.
I don't expect to change many minds with what I've written here. While, to me, this new item of evidence seems to clearly show that a child almost certainly wrote the anthrax letters, others will see the mere possibility of some alternative explanation as enough reason to disbelieve what the evidence says. However, as it says in Chapter 3 of my book, evidence is evidence whether you believe it or not.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2005, thru Saturday, September 24, 2005
September 18, 2005 - Four years ago today, on Tuesday, September 18, 2001, at least 5 anthrax-filled letters addressed to the media were postmarked at the Hamilton mail processing facility outside of Trenton, NJ. The authorities eventually recovered 2 of the letters (the letters sent to Tom Brokaw and The New York Post), but there is little doubt that there were 3 others (the ones sent to Peter Jennings at ABC, Dan Rather at CBS and AMI/The National Enquirer), since people contracted anthrax from those letters, too.
For the next two weeks, the sample chapter of my book available on this site will be Chapter 5. That chapter is titled "The First Anthrax Attack".
What the chapter tries to explain is that the way events unfolded in the media has nothing to do with the way the first attack actually happened. Yet, because of the way events unfolded in the media, it appears that most people today seem to believe Bob Stevens was the first victim and Florida was attacked first. That is totally wrong.
As it says on page 56 of my book:
The first victim to feel the symptoms of anthrax was Joanna Huden, an assistant at the New York Post. On Saturday the 22nd of September, 2001, just 4 days after the first letters were postmarked, Joanna Huden noticed “an itchy, red bug-like bump” on the last joint of her right middle-finger. Later that weekend, the bump became swollen and broke open. By Monday “an ulcer had formed that was jet black and dry in the middle.” When she finally went to a clinic to have her hand examined, the doctors determined it was an infection of some kind and put her on antibiotics. But first they sliced off the infected area in order to do a biopsy.Six other people were also feeling the symptoms of cutaneous or inhalation anthrax before Bob Stevens began feeling ill on Sunday, September 30, at around 12:30 in the afternoon. So, Bob Stevens was the eighth victim, not the first. Joanna Huden in New York was feeling symptoms more than a week before Bob Stevens in Florida.
Stevens was the first person to be diagnosed as having anthrax, and, of course, he was also the first to die from the first attack. But he was not the first to be infected or the first to feel symptoms.
Yet it appears that because Bob Stevens died on October 5, 2001, that date (or some other date in October) will be seen by many in the media as being the "anniversary" of the anthrax attacks.
October is not only seen as the anniversary of the attacks, to some it's as if little or nothing at all happened in September, as far as the anthrax attacks are concerned.
Three weeks ago, I watched The National Geographic channel special titled "Inside 9-11" because I was told it had something about the anthrax attacks. It did. After the show described 9-11 in great detail, in the last 15 minutes of the 3-hour show they started talking about things that happened immediately afterward, and the narrator said:
In October a terrorist mails letters contaminated with anthrax to members of the U.S. Senate and the media.Just one sentence, and it's wrong! The media letters were mailed in September!
I just shook my head over it and didn't mention it on this site, but last week I was browsing the "remainder" tables at Barnes & Noble and came across a book titled "The U.S. Government Guide to Surviving Terrorism". The cover says it was "Compiled from U.S. government documents". Checking the index, I found one reference to "anthrax". On page 30 it has these two sentences:
In October 2001, several letters were mailed to selected members of the U.S. government and media personalities. The letters contained the biological agent anthrax.So, now there are now two sources - including one that is a seemingly official source - which say or imply that all the anthrax letters were mailed in October.
Which poses some intriguing philosophical questions: How many people have to believe that all the anthrax letters were mailed in October in order to make it true? How many times does it have to be printed or shown on TV before it becomes an historical fact? At what point do the actual postmarks on the letters become irrelevant?
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2005, thru Saturday, September 17, 2005
September 17, 2005 - An article from Saturday's Washington Post titled "Judge Rejects 2 Claims in Hatfill's Lawsuit" says that Judge Reggie Walton dismissed a couple claims in Dr. Hatfill's lawsuit which would have held Justice Department employees Timothy Beres and Daryl Darnell individually responsible for leaking "discrediting and false information about [Dr. Hatfill] to the media". The Judge also upheld parts of the lawsuit, which seems to have pleased Dr. Hatfill's attorneys.
The Docket for the Hatfill v Ashcroft lawsuit has been updated to include the entries for Friday and to include links to Judge Walton's order and opinion.
September 16-17, 2005 - Today's (Saturday's) New York Times includes an article by Scott Shane titled "In 4-Year Anthrax Hunt, F.B.I. Finds Itself Stymied, and Sued". It begins:
Richard L. Lambert, the F.B.I. inspector in charge of the investigation of the deadly anthrax letters of 2001, testified under oath for five hours last month about the case.The testimony was part of the depositions in the Hatfill v Ashcroft lawsuit. Scott Shane's article says this about further depositions:
Mr. Connolly said Van Harp, the former assistant director in charge of the Washington Field Office of the bureau, is scheduled for a deposition next week and Mr. Ashcroft in November.The article says:
Four years after an unknown bioterrorist dropped letters containing a couple of teaspoons of powder in a mailbox in Princeton, N.J., what began as the largest criminal investigation in American history appears to be stalled, say scientists and former law enforcement officials who have spoken with investigators.It's interesting that the investigation "appears to be stalled" according to some unnamed scientists and officials who "have spoken with investigators". The article goes on to say:
"They've done everything they can possibly think of doing, and they're just not there yet," said Randall S. Murch of Virginia Tech, a former scientist at the bureau who led the use of laboratory tests to trace the origin of microbes used in crimes. "You have to understand that the pressure is enormous."While the above paragraph might be viewed as a somewhat "positive" statement, the next paragraph says:
A former law enforcement official who keeps up with several investigators said, "From the people I've talked to, it's going nowhere." The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of sensitivity over leaks in the case, said some agents still formally assigned to the investigation were mostly working on other cases, because "there's nothing for them to do."There's a big difference between "not there yet" and "going nowhere". Evidently, it all depends upon your point of view. But the article does have another very positive series of paragraphs:
Eventually, the bureau called on 19 government, university and private laboratories to test every quality of the powder. A senior government scientist who has been briefed on the case said a two-year effort to compare tiny genetic mutations in the mailed anthrax with hundreds of samples of Ames anthrax from 16 laboratories has paid off.But, evidently no positive statement can be made without also including a somewhat negative statement as in the next paragraph:
Just laboratory work is unlikely to solve the case, scientists in the fast-developing field of bioforensics said.Why would anyone think that the case is going to rely only on "laboratory work"? The FBI agents and postal inspectors working on the case are not lab technicians.
Does the fact that the FBI hasn't named a "suspect" mean that they don't have a clue as to who did it, or does it just mean that they don't have the proof needed to make an arrest?
By assuming that the FBI doesn't have a clue as to who did it, it's easier for the media to apply pressure to try to get the FBI to say more about the case. No one likes being called "incompetent".
If the media believed (as I do) that the FBI knows who sent the anthrax letters but doesn't have sufficient evidence to take the culprit to court, that would make things difficult for newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post, since they are probably the last two newspapers in the country which would demand an arrest of a suspect even thought there isn't sufficient evidence to support an arrest and conviction.
In Friday's Washington Post article titled "Little Progress In FBI Probe of Anthrax Attacks" there are a few other details:
In the past year, the number of FBI agents on the case has dropped from 31 to 21, authorities said. During the same time, the number of postal inspectors has fallen from 13 to nine.So, there are still 21 FBI agents and 9 postal inspectors working on the case in addition to all the laboratory scientists. The article also says:
The investigation has been so expansive that authorities now are in the process of taking inventory. The FBI and postal inspectors have spent months piecing together a voluminous internal report that will review the scope of the investigation and explore issues including what has been the prevailing theory: The culprit is a U.S. scientist who had access to the high-grade anthrax and the knowledge of how to physically manipulate it and use it as a weapon. That theory emerged early in the investigation and remains viable today, authorities said.Any statement which says the FBI believes the "culprit is a U.S. scientist" will infuriate those True Believers who continue to insist that al Qaeda was behind the attacks. But they will undoubtedly just chant their favorite phrase: "That's just what they want you to believe." It covers all disagreement.
Just like the NY Times, the Post also hunts down people who will give a negative point of view, no matter how far from the actual investigation they may be:
"It doesn't sound like they're close to cracking the case," said Eric H. Holder Jr., a Washington lawyer who was deputy attorney general during the Clinton administration.And no mention of the anthrax investigation in the Post would be complete without some mention of the man who is definitely the Post's "person of interest", if not the FBI's:
Over the years, officials have publicly identified only one "person of interest," and that was in August 2002: Steven J. Hatfill, a physician and bioterrorism expert who worked at Fort Detrick from 1997 to 1999. Hatfill, who has not been charged, has denied any involvement and filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department and then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft.The article also confirms that a lot of what is visible to the public and to the media in the investigation are just efforts to make certain no one can accuse the FBI of "not being thorough" (and that almost certainly includes everything related to Dr. Hatfill and Dr. Berry):
In the past year, investigators have tried to follow up on and eliminate as many leads as possible. In case the matter ever goes to trial, they want to be able to counter any defense assertions that they failed to explore alternative scenarios or suspects, sources have said.The Post article also includes information which will infuriate those who continue to believe that al Qaeda was behind the anthrax attacks:
Because the deadly letters contained the Ames anthrax spores, manufactured in the United States, authorities entertained the possibility that they had been removed from a U.S. lab and transported overseas.The article concludes with some key facts which can be viewed as "positive", but those same facts may be more important in showing what is taking so long to complete the investigation:
Meanwhile, in the United States, FBI agents and scientists have been working to match the gene sequence of the mailed anthrax spores to a specific laboratory. They remain particularly interested in such laboratories as Fort Detrick, Louisiana State University and Dugway Proving Ground in Utah.So, we are starting to get some "new" information about the investigation. Hopefully, there'll be more during the next few weeks. It's always nice to have new information which confirms what I wrote in my book.
NOTE: These comments for these two days were delayed by a hard drive crash on my computer. Earlier comments and updates were done with makeshift techniques and were entirely replaced.
September 14, 2005(1) - The Coollist.com anthrax forums seem to be down, which reduces discussion, but, among the comments I've received via regular e-mails about the way the question mark was written on the Senate anthrax letter, was one which said simply:
look!? the perp first drew an exclamation point then changed it to a question mark.Is that a reasonable explanation? Or does it just say that the writer was as unfamiliar with writing exclamation points as he was with writing question marks? Both were new to him, and he simply used one when he should have used the other.
If he first drew an exclamation point, it was drawn unusually low, with the period far below the baseline. The explanation which seems to fit best is still that, because he drew curves of a certain size and vertical lines of a certain size, the question mark just came out bigger than it should be. Writing smaller required hand/eye coordination the writer simply did not have, or the writer didn't realize that the question mark was supposed to be smaller. Either way, it was just the best he could do.
Another response I received was much longer and went through the first 8 "items of evidence" in Chapter 3 in my book, providing alternative explanations for each and simply dismissing all the rest. I won't go through all of his responses, since the pattern is the same. But, he began this way:
1) "The writer has a problem writing in small spaces."Actually, while it's possible that an adult might misjudge the amount of space needed to write the address on the first in a series of envelopes he's addressing, he'll realize he made a mistake on the first envelope and write smaller on the second envelope. A child just starting first grade doesn't have the hand/eye coordination to make that simple adjustment. He only writes one size and he sees the "problem" as being that the paper is too small, so he makes the same "mistake" over and over.
The e-mailer ended his letter with two items he described this way:
Now some powerful evidence that the letter was NOT written by a child:The first item of "powerful evidence" was:
1) We know the anthrax wasn't made by a child, so howMy explanation to him was that I don't need to provide an explanation. Plus, I don't have the resources to provide such explanations. I just analyze the facts I can find and show what those facts indicate. As long as it's certain that there are possible explanations, I don't need to identify which one is the one actually used. Finding that answer is the FBI's job. They have the resources. I just know there is at least one possible explanation: The anthrax mailer may have used a child as a way of avoiding using his own handwriting, making it much more difficult to identify the letter writer. Disguising one's own handwriting is not as easy as many people believe.
(Being a history buff and a science buff means that I'm aware of the many examples in history where people did an accurate analysis but then couldn't believe or accept their own findings - or they bowed to the number of disbelievers around them - and, as a result, they changed their findings to conform with beliefs instead of their analysis - to their everlasting regret.)
As to why the child would be "exactly six years old!", that's because it's during the first weeks of first grade that the uncial style of writing is taught. In kindergarten, children write in all capitals of the same size. In first grade, you begin sentences and proper nouns with characters drawn larger than the rest of the sentence, and you also learn to write smaller, to use punctuation and to write in paragraphs. Plus, the letters were written at a time when children were actually in the first weeks and months of first grade! They were postmarked Sept. 18 and Oct. 9.
The responder's second item of "powerful evidence" was:
2) The second letter is written smaller and muchThe answer is: In first grade you are taught new ways of writing every day! You are taught the uncial style, you are taught to write smaller, you are taught about punctuation, you are taught about paragraphs, etc. Every day your kindergarten writing style is pointed out to you as being wrong and you are shown to do things differently.
Therefore, there will be significant differences between the way a child writes during the first week or two of first grade (i.e., just before Sept. 18) and how he writes just three weeks later (i.e., just before Oct. 9).
An adult, on the other hand, long ago finished learning how to write. His writing will be basically the same today as it is three weeks from today.
September 14, 2005(2) - The Associated Press today distributed an article which shows that something is being done about dangerous biological specimens left behind in at least one abandoned lab in Louisiana:
As rising floodwaters swamped New Orleans, Louisiana's chief epidemiologist enlisted state police on a mission to break into a high-security government lab and destroy any dangerous germs before they could escape or fall into the wrong hands.I don't know if it was a serious danger or not, but the drastic action of destroying the specimens seems to indicate there were no viable alternatives.
September 11, 2005 - Since today is the 4th anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attacks, and there are many retrospectives about the attacks in newspapers, magazines and on TV, during the next month or so we also should see some media retrospectives about the anthrax attacks which followed close after 9-11. There's been no actual news about the investigation or the various lawsuits for weeks. Hopefully, the retrospectives will try looking at things from a different angle or some reporter will manage to get some new information about the investigation.
The most heated discussions last week were about matters related to Hurricane Katrina. Conspiracy theorists were seeing a government conspiracy to under-report the number of dead in Mississippi and Alabama. They dismissed the official numbers of hundreds (or thousands) and instead relied on Internet gossip estimates which ran as high as 100,000 dead. They wanted to know: Why was FEMA understating the numbers? Interestingly, the question was being asked by some of the same people who firmly believe there was a "sophisticated silica coating" on the anthrax spores and that there is a massive government conspiracy to cover up that "fact".
I tried to get a discussion going about the motivation behind the sniper attacks in the New Orleans area, but psychology seems to be a subject of little or no interest to most others following the anthrax attacks. To me, it's of prime interest. Getting inside the mind of a killer to see what motivates him is important to the anthrax case, and it's one of the three cornerstones - Means, Motive and Opportunity - for building almost any criminal case that is taken to court.
That took us into discussions about the current Sample.pdf (Chapter 3 of my book). The debate was intense for awhile, as I tried to determine if anyone had any alternative explanations for the important known facts laid out in that chapter. Examples: FACT: The writer of the letters and envelopes wrote at a downward slant on the envelopes but not in the letters. Why? FACT: The Senate letter had punctuation, but the media letter didn't. Why?FACT: The writing in the media letter is twice the size of the writing in the Senate letter. Why? FACT: The writer wrote small o's different from large O's in a very distinctive way. Why? Etc. Etc.
The responses I got were about the same as I got to questions about the New Orleans snipers: "People just do things for no reason." That's an explanation that I find totally incomprehensible, since all of human history is about motivation. Knowing that 9-11 happened is just knowing an established and proven fact. Understanding what motivated people to do what they did is what is truly important. There were reasons for everything that happened, from the motivation behind the attacks, to why the buildings collapsed, to why the death toll was less than initially feared, to why UA Flight 93 crashed in a field in Pennsylvania instead of into the Capital Building, to why we went to war with Iraq, and on and on. The reasons people did what they did may be criminal reasons, they may be noble reasons, they may be stupid reasons, they may be brilliant reasons, or they may not even know or think about the reasons, but virtually everything done by every human being was done for a reason.
Along those same lines, and for what it's worth, while thumbing through Chapter 3 of my book, I noticed something I hadn't truly noticed before. In the book, I commented that the question mark in the Senate letter was at least double the size of all the other characters and is unusually drawn, as if the writer never wrote a question mark before. I even mention in the book that, for a child just learning the uncial style of writing, the question mark would seem to be like the D in AFRAID, except that the vertical line is shifted to below the curve, and there is a period below that. It’s certainly not the way an adult would typically write a question mark. Here's a picture of the question mark:
Looking at the image printed in the book, I suddenly saw that my description appeared even more true than I'd previously realized. Was I really seeing what I thought I was seeing? Using various techniques, which included printing out the letter, taking a picture of the results, enlarging the image, altering the brightness, contrast and hue, I produced a dozen versions of the image, including this one:
The question mark appears to have been written with THREE strokes. Who writes a question mark with THREE strokes? And who writes a question mark where the curve portion is the same size as the curve portion on the capital D, where the vertical line is a separate stroke and slightly offset, and where the period is that far below?
And why? The best answer to "why?" still seems to be the answer given in my book: It's the first question mark the person ever drew. That explanation fits well with all the other findings about the handwriting. And so does the indication that the writer seems to have drawn the curve portion of the question mark very slowly and carefully with varying pressure on the pen.
Of course there are ways to rationalize and dismiss this finding, along with every other similar item of circumstantial evidence, so that it doesn't upset firmly held theories and beliefs. Typical rationalizations: "It's all a trick to make you believe what they want you to believe" and "He did it to disguise the way he normally writes a question mark" and "People sometimes just do strange things for no reason at all."
(For the die hards who continue to believe that an Arab wrote the letters, note that the question mark is also used in Arabic, but because Arabic is written from right to left, the question mark is reversed. An adult Arab would not be writing a question mark as if he'd never seen one before. Here's an Arabic keyboard layout. Notice the last key:
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2005, thru Saturday, September 10, 2005
September 9, 2005 - The September 12, 2005, issue of Newsweek contains a paragraph on page 49 which provides some insight into what happened to some biological specimens at Tulane:
At Tulane University, Dr. James Robinson, a prominent AIDS researcher, and his wife, Monique, decided to stay behind to protect some cell lines - white blood cells infected with the disease - that represent decades of research on his part. He packed his lab with food and water and relied on generators to keep his freezers and incubators operating. He and his wife even managed to have a glass of wine and watch a DVD on a computer after the storm abated. But by Wednesday, with the water rising, his generator failed. Fearful of getting robbed or drowned, the Robinsons made their way to a Tulane parking lot, secured by guards, where he called his daughter in Providence, R.I., to tell her they were all right - for now. "I didn't dare ask him about his work," said his daughter, Lisette Dorsey. "I fear it's all probably a loss."September 8, 2005 - The horrible events in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama have spurred some discussion of matters related to the anthrax attacks. Someone wondered what happened to all the biological specimens in labs at Tulane University, Loyola University, The University of New Orleans and elsewhere. Do they pose any danger?
I don't know about all the labs in the destroyed area, but Tulane seems to have survived with minimal damage. According to the Houston Chronicle, the President of Tulane remained at the university until three days after Katrina passed. He said damage to the 171-year-old university's 111-year-old campus was limited to some downed trees, broken windows and flooding. Other reports, however, suggest that the "flooding" is serious in some areas of the campus.
Biological samples are typically stored frozen in plastic tubes inside metal containers cooled by liquid nitrogen. So, even if loss of power somehow caused the specimens to thaw, they'd still be inside cryotubes inside metal freezers. And, presumably, they are safe from looters, since some media reports indicate that the campuses of these universities were the first places military troops went when they arrived in the city.
Another line of discussion was about the motives driving the snipers which seem to be creating problems in the New Orleans area. That one will take some thought, since there's absolutely no agreement on what the motives might be. It may be the same motives which drove most of the hoaxers after the anthrax attacks - whatever that is.
September 4, 2005 - Because of the personal attacks, criticisms and hate-mail I received during the past two weeks as a result of putting Chapter 1 of my book on this site (while also stating that the evidence seems to indicate the anthrax mailer may have expected to become a hero because of his deeds), I've decided to skip over Chapter 2 (which isn't very controversial) and go straight to using Chapter 3 as the sample chapter from my book for the next two weeks. As of now, it replaces Chapter 1.
If people are looking for controversial findings to argue about, Chapter 3 should fill their needs. It's titled "Evidence". It describes how circumstantial evidence is used to build a case, and how some people will ignore circumstantial evidence no matter how compelling and conclusive it may be. Many people don't even consider circumstantial evidence to be evidence, yet it is the type of evidence used to convict most criminals. Chapter 3 lists 18 items of circumstantial evidence which in total seem to clearly indicate that the writer of the letters most likely wasn't the same person who mailed them or filled them with anthrax.
The subject has already been argued for years, and I've been ridiculed for these findings countless times, but what the chapter says is "Evidence is evidence, whether you believe it or not." And if you are looking at facts and not just simply going with emotions and beliefs, then the evidence cannot be denied.
However, some will undoubtedly deny it. In the past two weeks I've had more than one person tell me, in effect, that they don't care what the evidence says, they're going to continue to believe what they want to believe. Their argument is that, while I have plenty of supporting facts for my hypothesis, there could be some undiscovered facts out there somewhere which support their point of view, and I can't prove that there aren't any such facts.
So, I'm arguing known facts with people who are arguing that there might be some unknown facts somewhere to support their arguments, too, regardless of what their argument is - even if they were arguing that aliens from outer space sent the letters.
In the anthrax mystery, all the known facts seem to support one hypothesis. "Unknown facts" - which may or may not exist - could support any and every hypothesis. That's why it's so important to understand the known evidence.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2005, thru Saturday, September 3, 2005
August 28, 2005 - Because I placed a copy of Chapter 1 of my book on this web site as a browsing sample, the discussions during the past week have naturally been about the actual anthrax letter copies. The discussions began about the peculiar notches cut (or tore) out of the two media letters.
In my book, I don't really attempt to explain the notches. They just seem to be part of the same pattern the anthrax mailer exhibited when the trimmed edges of each letter differently. But the week's discussions showed one thing I hadn't realized before: The only theory which adequately explains them is the theory in my book: that the culprit saved the trimmings in case he might someday need them to prove either that he sent the letters or that someone else did not send the letters.
The other theories basically try to say there is no valid explanation for the notches, e.g., (1) al Qaeda does things for unexplainable reasons and (2) the culprit was insane and insane people do insane, unexplainable things. Both of those theories go against the facts, since there's a calculated reason for virtually everything al Qaeda does, and there's also almost always an explainable reason for things insane people do, although you have to view things from their point of view to see the reason.
It's also possible that the notches were removed by forensic experts to test the paper, but it doesn't seem logical that the official images of the letters would be taken after some lab technician tore or cut pieces off of them. And such test samples only require a thin sliver of paper trimmed from an edge.
So, the notches remain a mystery, and the best explanation seems to be that the culprit saved the pieces so he could use them as "proof", if such proof was ever needed. They could be used to prevent some innocent person from being convicted of the attacks. And, if the culprit thought he was alerting America to the danger of a catastrophic bioweapons attack, he probably also viewed himself as a "hero" saving his country. The pieces of paper would prove he saved America. Anyone with an ego large enough to cause him to believe he could save America in such a way would also likely have daydreams of being declared a national hero for what he did. When happy Americans demanded to know who had saved them, he'd be ready to prove he did it.
The past week's discussions seem to have left little doubt that the media letters were sent to awaken America to the danger of a catastrophic bioweapons attack. Most of the discussions involved a close examination of the first two lines of the media letter:
The full meaning of those two lines is clear:
WEAPONS ATTACK IS COMING NEXT!
Can there be any other interpretation?
The last three lines in the letter are just standard slogans routinely chanted by Muslim terrorists, evidently added to the letter in an attempt to make it appear it came from Muslim terrorists. But, would al Qaeda warn America of such an attack and provide medical advice on how to survive it? Hardly.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2005, thru Saturday, August 27, 2005
August 21, 2005 - The 4-year anniversaries of the anthrax attacks of 2001 will be coming up during the next two months. Since my book is titled "Analyzing The Anthrax Attacks - The First 3 Years", that might make some think that the book is out of date. However, virtually nothing new has happened in the investigation during the past year (as far as what has been made public). So, the book is still as up-to-date as when it was first printed. And it's certainly far more up-to-date than any other book on the subject.
Starting this week and continuing every two weeks for next few months, I plan to put a sample chapter of my book on this web site. The sample chapter will be in .pdf format exactly as sent to the book manufacturer - Thompson Shore, Inc. - and exactly as printed. That means it can be a very large file to download, which may be a big problem for anyone using a low-speed dial-up connection. Most chapters are between 1 and 2 million bytes (MB or megabytes), but some are much larger.
Since the book is 24 chapters in length, not including the introduction, list of sources, acknowledgements, etc., only around 6 or 7 chapters will be viewable via this site before I discontinue showing new sample chapters. Only one sample chapter will be viewable at a time. Each time I provide a new chapter, I'll comment about it here.
The first sample chapter is Chapter 1 - "Studying The Anthrax Letters", which is on this site now. It's 6.48 MB in size, because of all the illustrations.
One thing I tried to do in Chapter 1 was make the reader understand that the book is an analysis of the facts I've been able to gather. That means a whole page in the book may be only about how the letters were folded and what significance that has to the overall analysis. The truth is in the details, and the book is about details, which makes it very different from any other book on the subject of the anthrax attacks of 2001.
In addition, I'll be putting a lot more information about the book in the section of this site which describes the book and its contents. That section is HERE. If you like to browse, the section even lets you examine the first page of each chapter.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2005, thru Saturday, August 20, 2005
August 19, 2005 - There have been a few new Docket entries in the Maureen Stevens v The United States lawsuit in the past weeks. The Docket has now been updated. The latest entries seem to be about a motion to grant permission to appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit (probably to overrule Judge Hurley's denial of a motion to dismiss the case).
However, the most recent entry mentions that some pleadings are on the Docket for the Maureen Stevens v. Battelle Memorial Institute et al lawsuit. I hadn't been tracking the lawsuit against Battelle, but I've now created a copy of the Docket which I'll attempt to keep reasonably up-to-date. Discovery activities for that lawsuit appear to be consolidated with Maureen Stevens' lawsuit against the U.S.
The main item of interest in the Battelle lawsuit for me was the fact that a court date was once set for March 7, 2005. But that was when Bioport was also included in the lawsuit. Now that Bioport has been dropped from the lawsuit, the new date for the trial is May 1, 2006.
It looks like 2006 could be quite a year for lawsuits related to the anthrax attacks.
August 18, 2005 - My recent postings about the natural anthrax outbreak in the West were merely intended to show how some reporters can totally misunderstand the science behind what they are reporting, botching their reports and leaving false understandings with their readers. That certainly happened countless times during the initial reporting on the anthrax attacks of 2001, and we're left with a lot of people believing totally false information - because they read it in a newspaper they trust. The false information is almost never corrected, so researchers who depend exclusively upon newspaper accounts can carry the errors forward into history books, too. In the current reporting on the events out West, the errors are minor, and I don't see how anyone can be hurt by them. But they are a good example of "human error" in the media that can be evaluated as it happens. And, unlike the errors which occur in a "fast breaking story" where all the facts are not yet known, these errors are simply the result of some reporter giving his own thoughts instead of checking known facts.
August 17, 2005 - The flood of incorrect information about anthrax continues in the West. According to TV station KOTA in Rapid City, SD, this is how anthrax works:
Veterinarians say the disease is caused by bacteria that form in spores that naturally occur in the soil.While it's possible that "the wind may carry the spores through the air", it's also known that UV light from the sun will quickly kill spores. So, viable spores are not typically spread around by the wind.
According to the Aberdeen (SD) News, and the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, both of which get their information from the Associated Press:
The malady is caused by bacteria that form in spores that live in the soil.And according to The Farm & Ranch Guide:
Anthrax is caused by the bacteria Bacillus anthracis. Spores of the bacteria can lie dormant in the ground for decades and become vegetative under ideal soil and weather conditions.The only thing that is going to cause a spore to become vegetative is if it is gobbled up or inhaled by an animal or human. Spores vegetate inside animals and that really has nothing to do with "ideal soil and weather conditions".
But, as usual, there is also correct information mixed with the incorrect. This is from The Farm & Ranch Guide (I particularly like the wording of the first sentence):
"This new case does not mean the disease is spreading, but that conditions favorable for the disease are more widespread," she said. "Anthrax has occurred in other North Dakota counties in the past, so the favorable weather conditions may explain the wider distribution this year."This is from a site called in-forum.com:
"This is the largest outbreak that we have ever recorded," [Deputy State Veterinarian Beth] Carlson said. "We expect that we'll probably see more."August 14, 2005 - Some of the discussions I get into during the course of a week are just too arcane and off-the-wall to repeat in this comment section. During the past week, for example, the arguments got into "dangling bonds" and "protein folding". It all goes back to the endless arguments over whether or not van der Waals forces would cause spores to bind tightly together if they weren't given a silica coating.
It seems like a very simple question that could be easily resolved, but it's really an argument over what van der Waals forces can NOT do, and nearly all sources on the Net are about what van der Waals forces DO. So, when some scientific site on the Net says that when tiny objects of a micron or less in size are touching something else, the van der Waals attractive force is stronger than the force of gravity, it becomes an endless argument about exactly what that means. Does it mean that two spores will bind solidly together like powerful magnets? Or does it mean that a spore can cling precariously to the ceiling (van der Waals forces between the ceiling and the spore exerting more attracting force than gravity) until a puff of air moves the spore, breaks the connection, and gravity takes over causing the spore to fall to the floor?
All that was proven by the arguments (for the millionth time) is that no amount of facts can change the mind of someone who simply believes what he wants to believe.
Meanwhile, the outbreaks of natural anthrax in the Western U.S. and Canada during the past few weeks have been producing a flood of bad information about how anthrax works in nature:
The Brandon Sun keeps making statements like this:
Anthrax is linked to dead animals that weren’t buried and can remain idle in soil for decades until hot and wet conditions expose it to air, causing it to produce spores.The Farm & Ranch Guide made this statement:
Anthrax is caused by animals consuming the spores of the bacteria Bacillus anthracis. The spores can lie dormant in the ground for decades and become vegetative under ideal soil and weather conditions. Animals are exposed to the disease when they consume forage or water contaminated with the bacteria.The Rapid City Journal makes a similar statement:
The anthrax spores "survive in contaminated soil indefinitely," Holland said in the release. Much of South Dakota has the potential to experience an anthrax case, the release said. Climate changes such as floods, droughts and winds can expose anthrax spores from deep in the soil, or conditions such as alkaline soil, high humidity and high temperatures can make the spores vegetate and become infectious to grazing livestock.KOTA in Rapid City, SD, reported this totally untrue statement:
It's not the same kind of anthrax that's associated with terrorism threats.When I feel that I really should do something about all this bad information, I do sometimes try to contact someone. The magazine The Horse originally reported this:
Veterinarians have ventured to say a very wet spring in North Dakota could have caused dormant B. anthracis in the ground to sporulate.When I wrote them to point out that "dormant B. anthracis in the ground" are already spores and therefore cannot sporulate (form spores), they corrected it to this:
Veterinarians have ventured to say a very wet spring in North Dakota could have caused dormant anthrax spores to wash up into areas where vegetation is growing. There it could be ingested by animals that are foraging.On the other hand, the Valley City Times Record contains some interesting information which seems basically correct to me (except that it's probably been in the ground for a lot longer than since the 1800s):
Lewis said the anthrax bacteria has been in the ground since the 1800s. It most likely originated from buffalo herds that contracted it and died. When their carcasses decomposed into the ground, the anthrax went into the ground as well.Anthrax spores in the soil are the same anthrax associated with terrorist threats, although there are many strains of anthrax, and only the one specific Ames strain was used in the attacks of 2001.
Spores are the dormant form of the Bacillus anthracis bacteria. Spores can remain dormant in the ground for decades or maybe even centuries - as long as they are protected from the UV light of the sun which will quickly kill them. When heavy rains saturate pasture land and cause the spores to float up from underground, the spores can mix with the grass being eaten by the cattle or can be in spore-contaminated water which the animal drinks. Once ingested by the animal, the spore quickly finds the right conditions to germinate like a seed (it can take less than a half hour to begin), and it becomes a living bacteria. The bacteria starts reproducing and reproducing until it kills the animal (usually in 2 or 3 days). When the animal dies, the living bacteria no longer has the conditions it needs to survive, and if the bacteria manage to be exposed to oxygen (through vomit, excretions, bleeding or other means) they form spores again.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
August 7, 2005,
thru Saturday, August 13, 2005
August 9, 2005 - According to today's The Times of London, Iraq used the Vollum strain of anthrax as their strain of choice in their bioweapons programs, and it was purchased from the United States sometime between 1986 and 1988.
August 7, 2005 - Someone sent me a link to a document from the Hatfill v Ashcroft lawsuit which is dated December 2, 2003, but which I'd never seen before. It's always been available, but it costs money to download documents from PACER, and I didn't think it would be worth the cost ($3.36), nor did I know there was a free copy around. It contains an interesting footnote (#4) beginning on the bottom of page 5:
In an almost surreal episode from June 10, 2003, ABC's Charles Gibson ambushed a friend of Dr. Hatfill's on "Good Morning America," citing "the FBI" as the source of his information:The point made by Pat Clawson was a good one: "why is the FBI telling Brian Ross or any other reporter what they're finding in this investigation?"
With his ABC colleagues fully believing Brian Ross's source(s) and supporting him, it seems highly unlikely that Ross was simply making things up. Yet the information now appears to have been totally false.
Looking back on this discussion from two years later, we can see it's all about the FBI telling Brian Ross things which seemed "wrong" then and which seem ridiculous now. Who saw Dr. Hatfill in that area? Were Brian Ross's sources talking about a "tip" which the FBI felt obligated (or pressured) to check out? Or was he being deliberately fed false information by someone at the FBI? Are we really supposed to believe that bloodhounds following Dr. Hatfill's scent led them to that specific pond months after the anthrax attacks, a pond which evidently contained nothing of use to the case? Who supplied the "tip" about the pond to the FBI? Who supplied the information about the bloodhounds to Brian Ross? And why did it seem so believable to ABC reporters?
I'm hoping some of the answers will become apparent if and when the Hatfill v Ashcroft lawsuit is amended with a "joinder of additional parties" on or before November 5, 2005, a deadline set by Judge Reggie B. Walton's ORDER of June 6, 2005. Since all the subpoenas served upon the media have been withdrawn, the lawsuit now seems to be about what was learned in the interrogatories sent to FBI and government personnel - and what is being learned during the discovery process which is currently going on and which will continue well into next year. If I'm right, we'll see that some of the facts have been obvious for years and that Dr. Hatfill has a very good case against the FBI. What the FBI did to Dr. Hatfill seems wrong regardless of the reason. And the media was also wrong and libelous in what they did. Dr. Hatfill's lawsuits against The New York Times and Vanity Fair should eventually prove that, too. Yet, it's clear there's a lot more to this unholy mess than meets the eye, and it appears the really important answers won't come from asking "Who?", they'll come from asking "Why?"
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, July
thru Saturday, August 6, 2005
August 6, 2005 - The (Wellsville) Times Herald printed a lengthy article yesterday which summarizes the Dr. Kenneth Berry events of 1 year ago.
August 5, 2005 - Yesterday, 10NBC in Rochester, NY, reminded its listeners about the Dr. Kenneth Berry searches which took place a year ago. Nothing appears to have changed in the last 9 or 10 months. The article can be summarized with this sentence:
A year after the raid, the man at the center of the investigation, Dr. Kenneth Berry, has never been charged. He also has never been cleared of suspicion.August 2, 2005 - Someone pointed out to me that back on June 9, 2003, Brian Ross of ABC was telling the world that the bloodhounds led the FBI to the Maryland pond which was then drained to look for evidence in the anthrax investigation. Ross wrote:
The FBI was led to the pond last year by bloodhounds, including one named Tinkerbell, tracking the scent picked up from Hatfill and the anthrax letters, federal sources said.It seems more than preposterous to believe that the bloodhounds led the FBI to that pond in Maryland, but it's certainly a possibility that the FBI had the bloodhounds sniff around the area to see if they could find Dr. Hatfill's scent. If, as my analysis indicates, the FBI used the bloodhounds to learn where Dr. Hatfill had and had not been during the time the FBI had lost their tail on him in July of 2002, they might have sniffed around that pond when it became an issue in mid-December. But, it seems more likely that the bloodhounds had nothing to do with the pond and that it was simply a matter of bad information. Others, such as the Global Security Newswire and Newsweek, said the pond search was the result of something Dr. Hatfill said to an acquiantance.
August 1, 2005 - As of this afternoon, Barnes & Noble is once again selling my book. This time they ordered more than just a few copies, so they could have it in stock for awhile. Of course, I'll be doing all I can to make sure they run out again as quickly as possible. It's a frustrating dilemma. Promoting the book causes them to run out for long periods, but if I don't promote the book ....
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, July
thru Saturday, July 30, 2005
July 29, 2005 - The long awaited Appeal Court decision in the Hatfill vs The New York Times lawsuit was handed down yesterday. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit overturned the lower court's dismissal and reenstated the lawsuit. According to Reuters:
"At this stage of litigation, our sole concern is whether Hatfill's allegations, taken as true, describe intentional and outrageous misconduct. We conclude that they do," the panel said in a 24-page opinion written by Judge Dennis Shedd.Even the one dissenter in the 3 person court seems to have acknowledged that The New York Times was pointing at Dr. Hatfill while complaining that the FBI wasn't going after him hard enough:
[Judge Paul Niemeyer] said the columns sent the message that the FBI's investigation was lackadaisical and unimaginative, that the FBI should pursue obvious leads pointing to Hatfill and that Hatfill should be the leading suspect, based on circumstantial, but not any physical, evidence.Those "obvious leads", of course, were all just false rumors and innuendo nonsense dreamed up by conspriracy theorists to further a political cause.
According to The Associated Press,
"A reasonable reader of Kristof's columns likely would conclude that Hatfill was responsible for the anthrax mailings in 2001," wrote Judge Dennis Shedd in an opinion joined by Chief Judge William Wilkins.According to this morning's Washington Post,
The 2 to 1 decision said that Hatfill's lawsuit "adequately alleges that Kristof's columns, taken together, are capable of defamatory meaning.'' The majority decision, written by Judge Dennis W. Shedd and joined by Chief Judge William W. Wilkins Jr., said "a reasonable reader of Kristof's columns likely would conclude that Hatfill was responsible for the anthrax mailings in 2001.''It always seemed like a no-brainer decision to me. The Appeal Brief is HERE. The Appeals Court ruling is HERE. It was a long wait for this decision, but it proved worthwhile.
It appears that the Appeals Court totally agreed with a key statement in the appeal brief, since this appears in the ruling on page 17:
In this case the columns themselves show that Kristof's thesis was not that the official investigation targeted Hatfill; rather it was that the official investigation should be targeting Hatfill more vigorously, if not exclusively, because the available evidence pointed to him. In describing all this evidence, Kristof's columns did not merely report others' suspicions of Hatfill; they actually generated suspicion by asserting facts that tend to implicate him in the anthrax murders.Those "facts" were later shown to be nonsense. The dissenting judge, however, described on page 25 how the court views such nonsense:
inaccurate reporting the suspicious circumstances surrounding a suspect does not amount to inaccurately accusing - either expressly or impliedly - the suspect of actually committing the crimeThe judge, however, fails to note that Dr. Hatfill is not and never has been an official "suspect" in the anthrax investigation. He was a "suspect" only to conspiracy theorists and those who believed the conspiracy theorists - like Nicolas Kristof of the New York Times. And Dr. Hatfill was primarily a "suspect" to them because of inaccurate reporting about details of the crime. Inaccurate reporting fed the conspiracy theorists and the conspiracy theorists fed the inaccurate reporting.
July 26, 2005 - From the For What's Worth Department, I just changed the October 9. 2004, entry to correct an error which someone pointed out to me. Porton Down had both the virulent Ames and a modified version, not just the modified version. So, technically they could be one of the labs which may have supplied the attack anthrax.
July 25, 2005 - I keep getting e-mails from people who think that the anthrax mailer may have gone to Texas and dug up the Ames from the soil there, thus preventing any possible way of tracking him down. My response is that finding Ames in the soil of Texas is almost impossible, since not all anthrax in Texas soil is Ames, and even if it is Ames is may not be an exact DNA match, and because there may be no way of knowing exactly where the cow that died of Ames was grazing when it ingested the Ames spores. In addition, there could be countless other bacteria in the same soil, so the Ames would all have to found in the biological soup.
The Ames with the exact DNA match in the soil would be located near where the last animal to die of that strain vomited, defecated and died. It's a spot, not a territory or state. The infected animal vomits and defecates living bacteria onto the ground. The bacteria cannot survive outside the animal, so they form spores which remain somewhere just under the surface of the ground where they are safe from the sun's deadly UV light. The contaminated area from a single dead animal could range from 10 square feet to hundreds of square yards or more, mostly depending upon where flowing water from rains may have spread the spores. (A spot on the side of a hill would probably be much larger than a spot on flat ground. After a heavy rain on land with a slight incline, spores may contaminate ground in a narrow band that is miles long. ) And there's really no certainty that if you do find some Ames spores in the ground in Texas the DNA of those spores will be exactly identical to the DNA of the attack anthrax.
Today, in another argument, I noticed that an old article in Science Magazine from 14 June 2002, says:
The B. anthracis strain isolated from a cow in 2001 has 15 differences from the Florida isolate [taken from Bob Stevens body] with no recent genetic ties to the Florida or Porton isolates.The cow which provided the NON-Ames strain in 2001 is from California, and there are 15 differences in the DNA from the attack strain. Would another case of Ames found in Texas be an exact DNA match to what was found in the 1981 cow? Who knows? The evidences says: Probably not.
A goat found dead of the Ames strain of anthrax in Texas in 1997 is "the only other known natural occurance of the Ames genotype." And its DNA is not identical to what was found in the Texas cow in 1981 (and in Bob Stevens). According to the Science article,
the Texas goat isolate varied at IX1-1 (retaining the 85-bp insert), VX2-1, VX2-3 and PS-52 by a transition mutation.That certainly says to me that two animals from Texas may both have died from the Ames strain, but DNA tests can show that the attack anthrax only matches the Ames strain from the cow. The only known two cases of Ames have different DNA, so a third case could be different from both of those or - possibly - might match one of them. Thus, based upon what was known in 2002, going to Texas to "get some Ames" would have been a "crap shoot" as far as getting the right DNA is concerned.
Plus, there's the "hindsight" factor. Why would the culprit go to Texas to get an Ames sample? Before the attacks, there was no specific reason to go to so much trouble to find a sample of the Ames strain. It's only after the attacks that getting a sample of Ames from the ground in Texas seemed like a "possibility".
And the latest information from NBC says that the number of labs which could have been the source of the attack anthrax has been whittled down to four. While it's "possible" to get identical Ames from the ground in Texas, based upon scientific evidence it seems extremely unlikely that that's what was done. It's far far more likely that it was obtained from one of those four labs.
July 24-25, 2005 - With no news about any of Dr. Hatfill's lawsuits, and no news about the Maureen Stevens lawsuit, and, of course, no news about the anthrax investigation, last week was so quiet that I actually spent most of my time on other things. Even the one discussion about the anthrax case was so bizarre that it didn't last long:
Someone dug up a term from an October 30, 2001, Washington Post article which he felt proved something. The term was "brownish halo" and it came from this sentence:
Microscopic examinations had already found the spores to be surrounded by a brownish "halo" that some had said resembled a bentonite coating.He argued that the term "halo" clearly meant "coating", since the sentence says the halo "resembled a bentonite coating". But, in reality, Iraq and other countries mixed bentonite with anthrax spores, they didn't coat spores with bentonite. The media continuously and erroneously uses the term "coated with" when they should say "mixed with". He ignored that fact, and he also argued that the "brownish halo" must have been seen under a Scanning or Transmission Electron Microscope (SEM or TEM), proving that there was a silica coating on the spores.
When it was pointed out that SEMs and TEMs cannot show actual colors, therefore it must have been seen under a regular microscope, he simply declared that that part of the sentence can be ignored. (He also argued that individual spores cannot be seen under a regular microscope, and when he was shown images of individual spores taken through a regular microscope by Robert Koch in 1877, he simply stated that individual spores could not be seen in Koch's photographs (even though they clearly can be seen in those photographs and can be seen beyond any doubt in more current photographs), and he changed the subject.) When it was pointed out that the Washington Post was talking about bentonite and not silica, he said that part of the sentence can also be ignored. When it was pointed out that a brownish halo can be seen surrounding germinating bacterial colonies under certain circumstances, and that Ames anthrax spores have a hair-like nap which might resemble a brownish halo under a regular microscope, he simply ignored those possibilities. As far as he was concerned, the sentence absolutely proved that the anthrax spores used in the attack had a silica coating.
I sent the author of the Washington Post article an e-mail to see if he had any further details about what was actually seen way back then, but he didn't respond (or hasn't yet responded). And I can't find any other reference to the "brownish halo" which might provide further details.
The argument ended with the other guy feeling he'd solidly proven his case, and with me feeling there's no detail so obscure and vague that a conspiracy theorist can't see it as absolute proof of his theory.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, July
thru Saturday, July 23, 2005
July 19, 2005 - Barnes & Noble is out of stock on my book again, and there are no orders en route. So, they'll probably be out for at least two weeks. Amazon.com still has a good stock, though.
July 17, 2005 - There was nothing new in the anthrax case last week --- but that didn't stop the usual bouts of heated discussion. Although True Believers tried in vain to find links between the Egyptian chemist supposedly involved in the London bombings and the anthrax attacks of 2001, the most interesting and informative discussion turned out to be about why the FBI used the term "polymerized glass" to describe the silicon and oxygen compound found in the attack anthrax. Glass is a polymer. So, what does "polymerized glass" mean? Isn't it like saying glass-like glass? Or even "glassified glass"? Wha ...?
The best guess as to why the FBI and U.S. intelligence officers used that term seems to be because they wanted to make it clear that the material found in the attack anthrax was not silica -- as had been previously thought.
From time it was leaked to the media that AFIP had used a spectragraph on the Daschle anthrax and had discovered that atoms of silicon and oxygen were present in the attack anthrax, almost everyone assumed that the silicon and oxygen atoms were in the form of silica (a totally natural assumption at the time, since almost everyone was looking for some sign of "weaponization" and silica is routinely used in manufacturing bioweapons). But silica particles used in weaponization can be clearly seen under a transmission electron microscope (TEM) and even under a less-powerful scanning electron microscope (SEM). Yet, no one saw any silica particles in the attack anthrax when it was examined in a TEM or in a SEM.
It took months to determine that the silicon and oxygen in the anthrax was actually in the form of what was described as "polymerized glass". What the term "polymerized glass" says is that the material found was specifically created and manufactured as glass. It was not manufactured as silica.
On page 192 of Richard Preston's book 'The Demon In The Freezer", he describes how the words "silica" and "glass" were used almost interchangably from the very moment on October 25, 2001, that AFIP detected silicon and oxygen atoms in the Daschle anthrax:
Tom Geisbert drove his beat-up station wagon to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, in Northwest Washington, carrying a whiff of sterilized dry Daschle anthrax mounted on a special cassette. He spent the day with a group of technicians running tests with an X-ray machine to find out of the powder contained any metals or elements. By lunchtime, the machine had shown that there were two extra elements in the spores: silicon and oxygen.Preston not only showed how "silica" and "glass" were used almost interchangeably, but he also showed how top experts immediately jumped to the false conclusion that the presence of silicon and oxygen atoms meant that those atoms were in the form of silica.
Although General Parker of USAMRIID attempted in news conference after news conference to say that they didn't know for sure what was detected in the anthrax, the media found plenty of outside "experts" willing to speculate.
For months after the attacks the media had been filled with fanciful articles about the exact nature of the silica supposedly found in the Daschle anthrax. One such fanciful article was in the Washington Post:
Several sources agreed that the most likely way to build the coated spores would be to use the fine glass particles, known generically as "fumed silica" or "solid smoke," and mix them with the spores in a spray dryer. "I know of no other technique that might give you that finished product," Spertzel said.The fact that silica grains "between 0.012 and 0.300 of a micron in size" would be easily seen under an TEM or SEM meant nothing, since the media was fully relying on speculation and not on facts when reporting about silica in the attack anthrax. They evidently didn't believe General Parker when he said he didn't know exactly what the substance was, and they didn't believe the experts who said there was no visible sign of additives in the anthrax.
So, when the term "polymerized glass" was used to describe what was found in the attack anthrax, it appears the FBI and other agencies were saying it was manufactured glass and not silica. Unlike untreated silica, glass does not absorb moisture and would serve no known purpose in a bioweapon.
Since both silica and polymerized glass are made from atoms of silicon and oxygen, Gary Matsumoto's article in Science Magazine speculates that both polymerized glass and silica were in the attack anthrax. However, that was just a fanciful explanation simply made up to promote a conspiracy theory which says that the FBI and the government are lying about the anthrax - probably to cover up some bioweapons program, possibly an illegal program.
If the silicon and oxygen found in the Daschle anthrax was in the form of polymerized glass, not silica, then we're almost certainly talking about a "functional polymer", i.e., a polymer which was deliberately created and manufactured to serve some function in some industry. For what purpose was it created? Who created it? Is it used in lab equipment? Is it used in lubricants? Does the molecular or atomic structure contain some clue which might help solve the case? How much of this can be determined from the trace amounts found in the anthrax?
It appears those are the types of questions which might be (and were being) answered by a detailed examination of the anthrax. At least that's what Dwight Adams, one of the FBI's top-ranking scientists, told people on Capitol Hill in an FBI background briefing given in late 2002 -- according to Gary Matsumoto in Science Magazine.
So, this week's debate ended with the conspiracy theorists delaring that General Parker was lying when he said that he didn't know why the silicon and oxygen was in the anthrax, and bioweapons experts Matthew Meselson and Ken Alibek where lying when they said they saw no visible silica in the Daschle anthrax, and Dwight Adams of the FBI was lying when he suggested the polymerized glass could have been absorbed into the anthrax by some natural process, and William Patrick III was lying when he said the anthrax "could have been processed in a crude laboratory".
Truth, as conspiracy theorists see it, means everyone who disagrees with them is lying.
"Those are the facts", one conspiracy theorist angrily told me, and "Anything else is your fantasy filled world of religious fanatacism." In his mind, only a raging religious fanatic could disbelieve what the conspiracy theorists so firmly believe.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, July
thru Saturday, July 16, 2005
July 15, 2005 - The game for today seems to be to find some connection between the anthrax attacks of 2001 and the Egyptian chemist who made the London bombs. After all, he is a Muslim, and he did study in the United States for awhile. So, in the minds of those who still believe Muslims were behind the anthrax attacks, there must be a connection. As "proof" they found a news article which shows he studied at Leeds University under a bioscience research fellowship. Another news article shows he studied chemical engineering for one semester at North Carolina State University beginning in January 2000. "Bio" plus he was in the United States at one time! It all adds up! And if you can't prove it means nothing, then it means something! Or at least that's what the True Believers believe.
July 14, 2005 - An editorial titled "The Overlooked Attack" in Tuesday's Washington Post complains about the content of President Bush's speech to the FBI Academy at Quantico where he reviewed successes in the War Against Terror:
Missing from his address, however, was any reference to the strikes on U.S. soil that occurred in the weeks after Sept. 11, 2001, from a biological agent called anthrax -- a grave, ongoing and unsolved threat.Two days later, in an article titled "Taboo Topics in Journalism Today", the Right Wing voice known as AIM ("Accuracy In Media") continues to complain that if the media isn't promoting Right Wing beliefs, then it isn't being "objective". The article also includes this comment:
Even though the FBI has been racked by a series of failures, ranging from Ruby Ridge to Waco to 9/11 and the failure to solve the anthrax attacks, very few reporters write critically of the bureau, especially its treatment of former scientist Steven Hatfill, labeled by the government a "person of interest" in the anthrax case without any evidence at all.So, here we have two voices from opposite ends of the political spectrum, both complaining about the FBI's "failure to solve the anthrax attacks". But the Right Wing adds their spin to make it part of a pattern involving three incidents over a span of more than ten years.
By the way, I'm still looking for the results of the appeal in the Hatfill vs The New York Times lawsuit. On May 24, AP wrote "The appeals court usually issues a ruling several weeks after hearing oral arguments." According to my calendar, May 24 was more than seven weeks ago. And, the appeal brief in that lawsuit asks whether the New York Times was criticizing the FBI for not aggressively investigating the anthrax case or for not aggressively investigating Dr. Hatfill.
July 11, 2005 - Buried deep within a Wall Street Journal business article titled "U.S. Struggles for Drugs to Counter Biological Threats" is this sentence:
The investigation into the source of the anthrax attacks continues, but the trail has gone cold, federal officials say.Is it news? People are sending me e-mails as if it were. Or is it just a matter of The Wall Street Journal repeating what some anonymous source told them long ago?
Looking through the file of Wall Street Journal articles I've collected over the years, it appears The Wall Street Journal may still believe the anthrax attacks were the work of Iraq or al Qaeda, even though that trail definitely went "cold" long long ago.
July 10, 2005 - This week produced an almost indecipherable Docket entry in the Maureen Stevens vs The United States lawsuit:
Sunday, July 3, 2005, thru Saturday, July 9, 2005
July 7, 2005 - For what it's worth, Barnes & Noble is once again selling my book. They received a very small shipment, with another small shipment due to arrive at their warehouse tomorrow. But they have changed their pricing. They now only give a 10 percent discount to B&N members. You can still avoid shipping charges by ordering through one of their stores, however. (Because of the very small quantities they've been ordering, there's a good chance they may be out of stock again very soon.)
July 3, 2005 - Last week's deposition of Virginia Patrick prompted a lot of discussion and debate among those still following the anthrax case. Others saw no significance to it at all, but it seemed to me that Hatfill's lawyers had found a "smoking gun" in their case against the FBI. It's the kind of testimonial evidence juries sit and wait for. Dr. Hatfill's lawyers may even have been saying "Gotcha!" to the FBI!
It could also have been a "test" to make certain that Virginia Patrick would be allowed to testify in court. If she couldn't be deposed, then she also wouldn't be allowed to testify. Judge Walton ordered that she could be deposed. "Gotcha!"
Her testimony appears to be solid testimonial evidence that the FBI was telling people that the bloodhounds had matched Dr. Hatfill's scent to a scent taken off the anthrax letters, and that it was proof of Dr. Hatfill's guilt in the anthrax murders. Furthermore, the same story was printed in Newsweek and aired on ABC, and those news outlets stated they got their information from law enforcement sources, including the FBI.
Newsweek, in their August 12, 2002, issue reported this:
Agents presented the canines with "scent packs" lifted from anthrax-tainted letters mailed to Sens. Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy (long since decontaminated), hoping some faint, telltale trace of the perpetrator's smell still remained months after the fact.ABC's "World News Tonight" broadcast for October 22, 2002, contained this:
PETER JENNINGS: "The FBI tells ABC News that it is very confident that it has found the person responsible. ABC's Brian Ross is here. Brian? Same case, same individual."With Virginia Patrick's sworn testimony, any jury could find it next to impossible to believe the FBI didn't give out such information - even though one news source had reported this:
"It was reported that the bloodhounds went crazy when they entered Hatfill's apartment, supposedly because they detected scents there that were on envelopes in which anthrax had been mailed. This has been questioned by bloodhound handlers, and an FBI spokesman says they gave no such information to the media. A knowledgeable source says what was reported was completely wrong."None of the people arguing with me fully believed the story about the bloodhounds getting the scent off the envelopes. Some totally disbelieved it (as I do). However, they also completely dismissed my analysis of the matter which indicated that the bloodhound story was concocted to cover up the fact that the FBI had lost their tail on Dr. Hatfill when he was returning from a trip to Louisiana. No, they said, the FBI concocted the story about the bloodhounds getting a scent off the letters to intimidate Dr. Hatfill - and, evidently, to also intimidate Virginia and William Patrick - in some kind of attempt to get the Patricks to fess up to something.
It's a "standard interrogation technique", they all told me.
They agreed it was a concocted story, but they failed to see that if the FBI was making false statements about Dr. Hatfill to people, it doesn't really matter why they made the false statements. When deciding guilt, a judge doesn't really care why you broke a law, he only cares if you broke a law. Reasons only have value at time of sentencing.
I couldn't change any minds. To me it seemed the people I was arguing with absolutely refused to look at the evidence. Any attempt I made to discuss evidence just generated automatic alternate explanations which enabled them to ignore the evidence - even if their alternate explanations made absolutely no sense at all.
They all believed the FBI went to that store where Virginia Patrick was shopping and brought her back to her home to be sniffed by bloodhounds so it would intimidate her.
But how do you intimidate someone by being friendly and asking no questions? The evidence says all the FBI wanted was to let the bloodhounds sniff her and her husband.
An article by Scott Shane titled "FBI's Use Of Bloodhounds In Anthrax Probe Disputed" contains this description of how the dogs sniffed the Patricks:
... William C. Patrick III, another bioterrorism expert, said he and his wife were asked to stand on their lawn in Frederick, and two bloodhounds were led near them.William Patrick III confirmed this in November of 2003 in a "letter to editor" of The Washington Post complaining about the accuracy of an article about Steven Hatfill titled "The Persuit [sic] of Steven Hatfill". Among his several complaints was this:
The article also should have explained that when the FBI brought bloodhounds to my property, we were told that they did not detect the scent of the anthrax letters on myself or my wife.Are we supposed to believe that ten months after the anthrax attacks the bloodhounds were there to sniff Virginia Patrick and her husband to see if a scent on the envelopes matched either of them? If the FBI had that capability, why wait ten months to use it? Why did they do it at that specific point in time? And why sniff Virginia Patrick?
To me, the incident is further evidence that the real purpose for having the bloodhounds sniff around various locations was to determine where Dr. Hatfill had and had not been during the period when the FBI had lost their tail on him. If Dr. Hatfill had visited the Patricks that same day or the day before, and he gave Virginia Patrick a hug, he could have left enough of his scent on her for the bloodhounds to detect it.
Testimony from both Virginia and William Patrick will be that they were told by the FBI that the bloodhounds did not detect the scent they were looking for. That means, whether the bloodhounds were looking for a scent from the letters or Hatfill's scent, they did not find it.
The evidence simply does not support the theories that the FBI was trying to intimidate the Patricks nor that the FBI was trying to match a scent from the anthrax letters.
Neither of those two theories can explain all the following facts:
1. The bloodhounds also sniffed a Denny's restaurant in Louisiana where Hatfill had eaten the day before. They picked up the scent.
2. The bloodhounds also sniffed the Washington D.C. apartment of Hatfill's girlfriend. They picked up the scent.
3. The FBI impounded the Camaro Dr. Hatfill and his girlfriend had driven to Louisiana.
4. The FBI did not impound Dr. Hatfill's car.
5. The bloodhounds had sniffed around the Patrick's property before they sniffed the Patricks. If they were looking for the Patrick's scent, they would have found it on the property. There would be no reason to actually sniff the Patricks!
6. When the bloodhounds visited Dr. Hatfill's apartment, they began barking and picking up Hatfill's scent as soon as they got out of the transport vehicle. Could a scent from a disinfected envelope which was almost certainly handled by the culprit using rubber gloves inside a biosafety cabinet reeking of disinfectant still carry enough of a scent to have bloodhounds pick it up on the sidewalk outside Dr. Hatfill's apartment?
7. All this happened ten months after the letters were first discovered, and at the time Dr. Hatfill returned home to Maryland from a visit to Louisiana State University.
There seems to be only one explanation which fits ALL the facts: The FBI was not working with a scent taken from the anthrax envelopes, they were specifically working with Dr. Hatfill's scent - probably from some item of his clothing. They were trying to determine where Dr. Hatfill had and (more importantly) had not been during the period the FBI had lost their tail on him when he was returning from Louisiana to Maryland.
Admittedly, there is no solid proof in all this that the FBI lost their tail on Dr. Hatfill, but that doesn't mean that Dr. Hatfill's lawyers can't find solid testimony to prove it. They seem well on their way.
The people I was arguing with refused to even consider those seven facts listed above. They simply ignored them and stuck with their beliefs that it was all about intimidating Hatfill and the Patricks. They just pretended those facts don't exist or don't matter.
If you want to fully understand why the FBI was doing this, you have to understand what else was going on at that point in time:
For seven months, from November 21, 2001, until late June of 2002, Barbara Hatch Rosenberg and a bunch of conspiracy theorists had been ferociously campaigning to have an unnamed scientist publicly investigated and arrested as being the "most likely" person to be the anthrax murderer. And, since February of 2002, the campaign had been been claiming that the FBI was covering up for that unnamed scientist. Many in the media figured out or learned who she was talking about. There were many news stories about it (Nicolas Kristoff's columns in the New York Times being the best known), and people were actually writing their congressmen demanding action. Dr. Rosenberg was not only lecturing on the subject and talking with anyone in the media who would listen, she was also putting articles on the web site of The Federation of American Scientists. On that site on June 13 she published an article titled "What The FBI Knows" which resulted in her being asked to present her accusations to a Senate Committee less than a week later. At that Senate Committee meeting she again accused the FBI of covering up for Dr. Hatfill and, according to DOJ documents, she actually named Dr. Hatfill.
A week later, on June 25, 2002, the FBI evidently gave in to the relentless and increasing pressure and publicly searched Dr. Hatfill's apartment - turning Dr. Hatfill into a household name.
It's also important to understand that William Patrick III was a friend of Steven Hatfill's and a mentor of sorts. Because of Patrick's expertise with bioweapons, the conspiracy theorists suspected that Patrick may have assisted Hatfill with the anthrax mailings.
During the following month of July 2002, the media flooded the country and the world with stories about Dr. Hatfill. The media attention had earlier caused him to lose his job at SAIC, but, in spite of all the media attention and in spite of all the people pointing fingers at him, he was able to find another job at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge - a job partially funded by the Department of Justice.
Here's what The Advocate reported was happening while Dr. Hatfill was visiting LSU at Baton Rouge a few days before the bloodhound events:
The FBI has used "a cavalcade of vehicles," and Hatfill "is driving around Baton Rouge with FBI agents two or three feet off his bumper," said Pat Clawson, a Virginia-based friend of Hatfill's.When Dr. Hatfill returned to Maryland, it was to prepare to move down to his new job at LSU. He drove a Camaro on the trip. We don't know for certain that the FBI lost their tail on Dr. Hatfill. (In one of our phone conversations, I asked Dr. Hatfill if he'd lost his FBI tail during that trip. His answer was, "If I did, it wasn't intentional.")
But we know the bloodhounds were brought in at that time.
If the FBI lost their tail on Dr. Hatfill during the trip back from Louisiana, the conspiracy theorists would have gone absolutely NUTS. The FBI would have looked like a bunch of fools! And if Dr. Hatfill had actually met with William Patrick III during that time, the conspiracy theorists would have seen that as absolute proof that the two scientists were involved with the anthrax murders together, that they were probably discussing strategy and that they might even have been planning another attack!
In that kind of tense atmosphere it would have been vitually suicidal for the FBI to acknowledge that they lost their tail on Dr. Hatfill. It would stick with them forever. So, it appears they just made up the story about a scent being taken off the anthrax letters. Plus, they did everthing they could to verify that Dr. Hatfill had not met with William Patrick III during the period he was "missing".
This is not speculation. It is not a theory. It is an analysis of all the known facts - a working hypothesis. And it is the only working hypothesis that explains all the known facts.
Which brings us back to the lawsuit and last week's events. Count IV of the lawsuit says
Defendant Mr. Ashcroft, Defendant Mr. Harp, and other, as yet unknown, DOJ employees and FBI agents have knowingly, willfully, and maliciously violated DOJ regulations, promulgated pursuant to 5 U.S.C. §301, prohibiting the public disclosures that have injured Dr. Hatfill. All defendants were acting under color of legal authority and are sued for injunctive and declaratory relief in their individual and official capacities.I'm not a lawyer, but telling people falsely that the bloodhounds were "smoking gun" evidence of Dr. Hatfill's guilt was clearly done knowingly and willfully to injure Dr. Hatfill, even if it was done under intense and unrelenting pressure from senators, congressmen, the media and private citizens. It was clearly done to protect the FBI. And if the FBI also did it because they were angry over the fact that they'd lost their tail on Dr. Hatfill, that would make it malicious as well.
Thus, it is easy to see why the government didn't want Virginia Patrick deposed and definitely does not want her telling her story to a jury. And it's easy to see why Dr. Hatfill's attorneys felt her testimony was critical to their case.
But that doesn't mean I can convince those who believe what they want to believe, who ignore evidence by conjuring up meaningless alternative explanations, and, if they aren't able to conjure up any alternative explanations, who simply ignore the evidence and pretend it doesn't exist. Good thing that isn't allowed in court.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, June
thru Saturday, July 2, 2005
June 30, 2005 - This morning, according to the Docket in the Hatfill v Ashcroft et al lawsuit, Judge Reggie B. Walton issued an ORDER denying the U.S. Government's request to Quash the subpoena filed upon Virginia Patrick, the wife of William Patrick III. The Order says that the proceedings may proceed at 9 a.m. today, but
the plaintiff is limited to eliciting the information contained in Mrs. Patrick's declaration and the impact the information contained in the declaration has had on her relationship and attitudes about the plaintiff.He also ordered that the questions be in writing and that the government's objections to any questions should be in writing. Furthermore, he ordered
that if the defendants raise any objections to the answers being provided by Mrs. Patrick or any follow-up questions asked by the counsel for the plaintiff, the witness is instructed not to answer until the objections can be addressed by the Court.So, Hatfill's lawyers filed Memorandum containing a list of questions, and the government filed Objections to just about every question that was not already answered in Virginia Patrick's declaration. Here is the list of questions, with the objected to questions in red:
What is our name?It seems likely that Judge Walton will overrule some of the government's objections, but it also seems likely the government will simply state additional objections.
One the other hand, it's possible that discussions between the lawyers may resolve some or all of the objections. We should find out very soon.
In discussions with others about this matter over the past few days, I learned a few new facts which seem to verify that the bloodhound incident was really an effort by the FBI to determine where Dr. Hatfill had been (or had not been) during the time the FBI lost their tail on him during a drive from Louisiana to Maryland. I'll put all the information together and post a new "comment" about it here - probably Sunday morning.
While all this really says nothing about the Amerithrax investigation, this is definitely the most interesting information to come along about this whole subject in a long while.
June 29, 2005 - Yesterday, the government filed their own Memorandum in the Hatfill vs Ashcroft et al lawsuit countering the claims by Dr. Hatfill's lawyers (but it seems more like word games to me). There is one statement in the Memorandum, however, which I feel is totally true and worth memorizing by everyone:
The fact that a piece of information appears in the press does not, of course, mean that the information is true and complete, much less that it has been officially acknowledged by investigators.That is true beyond measure in the anthrax investigation.
June 28, 2005 - This morning I expected to find my e-mail box filled with discussion about yesterday's Hatfill Memorandum. But there was only one message from a person who didn't understand why Hatfill's lawyers would want to depose Virginia Patrick if they already had her written declaration.
To me, the answer is obvious. As can be seen from the Memorandum, it's all about the bloodhound incident. And the bloodhound incident is the "smoking gun" that will show in court that there is a preponderance of evidence that the FBI deliberately lied about Dr. Hatfill to protect themselves and their reputation. And that is what this particular lawsuit is all about.
And Virginia Patrick is a key witness who needs to be heard in court. She's probably the most valuable witness Dr. Hatfill has (and she says in her declaration: "I am fond of Dr. Hatfill and do not believe that he had any involvement in the atrocious anthrax murders of 2001.") A written declaration simply can't replace live testimony in front of a jury. And when that testimony is heard during the depositions and in court, it will be very damning. It proves that the FBI violated the Privacy Act.
Dr. Hatfill probably won't even need to supply the "missing piece", which would be proof of what the bloodhounds were really doing - and why.
The evidence says the explanation the FBI gave for using the bloodhounds is total nonsense. As stated in my book in the chapter titled "Bloodhounds and Newshounds" and on this site in the section titled "Steven J. Hatfill And The Clueless Media", the evidence says that the bloodhound incident had nothing to do with any scent taken off the Senate envelopes and nothing to do with proving Dr. Hatfill's guilt. That was just a bald-faced lie to mislead people so they wouldn't go nuts over the real reason the FBI was using bloodhounds:
They used the bloodhounds to find out where Dr. Hatfill had been during a period when the FBI lost their tail on him! They lost their tail on him when he and his girlfriend were driving back from a trip to Louisiana. At that critical point in time, the conspiracy theorists and the media would have gone NUTS if they had known that the FBI lost their tail on Dr. Hatfill. And the FBI would have looked like absolute fools.
So, it appears the FBI deliberately made up a false story to cover the real story. And that false story is going to hang them in court. In my book and on this site I show how obviously false the story is - yet the media totally missed it because the false story fit what they'd been told by the conspiracy theorists headed by Barbara Hatch Rosenberg.
Only months later -as shown in Scott Shane's article attached to the Memorandum - did the media begin to wonder about the reality of the situation.
The Agency Defendants hereby give notice that they have submitted to the Chambers of Hon. Reggie B. Walton the ex parte and in camera Declaration of Richard L. Lambert in support of the Agency Defendants' Motion for Order Barring Deposition of Virginia Patrick and Quashing Subpoena Issued to Her.I can see why the FBI and the DOJ would want to bury "smoking gun" evidence of a violation of the Privacy Act. I just hope Judge Walton doesn't let them get away with it. (The Memorandum makes a very good case for denying the government's motion.) The only damage to the actual Amerithrax investigation I can see in this is that it would show that the FBI will create false stories to protect itself and its reputation. That could possibly help the defense.
To prevent that from happening, there might be a solid basis for a settlement in this. It's hard to imagine the FBI admitting to the real reason why they gave out that false story. But I can only envision a settlement if the FBI somehow acknowledges that Dr. Hatfill has never actually been a suspect, and only if the settlement doesn't prevent Dr. Hatfill from telling his story in full.
June 27, 2005 - Checking the Docket in the Hatfill vs Ashcroft lawsuit today I find that Dr. Hatfill just filed a memorandum explaining why he needs to subpoena Virginia Patrick. A quick glance indicates he wants her to testify that the FBI made false statements to her about him - particularly regarding the bloodhound incident. The document includes a statement from Virginia Patrick saying she believes Dr. Hatfill is innocent. I'll study it and make further comments tomorrow.
June 26, 2005 - Checking the Docket in the Stevens vs The United States lawsuit this morning, I found a couple entries for June 21 which seem to indicate that the U.S. is still pushing to have the case dismissed. Unfortunately, the supporting documents aren't on-line, so I can't check them out.
June 26, 2005 - Sometimes you can argue with a person for years without making any headway, and then one day they say something which is so clearly and completely wrong that, when you point out their error, all they can do is go silent and vanish to regroup and rethink. In dialectics it's equivalent to a underdog boxer using a surprise uppercut to knock down a huge, angry, determined opponent for the 9-count.
The debate began when I mentioned a New York Times article from December 13, 2001, which states that dry anthrax is (or can be) made from wet anthrax:
Officials at the Army's Dugway Proving Ground in Utah said that in 1998 scientists there turned small quantities of wet anthrax into powder to test ways to defend against biowarfare attacks.The person I was arguing with felt that this was proof that you need complex, unique equipment to create pure anthrax powders. Because he believes that particles the size of a spore will automatically bind together due to van der Waals forces, he speculated that wet anthrax spores were kept separated "by techniques like ultrasonic agitation", requiring equipment which probably wouldn't exist in a standard lab.
Wow! It was a huge opening and I let him have it. Kapow!
I quickly showed him a site which describes Brownian motion. (Interestingly, when Robert Brown first observed the phenomenon in 1827, he was looking at the way plant spores act when floating in water.) I also showed him a site where Albert Einstein's quantitative theory of Brownian motion is illustrated. Einstein's theory was produced in 1905, and, according to The Encyclopedia Britannica, during the next six years, Jean-Baptiste Perrin was successful in verifying Einstein's analysis, and for this work Perrin was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1926.
Brownian motion not only says that spores in a liquid or gas do not need to be kept apart "by techniques like ultrasonic agitation" but are automatically kept apart by the movement of the liquid or gas molecules between them. There are countless examples in everyday life of how tiny particles are kept separated and floating in liquids and gasses. Examples range from smoke, fog and haze to homogenized milk, not to mention insecticides which contain Bt spores suspended in a liquid. Those spores are in a can which may set on a shelf for years. If the spores settle, all you have to do is shake the container to mix them again. They are definitely not bound together by van der Waals forces. I even showed him a UN site where they ask you to make certain you "shake before using" when working with anthrax vaccines.
To hit the point home even further, I pointed out that there are sites on the Net where the procedures for creating wet anthrax are described, and the results are pure spores suspended in a liquid. And that means that when the pure wet anthrax is dried, you automatically get a trillion spores per gram of powder - because spores only come in one size and each spore weighs around a trillionth of a gram when dry.
And if you can keep the powder totally dry, there is no need for any additive to keep them from clumping.
He also brought up the popular myth (fostered by the media) that the attack spores were deliberately charged with static electricity so that they would "spontaneously form an aerosol" when the letter was opened. He thoroughly believes this, but he never bothers to answer the question: If static-charged spores will spontaneously aerosolize, how did the culprit get the spores into the letters in the first place?
As part of our argument last week, I showed him a site where it says we should "Think of static as contamination!" When talking about dry spores, we're simply talking about creating something as devoid of humidity as possible. And when you have virtually no humidity (as in a container of dry spores), all you have to do is disturb the powder and friction between particles (or between particles and a surface) will quickly generate static electricity - just like in your house when it's very dry. That's why the anthrax powder in the attacks of 2001 contained static-charged spores. As Bill Patrick told the ESD Journal, static electricity makes the powder less effective, not more effective as was erroneously reported in so many newspapers. The culprit may have removed the static charge from the powder before putting the powder in the letters, but the motion of going through mail sorting equipment just generated more static electricity in the dry spores.
The person I was arguing with may have gone down for the 9-count as a result of this, but I fully expect him to be back soon with a totally different argument - ignoring this knockdown as if it never happened.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, June
thru Saturday, June 25, 2005
June 23, 2005 - Checking the
Docket in the Hatfill vs Ashcroft lawsuit this morning, I was
puzzled to find this entry from yesterday:
I can't even begin to speculate on why Dr. Hatfill's lawyers would want to depose William Patrick III's wife in this lawsuit, but it's being opposed by the Inspector in Charge of the Amerithrax investigation. Here's what it says on Page 9 of the Motion:
The law enforcement privilege may be invoked through the declaration of an official of the agency claiming the privilege who is of sufficient rank to ensure the priviledge is presented "in a deliberate, considered and reasonably specific manner," who has personally considered the matter, and who explains in detail the basis for asserting the privilege. Landry v FDIC, 204.F3d 1125, 1135 (D.C. 2000)(citing cases) . Here the FBI has properly invoked and supported the claim of privilege through the Declaration of Richard L. Lambert, the Inspector in Charge of the joint FBI/U.S. Postal Inspection Service investigation into the anthrax mailings. Based on his personal review and consideration of the matter, and for reasons detailed ex parte and in camera, Inspector Lambert explains it will not be possible for Virginia Patrick's deposition to proceed without the disclosure of information that would compromise and frustrate the Amerithrax investigation.It's the first time in a long time we've seen Richard L. Lambert's name mentioned anywhere in this case, so this must be a critical issue for him. Plus, Patrick and Hatfill are friends, which makes this even more puzzling.
June 21, 2005 - I'm no lawyer
so I don't
know exactly how to interpret the Docket entries for June 10 in the
Stevens vs United States lawsuit, but here are all the entries for June
(the complete Docket - with latest date last - is HERE:
The last time I checked the Docket back in May, the government had requested time to file a new motion to dismiss. I don't know the status of that. Nor do I know for certain what the effect of going into mediation may be. Nor do I understand how going into mediation affects Judge Hurley's setting of a trial date for May 1, 2006. (If you're going into mediation, why do you still need a trial?) I've seen no interpretations of this in the media, so it's possible that none of this is significant in any way. It's all Greek to me.
June 19, 2005 - While most of last week was spent taking advantage of the fact that Barnes & Noble was selling my book (and then trying to figure out why they stopped selling it), I also got into an interesting and heated discussion that made me look at a couple aspects of the anthrax case from a slightly different point of view.
Someone who believes the anthrax powder sent to Senators Daschle and Leahy came directly from some legal or illegal (offensive or defensive) government bioweapons program argued that it would make much more sense that the culprit stole the powder than that he made it himself. He got me to thinking when he wrote:
If it [the anthrax] was stolen in dry powder form, then the killer has a lot less risk and his other actions clearly demonstrate an aversion to risk.Would stealing dry spores really involve a "lot less risk" than stealing frozen bacteria?
To me the answer was an emphatic "NO!" Stealing dried anthrax involves much MUCH more risk than stealing frozen bacteria.
Frozen anthrax bacteria is typically kept in small cryotubes which are often smaller than an AAA battery -- easily slipped into a pocket. Moreover, frozen bacteria samples are stored in racks inside a tank cooled with liquid nitrogen, and there are usually dozens or hundreds of samples kept in the same freezer and many people have access. Even in places with the tightest security, samples "disappear". A list of missing samples from USAMRIID was included in the Stevens vs The United States lawsuit. It's not all sinister doings. People simply misfile things, they ruin samples and don't log it, and they make mistakes of all kinds. When too many people complain that samples aren't where they are supposed to be, they take an inventory to get an accurate accounting of what they have, but it's just temporary - until things start "disappearing" again.
While it's possible there might be some theft involved, the disappearances are all usually just "human error". And there is no shortage of human error or rule-breaking in scientific labs. At Los Alamos lab last year they had to shut the whole place down to get people to start paying attention to the rules. Check out the report HERE. The director in charge of Los Alamos wrote the following in an e-mail to everyone working there:
"This willful flouting of the rules must stop, and I don't care how many people I have to fire to make it stop. If you think the rules are silly, if you think compliance is a joke, please resign now and save me the trouble."So, having lab samples "disappear" isn't that unusual - even frozen anthrax samples.
Of course, a thief doesn't even need to steal an entire cryotube full of frozen anthrax. A sample smaller than the head of a pin is more than enough. That way, the inventory remains intact, and the stolen sample is too small to miss. He probably wouldn't even need to use a biosafety cabinet to do it.
But what about stealing a couple grams of powdered anthrax?
That's a wholly different situation.
First, how is powdered anthrax stored? Is it stored at all? Or do they use it as soon as they make it? Simulants are made in quantity, and simulants are typically stored in canisters - probably no bigger than a soda can. Making powdered anthrax in larger quantities is almost certainly illegal. So, if stored, legal quantities of powdered anthrax could be in anything from a speck at the bottom of a small test tube to a small canister.
Handling anthrax powder is very different from handling frozen bacteria. Just opening a canister or test tube could cause air currents to send billions of spores into a room. It would be virtual suicide to open a canister anywhere but in a biosafety cabinet. And even when you open it in a biosafety cabinet, it's a complex procedure to transfer spores from one container to another - particularly if the spores are static charged, which they usually are. And when you are done, the interior of the cabinet has to be decontaminated before you can remove the stolen sample. Otherwise, just opening the door of the biosafety cabinet and removing the materials could contaminate the whole room.
And if there is only one canister it would probably be immediately missed. It's almost like stealing an atomic bomb. If they do actually keep such powders in storage, they would undoubtedly be heavily secured with restricted access. Someone might open a cryotube of frozen anthrax by mistake without doing any harm, but you do not want anyone opening a canister of powdered anthax by mistake.
Furthermore, there is no real evidence that the U.S. government has ever made dry pure powders of Ames anthrax in any kind of quantity - much less stored such materials. There's certainly no indication they ever truly "weaponized" it. The "standard" strain for weaponization is Vollum, not Ames. Ames is used for making medicines.
Gary Matsumoto's infamous article in Science magazine provides the only two examples I know about which describe what government labs have done with Ames (beyond using it to make and/or test vaccines and antibiotics). The first known use was at Dugway. The Science article says:
So far, only Dugway Proving Ground has acknowledged making aerosols with Ames strain spores. According to a memorandum from U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command dated 19 July 1995, Dugway began experiments with a liquid preparation of the Ames strain starting in February 1994. This was part of what the Army called “bioprofiling”: an effort to “establish a ‘library’ of information,” said the memo, to help defend against biological attack. ....So, Dugway used Ames in liquid preparations. That is not what was stolen.
Dugway released a statement acknowledging that its scientists have been doing this work to develop an “effective bioaerosol collection” but insisted that “All anthrax used at Dugway has been accounted for.”I got into a big argument about this last sentence. When the authorities who should know say all their anthrax is accounted for, that is evidence. Contrary beliefs are not evidence.
The other known use is described in this paragraph from the Science article:
As subcontractors, Battelle scientists have made anthrax powders for use by the Army and U. S. intelligence agencies, but rarely by Fort Detrick, which specializes in vaccine development. Charles Dasey, spokesperson for the parent agency, the U. S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, says that as far as he is aware, the only dried anthrax spores made at Fort Detrick since it stopped making weapons were made by Battelle scientists working there for DARPA. This material, made in a biosafety level 3 suite in the Diagnostic Systems Division, contained killed Ames strain at a concentration of 326 million spores per gram -- several orders of magnitude less concentrated than the Senate powder and crude by current standards.So, a powder containing dead Ames spores was made at Ft. Detrick, but it was nothing like the powder used in either mailings. Again, this is evidence that Ft. Detrick was not the source of the powder. And, again, contrary beliefs are not evidence.
An article from The Washington Post dated December 16, 2001, provides this about what the CIA was doing with Ames anthrax:
While the CIA has had small amounts of Ames strain anthrax in its labs to "compare and contrast with other strains," a spokesman said, the agency did not "grow, create or produce the Ames strain." The anthrax contained in the letters under investigation "absolutely did not" come from CIA labs, the spokesman said.And this:
CIA scientists worked with other government agencies and outside contractors in the defensive biowarfare program, the agency spokesman said. The agency said most of its defensive work involves simulants, not active biological agents.Another article in the December 21, 2001, issue of The Washington Post goes into more details about what Battelle and the CIA were doing with Ames:
Battelle, a private contractor that has worked with the Pentagon in developing defenses against biological attacks, is one of several labs visited by FBI agents investigating the anthrax attacks. Katy Delaney, a Battelle spokeswoman, said the company has cooperated fully with the government's investigation.So, there's nothing in any of this which indicates that any government or biodefense lab was making anthrax powder like what was found in any of the attack letters. Nor is there any evidence anything illegal was going on.
And it seems clear that it would be tremendously more difficult to steal a few grams of anthrax powder from such sensitive programs than a tiny dot of frozen anthrax bacteria from a lab dedicated to medical research.
Previously, I'd mainly just looked at the fact that the right Ames is known to be stored in at least 4 labs in frozen form and is not known to be stored in any lab in pure spore form, which means that a theft of frozen bacteria was much more likely.
But this discussion seemed to result in confirmation that it is much much easier to steal a tiny sample of frozen bacteria than to steal a couple grams of pure powder.
But, of course, this won't change the minds of those who are absolutely certain the powder was stolen from some illegal bioweapons program. Their response to all this will be to just say, "There are none so blind as those who will not see."
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, June
thru Saturday, June 18, 2005
June 18, 2005 - Today, Barnes & Noble's web site no longer has my book for sale. It could just mean that they sold out and they need to order more. Who knows? It's too much trouble to change all the links, so I'll just leave them until I can figure out what's going on. Meanwhile, Amazon.com is still selling the book. And I'm thinking my next book might be titled "1001 Things I Learned While Self-Publishing My First Book".
June 14-15, 2005 - As of June 14, 2005, Barnes & Noble is selling my book on their web site for $17.95, which is a 10 percent savings compared to Amazon.com. If you are a Barnes & Noble member, you can save an additional 10 percent, bringing the on-line price down to $16.15. Or you can order the book through your local Barnes & Noble store and eliminate the shipping costs associated with on-line purchases, but the store costs are evidently $19.95 per copy, or $17.95 for Barnes & Noble members. To purchase the book from barnesandnoble.com just click HERE.
June 13, 2005 - Although nothing seems to be happening in the anthrax case at the moment, information continues to come in as ammunition in various arguments. Most of the information is old, but it can be considered "new" if it's never been on this site before. For example, someone provided a link to a report from the Air War College dated April 1998. The document is titled "Biological and Chemical Warfare: A Challenge for Air Force Medical Readiness." The report has some interesting background on bioweapons and looks at the subject from many angles. While it may not specifically pertain to anthrax, a comment on page 18 of the report is interesting:
It has been noted that a biological arsenal could be created using only $10,000 in equipment and a room 15 by 15 feet. It requires no more than a beer fermenter, a culture medium, a gas mask, and a plastic overgarment. Indeed, virtually any university with a microbiology laboratory could serve for the production of significant quantities of a number of agents with appropriate care and a small starter culture.On the other hand, it uses this as an example of what a terrorist bioweapon can do:
It has been estimated that 50 kg of Bacillus anthracis aerially dispersed 2 km upwind of an unprotected population of 500,000 under ideal conditions could travel over 20 km and affect nearly half those in the path of the cloud killing or incapacitating up to 220,000.Can 50 kilograms of powdered anthrax really be safely made in the 15x15 lab described in the other paragraph? That's 110 pounds of spores!
There was less than 1 gram of powder in the Leahy letter. (Although you can find a hundred articles estimating the quantity at 2 grams, the official weight was 0.871 grams.) The weight of the entire quantity of spores in both mailings was less than an quarter of an ounce. Making, handling, storing, transporting and keeping a quarter ounce of spores dry is a lot easier than doing the same with 110 pounds of spores.
What came out of the arguments was a better understanding of the need to make certain that all statements are put in their proper context.
For example, in another discussion, a microbiologist commented that the powder in the Senate envelopes could have been made by "just about any microbiology grad student". But would "just about any microbiology grad student" have access to the Ames strain? Would "just about any microbiology grad student" have unsupervised access to all the necessary equipment? No. Definitely not. So, while many may have the knowledge, few had the access.
Another old document which I added to this site last week is the Statement Dr. Hatfill's lawyer made to the media when the lawsuit was originally filed against John Ashcroft, the FBI and the DOJ on August 26, 2003. Someone tried to use it as "proof" that
the Attorney General and his subordinates decided that for their own personal and political interests it was essential to appear to know who committed these offenses. So, in violation of the very laws they are sworn to uphold, they embarked on a highly public campaign to accuse Dr. Hatfill without formally naming him a suspect or charging him with any wrongdoing.Of course it isn't "proof" of any such thing. It's just an accusation. And there's a very good chance that accusation may be dramatically modified before the case actually goes to trial. As we recently saw in the appeal in the Hatfill vs The New York Times lawsuit, Dr. Hatfill's lawyers evidently now realize that the FBI didn't embark on any "highly public campaign to accuse Dr. Hatfill". The "highly public campaign" was directed at the FBI, and the objective was to force the FBI to publicly investigate and/or accuse Dr. Hatfill.
On what planet is an accusation considered to be "proof" of anything?
If a scientist makes a broad statment like "the attack anthrax could have been made by just about any microbiology grad student" but, in reality, very few such grad students would have access to the Ames strain, does that mean the scientist was "wrong" and cannot be believed, or does it simply mean the scientist should have used more qualifiers and said something like, "the anthrax could have been made by just about any microbiology grad student who had access to the Ames strain and unsupervised access to a microbiology lab"?
In this situation, when the scientist didn't provide the desired answer, a new question was devised: If you haven't examined the attack anthrax, how can you be sure that it is the same as what "any grad student" can make? The comeback should have been: If you haven't examined the attack anthrax, how can you be sure it is not the same as what "any grad student" can make?
If "any grad student" can produce an anthrax powder that contains a trillion spores per gram and has flow characteristics identical to the Senate powder, do you look for ways to prove that the Senate powder is different and cannot be made so easily, or do you look for labs where someone - not just a grad student - could have had access to the Ames strain and made the powder without anyone questioning what he was doing? Is unsupervised access to a microbiology lab more common in U.S. government labs or in the private sector - like in hospitals, universities and agricultural research facilities? The answer would seem to depend upon whether you're looking for facts or only for proof that supports your theory and disproves someone else's theory.
So, while nothing new is happening, people continue to dig up materials which are tested against the various theories. And, while it's almost 4 years since the anthrax attacks of 2001, the case continues to keep me fascinated, not because of the actual investigation of the attacks, but because so many people can look at the same items of information and come to totally different conclusions about what they mean.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, June
thru Saturday, June 11, 2005
June 9, 2005 - It appears that we're going to have a long wait for anything new to happen in the Hatfill vs Ashcroft et al lawsuit. Looking to see if there have been any new docket entries, I found that on Monday June 6, Judge Walton signed a "Scheduling Order" which says:
Pursuant to the Court's oral orders issued during the status conference held on May 26, 2005, it is hereby
ORDERED that joinder of additional parties in this matter shall be accomplished by November 5, 2005. It is further
ORDERED that plaintiff must provide its expert report(s) to the defendant pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(a)(2) by February 24, 2006. It is further
ORDERED that the defendant must provide its expert report(s) to plaintiff pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(a)(2) by March 24, 2006. It is furtherJudge Reggie B. Walton
United States District Judge
Although the Order has been out for a couple days, when I checked the Docket on the 6th, I found only the entry about Paul Freeborne, and I didn't check for additional entries until today.
On the 6th, I noticed that the May 27 entry which says the Transcript of Proceedings on April 22 is not on-line, and can only be viewed by going to the Clerk's Office and reading it there. That seems to be a "first" for this case. All other 82 documents are on-line. That transcript might contain the courtroom discussions which resulted in the Order of June 6. Without that, the best source is the "Joint Report" document where the two parties agreed that it would take until late next year to get to trial.
But, unless something unusual happens, we may have to wait until November 5 of this year for any further news about this lawsuit. It appears that "additional parties" may be added to the case. Since the media now seems out of it, my guess is that the additional parties will be people whose names came up in the interrogatories.
The appeal in the Hatfill vs The New York Times lawsuit, however, is due for a ruling very soon. And the Hatfill vs Foster lawsuit is still in the works somewhere. And, as far as I know, the Maureen Stevens lawsuits against government and against Battelle still haven't been dismissed.
And, of course, although many don't believe it, it is still possible that something could happen at any time in the actual FBI investigation of the anthrax mailings of 2001.
June 5, 2005 - The United States clearly doesn't have a monopoly on conspiracy theorists. It now appears that the "bacillus" incident in Australia may turn out to be a "talcum powder" incident. And, although the initial reports indicated that government officials were certain the powder held some kind of bacillus bacteria, the latest reports indicate that the Australian Federal Police haven't been able to figure out what the powder is - although everything seems to indicate that it is merely a harmless powder of some kind. If there are any "bacillus" germs in the powder, they must all be dead, since scientists haven't been able to get any to grow.
As we should all know by now, in panicky situations it's easy to make mistakes. There were mistakes galore in the early days of the anthrax attacks of 2001. As I point out in my book, everyone made them, even key scientists in major government labs. But, in the minds of conspiracy theorists, mistakes are never mistakes. One way or another they must be turned into "deliberate attempts to mislead the public".
So, now The Sydney Morning Herald is putting forth a conspiracy theory about why the Australian government made such a big deal about the "bacillus" incident. They ask:
why was the Government so keen to turn a grubby little criminal act by one person into a major international incident?And they provide more than one possible answer. First this theory about why Prime Minister John Howard did what he did:
So why did he do it? The Government and those around it, the media and officials and intellectuals who make up the political class, have been seriously inconvenienced by the popular response to the Schapelle Corby trial and verdict. It disturbs their relationships with individual Indonesians. The sight of the Australian mob in full and irrational uproar disturbs the diplomatic landscape, which relies on a vision of Australia as a sophisticated and politically superior nation.Then this:
Or maybe this is yet another example of Government manipulation of public sentiment, done by withholding and even twisting relevant information, and supported by the political class whose interests it serves.And, of course, like all conspiracy theories, this one also involves keeping facts from the public:
It would be nice if we could be given a translation of the letter to judge for ourselves, but this has been withheld on the grounds that secrecy is essential to the investigation into the identity of the sender. A few moments' thought suggests this is pretty implausible.I'd hoped that we might learn something about characteristics of biological powders from this incident, but now it appears we can rule out any kind of bioweapons attack. It seems that all we can learn from this incident is how silly mistakes are made in tense and critical situations and how those mistakes can have long-lasting consequences.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, May
thru Saturday, June 4, 2005
June 3, 2005 - I've been asked what I think about the "Deep Throat" revelation and how it relates to the anthrax case. To me it shows that the FBI isn't going to cover up criminal acts committed by other branches of the government - even the Executive Branch. Others seem to feel that it shows that the FBI cannot be trusted. Yet, I think it's highly debateable that justice could have been served any other way.
In my book, I look at it from a different point of view. Woodward and Bernstein had a reliable source and used it to expose Presidential malfeasance. In the anthrax case, Woodward and Bernstein wannabes thought they had another such case when they picked up rumors that the Daschle anthrax contained sophisticated additives or coatings - an indication of an illegal bioweapons program. In spite of official denials, many in the media reported the rumors. As it turns out, according to America's top bioweapons experts, there were no additives in the anthrax, and there certainly wasn't any coating on the spores. The rumors were false - the result of the tensions of the times and conclusion-jumping by scientists unfamiliar with powdered anthrax.
It's also interesting that Mark Felt, a.k.a. "Deep Troat", is said to have had a political motive behind what he did. Some seem to think that somehow automatically makes his information invalid. It doesn't. His information was good, regardless of his motives for doing what he did. In the anthrax case, many of those Woodward and Bernstein wannabes who believed the false rumors about coatings and additives also listened to false information from "experts" with political motives and began pointing the finger at an innocent man, claiming the FBI was covering up for him.
The biggest difference between the two situations is this: Mark Felt merely pointed Woodward and Bernstein in the right direction, and the reporters found confirmation from other reliable sources. They got the story right. In the anthrax situation, top reporters ignored anything and anyone that disproved "the story" they wanted to print. As a result, they got almost everything wrong.
The Newsweek Koran (Quran, Qur'an) story can be seen as another case where the media went with false information without verification.
The lesson seems to be: Just because some reporters in the 1970s used an anonymous source and got an important and valid story, that doesn't mean that when reporters today use anonymous sources who provide false information, somehow everything is justified and no apologies, no corrections and no explanations are required.
June 3, 2005 - Although there was supposed to be a "status conference" in the Hatfill v Ashcroft lawsuit yesterday, the docket still shows no entry.
In the Maureen Stevens v United States lawsuit, however,
two docket entries for yesterday:
So, it appears that the U.S. provided a written response to the Stevens complaint but still wants the case dismissed, and they are proceeding with preparing motions to that effect - to Judge Hurley and/or to the Court of Appeals for that area.
Unfortunately, the Southern District of Florida (W.Palm Beach) doesn't put its court documents on-line. So, I don't have access to the written response by the U.S.
June 2, 2005 - The type of "biological agent" used in the Canberra, Australia, incident has not yet been disclosed, but reports say it was not anthrax. In a talk on the Australian Broadcasting Corp., the chief police officer in charge would only say that
At this stage it looks very unlikely that the substance contained any bacteria of pathological significance.The envelope was reportedly sent from somewhere in Victoria outside of Melbourne, and the note sent with the powder was written in Bahasa (the official language of Indonesia), which may help narrow down the number of possible suspects.
June 1, 2005 - According to Australian's AAP, The Daily Telegraph, and other news outlets in Australia, the Indonesian embassy in Canberra, Australia, received an envelope yesterday which contained a biological agent of the Bacillus family, the family which includes anthrax. Most likely, however, the powder is not anthrax and is far less deadly, since the apparentmotivation seems to be a cause that is unlikely to produce mass murders. Chances are that it will turn out to be Bacillus thuringiensis or Bacillus Globigii, spores of which are commonly used in gardening to kill insects and root fungus. But things could get interesting if the powder is pure spores. If it is a "sophisticated powder", it could tell us more about how easily such "sophisticated" powders can be created. If it is not pure spores, it can still solve a lot of arguments about how such powders act. (When used as an insecticide, such spores are usually suspended in some kind of liquid for spraying, they are not usually sold as powders. But they are commonly turned into powders when used as "simulants" for anthrax when testing filtration equipment, etc.)
It might also be interesting to see if the Australian Federal Police can track down the person who sent the envelope.
May 29, 2005 - Although it's probably just a coincidence, it's interesting that both the Maureen Steven lawsuit and Dr. Hatfill's lawsuit against John Ashcroft et al have things scheduled for June 2nd of this week. In the Maureen Steven lawsuit, Judge Hurley gave the Department of Justice until June 2 to respond to the allegations in the lawsuit. I just obtained a copy of the lawsuit. It can be found by clicking HERE. The allegations are many, but they boil down to the accusation that the U.S. government was careless in its handling of anthrax, they let some of it get into the wrong hands, and, as a result, someone sent some through the mails and killed Maureen Stevens' husband Bob. The government has previously asked that the case be dismissed because the anthrax was sent by a "third party" not under control of the U.S. government. That motion to dismiss was denied. So, it appears the government will either have to file a document which responds to the allegations, or they'll have to get a higher court to dismiss the case.
Meanwhile, according to the Court Docket in the Hatfill vs Ashcroft lawsuit, a "status conference" is scheduled for June 2. It's anybody's guess whether or not anything significant will come from it, but, because I keep writing about the Court Docket, I decided to make an edited copy of it for this site. Hopefully I'll be able to keep it up to date. It can be found by clicking HERE. The most recent entry on the Docket doesn't contain any clues as to what might happen in the status conference.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, May
thru Saturday, May 28, 2005
May 27, 2005 - For what
the "Initial Scheduling Conference" ordered
by Judge Reggie Walton in the Hatfill vs Ashcroft lawsuit for May 27,
(today) was evidently held as scheduled. The "Minute
from the docket is as follows:
Note that a "status conference" will be held next week Thursday. I have no idea what this means regarding the "Joint Report" document from last week where the two parties evidently agreed to an "Initial Scheduling Conference" for sometime in late 2006. Hopefully, someone in the media was there and can explain what happened.
May 25-26, 2005 - Someone sent me a link to a copy of the Appeal Brief in the lawsuit Hatfill vs The New York Times (which no longer includes Nicholas Kristof). The link is HERE. So far, I've only had time to skim through it (it's 81 pages long!), but I really like what it says on page 2:
In May 2002, defendant The New York Times Company ("The Times") published the first in a series of articles designed not to report investigative interest in Dr. Hatfill, but to create some.I couldn't have phrased it better. They had fallen for Barbara Hatch Rosenberg's conspiracy theory and were falling in line with her efforts to get the FBI to publicly investigate Dr. Hatfill. They were helping apply pressure on the FBI to publicly investigate a man who the FBI had evidently already investigated without finding any reason to believe he was involved. It took seven months of such increasing pressure to get the FBI (most likely in the person of Van Harp) to bend to the pressure.
I recommend reading the "Statement of Facts" which begins on page 5 and goes through most of page 11. It's a very damning statement where it is made clear that Nicholas Kristof was in agreement with that band of conspiracy theorists headed by Barbara Hatch Rosenberg and Don Foster who were using false information to support their theories.
But not all the bad information came from the conspiracy theorists. Some was just plain nonsense from other journalists. Of particular interest to me is this quote from Kristof's August 13 column, which I'd forgotten about:
So far, the only physical evidence is obscure: smell. Specially trained bloodhounds were given scent packets preserved from the anthrax letters and were introduced to a variety of people and locations. This month, they responded strongly to Dr. Hatfill, to his apartment, to his girlfriend's apartment and even to his former girlfriend's apartment, as well as to restaurants that he had recently entered (he is under constant surveillance). The dogs did not respond to other people, apartments or restaurants.The chapter titled "Bloodhounds And News Hounds" in my book goes into great detail to show what the bloodhounds episode was almost certainly really about. It's described less well on this site in the section titled "Steven J. Hatfill And The Clueless Media".
Dr. Hatfill's lawyers handling the appeal in the lawsuit against Nicholas Kristof and the New York Times are from the law firm Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis, LLP. The original lawsuit was filed by Victor M. Glasberg & Associates. The lawyers handling the lawsuit against John Ashcroft, Van Harp et all are from Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis, LLP, so it appears that they have either taken over all of Dr. Hatfill's lawsuits or the two firms are working together. Either way, I hope Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis, LLP, is planning to amend lawsuit against the FBI to address the pressure upon the FBI in the same way as in the NYT appeal brief.
May 24, 2005 - According to the Associated Press, Dr. Hatfill's lawyers have take his lawsuit against Nicholas Kristof and the New York Times to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and have asked that the dismissal ruling by U.S. District Judge Claude Hilton be overturned. It usually takes several weeks to get a ruling.
Interestingly, the lawyer for The New York Times seems to consider repeating rumors as valid journalism:
Times attorney David Schulz countered that Nicholas Kristof's columns on the op-ed page merely repeated what others were saying about Hatfill and suggested federal authorities were doing a lousy job investigating.If you repeat an inaccurate statement is it no longer inaccurate? If you repeat an attack upon some person, is it no longer an attack upon that person? If you repeat a libelous statement is it no longer libelous?
Later Attorney Schulz added this statement in the New York Times' defense:
"There's no way to read all of that except that our government is failing us."Evidently The New York Times feels it's totally beyond reason to believe that it can take a long time to gather evidence to bring to court in a very complex case.
May 22, 2005 - The "Joint Report" document released on Friday, describes the status of the Hatfill vs Ashcroft lawsuit in great detail - although a lot of the details are buried in legal jargon. I'm no lawyer, and I could be misinterpreting things, but one key piece of information in the report seems to summarize this way:
Since Judge Walton will not allow any further continuences or postponements in the case, the government will begin "vigorous litigation in the discovery stage of the case". In other words, the government will claim "priviledged information" whenever asked any question which might somehow relate to the ongoing investigation of the anthrax attacks. And each time this happens, Dr. Hatfill's lawyers are expected to challenge that claim by taking the matter to Judge Walton for resolution - a process which could take days or weeks for each instance. As a result, both parties now appear to expect that the discovery process will take a full year, and they don't expect the actual trial to begin before September of 2006.
In an attempt to head off this strategy, sometime in the next few weeks, Dr. Hatfill will be asking for a "Special Master" or Magistrate Judge to "guide discovery". If granted, that legal authority would be there during discovery and would be able to resolve most or all issues on the spot without the need to go to Judge Walton. The government disputes the need for this - and will probably fight it.
So, clearly I couldn't have been more wrong than when I thought that because the court reporter recorded in the Docket for May 2, 2005, "Parties reached a settlement agreement and will file the appropriate documents" the parties had actually reached a settlement agreement.
I'll try to be more cautious in the future when reporting on documents and entries in the Court Docket. And it should be noted that until Judge Walton signs the Order accepting the "Joint Report", his "Order For Initial Scheduling Conference" to be held this coming Friday, May 27, is still official. At least that's how I understand it.
I'm still somewhat puzzled by what actually happened on May 2, 2005, when the Court Reporter wrote that the "Parties had reached a settlement agreement". In a "Minute Order" recorded ten days later in the Docket Report for May 12, it says,
In connection with the representations made in open court on May 2, 2005, counsel is directed to submit the motions to withdraw with respect to the motions for protective order and/or to quash the subpoenas in this matter. The motions should be filed by May 18, 2005. Otherwise the motions will be dimissed without prejudice.Somehow, a "settlement agreement" became "representations made in open court", and those "representations" caused Dr. Hatfill to withdraw his subpoenas to the media, which in turn caused the media to withdraw their motions to quash the subpoenas.
Withdrawing those subpoenas would make sense if there was a settlement agreement. But, if there was no settlement agreement, why were the subpoenas to the media withdrawn?
Whatever happened in court on May 2 evidently also triggered the "Joint Report of Parties' Conference" filed on Friday, since it begins with this
In accordance with the Court's Order dated May 2, 2005, .....So, somehow a "settlement agreement" became "representations" which became a "Court's Order".
But I can find no Court Order dated May 2, 2005, anywhere. It may be some document written earlier but only signed on May 2. Whatever it is, it's a mystery to me.
Whatever prompted Dr. Hatfill's lawyers to withdraw the subpoenas sent to the media is also a mystery. However, there may be a significant "clue" in the new Order that Judge Walton has been asked to sign. Item #1 in the Order is as follows:
All motions seeking to amend the pleadings or join parties to the current action shall be filed no later [than] November 1, 2005.It could be that the completed interrogatories caused Hatfill's lawyers to change their strategy. (Or they may have needed the results of the interrogatories before they could shift to their true strategy.) If the interrogatories asked the questions I would have asked, I can imagine who Dr. Hatfill might subpoena instead of the media. And it would definitely amend the pleadings to create a very different case - one that actually focuses on established evidence (documented on this web site and in my book) of why the FBI really went after Dr. Hatfill -- instead of alleging it was pure maliciousness or incompetence.
Unfortunately, we may have to wait months - maybe even until November 1 - to find out if the case will be amended and if new parties will join the action.
Whatever happens, it doesn't appear that we'll be getting much in the way of news about the anthrax investigation as a byproduct of the Hatfill v Ashcroft lawsuit.
Nevertheless, an editorial in today's Palm Beach Post shows they are still hopeful about the Maureen Stevens lawsuit. The Editorial says,
If the government isn't going to produce a criminal, the lawsuit offers the best chance for now of the government at least having to produce some answers.If the government manages to get the Maureen Stevens lawsuit dismissed (it appears they are going to do everything they can to get it dismissed), there won't be any sources of information about the investigation except what the government chooses to release at press conferences - if they hold any.
The fact that there will be no news does not mean that the investigation will stop or has stopped. The government stated once again in Friday's document:
The investigation into the anthrax attacks is one of the largest and most complex criminal investigations in law enforcement history. To bring those responsible to justice, the investigation remains intensely active.What all this means is that it's going to become a lot harder to see any progress or to learn anything new about the anthrax investigation.
I don't see that it does anyone any good to perpetuate conspiracy theories, to have the FBI and the DOJ appear incompetent or malicious, to have the military and the Bush administration suspected of making illegal bioweapons, to have an innocent man under a cloud of suspicion, or to have the anthrax mailer walking around loose.
A lot of scientists know critical information about the attack anthrax, and a lot of people know exactly what is going on in the investigation. That information cannot be kept secret forever. At least that's my hope.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, May
thru Saturday, May 21, 2005
May 20, 2005 - A document filed in the Hatfill vs Ashcroft lawsuit today appears to shatter all hopes of a settlement any time soon and all hopes of a trial anytime soon. The document is titled "Joint Report of Parties' Conference Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(f) And Proposed Discovery Plan."
I have to study the document to see how it fits into what was previously reported in the case, but this much is very clear:
IV. Possibility of SettlementFurthermore, the document appears to postpone the trial for more than a year. It says:
XII. The Date of the Pretrial ConferenceI don't know enough about such matters to know if Judge Walton has to agree to this. He'd previously set a pretrial date for next week Friday (May 27, 2005). But if both parties are in agreement, it would seem that the judge would go along, too.
Unless there is some legal mumbo jumbo in all this that means the document doesn't mean what it seems to mean, it looks like the conspiracy theorists will have a field day.
May 16, 2005 - The "cryptic" docket entries for May 13 in the Hatfill vs Ashcroft lawsuit have become somewhat more clear. "Notices" have been filed by Gannett Newspapers and by The Washington Post, Newsweek and ABC, which indicate that the supoenas issued by Hatfill's lawyers to those organizations have been withdrawn, so the motions to suppress those subpoenas have also been withdrawn. Evidently, unless I'm totally misreading everything, the fact that a settlement between Dr. Hatfill and the U.S. Government is in the works makes those motions unnecessary. I was wrong in guessing that it meant that someone wanted out of the settlement.
May 15, 2005 - I notice that the government's motion to dismiss the Maureen Stevens lawsuit was filed back around July 24, 2004. And, according to The Palm Beach Post, it was rejected by Judge Hurley on April 18, 2005 - about NINE MONTHS after the motion was first made.
I also notice that in the April 23 issue of The Washington Post, they say this about the Hatfill vs Ashcroft lawsuit:
Earlier this week, in a significant shift, the government notified [Judge] Walton that it was willing to permit the questioning of some witnesses on Hatfill's claim that the leaks violated the Privacy Act."Earlier this week" would be sometime from April 18 through April 21. In other words, about the same time the motion to dismiss was rejected in Florida.
I suppose it's remotely possible it's just a coincidence that these two cases had significant rulings at about the exact same time, but I think it's more likely the government decided it was time to try to resolve both cases. If so, why now?
The Hatfill lawsuit seems to be in the process of being settled. Significantly, it's just about the way Dr. Hatfill was treated by the government. It is not about the actual anthrax attacks.
On the other hand, the Stevens lawsuit is about the anthrax attacks, and it is very unlikely to be settled, since any settlement could be seen as an admission that the government was somehow directly or indirectly responsible for the anthrax attacks.
Here's what we know about the government's motion to dismiss from the July 24, 2004, issue of The Palm Beach Post:
In its motion to dismiss the case in U.S. District Court in Miami, the federal government relies on sovereign immunity, the principle that shields governments from liability in many cases. 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 has asked for a hearing on the motion to be set.When he rejected the government's motion to dismiss, Judge Hurley gave the DOJ until June 2 to file a response to the allegations made in the Maureen Stevens lawsuit. According to yesterday's Palm Beach Post,
Federal attorneys are deciding whether to appeal the April 18 ruling or ask the judge to reconsider it, according to court records.I suspect the DOJ will claim the lawsuit is without foundation and repeat the same things they said in the motion to dismiss. If Judge Hurley doesn't reconsider and agree to the motion to dismiss, I suspect the feds will take it to a higher court.
Either way, the Maureen Stevens lawsuit should either come alive or die very soon. (Most likely it will be dismissed and die.)
And when the Stevens lawsuit is dismissed and the Hatfill lawsuit is settled, there'll be no "news" to remind the public about the anthrax attacks of 2001 ... except possible scientific reports about forensic matters ... or an arrest in the case.
May 15, 2005 - I changed the "new front page" of the web site to include a new section where new "findings" would be listed. The new "findings" would either confirm or correct the "working hypothesis" detailed on the main part of this web site. This was done because publishing my book "locks down" the working hypothesis. Now it's a matter of finding out where I was right and where I was wrong.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, May
thru Saturday, May 14, 2005
May 14, 2005 - According to today's Palm Beach Post, the government's motion to dismiss the Maureen Stevens lawsuit has finally been denied by U.S. District Judge Daniel T.K. Hurley. That motion to dismiss was filed in July of 2004 - almost a year ago. Interestingly,
Hurley then ordered the U.S. Department of Justice to respond to the allegations made in Stevens' lawsuit by June 2.Evidently it takes awhile for things to happen in Florida, but when things happen, they happen in bunches. In case you've forgotten what the Maureen Stevens lawsuit is all about, it's summarized this way in the article:
Stevens sued the government in December 2003. Her lawsuit alleges that security lapses at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases in Fort Detrick, Md., ultimately brought her husband, Bob, in contact with anthrax.
BioPort "represented to us it did not use the Ames strain of anthrax that he contends killed Bob Stevens," Schuler said. In court filings, the company said it never possessed the Ames strain; it said it tested vaccines with the vollum strain of anthrax.It's unclear what caused Judge Hurley to suddenly rule on a motion that has been pending for 9 months, but his rejection of the motion to dismiss was issued on April 18, which was about the same time that the government changed its mind about allowing government employees to testify in the Hatfill vs Ashcroft lawsuit.
May 13, 2005 - There's a very cryptic entry in yesterday's court Docket Report for the Hatfill vs. Ashcroft lawsuit:
MINUTE ORDER. In connection with the representations made in open court on May 2, 2005, counsel is directed to submit the motions to withdraw with respect to the motions for protective order and/or to quash the subpoenas in this matter. The motions should be filed by May 18, 2005. Otherwise the motions will be dimissed without prejudice. Signed by Judge Reggie B. Walton on May 12, 2005. (lcrbw3, ) (Entered: 05/12/2005)All we know about the "representations made in open court on May 2, 2005," is what was said in the Docket entry for that day:
Minute Entry for proceedings held before Judge Reggie B. Walton : Status Conference held on 5/2/2005; Parties reached a settlement agreeement and will file the appropriate documents; (Court Reporter Phyllis Merana.) (mpt, ) (Entered: 05/02/2005)I'm certainly not a lawyer, but it appears that someone wanted out of the settlement agreement and Judge Walton ordered that party to submit a motion to that effect by May 18, and the motion should incorporate all matters related to the protective order agreed to on May 6 and motions to quash subpoenas, or it would be denied.
It's all Greek to me, but it certainly does seem like, while there may be a settlement in the works, or even an agreement to settle, there is no actual "settlement agreement" until the documents are all properly agreed to, signed and filed in court.
May 18 is next Wednesday.
Things are happening, but we are probably going to have to wait until actual documents are filed in the case to find out exactly what is happening. The media evidently isn't interested or they don't know any more than what is on the Docket Report and don't want to speculate.
May 8, 2005 - According to various unofficial sources, the court reporter was wrong when she recorded that a settlement had been reached in the Hatfill vs Ashcroft lawsuit. According to one newspaper reporter who talked with Hatfill's lawyer and then talked with someone else who passed the information on to me: "There has been no settlement in the case, only agreement on some discovery issues."
I wonder: Did any reporter check on that docket entry before I asked about it?
It's not as if that docket entry can be easily misinterpreted. And one wonders why it wasn't corrected.
On the other hand, I've written a book about all the silly mistakes made by government employees in matters related to the anthrax case. This evidently just adds another to the long list.
It's the stuff conspiracy theories are made of.
But, this time, the conspiracy theorists seem to consider this to be the first "honest mistake" ever made in the case.
And some people can't understand why I find this case so fascinating.
If the discussion on May 2 wasn't about a settlement agreement, what was it about? Could a court reporter (whose job depends upon getting legal terms correct) write "reached a settlement agreement" when the discussion was actually about something like a Protective Order?
The only document filed since May 2 was filed on Friday, May 6. It's a "Protective Order" "to prevent public disclosure of certain information that may be exchanged during discovery". Specifically, it's intended to prevent disclosing the names of "lower-level non-supervisory attorneys, investigative agents, or support personnel" deposed or mentioned in depositions. Interestingly, it specifically states:
The limitations set forth in the Order shall not apply to documents, discovery requests, discovery responses, deposition transcripts, or other materials if the Protected Information contained therein has been fully redacted and cannot be determined from the context.So, the Protective Order will not keep anything from the public except the names of low-level people who can only be hurt by having information about them made public.
And such a Protective Order might be needed if there is a trial or a settlement.
Whatever is going on, there should be interesting times ahead.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, May
thru Saturday, May 7, 2005
Minute Entry for proceedings held before Judge Reggie B. Walton : Status Conference held on 5/2/2005; Parties reached a settlement agreement and will file the appropriate documents; (Court Reporter Phyllis Merana.) (mpt, ) (Entered: 05/02/2005)Could it be what it appears to be? Could the lawsuit be over? Did the government settle out of court? If so, why hasn't this made any news? Is the media just ignoring the case? Why? Are they just waiting for the official settlement documents? Or am I misreading something? We should find out very soon.
May 6, 2005 - Articles from AIM.org ("Accuracy In Media") still generate discussion from time to time, even though it appears that, to AIM, nothing in the media is "accurate" unless it confirms whatever AIM believes.
And they still believe that al Qaeda was behind the anthrax attacks of 2001.
In the AIM web site's latest article, titled "No Attacks Since 9/11?", editor Cliff Kincaid claims that New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman was wrong in asking "why have there been no terrorist attacks in the U.S. since 9/11?", since,
AIM has been saying for years that the evidence indicates an Al Qaeda connection to the anthrax murders.And the anthrax attacks did take place after 9/11. Kincaid writes:
Friedman should correct his error and use his journalistic talents to investigate the FBI. That would take real courage. Most reporters are reluctant to probe the FBI for obvious reasons.Investigate the FBI? Evidently, AIM believes one or more of the following:
1. The FBI is covering up for al Qaeda.
An examination of the AIM article shows their line of reasoning: In July and September of 1999 (and possibly again in 2000),
A[n attorney] who has analyzed this connection in detail, has uncovered some new information. He reports evidence that Al Qaeda's Ayman Zawahiri "had a scientist named [Dr. Abdur] Rauf attending conferences sponsored by Porton Down, UK's biodefense facility, for the purpose of obtaining the Ames anthrax strain. The scientist's handwritten notes reporting on his efforts are available through the Freedom of Information Act. He is just one of a number of microbiologists who have been captured that have gotten no attention by the media."At the conferences, Rauf learned that Porton Down was using a harmless, biologically modified, NON-pathogenic version of the Ames strain of anthrax. Rauf wrote in his journal:
"(6) Unfortunately, I did not find the required culture of B. anthrax i.e., pathogenic. The culture available in [REDACTED] is non-pathogenic."To an objective observer, the fact that Rauf was only an attendee at a conference where he learned that Porton Down used a harmless version of Ames, can be seen as further evidence that al Qaeda wasn't getting very far in their pursuit of biological weapons.
But, to AIM and others, this proves that al Qaeda was looking for the Ames strain.
And, to AIM and others, if al Qaeda was looking for Ames, they must have found it -- because Ames was used in the anthrax attacks of 2001, and AIM and others believe al Qaeda was behind those attacks.
So, while, to an objective observer, this is just more evidence indicating that al Qaeda was not behind the anthrax attacks, to True Believers it's more "evidence" that al Qaeda must have been behind the attacks. And if more such "evidence" hasn't been found, it must be because the FBI isn't looking hard enough.
It's another demonstration of starting with a belief and looking for evidence to support that belief, versus looking at the evidence and going where the evidence leads.
Note added May 7, 2006: The above comment was modified to remove the name of a source who asked that his name be removed.
Among other things, the reviewer (Debora MacKenzie) says
he gets a few things right that experts at the time got wrong.and
like it or not, internet warriors like Lake are now important players in the public discourse. Who knows? This one may yet be right.Importantly, she doesn't say I got anything wrong, although she does say:
Some facts and arguments aren't here, or aren't clear.I have no idea what those missing "facts and arguments" are. I'd certainly like to know what facts I've missed and what they indicate. Since she doesn't point out any errors, they could be substantiating facts of some kind. Who knows? Whatever she meant, I'm just glad someone in the media finally reviewed the book.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, April
thru Saturday, April 30, 2005
April 28, 2005 - This week produced another example of what can happen when an argument causes you to look at old data from a different angle. Suddenly, pieces which never made any real sense before fall into place, and you have one of those moments where you slap your forehead and say "Of course! How could I have missed that!?"
In our seemingly endless debates over the properties of the Senate anthrax, conspiracy theorist Stuart Jacobsen hammered me with some news articles from early 2002 which he feels proves that the Senate anthrax spores were coated with silica. I used the same three articles in my book to illustrate that without knowing a source, and without seeing the actual data, we can't be certain of the accuracy of a report.
What I wrote may still be true, but we now have another way to look at these three articles:
1. A Newsweek article which came out on April 8, 2002, and which says:
a new scientific analysis sent to top government officials suggests the anthrax attacker may be a scientific whiz so smart that he succeeded in making a “weaponized” form of the bacterium more sophisticated than any previously known.2. A Washington Post article from April 9, 2002, which says:
Extensive lab tests of the anthrax powder have revealed new details about how the powder was made, including the identity of a chemical used to coat the trillions of microscopic spores to keep them from clumping together. Sources close to the investigation declined to name the chemical but said its presence was something of a surprise.3. And a CNN article from April 11, 2002, which says:
Scientists have found a new chemical in the coating on the anthrax spores mailed to journalists and politicians last fall, a high-ranking government official said Wednesday.The mysterious unnamed "chemical" mentioned in these three articles has actually been named. Jacobsen worked with Gary Matsumoto to develop the infamous article for the November 28, 2003, issue of Science Magazine which says:
U. S. intelligence officers informed foreign biodefense officials that this additive was "polymerized glass."And the article goes on to explain:
The officials who received this briefing-- biowarfare specialists who work for the governments of two NATO countries-- said they had never heard of polymerized glass before. This was not surprising. "Coupling agents" such as polymerized glass are not part of the usual tool kit of scientists and engineers making powders designed for human inhalation.And Stuart Jacobsen, who is not a bioterrorism expert nor an anthrax expert of any kind, then simply made up an explanation for the presence of polymerized glass:
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.
"If there's polymerized glass [in the Senate samples], it really narrows the field [of possible suspects]," says Jacobsen, who has been following the anthrax investigations keenly. "Polymerized glasses are exotic materials, and nanotechnology is something you just don't do in your basement."So, according to Jacobsen, the polymerized glass was used to bind the previously found silica to the spores - a technology which would be like putting each spore inside a tiny glass bottle. (Or putting each particle of silica in a tiny glass bottle and somehow fixing them evenly across the surface of the spore.) And he believes this was done without killing every single spore, and the tiny glass bottle wouldn't prevent the spore from germinating.
Jacobsen argues that his totally made-up explanation must be true, because it was repeated in the prestigious British medical journal Lancet and elsewhere.
It seems to be a totally made-up solution designed to keep alive and support the theory that some massive government project was needed to make the anthrax.
The argument caused me to look once again at those three news articles, other reports, and the sequence of events. Suddenly, a very different picture emerged.
According to the three articles, the information about the "new chemical" was from a "new scientific analysis sent to top government officials" and was leaked to the media by a "high-ranking government official".
According to Stuart Jacobsen (who frequently uses information which can only have come from Gary Matsumoto when they were working together on the Science article), the "new scientific analysis" was an FBI report dated April 7, 2002, and the report stated that polymerized glass had been found in the attack anthrax.
To understand the significance of this, you have to go back even further.
According to Richard Preston's book "The Demon In The Freezer", on October 25, 2001, Tom Geisbert from USAMRIID took a prepared sample of the Daschle anthrax to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP) where it was put into an energy dispersive X-ray spectrometer (EDX), an instrument used to detect the presence of otherwise-unseen chemicals through characteristic wave-lengths of X-ray light. AFIP found that the only unexpected elements in the Daschle anthrax were silicon and oxygen.
Ari Fleischer confirms that in his new book "Taking the Heat" when he talks about ABC erroneously reporting that the Senate anthrax contained bentonite:
I dug deep into the story. I spoke not only to officials at the NSC but to researchers themselves at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology [AFIP]. They told me the Daschle anthrax contained silicon and oxygen but not aluminum.Detecting silicon and oxygen would usually indicate that silica was present. And silica in anthrax would usually indicate that the spores were "weaponized". It didn't take long for the media to learn about the findings, and soon people were saying that the Daschle anthrax actually was "weaponized" with silica.
But for anyone interested in facts, that was clearly not a certainty. The spores had been examined under a transmission electron microscope (TEM) and there was no sign of silica or any additive. All known "weaponization" techniques using silica would have produced a product where the silica would be clearly visible under a TEM or even a less-powerful scanning electron microscope. (SEM). The Daschle powder was taken to AFIP because there was nothing but pure spores visible under a TEM.
So, it was a mystery. How could the EDX spectrograph detect silicon and oxygen (which typically indicated the presence of silica), yet no silica or any other silicon-oxygen compound could be seen in the powder under a TEM or SEM?
One fact that was not realized at the time is that polymerized glass would also show up under an EDX as silicon and oxygen.
That's understandable. There was simply no known reason to consider polymerized glass. Polymerized glass was certainly not used for weaponization. It was not used in medicines. It would serve no known purpose in an anthrax powder. A bacteria certainly cannot make polymerized glass or silica all by itself. So, there was no known reason why polymerized glass should be there instead of common silica.
In a well-known article produced by AFIP, they not only state that the silicon and oxygen they detected was in the form of silica, but they also imply that it was an additive put there to help aerosolize the anthrax. Since it could not be seen under an TEM or SEM, however, it was definitely not an additive. They were clearly wrong about that. And it now appears they were also wrong in their assumption that there was silica in the anthrax.
AFIP said and wrote nothing about polymerized glass being detected. If they couldn't see or detect that there was polymerized glass in the anthrax, there is no reason to believe they could actually see silica. They were simply making a false assumption.
So, when months later it was learned that the Daschle anthrax contained polymerized glass, it's a near certainly that the FBI had finally determined what the presence of silicon and oxygen actually meant: it meant polymerized glass was in the spores, not silica as had been believed previously.
The unnamed "high-ranking government official" may not have understood the significance of this finding, or the finding may have been simply incorrectly interpreted by the media - just as the media had been incorrectly interpreting almost everything regarding the Daschle anthrax at that time and continuing on through today, almost four years later.
The presence of polymerized glass cannot be part of any "weaponization". Instead, it fits the analysis detailed on this site and in chapter 17 of my book. I.e., polymerized glass was not added, it was absorbed into the spores from the environment or from lab equipment during the sporulation process. It must have take awhile for the FBI to discover that scientific articles dating back to 1980 describe other types of spores which had absorbed silicon-based substances from the environment during the sporulation process. The discovery was merely noted back then, it wasn't investigated.
What kind of equipment or process would cause polymerized glass to be absorbed into the natural coating of a spore? Who uses such equipment or such a process?
Two months after the FBI produced its report about polymerized glass, the FBI asked that a "working group" of scientists be assembled to formalize the science of microbial forensics, evidently so that that finding and others can be used as evidence in court to convict the anthrax mailer. The group worked for about 15 months, competing its work in September of 2003.
And now we're waiting for the FBI to complete its investigation.
Since there is only one source which says that polymerized glass was found in the Senate anthrax, and that source is not 100% reliable, I'm not going make any changes to this site just yet, even though it seems to be a terrific confirmation of my analysis.
I'd like to remind everyone that at the top of this page and the old main page I ask people to contact me if they see any errors on this site. If anyone has any confirmation of anything regarding polymerized glass in the attack anthrax, please contact me.
P.S. I just love arguing with conspiracy theorists who, without realizing it, often provide the scientific data that debunks their own theories.
April 24, 2005 - The latest developments in the Hatfill vs Ashcroft lawsuit pose some interesting questions: How will the media treat news which exposes the sources of leaks to the media? If it becomes an established fact that 99 percent of the time the media was just reporting malicious innuendo and false rumors about Dr. Hatfill, will that make the front page of any newspaper? Will it even make page 47?
On Friday, the government indicated it was ready to permit questioning of government officials, and Judge Walton "ordered government lawyers to immediately start laying the groundwork to set up the depositions". But, digging through the three news sources (AP,The Washington Post and The NYT) which mentioned Friday's hearing, I couldn't find any information which indicated when we can expect another hearing or the start of the actual trial. One would think that would have been mentioned in court on Friday. Or was it of no interest to the media?
Fortunately, there is information in the court documents which are already on-line.
I found two documents dated Friday, April 22. The first is merely a "General Order and Guidelines for Civil Cases" wherein Judge Walton details how he wants counsel, parties and pro se litigants to treat each other during the discovery process and other matters prior to the upcoming trial - including any settlements out of court. Judge Walton makes it clear in bold type that any delays are "strongly discouraged".
The second document is Judge Walton's "Order for Initial Scheduling Conference". It says that on May 27, 2005, all parties will meet to set a schedule for the trial. There will be other meetings prior to that to work out details. Sanctions will be imposed if people do not meet deadlines.
So, unless there is a settlement in the next month or so, we can probably expect to see a trial starting in June or thereabouts.
Meanwhile, what about the actual anthrax investigation?
A couple days ago, Richard M. Smith pointed out to me that "Six of the nation’s leading authorities on anthrax will speak at a one-day symposium on 'Anthrax: The Biotechnology of Biodefense' on May 26 at Graylyn International Conference Center in Winston-Salem." According to the press release:
The keynote address will be given by Arthur M. Friedlander, M.D., senior scientist and science advisor at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Frederick, Md. He is one of the leading experts on anthrax and the development of anthrax vaccines.This can be viewed as a reminder that there is a new science being utilized in the anthrax case, a new science which should result in new findings about anthrax and other bacteria. And when scientists come up with "new findings", they tend to want to tell the world. Of key interest to the anthrax case, of course, are findings on "how the coat of the spore is assembled", particularly how elements and chemicals can be absorbed into the spore coating from the surroundings. Sooner or later we'll also learn the forensic value of such information.
It may be slow in coming, but, even if there is no arrest, the science learned during the anthrax case cannot be bottled up forever. The information is not only applicable to the anthrax case, it's information which is also applicable to the new science of microbial forensics which is now being taught in many colleges and universities.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, April
thru Saturday, April 23, 2005
April 23, 2005 - Yesterday's hearing in the Hatfill vs Ashcroft lawsuit resulted in the government agreeing to permit officials (including John Ashcroft) to be deposed by Hatfill's lawyers. According to The Washington Post:
Earlier this week, in a significant shift, the government notified [Judge Reggie B.] Walton that it was willing to permit the questioning of some witnesses on Hatfill's claim that the leaks violated the Privacy Act. Yesterday, Walton ordered government lawyers to immediately start laying the groundwork to set up the depositions.So, the case is "proceeding", although the proceedings will still not be in a courtroom. And we may be closer to finding out exactly how and where the media got some of its inaccurate information about the case:
yesterday, [Hatfill's lawyer Tom] Connolly told Walton that the change in the government's position could resolve, for the time being at least, Hatfill's standoff with the news media, which have sought to quash the subpoenas. He said he was in talks with attorneys for the news organizations and hoped to notify the court soon of a resolution.It's difficult to evaluate these events, other than to say they are encouraging and will certainly lead to getting a better idea about how the media uses anonymous sources. And we are getting closer to the day when "Hatfill vs Ashcroft" will mean they are both sitting in the same courtroom with their lawyers.
It was unclear from the court filings and statements what led to the government's turnabout. Last year, Walton expressed doubts that authorities were on the verge of solving the case. The government said in a filing this week that the investigation into the anthrax attacks is "active and ongoing." But law enforcement sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said there have been no significant new developments.One clear remaining problem is that we still don't know who these "law enforcement sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity" are. Do they actually have any inside knowledge about the case? Is there any reason to believe them? Or were they interviewed because they are willing to express a point of view that is the opposite of the government's official point of view? The lawsuit is about invalid information from law enforcement sources, who speak to the media on condition of anonymity.
Until we hear people testifying in person and under oath, it's clear we're going to continue to hear opposing points of view without being able to judge who is most likely correct.
(It's also interesting to note that the New York Times only printed a single paragraph about these developments in their "National Briefing" section. And in that single paragraph they labeled Dr. Hatfill a "suspect", which he is not.)
April 22, 2005 - According to an anthrax forum e-mail I received at 10:04 a.m. EDT, the hearing in the Hatfill vs Ashcroft lawsuit began on schedule at 10 a.m. this morning in the Washington D.C. courtroom of Judge Reggie B. Walton.
The e-mail was from one of the silica coating conspiracy theorists who had called Judge Walton's clerk to find out if the hearing was on as scheduled. He then supplied to the forum the phone number for Judge Walton's clerk, suggesting people call to find out what's happening. That resulted in an argument about the stupidity of calling a clerk in the middle of a hearing to find out ... what? His explanation:
Don't forget there's a good chance the media will ignore this story so the only way we may find anyhting out is by calling ourselves.At least one other person in the forum did call, saying she just wanted to hear what she was expecting to hear - that the trial had been postponed yet again.
But she and everyone else calling the clerk now are just getting "a recording from a very stern male voice" who just tells them to leave a message.
As of 5:25 p.m. Central Time, there was no news whatsoever about the hearing. AP is usually first to report, with their basic wire-service information showing up on various news sites. Details, opinions and interpretations usually follow the next morning in the major papers.
But 5:25 p.m. is my shut-down time, so hopefully I'll find out what happened when I sign on again tomorrow at 8:45 a.m.
Helms, who said he talks with Berry fairly regularly, said the FBI has all but acknowledged that Berry is "pretty much cleared" and is not a suspect in the anthrax case.With the FBI "enjoined" (i.e., prohibited, typically by legal injuction) from commenting on the case, new information about the case is going to continue to be difficult to find. But there are many questions which can be answered without commenting on the investigation - mostly information related to inaccurate media reports, and how and where the media got their bad information. Hopefully, Judge Walton will rule that the Hatfill-v-Ashcroft lawsuit should go forward and we'll start to learn what was uncovered in the discovery proceedings which have supposedly been going on for the past 6 months or more. You don't always need totally new information to make progress, sometimes you just need to know more about old information that might be false.
April 17-18, 2005 - A column titled "Surviving the Mailstrom" in Sunday's Washington Post provides some insight into why three of the letters in the first anthrax mailing were tossed out and the other two were temporarily tossed aside. Evidently, going through the mails at a major newspaper is almost as bad as going through an e-mail inbox. (Today I think I received my one millionth e-mail advertisement written in Chinese.)
While it may sometimes be tempting to automatically toss everything in the trash, the reality is that some things in such a "mailstrom" might actually be worth reading. My e-mail inbox frequently contains messages which are very interesting, although often not for the reasons the writers intended. For example, yesterday I received an e-mail which shows one person's line of thinking about the anthrax case:
I have spoken to people in the know, about the anthrax investigation. It's over!The book to which he refers, "The New Pearl Harbor," has been around for a year and, according to the review in Publisher's Weekly, it agrees with the theory put forth in a French bestseller that the Pentagon was hit by a missile on 9/11, not by American Airlines flight 77, and that "the collapse of the World Trade Center towers most likely was caused by explosives placed throughout the towers, not from the plane crashes."
Based upon one of the Amazon.com reviews for that book, the fact that many people actually saw flight 77 plow into the Pentagon is explained as a "holographic projection" (just like on Star Trek) that was emitted by the cruise missile to make it look like an American Airlines aircraft. Presumably, all the seats, engines, airliner parts and dead bodies photographed at the scene minutes after the crash were "planted evidence".
As totally unbelievable as that all seems, it's virtually impossible to convince people who believe in such massive conspiracies that they are wrong - or even that they could be wrong. Prior to 9/11, I occasionally argued futilely with people who believe the moon landings were all a big government hoax. There are millions who believe it, and they still believe it today, 36 years after the first landing. And, as I shake my head over such beliefs, they shake their heads over my "closed-mindedness" and the "fact" that I cannot see the "truth".
Is the concept of "evidence" really that difficult to accept? What makes it easier for some people to believe that explosives must have been planted in the World Trade Center to bring down the buildings, instead of it being a matter of fuel load, impact point and structural characteristics? All I know is that if you try to explain the effects of fuel load, impact points and structural characteristics to those who see a conspiracy, it's like talking to a wall. Their eyes go blank and they don't hear a word you are saying, since you are talking technical and scientific "mumbo jumbo" while everything they believe is very simple and can be easily explained by just three words: "massive government conspiracy".
Sometimes I wonder if I shouldn't have ignored the evidence about the anthrax case and instead just written a book about how aliens from outer space were behind the anthrax attacks. No one could prove me wrong. Some kind of massive conspiracy would easily explain why the government wasn't looking for aliens from outer space. The recent movie "The Forgotten" made big bucks with such an idea.
But, being an analyst, I'm stuck with analyzing facts and evidence. So, while I can say that the facts and evidence most likely indicate the anthrax attacks were the work of a scientist who lives and works in Central New Jersey, I can also see that different facts and evidence clearly indicate that it would be much easier and profitable to just blame everything on "the government". And you don't even need to explain statements like this:
It seems that our government needs to keep it quiet so as not anger those in power.Futile or not, I'm looking forward to the hearing in the Hatfill vs Ashcroft lawsuit which I believe is still scheduled to take place this week Friday, April 22.
Even though Judge Walton gave the government until April 22 to solve the case or he would allow Dr. Hatfill's lawyers to question government scientists about the anthrax investigation, I seriously doubt the case will be solved this week or that Dr. Hatfill's lawyers are going to be allowed to question investigators and scientists about an "ongoing case". (I hope I'm wrong about both items.)
In case you've forgotten, that issue is mainly about Count IV in Hatfill's lawsuit.
Count I states that "Mr. Ashcroft, and the individual defendants knowingly, willfully, and intentionally violated Dr. Hatfill's Fifth Amendment rights to liberty and property without due process of law."
Count II states that "Unknown agents of the FBI and employees of the DOJ, with the knowledge, encouragement, acquiescence, and complicity of Defendant Mr. Ashcroft, sought to punish and retaliate against Dr. Hatfill for the excercise of his First Amendment rights."
Count III is about violating the Privacy Act and states that "Both the FBI and the DOJ have intentionally and willfully disclosed 'records' pertaining to Dr. Hatfill from within the 'systems of records' to other individuals and/or agencies without Dr. Hatfill's prior written consent or approval."
Count IV states that "Defendant Mr. Ashcroft, Defendant Mr. Harp, and other, as yet unknown, DOJ employees and FBI agents have knowingly, willfully, and maliciously violated DOJ regulations [...] prohibiting the public disclosures that have injured Dr. Hatfill."
And page 2 of the lawsuit provides the alleged motivation behind Count IV:
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.In other words, the claim is that the FBI didn't have anyone else to point at as being the culprit, so they pointed at Dr. Hatfill just to make it appear they were doing something.
As described on this site and in my book, I don't believe that that claim is true. The FBI didn't investigate Dr. Hatfill because they had no one else to investigate, they investigated Dr. Hatfill because conspiracy theorists led by Barbara Hatch Rosenberg were accusing the FBI of covering up a massive government conspiracy involving Dr. Hatfill, a conspiracy which an examination of the available evidence indicates is total nonsense.
But, if the FBI's own investigation found no reason to believe Dr. Hatfill was involved in the anthrax attacks, yet they bowed to outside pressure and turned his life into a living hell anyway, how much difference does it make who applied the pressure?
I have virtually no doubt that Dr. Hatfill was not involved in the anthrax attacks.
I also believe the FBI knows who did it.
But knowing who did it and proving who did it in a court of law are two very different things. And, until the FBI actually does have the proof they need and actually does make an arrest, they have to remain open to "evidence" provided by citizens who feel they have "the necessary proof" - even if it turns out such "proof" is total nonsense, irrelevant speculation or some massive conspiracy involving President Bush and aliens from outer space. If the FBI is seen to shut their eyes and ears to such "evidence", they will be demonstrating to the world that they were not being "thorough" in their investigation. So, while the FBI might still be able to largely ignore endless calls from some individual in Nowhere, Kansas, who believes that the anthrax was sent by a "weird guy" who lived next door in 1988 and was always doing something in his garage late at night, they clearly are not able to ignore conspiracy theorists who have impressive scientific and academic credentials plus public and media support.
While it seems unlikely that the hearing on Friday will provide any earthshattering news, it is a key event. Will Judge Walton order the Hatfill vs Ashcroft trial to begin? Judge Walton seems very reluctant to allow any further delays. And, if he does grant a further delay, some very convincing reason will have to be provided. What will that reason be? Or, if he denies a request for another delay and orders the trial to proceed, what will the DOJ do?
Will the trial become front page news? Will the anthrax attacks once again become the subject of probing questions instead of canned theories?
While the Hatfill vs Ashcroft lawsuit technically has almost nothing to do with the anthrax investigation, in the past it has sometimes provided subtle clues to what is happening in that investigation. All that is needed is for the media to pick up on those clues and to report them, instead of just letting some "expert" or reporter use the opportunity to promote a favorite theory, gripe or cause as if it is news.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, April
thru Saturday, April 16, 2005
April 13, 2005 - I'm still waiting on the first media review of my book. On March 2, I sent copies to a number of reporters I know, but none has yet commented. I'm not sure why. I did an interview a couple weeks ago where the reporter indicated he needed something in the news which he could use as a lead into a mention of the book. If that's true, then the next scheduled "significant event" in the anthrax case is the April 22 hearing in the Hatfill vs Ashcroft et al lawsuit. That's next week Friday.
The learning process continues. Barnes & Noble will probably be selling the book on-line soon, which I believe will mean it can also be ordered at their stores, avoiding shipping costs. There won't be stacks of them on the tables in their stores. Among the requirements for that, I would first have to get lots of impressive media reviews, and they require a "marketing plan", which I don't really have for the First Edition. My current marketing method is called "Throwing it against the wall to see if it sticks.".
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, April
thru Saturday, April 9, 2005
April 6, 2005 - Yesterday, someone mentioned to me that Ari Fleischer's new book "Taking The Heat: The President, the Press, and My Years in the White House" contains about a dozen pages about the anthrax attacks. So, today I went over to my local Barnes & Noble and looked over what the book had to say.
It was nice to find that it confirms some of what I've written in my own book, while including nothing that contradicts anything in my book.
On page 198 Fleischer writes about the early days after Bob Stevens died:
The anthrax briefings were different because I never really knew what to say. The hardest briefings are when you don't know the facts, and the government didn't have any facts to report.On page 200 he describes some events which occurred after the Daschle letter was found:
A couple of days later, I received a briefing on the quality of the anthrax sent to Senator Daschle's office. The person who made it, I was told, must have a degree of sophistication. [...] The anthrax could have been made in a small, well-equipped lab by a Ph.D. or a microbiologist. It was possible he or she had learned the technique from textbooks or the Internet.Fleischer goes on for awhile about erroneous reporting by Peter Jennings and Brian Ross of ABC regarding bentonite, which Jennings and Ross said was in the attack anthrax. Fleischer says the ABC reporting was "what I view as the most worrisome, inaccurate story of my time in the White House."
After Fleischer repeatedly told ABC that there was no bentonite in the anthtrax, he says Jennings and Ross then seemed to imply that the White House was covering up for Iraq. (I don't have the original ABC reports on my site, but I do have the later report from ABC to which Fleisher was referring. It's HERE.)
On page 203, Fleischer says:
Over the next several days, I dug deep into the story. I spoke not only to officials at the NSC but to researchers themselves at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology [AFIP]. They told me the Daschle anthrax contained silicon and oxygen but not aluminum. Since bentonite contains aluminum, if there's no aluminum, they said, there's no bentonite.Beyond that, Fleischer's book says little about the anthrax case except that, as far as he knows, the government still doesn't know who sent the anthrax letters.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, March
thru Saturday, April 2, 2005
April 2, 2005 - Today I received a book review from Richard Preston, author of "The Demon In The Freezer", a book which provides key details I use in my book to describe exactly what happened at USAMRIID and elsewhere in the early days of the investigation (before the door was slammed shut cutting off access to the media).
It's no coincidence that Amazon.com is advertising that people who buy my book are also buying his. (Amazon.com also points out that our books can be purchased together as a way to eliminate shipping costs.)
It's also no coincidence that every real review on Amazon.com will probably be followed by a childish and hateful review from someone who doesn't like me or what my book says. "Flaming" has a long tradition on the Internet.
March 28, 2005 - Yesterday's Wellsville Daily Reporter contains an update on what's been happening to Dr. Kenneth Berry. It reads more like a domestic tragedy than a terrorism thriller. But things are evidently not as bad as they were last August:
"The first couple months were horrible. Law enforcement agencies were not supportive and hostile.The article certainly says nothing that would change my analysis that the FBI's actions were merely to prove it was being thorough in it's investigation of the anthax case. They had to prove to those who continue to believe that Dr. Hatfill is the anthrax culprit that they were not overlooking a "possible connection" who could have somehow assisted Dr. Hatfill. Dr. Berry's only "connection" to Dr. Hatfill is that he once took a one-on-one bioterrorism course from William Patrick III, Dr. Hatfill's friend. To the conspiracy theorists, if the FBI didn't check out that "link", then the FBI was not being "thorough" in its investigation and was continuing to "cover up" for Dr. Hatfill.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, March
thru Saturday, March 26, 2005
March 24, 2005 - The first real review of my book from a scientist or journalist arrived today in the form of a handwritten message. Assuming that it's just the first of several, I created a new section on this page for "Book Reviews" and put it there.
March 22, 2005 - Today's Richmond Times-Dispatch either corrects or clarifies what Robert B. Harris previously said about finding the Ames strain in the tests performed last week:
Harris said it was not surprising because Ames is the strain typically used by labs studying bacillus anthracis.The article also says that the investigation into the source of the Ames is just beginning:
Federal officials say an investigation is getting under way into the possibility that Commonwealth Biotechnologies was the inadvertent source of the anthrax, either through improper testing procedures or contamination within the lab. The Defense Department has labeled the initial tests a "false positive," but Harris said his firm stands by its work.
Harris said Commonwealth Biotechnologies has conducted a "rigorous internal investigation" that included a quality assurance audit of its lab and administrative processes to look at the issue of contamination.
He refused to release any additional test results, but said, "the ball's back over the net," meaning that investigators would take any further steps in the probe.In short, Harris says his company was not behind whatever caused the alarm, and it's up to federal investigators to prove exactly what happened.
But, whatever happened, there doesn't appear to be any evidence that it was another attack like what happened in 2001. No one has found any powder-filled letters. No one has reported any threats. No one has fallen ill.
March 21, 2005 - An article released today by United Press International (UPI) suggests that the facts regarding the anthrax scares from last week are not fully confirmed. And the facts in the article need confirmation, too, since it says:
Robert B. Harris, president and chief executive officer of Commonwealth Biotechnologies Inc. in Richmond, Va., also said the anthrax found was the same genetic strain used in the 2001 attacks.and:
Harris also said the anthrax in the initial samples was the same strain as the organism used during the first anthrax attack via U.S. Mail facilities in the fall of 2001. This was not surprising, however, he said, because it is the most common strain.However, it's my understanding that Ames is a rare strain. The most common strain is probably Vollum, if it isn't one of the unnamed strains from among the 200 or more known strains. For testing purposes, Stern is the strain most commonly used.
So, when a news report contains information that is verifiably bad, and the comments come from the company being blamed for last week's mixup, it's probably a good idea to wait for verification from other sources.
March 20, 2005 - Today's Hartford Courant (and Baltimore Sun and other Tribune newspapers) contains an article titled "Anthrax scare highlights problems similar to those in 2001". It mentions mistakes made by labs and government agencies last week which resulted in scary headlines in the media, scary headlines which supposedly even had an effect on the stock market.
But the unanswered question they do not ask is: Since human beings make mistakes and there is no way to totally elimate human mistakes, when mistakes are made, is there any way to avoid turning a simple mistake into scary headlines?
Are we supposed to have an investigation every time a simple mistake is made? Or just every time the media generates scary headlines because of the simple mistake?
It's clear that the only people who do not make mistakes are people who never do anything. And the people who do the most work probably make the most mistakes - but usually not the same kind of mistakes incompetent people make.
In a highly-charged, politically sensitive area like bioterrorism, we could end up firing our best people. Or we could end up perpetuating bad information which resulted from silly mistakes, because the media was never told of the silly mistake which caused it all, for fear of formal investigations and campaigns demanding firings and punishments.
Or maybe I'm just rambling on about that because my book describes some silly mistakes made in October 2001 which resulted in bad information in the media, which has never been corrected, probably because of the reason just given.
And people continue to argue that the bad information is good information because it was never publicly corrected and no one was publicly punished for making the mistake.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, March
thru Saturday, March 19, 2005
March 17, 2005 - This morning I received a phone call from William Patrick III, America's top expert in bioweapons. He'd just finished reading my book and called to compliment me about it. He said he would be buying copies to send to friends, and he'll be recommending the book to attendees at his lectures as a "must read" book about bioterrorism.
March 16, 2005 - According to New Scientist and The New York Times, yesterday's anthrax scare at the Pentagon and another military mail facility appears to be just another false alarm, which should be great news to everyone. It's definitely great news for me, since there could be amateur detectives out there who were putting two and two together and deciding I had sent the anthrax to promote my book.
On the other hand, my book has a chapter called "To Err Is Human" where I explain in detail how two critical errors were made in government labs, errors which continue to affect the case. I suppose some conspiracy theorist could now come up with a theory that says I also arranged to have the Pentagon scare turn out to be a lab mixup.
Either way, yesterday visits to this site hit a record high for the year.
Meanwhile, a documentary film director who actually read my book has posted a very positive review to the Amazon.com web page. He calls it "Best written review of a complex investigation".
March 15, 2005 - The media is filled with stories about anthrax being found at a Pentagon mail facility and a second military mail facility, and it's beginning to appear that anthrax may really be involved this time. According to the Fox News Channel:
Asked what the chances are of a false positive in the case of the tested culture, the source told FOX News that the likelihood is "low." Field tests often can come back as a false positive, but the secondary tests appear to confirm the DNA test taken at the scene.Meanwhile, The New York Times reports:
People who are knowledgeable about anthrax and involved in the investigation emphasized today that it appeared that no anthrax had been airborne in either facility, and that there was consequently little chance of anyone becoming infected.Since filters from two separate sites appear to have collected anthrax, according to Reuters, the stock market took a hit today on fears that this might prove to be a true anthrax attack, even though the actual "event" evidently happened last Thursday.
It appears that postal facility filters collected last Thursday (March 10) were tested yesterday (March 14), and the news is breaking today (March 15). Although I don't know all the details, that would seem to complicate the task of finding the letter or letters which contained the anthrax - if further tests confirm that it truely was anthrax. If it was, the next big question will be: What strain? Stay tuned.
March 14, 2005 - I still haven't received any reviews or comments from scientists and journalists who have actually read my book. But someone (almost certainly one of the silica coating conspiracy theorists) continues to post hateful, 1-star "reviews" to the Amazon.com page. The latest "review" from "Dale" in Chicago says:
If it was possbile, I would give this self-published piece of nonsensical garbage negative ten stars.Anything that upsets people that much should be worth checking out.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, March
thru Saturday, March 12, 2005
March 10, 2005 - ABC News reported yesterday that, according to a "secret FBI report", "No 'True' Al Qaeda Sleeper Agents Have Been Found in U.S." The report questions al Qaeda's ability to recruit members within the U.S., but doesn't dismiss the possible danger. According to ABC News:
"Al-Qa'ida places a premium on operatives who are not, or at least appear not to be, Arab, particularly those with European or Asian features, according to various detainee reporting," the report reads. "Detainees also report that al-Qa'ida is interested in recruiting US citizens to participate in US operations, particularly African-American converts to Islam."Independent thinking is always a problem to the followers of any dogma, including those who believe there are dangerous al Qaeda sleeper cells currently operating in the U.S., despite the FBI's lack of proof. If there is no proof, these True Believers believe, it just means the FBI hasn't looked hard enough or hasn't looked in the right places.
Lawyer Ross Getman, who runs a web site called "Vanguards of Conquest - Al Qaeda, Anthrax and Ayman", asked permission to review my book before even reading it. He wanted to make certain that people understood that there was another point of view about the anthrax case and who did it, besides mine.
I didn't give him permission. But today he has a review on the Amazon.com web page where my book is described. There's no way he could have purchased a copy, since Amazon.com is probably just receiving its first copies today. (Their inventory report for this morning says they haven't yet stocked it.) But, I suppose it's possible that someone who received an early copy allowed him to see or read theirs. So, I won't ask that the "review" be removed. The "review" does serve to show how fervently some people believe they are right about the case.
I've also received reactions from two others who actually did see the book. For what it's worth, my sister says, "The book looks great." and "I like the way it reads." And an acquiantance who is an independent film director wrote, "I found it well written, as easy to follow as anything written about this case can be, and I was most impressed with your handling of the 'ending'." And then he proceeded to tell me that I hadn't changed his mind about anything, and he still didn't believe the FBI could be pressured into doing things they don't want to do.
Meanwhile, someone asked me if I'd sent a copy to the FBI. I had. And someone else asked me if I'd sent a copy to William Patrick III. I hadn't. He's the one key anthrax expert I've never had contact with. I was then given Mr. Patrick's home address and phone number. So I called, and Mr. Patrick said he would indeed like to read my book, as soon as he returned from a trip - probably this weekend. So, I sent him a copy.
I suspect that the media people who have copies will want to check the facts before they make any comment, particularly since a large part of the book is about the media reporting on rumors and speculation before checking facts. And the scientists who have copies may want to discuss it with others before making a comment. Many journalists and several scientists have said they'd comment, but none has yet done so. For some it's a matter of finding the time to read a book filled with critical details. Most probably just received it early this week. Hopefully there will be some real reviews next week.
Hmmm. Now Amazon.com's site has a review by Jerzy Pollack, who is or was a member of some of the anthrax discussion forums. He almost certainly could not have read the book, so he's reviewing me, not the book.
Ross Getman is a lawyer in New York State. If I recall correctly, Jerzy Pollack is a scientist who lives and works in Central New Jersey who believes another scientist who lives and works in Central New Jersey is the anthrax mailer, but neither Jerzy nor the scientist he suspects is the same scientist who lives and works in Central New Jersey who I think is most likely the anthrax mailer.
Meanwhile, there are now two new reviews on Amazon.com. One is from "Mike" of Arlington, VA, and another from "Harold" in New Jersey. Both give the book the lowest possible rating (offsetting the earlier higher ratings), and they attack me as well as the book. The one from "Harold" is almost certainly from one of the silica coating conspiracy theorists. It says,
Edward Lake's Analyzing The Anthrax Attacks is the worst book I have ever voluntarily read.and
A copy of the book was provided to me 2 days ago and the book promised to deliver new insight into the still unsolved anthrax attacks of 2001. It didn't deliver anything of the sort. Instead, the reader is subjected to a bizarre self-ego- gratification trip by the author in which he makes the ridiculous claim that thousands of FBI agents, reporters, journalists, medical doctors and scientists all made repeated errors in the case. The author firmly believes that he has been anointed with special insight and that he knows better than all of these qualified personnel. However, other than endlessly repeating that there is some undisclosed conspiracy belief at work amongst the media, military and medical profession, he offers absolutely nothing to advance the case.and
Don't waste your time reading this confused drivel and don't make the mistake of buying a copy.Hmmm. Seems to me there's a "controversy". Who ever heard of a "controversial" book? Do such things sell?
March 6, 2005 - Amazon.com's
web site is now taking advance orders for my book. As a
I've changed the icons at the top of the new main page and the
old main page to be links to where the book is being sold on Amazon.com.
Copies were received earlier than expected, and a few are already in
hands of scientists and journalists I've gotten to know over the past
years. I hope to find out during the next week or so what they
to say out it.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2005, thru Saturday, March 5, 2005
February 27, 2005 - The subject of anthrax-related discussions today seems to be perceived "parallels" between the alleged BTK killer and the anthrax mailer. Both evidently "hid in plain sight" after killing near where they live (unless you still think Dr. Hatfill, al Qaeda or Iraq did it). Both may be "respected" members of their communities. And some see a "parallel" between the alleged BTK killer working for a security firm and generating business by killing people and a biodefense insider sending anthrax through the mails to generate more funding for biodefense.
Except for "hiding in plain sight" and being respected members of their communities, I see few or no "parallels". I don't think the BTK killer killed to generate business. Serial killers almost always kill for the "thrill" of it. And the anthrax killer most likely committed his crimes out of fear and frustration, because after 9/11 he felt he could see great dangers which no one else seemed to see or care about. He had no intention to kill. His motivation was to save people from being killed - himself among them.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2005, thru Saturday, February 26, 2005
February 20, 2005 - Today I made the long-overdue change of creating a new "front page" which doesn't require the loading of all the graphics on the old "front page".
People with dial-up modems have frequently complained that it takes too long to load this site when all they want to do is see if there are any new comments or news articles.
In addition, it's less expensive to operate this site if it uses less bandwidth when people just visit the front page.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2005, thru Saturday, February 19, 2005
February 18, 2005 - Today I received the "proofs" for my book. The projected printing date is March 8.
February 13, 2005 - An engineer who consulted on Gary Matsumoto's November 28, 2003, article for Science magazine titled "Anthrax Powder - State of the Art?" sent me this interesting comment on what the Johns Hopkins University microbiologist wrote me last week about van der Waals forces:
This microbiolgy student should stick to microbilogy and leave the subject of small particle dynamics to folks who know best, like surface chemists and physicists and aerosol engineers.This bizarre comment confirms what I write in my book: The dispute over clumping and van der Waals forces appears to be a conflict between engineers who talk about spores in theory (as if all small objects are affected by van der Waals forces in exactly the same way), and microbiologists who talk about how spores interact in reality.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2005, thru Saturday, February 12, 2005
February 11, 2005 - A graduate student from Johns Hopkins University who works as a microbiologist for a government contractor while also working for his Master's Degree in Biotechnology sent me this e-mail message today:
Mr. Lake,I've added a Note to my entry for December 26, 2004, referring to this correction. That's easier than trying to put the correction into layman terminology.
In a second e-mail he explains my "terminology error" further:
You're right to say that Van der Waals forces are always at work, but their effects are usually completely overwhelmed by other forces. The only time you really need to consider them is when there is nothing else at work.After further discussion, it was concluded that the "error" is one of using out-dated terminology. At one time, van der Waals forces included all forms of intermolecular forces, including hydrogen bonding. (Most sources still seem to use the term that way. Check here, hereand here.) Today, according to some sources, including the microbiologist who wrote me, it now includes onlythose forces which arise from induced rather than permanent dipoles (i.e., London forces).
Regardless of how one defines van der Waals forces, the key phrase in the first e-mail confirms my point on how van der Waals forces affect anthrax spores: "Van der Waals forces are actually completely irrelevant."
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2005, thru Saturday, February 5, 2005
February 4, 2005 - In today's Wall Street Journal, science columnist Sharon Begley writes about how "People Believe a 'Fact' That Fits Their Views Even if It's Clearly False". Although she doesn't specifically mention the anthrax case, it certainly applies. And it definitely applies to key people at the Wall Street Journal and their views on the anthrax case.
February 2, 2005 - Although most of my time these days is spent on getting my book into print, I still hunt for news about the anthrax case. Rumors about the discovery proceedings in the Dr. Hatfill lawsuits indicate that there will be no surprises for the readers of this site. There's also a rumor that a well-known conspiracy theorist is preparing an article of some kind which shows that spores in an anthrax simulant made in labs at Dugway Proving Grounds years ago included a silica "coating". Evidently, the conspiracy theorist will use this as some kind of "proof" that the spores used in the attack anthrax must also have been coated with silica.
Plus, yesterday on CNN's web site, there was an article titled "Lone wolves - Solitary threats harder to hunt" by Henry Schuster. The anthrax attacks are mentioned:
Ask Potok and the folks at the SPLC and they will tell you they believe the anthrax killer is a lone wolf -- and probably not an Islamic terrorist, despite the letters that were sent in late 2001 containing the anthrax, which seemed to signal this was an al Qaeda-style attack. Potok and company base this belief in part on how the killer has gone quiet since the flurry of letters in late 2001 -- and that there have been no claims by international terror groups.That's what passes as "news" about the anthrax attacks these days.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2005, thru Saturday, January 29, 2005
January 28, 2005 - It appears I've passed the "point of no return" on my book. Even if a publisher wanted to look at it now, I'd still be going ahead with self-publishing.
The writing of the book is complete. The typesetting of the book is complete - except for the index. A book manufacturer has been selected. But I'm waiting on the ISBN (The International Standard Book Number) and the LCCN (Library of Congress Card Number). It will be a trade paperback, 272 pages in length (including table of contents, index, etc.) Until I have the ISBN and LCCN numbers, I cannot send the typeset files to the book manufacturer so they can provide a probable publication date.
Meanwhile, I've removed the "Publisher Wanted" boxes from the top of this site and replaced them with links to information about the book. I'm still hoping the book will be available for sale at Amazon.com and elsewhere in March.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2005, thru Saturday, January 22, 2005
January 19, 2005 - The lack of any news in the anthrax case is giving me plenty of time to work on my book. I've just about completed the typesetting. Monday, I'll choose a printer and, hopefully, get some idea of when it will be printed.
Meanwhile, someone else is promoting a book. Dr. Hugh Cort had a press conference on Tuesday to announce that he's running for President. And he's also promoting this 66-page "book". His press release says "Dr. Hugh Cort is a psychiatrist who has spent years researching terrorism sources. He belongs to the Republican National Committee's President's Club, and the Republican Senatorial Inner Circle.
One journalist who read the "book" described it to me this way:
There are about eight paragraphs in chapter 3 devoted to proving Iraq is behind the anthrax attacks. A 1993 article in the Birmingham News is cited as proof that the US provided Iraq with the Ames strain of anthrax.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2005, thru Saturday, January 15, 2005
January 12, 2005 - In what passes as "anthrax news" these days, today's Washington Post contains an article which begins this way:
The hunt for biological, chemical and nuclear weapons in Iraq has come to an end nearly two years after President Bush ordered U.S. troops to disarm Saddam Hussein. The top CIA weapons hunter is home, and analysts are back at Langley.For those who still continue to believe Iraq was behind the anthrax attacks of 2001, this means the searchers didn't search hard enough and gave up too soon, for everyone else it means it's time to say, "I told you so."
|Updates & Changes: Saturday,
2005, thru Saturday, January 8, 2005
January 6, 2005 - My only 2005 New Year's Resolution is to get my book printed early this year. I haven't been able to get any large publishers to read it, and, even if they did ask to read it, small publishers typically take 9 to 18 months to get a book into print, so it appears that self-publishing is the only way to go.
Sunday I bought a book about self-publishing. Monday and Tuesday I obtained quotes on publishing costs from 5 book manufacturers. And yesterday I began doing the typesetting. I don't know how long it will take, but the goal is to get the book into print by early March. I'll remove the "Publisher Wanted" icons from the top of the site as soon as I have something to replace them with -- like ads for the book. (The book will be sold via amazon.com and other such sites, not via this web site. Whether or not it will be sold in book stores remains to be seen.)