|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2007, thru Monday, December 31, 2007
December 30, 2007 - Since everything seems quiet during the holiday season, it's a good time to summarize what I saw as the key events for each month of the past year.
In January, the Hatfill v New York Times lawsuit was dismissed by Judge Hilton on the basis that Dr. Hatfill was a "public figure." Dr. Hatfill appealed that ruling, and the New York Times cross-appealed. There's been no word about when the appeals will be heard by a higher court.
In February, the Hatfill v Foster lawsuit was settled. The details of the settlement were not made public, but the fact that his lawyers were among the "satisfied parties" and they worked on a contingency basis, indicated that Dr. Hatfill received a substantial sum of money as part of the settlement.
In March, CBS's "60 Minutes" added a major entry to the long list of inaccurate and distorted media reports about the anthrax investigation. Totally ignoring Barbara Hatch Rosenberg's six month campaign to force the FBI to publicly investigate Dr. Hatfill, CBS made it appear that it was the FBI who suddenly decided to publicly make Dr. Hatfill a "person of interest" in July of 2002.
In April I saw a demonstration of how important the Internet has become in reporting news. Salon.com printed an opinion piece by Glenn Greenwald titled "The unresolved story of ABC News' false Saddam-anthrax reports" which mentioned me, and my web site was hit by the biggest flood of visitors in its entire history.
In May, in his deposition, FBI Special Agent Bradley Garrett made a guess about who was doing the leaking in the Hatfill case, and we now know it turned out to be a most excellent guess:
Well, I will tell you that it's been my experience that the vast majority of all leaks come from upper management, they don't come from people investigating the case. So, my focus would probably be at the upper management levels of the field office and headquarters and the Department of Justice.In June, the flood of motions and counter-motions about Judge Waltons' pending Order to compel five reporters to name their confidential sources came to an end. A deposition of Brian Ross of ABC shows very clearly that Barbara Hatch Rosenberg was giving her theories about the anthrax case to the media long before the FBI began their public investigation of Dr. Hatfill.
In July, the news about the Goldman Sachs threat letters was the most interesting event for me. Although there is no direct connection to the anthrax attacks, the large amount of information made public about the 70 threat letters sent to small newspapers around the country demanded an analysis. Things got even more interesting when, a few days after I started my analysis, the culprit wrote "explanation letters" claiming it was all just a "prank" and asking the authorities to simply forget that it happened.
In August, Judge Walton finally issued his Order to Compel five reporters to name their confidential sources. But all that meant was that the five reporters had one last chance to provide the names to Dr. Hatfill in depositions.
In September, the biggest event for me was the breakup of "The Core Four," a group that had been discussing and sharing information about the anthrax attacks for almost six years. Early in the month, discussions had been getting very heated, and when one member who had been basically neutral joined the side of the conspiracy theorists, the discussions suddenly became essentially pointless. It was clear that the views of all four individuals could not be changed except by solid new facts. So, all discussions were put on hold until some solid new facts become known.
In October, Judge Walton issued a 55-day Stay Order in the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit. Also, Kay Mereish of the United Nations seemed to join the conspiracy theorists who felt the FBI was not telling the truth about the nature of the anthrax powder used in the attacks of 2001. But, for me, the biggest event was the creation of a new supplemental page where I addressed scientific questions about how tiny particles interact due to van der Waals forces. I did it as an attempt to solve the coatings controversy in a totally different way. While doing research for that page, I found a few articles which seemed to indicate that the FBI may have concluded its investigation of the anthrax attacks of 2001, but the Department of Justice may not be ready to authorize an arrest. One key problem seems to be that there is no solid legal precedent for using the new science of microbial forensics in court. If the judge feels a precedent is required, an premature attempt to make a case based upon that science could result in a dismissal.
In November, as a result of an effort by a "third party" with his own agenda, I started receiving cease & desist letters from media organizations who complained about copyrights violations. Reuters was first on November 7, followed by The Washington Post and Newsweek on November 20. Then The Wall Street Journal on November 26. As a result, I had to remove all articles by those news organizations from this web site. I felt I was within "fair use" guidelines, but I cannot afford to fight the matter in court.
In December, I had a lengthy and fascinating discussion with a doctor who had been intimately involved in the investigation into the source of Kathy Nguyen's anthrax infection. However, another event turned out to be more important: An outstanding question about the investigation of Dr. Hatfill seemed to be answered by the release of part of the deposition of Daniel S. Seikaly. While there was no solid proof of anything, all the facts seemed to indicate that the story printed in Newsweek about bloodhounds using scent packs taken from the anthrax letters was based upon totally bogus information created to find out who was leaking confidential information to the media. And that leaker may have been Mr. Seikaly. Looking back on earlier comments, it seems that some people knew for years who was leaking the information, but making it official for use in court is a very different matter.
Although these and many other fascinating events occurred during 2007, it appears that 2008 definitely has the potential to be far more interesting. The Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit is reaching a point where they will either have to settle or go to trial. The decision could be made in the status conference scheduled for January 11.
And before that happens, on Friday of this week, January 4, Dr. Hatfill may respond to the Motions for Reconsideration filed by James Stewart and Toni Locy. Since it appears that none of the three recently identified and deposed "confidential sources" actually used confidential information from confidential government files, it's very uncertain how these sources affect Dr. Hatfill's Privacy Act case. Maybe his response will tell us.
The first few weeks of 2008, at least, could be very interesting.
December 23, 2007 - A very interesting piece of the anthrax puzzle seems to have fallen into place during the past week. It fits in the section of the anthrax puzzle that relates to Dr. Hatfill. The piece was found in the deposition of Daniel S. Seikaly.
To understand how the piece fits (or seems to fit), you have to understand that back in 2002 & 2003 there were several investigations going on at the same time, and each had its own objectives: (1) The investigation to identify, arrest and convict the anthrax mailer was underway. (2) In June of 2002, as a result of a campaign by a bunch of conspiracy theorists and their followers, an investigation of Dr. Hatfill was also started to see if Dr. Hatfill had anything at all to do with the anthrax attacks. (3) There was concern within the FBI that the leaking of confidential information to the media about investigations #1 and #2 could hurt those investigations, and there was at least one additional investigation underway to find who was doing the leaking.
The new piece to the puzzle relates to investigation #3.
In August of 2002, when it became clear to me that Dr. Hatfill was an innocent man whose life had been ruined by some conspiracy theorists, I assembled a lot of pieces of information about the investigation of Dr. Hatfill and laid out those pieces in a supplemental web page called "Steven J. Hatfill And The Clueless Media." The pieces which prompted the creation of that page were the pieces which related to the use of bloodhounds to supposedly connect Dr. Hatfill to the anthrax letters. The "facts" described in the media seemed totally preposterous, particularly those in an August 12, 2002, Newsweek article written by Mark Miller and Daniel Klaidman. I felt there had to be some other explanation for the use of the bloodhounds.
Unfortunately, the Newsweek article is no longer available on this site. But there are copies elsewhere on the Internet. One site with an on-line copy that seems clearly within the "fair use" copyrights rule is the site run by UCLA's Department of Epidemiology. The key paragraph from that article contains this highly-questionable "information":
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. The agents quietly brought the dogs to various locations frequented by a dozen people they considered possible suspects -- hoping the hounds would match the scent on the letters. In place after place, the dogs had no reaction. But when the handlers approached the Frederick, Md., apartment building of Dr. Steven J. Hatfill, an eccentric 48-year-old scientist who had worked in one of the Army’s top bioweapons-research laboratories, the dogs immediately became agitated, NEWSWEEK has learned. "They went crazy," says one law-enforcement source. The agents also brought the bloodhounds to the Washington, D.C., apartment of Hatfill’s girlfriend and to a Denny’s restaurant in Louisiana, where Hatfill had eaten the day before. In both places, the dogs jumped and barked, indicating they’d picked up the scent.While doing research, I noticed that back on August 20, 2003, I wrote in a comment:
The bloodhound reports supposedly came from low-level lawyers in the Washington Office of the Department of Justice, not from FBI agents actually investigating the case.I'm not certain where I got that information, but it was probably from a source close to Dr. Hatfill who I'd talked with at length a couple months earlier. I doubt it was from the telephone conversations I also had with Dr. Hatfill around that same time.
My analysis had indicated the Newsweek story was bogus and that the real reason the bloodhounds had been sniffing around Dr. Hatfill was because the FBI had for awhile lost the 24/7 tail they had on him. Dr. Hatfill had apparently driven down to Baton Rouge to look around Louisiana State University where he'd just accepted a job. And it appeared that, on the drive back to Maryland, the FBI lost track of him. The facts indicated that they'd last seen him at the Denny's restaurant in Louisiana. So, that's where the bloodhounds picked up the trail. With the conspiracy theorists and their Senate staffer supporters ready to pounce on any mistake made by the FBI in their investigation of Dr. Hatfill, the FBI had to determine where Dr. Hatfill had been during the time he'd gone missing. The bloodhounds sniffed around the driveway of the home of Dr. Hatfill's friend William Patrick III but found nothing. They supposedly also sniffed around the storage locker Dr. Hatfill kept in Florida. Again, nothing. And the same with sniffings where other "persons of interest" were located. And then, because the hunt is just a game to the bloodhounds, a game which needs to have a happy ending and a tasty treat to keep the dogs motivated for the next case, the bloodhounds were allowed to "find" Dr. Hatfill at his apartment. According to Newsweek, "one of the dogs excitedly bounded right up to Hatfill."
This indicates that the scent in the "scent packs" used by the bloodhounds to track Dr. Hatfill's movements was probably obtained from an item of Dr. Hatfill's clothing.
The question is: Where did that baloney about "scent packs lifted from anthrax-tainted letters mailed to Sens. Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy" come from?
That brings us to Daniel S. Seikaly's deposition dated October 10, 2007.
The deposition begins with a "brief statement" read by Mr. Seikaly's lawyer, Eric Dubelier. In part, that statement says,
The plaintiff in this matter has subpoenaed Mr. Seikaly to testify under oath in a deposition regarding alleged contacts between Mr. Seikaly and two members of the media. These contacts allegedly occurred over five years ago when Mr. Seikaly served as the chief of the criminal division in the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia.The two "members of the media" are Daniel Klaidman of Newsweek (co-author of the article cited above) and Allan Lengel of The Washington Post. The statement read by Mr. Seikaly's lawyer then says,
On behalf of Mr. Seikaly, I've proffer to the United States the substance of Mr. Seikaly's testimony, were he to agree to testify in this matter.The statement then says that the Department of Justice has declined to "make any assurances to Mr. Seikaly at this time" that there will be no investigation or prosecution in connection with this matter. And it later says,
Given Mr. Seikaly's long public service, combined with the facts and circumstances of this matter, we believe that the Department of Justice's refusal to make any assurance to Mr. Seikaly regarding possible prosecution for violations of the Privacy Act is unfair and repugnant.And later it says,
As such, Mr. Seikaly at this time will assert his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination in response to any and all questions relating to the fact or substance of any contacts he may have had with the media, or any questions relating to knowledge he may or may not have had about the investigation that's at issue in this lawsuit until such time as the Department of Justice gives the assurances that we've requested.That information starts on page 7 and goes through the first line on page 12 of the deposition (pages 3 and 4 of the .pdf file). At the bottom of page 49 of the deposition, Mr. Hatfill's lawyer says,
I believe you told me you had a frequent experience of attending briefings with the FBI and finding the information make its way right into the press after that; is that correct?Mr. Seikaly's reply is "Yes." And Dr. Hatfill's lawyer then says on page 50:
Okay, and you believe that those leaks were coming from the FBI.To which Mr. Seikaly responds,
I think I said I didn't know who else would have the information other than the FBI; however, the FBI -- this is my recollection. The FBI not only briefed United States Attorney's Office, also briefed the Department of Justice and the director of the FBI on a regular basis, sometimes seriatim, the same day.On page 75 of the depostion, Dr. Hatfill's lawyer starts to discuss Exhibit 92A, which is apparently the Newsweek article about the bloodhounds. Whenever he asks a question about that exhibit, Mr. Seikaly refuses to answer, citing the opening statement and his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. Starting on page 79, Dr. Hatfill's lawyer asks a number of questions which are all answered by citing the Fifth Amendment. Some of the questions are:
Did you disclose to Mr. Klaidman that bloodhounds were used as an investigative technique in the anthrax investigation?The lawyers for the different sides then got into a lengthy discussion about whether the Fifth Amendment was being used when refusing to answer or if Mr. Seikaly was refusing to answer because the information is privileged law enforcement information that cannot be divulged. On page 89, Paul G. Freeborne, Esquire, who represents the various government agencies, makes what could be a very important statement:
Judge Walton has ordered us to recognize that bloodhounds ostensibly used for law enforcement purposes were used in the investigation. We provided discovery responses along those lines. To the extent that you seek to drill down further and -- about exactly how the dogs were used and in particular in connection with Dr. Hatfill, that is where the privilege is triggered, so I think everybody should understand that now.When they resolve that issue, Dr. Hatfill's lawyer continues with more questions about what Mr. Seikaly may have said to Mr. Klaidman until section A of the transcript ends.
I could be totally off base on this, but what I get out of all this is that Mr. Seikaly could have been trapped by a very common tactic used to catch leakers and spies. When you suspect someone of leaking classified information, you give that person some false information and wait to see if it gets leaked.
That would certainly explain how such absurd information about the scent packs got to the media. It wasn't meant to be believed. It was meant to serve as a trap for a leaker.
If this is true, you may ask: why wasn't Mr. Seikaly prosecuted? The answer: Prosecuted for what? He didn't violate the Privacy Act by divulging information given to him verbally by FBI agents. The Privacy Act is all about revealing confidential information contained in confidential files. Repeating something you heard is NOT a violation. Besides, bogus information used in this situation was probably not in government files -- it almost certainly wasn't in Dr. Hatfill's file. And it was evidently part of Mr. Seikaly's job to talk with people in the media. If he broke the law, it could be some other law about confidentiality related to his work. And if it was a trap, doesn't that assume that entrapment can be used as a defense?
Then there's the question of which lawyer in the Department of Justice is going to prosecute another lawyer in the DOJ as a result of a sting operation set up by the FBI -- particularly if the defendant is a highly placed DOJ lawyer?
And who would want to do this in a demoralized Department of Justice that had for years been in turmoil as a result of being led by one incompetent after another?
And who would want to do this when the Attorney General at the time, John Ashcroft, seemingly violated every rule in the book by publicly describing Dr. Hatfill as a "person of interest" to the media?
While there's no solid proof of anything here, all the facts seem to indicate that the bogus information about scent packs printed in Newsweek was created just to trap a leaker. And that leaker may have been Mr. Seikaly. (Mr. Seikaly is no longer in the government. He is currently a partner in a private law firm.)
There definitely could be other explanations for all this, but for me it's a nicely fitting piece that nicely solves another small part of a very big puzzle.
How it affects Dr. Hatfill's lawsuit is a question for which I have no answer. Maybe there'll be an answer in Dr. Hatfill's response -- which is due on January 4, 2008.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2007, thru Saturday, December 22, 2007
December 20, 2007 (B) - The Associated Press has just released an article about the Hatfill case titled "Reporters Say Hatfill Partly to Blame." The article says,
"Hatfill seeks contempt sanctions against a news reporter whose testimony he no longer needs, for a failure to testify that has done him no harm, arising from disclosures he himself instigated," attorneys for Stewart wrote.Looking through Toni Locy's "Declaration Opposing Motion For Contempt," I see she seems to be saying that a lot of information which Dr. Hatfill's lawyer Tom Connolly claims was "confidential" came from Tom Connolly himself. But it's hard to determine the exact chain of events. It appears that someone in the media reported something said by government officials which Tom Connolly then discussed with other reporters who did further reporting. Toni Locy's Declaration says,
26. Upon being retained by Dr. Hatfill, Mr. Connolly had numerous conversations with me about the investigation, including discussions about the topics that are the subject of Dr. Hatfill's privacy claim. Our conversations were numerous and routine and became more frequent when something developed in the anthrax investigation. I knew, of course, that Mr. Connolly was trying to influence my reporting so that it was more favorable to plaintiff, and it was understandable for him to do so. In that regard Mr. Connolly repeatedly told me during conversations that the government's investigation was unfair and that the investigators did not have anything on Dr. Hatfill. At no time, however, was Mr. Connolly a confidential source.It's an interesting tactic, but I'm not sure how this "counter-attack" strategy will work before Judge Walton. It seems to be a variation on the "blame the victim" strategy. And Toni Locy's Declaration also seems to have a "I thought we were on good terms and then you stab me in the back" tone to it.
December 20, 2007 (A) - Toni Locy also filed a Motion for Reconsideration yesterday, along with supporting documents. As before, she says she simply does not remember which FBI or DOJ officials gave her what information. Her Memorandum of Law says this:
Locy has also respectfully refused to reveal the names of confidential sources who gave her information about terrorism and anthrax issues in general. Disclosing those names would implicate other articles that do not mention the plaintiff and are not part of his case, and would violate Locy’s promises of confidentiality to sources unrelated to this case. Locy has, however, reached out to those sources and tried to get them to release her from her promises of confidentiality. Two of those sources did so, and their names were promptly given to plaintiff’s counsel. At their depositions, neither recalled what information he provided to Locy. And despite these recent conversations, Locy still does not remember who provided her with the specific information about plaintiff contained in the two articles.Meanwhile, looking through some of the documents filed by James Stewart, I see that some were previously "under seal," although why they were "under seal" is a bit of a mystery, since they don't seem to contain anything truly confidential.
Edwin C. Gogswell was one of the government officials deposed. He was an FBI employee for over 30 years, and at the time of the "leaks" he was a "public affairs specialist," whose job was to work with the media to answer questions they might have about work done by the FBI. He was not an FBI agent and did not work cases. The depositions were about what he told Brian Ross, Toni Locy and James Stewart during this time. His basic answer was that he didn't recall exactly what was said to any of them. He says he never considered himself to be a confidential source. However, Brian Ross evidently considered him to be a "confidential source," since Ross asked Gogswell if he would sign a confidentiality waiver.
Roscoe C. Howard was another one of the government officials deposed. He identified himself as having talked with Michael Isikoff of Newsweek and Allan Lengel of The Washington Post. He admits to being a "confidential source." At the time of the "leaks," he was the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. The key point I see in his deposition is that he never saw any "leaked" information which clearly had to come from an investigator or a confidential file. The type of "confidential information" he saw could have been "leaked" by people in positions like secretary, stenographer or just some intern with a desk close to someone who may have talked with an investigator.
Daniel S. Seikaly was another one of the government officials deposed. At the time of the "leaks," he was chief of the criminal division of the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia. The depositions say that whatever he knew about the Hatfill case was verbally communicated to him by FBI officials, so he had no access to FBI confidential files and, therefore, could not have violated the Privacy Act. However, he basically refuses to provide any information until he gets assurances from the Department of Justice that he will not be prosecuted for whatever he did or said.
The general feeling from skimming through the depositions is that these sources didn't provide any "confidential information" about Dr. Hatfill, although what they said to reporters may have been interpreted as being "confidential information." Or, what they said could have been put together with other things the reporter knew to create something the reporter felt was "confidential information." Whether it was truly "confidential information" or just "pure speculation" is the big question.
December 19, 2007 (B) - James Stewart (formerly with CBS News) has filed his "Motion for Reconsideration" in the Hatfill vs FBI lawsuit. As I understand it from reading some of the supporting documents, basically he's saying his confidential sources have already been identified, plus there is some new legal precedent which now applies to this case. Here's what it says in the Memorandum of Law:
First, after the Court’s decision, three different senior Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and/or FBI officials have voluntarily waived promises of confidentiality they secured from non-party reporters in this case, including Mr. Stewart. Each has now been deposed under oath: One asserted a Fifth Amendment privilege against selfincrimination in response to all questions related to whether he disclosed the information at issue to reporters; one testified that he confirmed certain such information for reporters; and a third testified that he spoke with reporters (sometimes on background, and frequently with Mr. Stewart) but could not recall what he told them about Dr. Hatfill specifically or about the anthrax investigation more generally. Taken together with (1) the previous testimony of five reporters, including Mr. Stewart, that all of the disclosures cited by Dr. Hatfill as pivotal to his case were made by at least one of these three sources, and (2) the previous testimony by three additional DOJ and/or FBI officials that they too made analogous disclosures about Dr. Hatfill to the press and public, the record in this case now contains substantial evidence that all the categories of disclosures at issue were in fact made by specifically identified employees of the defendant agencies.I need to study the first key documents to see which of the rest might be worth paying money for to download.
Toni Locy may also have filed a response today, but, if so, it wasn't in the docket as of the time I shut down for the day.
December 19, 2007 (A) - While doing some research, I stumbled upon an interesting article from the December 4, 2001, issue of The New York Times which I had never seen before and didn't have on this web site. Since I'm a big fan of the TV show "House," it had a double impact. The article describes why there were so many misdiagnoses in the early days of the anthrax attacks of 2001:
Dr. Joseph S. Pagano, emeritus director of the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of North Carolina, said recent changes in practice might lead to undetected anthrax cases. Dr. Pagano said that earlier in his career, when he was an infectious disease expert, he would have been reprimanded ''if I ever dared to put somebody on antibiotics without first obtaining a culture and making a diagnosis because that approach makes you less likely to miss something real important.''It appears the current common practice for treating infections is to use the "shotgun approach," i.e., they give the patient an antibiotic which kills a multitude of bacteria, and if it works, fine. They cured it -- whatever it was. If it doesn't cure it, then they might try something else. As a last resort, they might actually do some testing -- or call in someone like Dr. Gregory House.
December 16, 2007 - (B) - Today's Arizona Republic contains an interesting article which describes how Professor Paul Keim of Northern Arizona University was first contacted by the FBI and asked to check the DNA of the anthrax bacteria taken from Bob Stevens' spinal fluid. It happened on the afternoon of Oct. 4, 2001. He was contacted because his lab had the world's largest database of about 2,000 anthrax strains. A sample was carried to him by a blonde FBI agent. He accepted the sample from her at Flagstaff's Pulliam Airport.
A glass tube nestled in ice held the culture from Stevens' body. Keim and a couple of his key researchers worked through the night, isolating, processing and magnifying the DNA using machines and computers similar to ones found in crime labs. In the early morning, they compared the results with their anthrax database. They found a match: a virulent type called the Ames strain. The U.S. Army developed the lab strain in the 1980s as a test for the anthrax vaccine.There are words and sentences in the article like the use of the word "developed" above which are the reporter's interpretation of what she was told. While not entirely accurate, and somewhat misleading, they're not worth making a big deal about.
Interestingly, Keim was also checked out by the FBI to see if he could have sent the letters. But he was in Arizona at the time of the mailings. The article also says,
He, like many others, wondered who did it.While Professor Keim declined to say whom he suspected, it's interesting that these kinds of details are becoming known after six years. The other day, while talking with someone else peripherally involved in the investigation who contacted me about the case, I learned that the anthrax letter sent to the New York Post was found in a bag of trash on a freight elevator.
December 16, 2007 (A) - Although the status conference in the Hatfill vs FBI lawsuit has been rescheduled to the middle of next month, the responses from news reporters Toni Locy (formerly with USA Today) and James Stewart (formerly with CBS News) to Dr. Hatfill's motion to have Judge Walton cite them for Contempt of Court are still due this week -- on Wednesday, December 19.
There's no reason to expect anything significant from the response, but the response was delayed so that the two reporters could have time to read depositions from FBI and other government officials that had been under seal. Those depositions were unsealed for some unexplained reason on December 3.
Toni Locy's claim in refusing to name her confidential sources is that she does not remember which FBI agents or DOJ officials gave her what information about Dr. Hatfill. The depositions might help her to remember.
James Stewart reportedly identified one FBI source who gave him information about Dr. Hatfill but refused to name three others. Stewart is claiming that Judge Walton is wrong in ordering him to name those three confidential sources. That's a difficult argument to make in Judge Walton's courtroom, but it's possible that the depositions might contain the names and/or in some way eliminate the need to keep them confidential.
Delaying the status conference until Friday, January 11, 2008, should provide enough time for all these matters to play themselves out. That should mean that the status conference should be when Judge Walton sets a date for the start of the trial.
The fact that the vast majority of lawsuits are settled before going to court still says that this case may also be settled, but there's been no clear indication that that will happen. Plus, whenever politics are part of an issue, as they are in this case, the key question is always the same: What will the compromise be?
Presumably, the basic issues preventing a settlement are (1) that Dr. Hatfill wants his name cleared, and (2) the government doesn't want to release any information about why and how Dr. Hatfill became a "person of interest" in July of 2002 even though the FBI had checked out Dr. Hatfill in late 2001 and found no reason to believe he had anything to do with the anthrax attacks.
However, as I've written many times, the FBI is not a Borg Collective where everyone thinks exactly alike and everyone knows what everyone else knows. Depositions long ago showed that some FBI agents and some DOJ officials did indeed believe that Dr. Hatfill could be the anthrax killer. Some of those agents and officials may have been the same people who leaked confidential information about Dr. Hatfill to the media.
If we've learned anything from all the conspiracy theories obscuring the true facts of the Amerithrax investigation, if Dr. Hatfill's name is to be cleared, it isn't enough to just have Dr. Hatfill get a settlement check for an undisclosed amount and a vague apology, as happened in the Hatfill vs Foster lawsuit. If Dr. Hatfill's name is to be truly cleared, everyone needs to know why those FBI agents believed Dr. Hatfill could be guilty even though all the facts said otherwise.
Technically, the Hatfill vs FBI lawsuit is just about whether or not government officials gave confidential information from confidential government files to news reporters in violation of the Privacy Act. There seems little doubt that government officials did do that. But the "truth" and a "satisfactory solution" to the lawsuit seem to depend upon a public declaration of why they did what they did.
The facts seem clear and have been known for nearly six years. They are explained in detail on this web site and in chapters 11 & 12 of my book. But, as countless news reports about the Amerithrax investigation have shown, in the real world, no two people seem to be able to view the facts the same way when beliefs and reputations have more value than facts.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2007, thru Saturday, December 15, 2007
December 13, 2008 - The Status Conference that was scheduled for tomorrow in the Hatfill vs FBI lawsuit has been postponed until January 11, 2008. No explanation given.
December 11, 2007 - Discussions resulting from my Sunday & Monday comments about the Kathy Nguyen case have brought to light the largely forgotten fact that the supply room where Kathy Nguyen worked at The Manhattan Eye, Ear & Throat Hospital was located in the same general area as their mail room. According to CNN, mail from the anthrax-contaminated Morgan Station mail facility in Manhattan would have gone through the mail room near where Nguyen worked. Tests of the area found no anthrax spores, but it's another factor which has to be taken into account when trying to figure out how Kathy Nguyen was exposed. And since the Morgan Station facility was contaminated by the NBC, CBS, ABC and Post letters, it's another factor pointing away from Nguyen being exposed to spores from the senate mailing.
Using Google to dig through old news articles about the Nguyen case, I found some I didn't have in my archive, including an article from the November 5, 2001, issue of Time Magazine which included this prophetic comment:
"This is new ground," says Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. "Years from now, people will look at our experience and say, 'Ah, we know spores can do A, B, C, D and E, but in October 2001, they weren't sure of that.'"That's a comment that everyone should remember.
December 9-10, 2007 - When a person sits down to analyze all the data about a major crime that has the scope, complexity and significance of the anthrax attacks of 2001, he or she can never tell where an important piece of new information may come from. For six years, I have purposely argued with people who see things from totally different points of view than I in hopes that they might furnish me with something new about the case. And there have been countless times over the years when they did provide valuable new information which they felt supported their arguments, and which I either viewed as supporting my analysis or which caused me to modify my analysis.
Many times the arguments were about things which seemingly had nothing to do with solving the case, but which might help put an end to some specific point of analytical disagreement. I consider such arguments extremely worthwhile because there's no way to tell how or where new information will show up. While arguing about something which has no direct bearing on solving the case, you can sometimes suddenly realize some key fact you never thought about before which does relate to the case.
During the past week I had a long discussion with someone who was intimately involved in the 2001 investigation into how Kathy Nguyen was exposed to anthrax. As a result of that discussion, I looked over what I'd written about the case in my book and on the web page I created about the subject and last updated on June 12, 2003.
During those discussions, I learned that the location of the New York City Department of Health laboratory that handled the NBC letter wasn't in the NYCDOH facilities on Worth Street near Chinatown, as I wrote in my book. The NYCDOH lab that handled the letter is over 50 blocks north of Chinatown, at 455 First Avenue. That dramatically reduces the chances of Kathy Nguyen somehow having been exposed while shopping in Chinatown, which is a possibility I discussed in my book. And the possibility of her somehow being exposed by anthrax contaminated trash, as I discussed in my web page about Kathy Nguyen, no longer seems very likely, either.
However, since anthrax isn't contagious, she had to have either come in contact with someone whose clothes were covered with spores -- or she had to have been exposed in some other totally unknown way.
Since I've "frozen" all the things I wrote prior to 2005, and now I'm primarily looking to see where I was right and where I was wrong back then, I'm tempted to create a new web page with a title something like "Revisiting The Kathy Nguyen Investigation." But, I'm not sure that I have enough new material to justify creating such a page. So, I'll just make some comments here.
While doing research into Kathy Nguyen's case as a result of the discussions last week, I found a New York Times article from November 6, 2001, that I didn't previously have on my site. I added it. The article said this about the Nguyen case:
Of the anthrax cases, Ms. Nguyen's stands alone in defying comprehension. She contracted a lethal dose of inhalation anthrax, but no traces of the bacteria have been found anyplace she is known to have been in her last few weeks or on any item of clothing she might have worn.It was nice to learn that someone else believes that Ms. Nguyen was almost certainly NOT infected by a cross-contaminated letter from the second mailing. Previously, it seemed I only had support from Martin Hugh-Jones at Louisiana State University, even though there are absolutely NO facts to support the notion of cross-contamination from the second mailing to the two Senators. ALL the facts say Kathy Nguyen was somehow exposed to the anthrax sent in one of the letters that went to ABC, CBS, NBC and The New York Post. (The idea mentioned in the Times article -- that Nguyen somehow came in contact with the anthrax mailer -- doesn't fit any known facts, either.)
Two things struck me during last week's discussions. First, it struck me that from what I've learned during the past six years about making anthrax powders, the two mailings almost certainly involved just two batches of anthrax. The laboratory processes to create spores don't really have any "intermediate steps" where "a third batch" could have produced. And there are no facts supporting some "trial and error" methodology which may have produced many different batches. Basically, you do things one way to get the powder that was in the media letters, and you do things a different way to get the powder that was in the senate letters. There was no reason for a third batch. A "third batch" is just something people dream up to support some theory.
This subject of a "third batch" usually comes up when people talk about why no one got cutaneous anthrax in Florida and why no one except Kathy Nguyen got inhalation anthrax in New York City.
Why indeed. It's a virtual certainty that the anthrax sent to The National Enquirer in Florida was just as capable of infecting people with cutaneous anthrax as the powder sent to the media organizations in New York City. But no one in Florida got cutaneous anthrax. Why? The only logical explanation seems to be: That's just the way things happened. Nothing can be assumed because things just happened that way.
And it's a virtual certainty that the individual spores in the powder sent to the media organizations in New York City were just as capable of creating inhalation anthrax as the individual spores in the powder sent to the two senators. The only real difference is that the letters sent to the two senators contained a powder that was pure spores. The letters sent to the media reportedly contained a powder that was only 10 percent spores. The other 90 percent of the powder was the harmless debris that is left when you create anthrax spores without using any special laboratory equipment for refining.
That means that if the same amount of powder escaped from the media letters as from the senate letters, 90 percent of the particles in the air around the media letters would be harmless.
And since it takes about 8,000 spores to overwhelm the
in an average person and cause inhalation
anthrax, who actually gets infected depends upon things like age, the
of one's health, and how many spores were actually aerosolized.
is probably not just a coincidence that the three inhalation anthrax
of the media mailing were the three oldest
Mail processing equipment literally BLOWS dust around, so
in a postal facility would put many times more spores in the air than
simple handling of a letter in an office. If there are enough
spores in the air, the immune systems of even the youngest and
people can be overwhelmed. Whether or not age played any
role in who got inhalation anthrax from the second mailing is another
Here are the ages of the victims of the second mailing:
And here is the complete list of victims in order by age:
94-year-old Ottilie Lundgren almost certainly died from inhaling just a few spores from the millions transported on a cross-contaminated letter that passed through postal equipment in New Jersey about the same time as the anthrax letters which were sent to the two senators. The contaminated letter was delivered to someone on her mail route. And the mail distribution center at Wallingford, CT, was contaminated by the letter. So, there's evidence of a cross-contaminated letter from the second mailing going to someone near Ottilie, although there was no actual contamination in her home.
There's no evidence of any contaminated letter from either mailing going to anyone or anywhere near Kathy Nguyen.
Why did Ms Nguyen become infected instead of someone else in New York City who was older or less healthy? Again the answer seems to be: That's just the way things happened. Nothing can be assumed because things just happened that way.
However, the second thing that struck me during last week's discussions was that it seems just too much of a coincidence that Ms. Nguyen worked in a hospital at a time when the news media was filled with stories about the dangers of being infected or killed by anthrax sent through the mails. People who were worried that they might have been exposed to anthrax were visiting hospitals to get antibiotics and/or to talk to doctors about the need to take antibiotics. I was told that Ms. Nguyen's place of employment, The Manhattan Eye, Ear & Throat Hospital doesn't have an emergency room per se, and that it would not be a likely place for anyone to go for antibiotics in such a case. But that doesn't change the fact that Nguyen worked in a hospital. She wasn't a nurse or doctor. She worked in the supply room in the basement. But, why didn't this one mysterious case affect some accountant or grocery store clerk or taxi cab driver? Can it be "just a coincidence" that a hospital employee was infected at a time when people who were worried that they may have been exposed to anthrax were rushing to hospitals?
While discussing this, I was reminded that the people at the media organizations were given antibiotics at their work locations, so there was no need for any of them to go to hospitals to get antibiotics.
True, but what does that mean? Does it mean that someone worried about taking antibiotics given out at his or her workplace went to get advice from a doctor they knew at the MEE&TH? Does it mean that someone went to the MEE&TH because the lines would be shorter there? Does the fact that Kathy Nguyen worked in a hospital have anything at all to do with how she became infected? Is it just a strange coincidence?
The Kathy Nguyen case is just as much a mystery today as it was six years ago. But, like most mysteries, facts can greatly reduce the number of probabilities. A person just needs to look at all the facts objectively. They shouldn't merely look at the few facts which they can interpret as support for a conclusion they have already made.
And, too, even though all the facts are not yet known, that definitely does not mean that one possibility is just as good as the next. The known facts clearly show that Kathy Nguyen was exposed to anthrax from the first mailing:
1. She was infected in the same area and at the same time as others in the area were being infected by spores from the first mailing. (They were searching through the trash for letters that had been thrown away.)So, there are no known facts which even remotely indicate she was infected by spores from the second mailing. There are only interpretations designed to fit beliefs.
And while this doesn't seem to have anything to do with catching the person who sent the anthrax letters, it might help clear up some dangerous misconceptions about how lethal even unsophisticated anthrax preparations can be, and it helps support the idea that the culprit may have made one type of anthrax powder on the weekend following 9/11 and may have made the second type of anthrax powder on the weekend prior to Columbus Day, 2001. All he needed was a motive, a sample of the Ames strain and unsupervised access to a good laboratory.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2007, thru Saturday, December 8, 2007
December 7, 2001 - I've been accused of not being "fair" because I don't give equal time to every theory about the anthrax attacks of 2001 that shows up on the Internet, no matter how many people believe the theory. Other people tell me I shouldn't bother discussing conspiracy theories because it gives the theorists more exposure than they deserve. So, no matter what I do, it will upset someone. Just a reminder: This site is not about other people's theories. It's my analysis of the anthrax attacks of 2001.
December 6, 2007 - The first entry since November 8 in the Docket of the Hatfill v FBI lawsuit isn't very exciting. Basically, it just says that the sealing order expired on December 3, but the transcript for one of the witnesses did not become available until December 5. Therefore, the attorneys for Toni Locy and James Stewart ask for an additional 2 days to respond -- until December 19, instead of December 17. And, if Dr. Hatfill feels a need to respond to their response, he'll have until Janauary 5 to do it.
It's not exactly headline making news. But at least we know that everyone is still on the job producing paperwork. And, presumably, since it only has to do with third party matters, it has no effect on the December 14 status meeting date.
December 5, 2007 - There doesn't seem to be any news resulting from the end of the Stay in the Hatfill v FBI lawsuit. But that doesn't mean that things aren't happening. The end of the Stay just means that Toni Locy and James Stewart can now view the depositions. It doesn't mean there will be immediate legal activity about what they find -- if anything.
There's another date looming: A Status Conference is scheduled for 9 a.m. on Friday, December 14 before Judge Walton. Just about everything that can happen before going to trial has seemingly happened. There doesn't seem to be much left to do except to either set a date for the start of the trial ... or to settle the case somehow.
December 2, 2007 - Tomorrow, December 3, the Stay ends in the Hatfill v FBI lawsuit. Supposedly, the depositions of FBI and DOJ officials that have been underway for the past couple months will then be unsealed and made available to the reporters awaiting a ruling on Dr. Hatfill's Contempt of Court Motions.
It's probably not a good idea to expect too much from this. But, while I can easily understand why they wanted the depositions of FBI and DOJ officials sealed, I really have to wonder why it will be okay to unseal them on Monday.
I've got my fingers crossed in hopes that we might actually be on the verge of hearing some important news about the Hatfill lawsuit -- and possibly even some new information about the anthrax attacks of 2001. It's been a long time since I've had any really new information to analyze.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2007, thru Saturday, December 1, 2007
November 29, 2007 - Yesterday, I was informed by a knowledgeable source that the anthrax letter sent to Tom Brokaw at NBC in 2001 was not taken to the New York Department of Health facilities at 125 Worth St., as stated in my book, but was instead taken to the NYC Public Health Laboratory at 455 First Avenue. That adds to the mystery of how Kathy Nguyen was exposed to the anthrax.
November 27, 2007 - In case you have been wondering, the demands I've received from news organizations to remove articles from this web site are not the result of some effort by those organizations to muzzle me or shut down this site. They're the work of a "third party" who believes that my web site should be run according to his beliefs about truth and justice. He's been contacting those news organizations (and probably a lot of others) to set me straight on what is right and proper -- according to his standards.
The type of advice I'm getting from readers of this web site can be summarized in this statement from one reader:
Copyright laws are not violated when;That was my understanding when I archived the news articles, and it's also why I didn't expect that I'd have news organizations complain after six years. The "third party" changed all that.
Unfortunately, I don't have the money to argue copyright violations cases in court. As I see it, when a news organization sends me a letter saying I'm violating their rights, they have already made up their mind that I am in the wrong. If I argue, they will simply take on a more aggressive attitude. So, if a news organization with a staff of lawyers on retainer says I violated their copyrights, I have to capitulate immediately. It's not about what is right, it's about what battles I can afford to fight.
November 26, 2007 - The Wall Street Journal just contacted me and instructed me to remove all Wall Street Journal articles from this web site. I have done so. That will create a lot more broken links.
It was started when I found I needed a place to keep track of all the news articles about the anthrax attacks that were in the news. I'd been discussing the subject on the alt.tv-pol-incorrect newsgroup. As I recall, the subject came up when Bill Maher, the host of the now-defunct TV show "Politically Incorrect," had asked whether or not we should atom bomb Afghanistan if it turned out the Talaban was behind the attacks.
Initially, for reference, I just included links to news articles I found on the Net. But that turned out to be a BIG mistake, since I soon learned that most news articles do not remain on their originating web sites forever. Very important articles about events at the Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention (BTWC) in Geneva that November just disappeared when they were no longer current. And I was unable to find copies of those articles again. The articles were important, because that was when Barbara Hatch Rosenberg began pointing the finger at the Bush adminstration as possibly being behind the anthrax attacks. It created a big furor at the BTWC. There were a lot of comments and news articles about it.
To an analyst, there's nothing much worse than losing valuable data you were using to do an analysis. You end up without any evidence to support important findings.
Having learned a lesson, I decided to save copies of the articles on my web site and create reference entries which pointed to both my copy and the original copy. The main link was to the original, and I followed that with "or HERE" which linked to my copy.
That probably would have worked fine if the investigation had only lasted six months. But it didn't. As the months passed, most of the links to the original articles stopped working, and I had a web site filled with invalid links. Eventually, when I needed to look up something, I just used my own links. And when I found the time, I'd go back and remove the invalid links to replace them with links to my copies of the articles. Then, as more time passed, it just became easier to link only to my copies.
But there were problems with that, too. As the years passed, my web site became bigger and bigger. I had hundreds upon hundreds of reference articles. And it required more and more bandwidth to let visitors to my site look at all the articles I had discussed over the years. Many Internet host sites bill their customers based upon how much bandwidth a web site uses. As a web site grows and grows, the added bandwidth usage can become like putting one straw after another on a camel's back.
And, as more and more articles are assembled in one place, more and more Google and Yahoo! searches find articles which have nothing to do with my site. For example, someone looking for "articles on general accepted accounting principles" or "maryland vehicle inspection certificate forged" will find all those words in some page on my site and they may visit to take a look. It's a total waste of bandwidth.
So, when I was recently asked to remove all Reuters, Washington Post and Newsweek articles from this web site, it was definitely time to rethink how I link to articles.
I can't just go back to the way I did things in November of 2001. I need the articles for my analysis. I can't let them simply disappear because some newspaper only keeps the current week's articles on their web site. I just need to keep my copies of Reuters, Washington Post and Newsweek articles off the Internet. Deleting those articles from my web site doesn't affect my ability to view such articles in my own computer.
So, it looks like I'll be going back to the second way I did things. I'll be showing links to the original articles, plus there'll be an equivalent of "or HERE" where I link to my copy for my own personal use in my own personal computer. The link will just be an (X) that will only work for me. If links to original articles stop working, they'll just stop working. I can't do anything about it. If I notice it, I may remove the link and leave only the title and date information. But, if it's an important link, I may try to find the original. We'll see how things work out.
If I can find a current link to the original source, the reference will look like this:
If I can't find a current link, the reference will look like this:
The Washington Post - Nov. 5, 2002 - "Anthrax Under The Microscope" (X)
As far as I can tell, the vast majority of people who regularly visit this web site do so to read my comments, to read my analysis and/or to see if there is any recent news about the anthrax attacks of 2001. For them, the change should be almost unnoticeable.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2007, thru Saturday, November 24, 2007
November 24, 2007 - Someone just advised me of a "9-11 truther" video about the anthrax attacks of 2001 that showed up on Google yesterday. Click HERE to view it. It may be just the standard conspiracy theory message, but it's relatively well done.
Also, as promised in their press release, former CIA Director James Woolsey was at the news conference where a consulting firm presented three anthrax attack scenarios. According to The Kansas City Star, Neil Livingston, who is the CEO of the consulting firm ExecutiveAction, said the report was meant to be an “educational document” for the public and to show the risks that America faces. He also mentioned a few things about the anthrax attacks of 2001:
Livingston pointed to the mystery that still surrounds the 2001 attack that struck in Florida, Connecticut, New York and metropolitan Washington as evidence that anthrax is on the back burner.Presumably, the news conference was also intended to drum up business for the consulting firm.
November 20, 2007 - I just received a Cease & Desist letter from The Washington Post Company asking that I remove all Washington Post and Newsweek articles from this web site. I have done so. That's going to cause hundreds of links to stop working.
November 19, 2007 - Today's Frederick News-Post, which is published in Frederick, MD, home to USAMRIID and Fort Detrick, contains some interesting statements about the anthrax attacks of 2001 by columnist Katherine Heerbrandt:
The FBI never solved the case, but eminent scientists agree that the anthrax used in the mailings was homegrown, most likely manufactured at Fort Detrick.Wow. Now that is what I call an "opinion." I wouldn't call it an "informed opinion," but it's definitely "an opinion."
November 18, 2007 - Thursday of this week will be the 6th anniversary of this web site, which was started on November 22, 2001.
Looking back at the comments from that time, I seemed to be overhauling the web site about once a week as new information was found. There were major misconceptions back then. For example, many people (particularly the Wall Street Journal) believed that the Tom Brokaw letter was on the European A4 size paper. So did I. Later, when I was able to examine large and detailed images of the letters, it became clear that the letters were all standard 8-1/2x11 copies trimmed down to various smaller sizes, and the Brokaw letter just seemed to be the longer and narrower A4 size as a result of a small photo released by the FBI. A4 size is about 8-1/4 x 11-11/16ths. The Brokaw letter was actually much smaller. It was trimmed to about 6-1/2x9 inches, evidently so it would fold easily into a small envelope.
That was a very good example of something seeming to be true at the time, but which facts and better information later showed to be totally wrong.
The belief that the Ames strain came from Ames, Iowa, was something else which facts later showed to be totally wrong.
The belief that an anthrax letter had been sent to Microsoft in Reno, Nevada, was later shown to be totally wrong, although some continued to believe it for years.
Reports by ABC news that there was bentonite in the Daschle anthrax turned out to be totally bogus reporting.
There was also a lot of talk about threatening letters (with the same handwriting as the anthrax letters) being sent from Indianapolis before 9/11. It seemed very important at the time, but there was no verification and nothing came of it.
The strange death of a biology professor resulted in a lot of theories, but none held water.
And on and on it went. Theories were born and died. Facts replaced early incorrect beliefs. New facts were uncovered and reported. And I modified this web site again and again to take the new facts into consideration.
But, for many people, initial beliefs were held firm regardless of what the facts later turned out to be. Instead, they rationalized ways that they could still be right, even if the facts said they weren't. The government could be manipulating the facts. There could be facts which disprove what the government is saying, but which the government is hiding from the public -- or which the FBI just hasn't bothered to find. Or the FBI could be totally incompetent, and the FBI could be just like a Borg Collective, mindlessly accepting some idea dreamed up by a bureaucratic profiler with no sense of reality who simply followed established and obsolete procedures.
New facts are hard to come by these days -- six years later. You have to dig really deep for them. Just how deep is illustrated by my new web page about "Particles, Spores & Van Der Waals Forces." I could never have imagined six years ago that today I'd be trying to get some solid information about exactly how van der Waals forces can bind some tiny particles together while seemingly having little effect on other tiny objects like dry anthrax spores. When you start asking questions about atomic forces on objects far too small to be seen by the human eye, you are getting really really deep into a subject. But they are important questions.
And there are signs that they are questions which haven't been adequately addressed before by anyone. Or, if they have, not many people know the answers.
Checking through my web site logs, I've noticed major universities and research facilities visiting my new web page, coming via Google or Yahoo! searches for information about van der Waals forces. And the number of people looking is increasing. In August I had no visitors looking for information about van der Waals forces.
In September there was just this one search:
van der waalIn October there were these two searches:
van der waals and particle sizeSo far in November, I've seen searches for:
how to determine van der waals forcesEach search was from a different person or university. And they are all looking for information. They're not visitors who just click on an entry in my Table of Contents.
So far, I've gotten no solid answers, but it's good to know that a lot of people are asking the same questions. Maybe someone will come up with a good answer. Hopefully, the answers are already available somewhere and we won't have to wait for the peer review process to produce something totally new. That could take months or years.
I'll revise this web site if the facts demand it, but I suspect the answers will not show that tens of thousands of microbiologists are part of some massive conspiracy. It seems far more likely that a few chemists just don't understand the important differences between a spore and a manufactured particle the same size as a spore, and they prefer to believe conspiracy theories rather than do research which might show their beliefs to be wrong.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2007, thru Saturday, November 17, 2007
November 15, 2007 - Yesterday, in an article titled "Anthrax And Al Qaeda" on the CBS News web site, the author Michael Barone commented about an article by Ray Robison on the conservative web site "The American Thinker." Robison wrote this:
I have also argued publicly that the 2001 anthrax attack makes a lot more sense as a continuation of the 9/11 attacks than as the plot of some embittered scientist.And in his comment, Barone wrote this:
It continues to strike me as highly implausible that the anthrax attacks, which occurred just days after September 11, were not an al Qaeda operation. The FBI investigation, focusing on scientists in the United States, has produced nothing, and we are told that the FBI now concludes that the anthrax could have come from anywhere in the world.It continues to strike me that it's highly implausible that six years after the anthrax attacks of 2001, conservatives would still be arguing that the attacks were the work of al Qaeda. But they are still arguing that.
They also claim "The FBI has ... produced nothing" in its Amerithrax investigation. In the minds of Right Wingers, and probably in the minds of most people, if there has been no arrest, then nothing has been accomplished. That is truly highly implausible.
And, of course, Left Wingers continue to argue that nothing is being "accomplished" because the anthrax attacks were some kind of plot by the Bush Administration.
But how long can anyone argue that things are being "accomplished" when whatever is being done is done in secret? I hope the FBI will provide new information before these implausible beliefs become "established facts" in the minds of most Americans.
November 14, 2007 - David Wright, the CEO of PharmAthene Inc. has released a bizarre "monograph" titled "Spores: The Threat of a Catastrophic Anthrax Attack on America" which is getting a lot of attention among people who follow the anthrax investigation. It deliberately mixes fact with fiction, but, unfortunately, it also seems to mix fiction with what the "monograph" indicates is supposed to be fact.
This bizarre statement is on page 64:
Less than a week after the 9/11 attacks, it is believed the perpetrator dropped two batches of envelopes into mailboxes. The first evidence of the attack appeared about two weeks later.Huh? Who on earth believes that? And how does he think the second batch of anthrax letters got delayed in the postal system for a month?
Then he has another bizarre statement starting at the bottom of page 65:
The source of the anthrax employed in the attacks remains a mystery. One possibility discussed in the media is a biodefense facility, which uses small volumes of the biological agent for research, including vaccines, therapeutics, protective clothing and containment, detection, alarms, and decontamination. It is postulated that someone with access to such a facility may have stolen small amounts of anthrax and decided to use it for the attacks after the Iraq war erupted.When does he think the Iraq war "erupted"? And who "postulated" that nonsense?
There is a lot more in the "monograph" about coating spores, about milling, and about how Washington Post journalists disputed what top anthrax experts said, while, in reality, it was the other way around.
The monograph has something to do with a Press Conference today which is described in a Press Release titled "America Faces High Risk of a Terrorist Anthrax Attack; Six Years After 2001 Anthrax Incidents U.S. Still Largely Unprepared Warns Terrorism Expert Neil Livingstone."
I'm as concerned about possible bioweapons attacks as anyone else, but I also think it is very important to get facts straight when talking about the subject.
The Stay Order just says that "The Government's Motion to Stay is granted and civil proceedings shall be stayed until December 3, 2007." But depositions can continue.
The request for extention of time filed by Toni Locy and James Stewart says in part:
The Court also ordered that transcripts of the depositions now underway be sealed until December 3.The Docket states that the Government filed a Motion for Protective Order, and they filed it "under seal."
Does that mean that after December 3, the depositions now under seal will no longer be under seal? If so, what is the significance of Monday, December 3, 2007? The extention of time to December 17 doesn't appear to alter the "under seal" Order. Locy and Stewart evidently claim they need to study the transcripts after the "under seal" period ends, and that's why they requested the extention of time.
This seems to indicate that something will be done on or before December 3, 2007. What that may be is anyone's guess.
Meanwhile, I also got to thinking about the very odd way the writer of the Goldman Sachs threat letters wrote the letter "P" in the explanation letter sent to Newsday. It seemed to be an example of writing while looking elsewhere. Some checking seemed to confirm that, which also produced a thought about another "pattern" for the 70 threat letters (one to each State, plus extras to New York and New Jersey?). While trying to figure out where to add comments about those observations to the page, I decided to overhaul the entire page to put it in a more meaningful and easy-to-read order.
And last week I also received a couple scientific reports from a scientist who works for the Secret Service. Answering my request, he sent me a 2005 report titled "The Effect of Electron Beam Irradiaton on Forensic Evidence. 1. Latent Print Recovery on Porous and Non-Porous Surfaces" and a 2007 report titled "The Effect of Electron Beam Irradiaton on Forensic Evidence. 2. Analysis of Writing Inks on Porous Surfaces." Since the reports are about how the practice of irradiating mail bound for government offices (which began AFTER the 2001 anthrax attacks) affects forensic evidence, they don't really contain any significant information about the anthrax attacks. But I can't help but wonder if they don't say something about the kind of evidence which might have been gathered from the 40 threat letters and 2 explanation letters found in the Goldman Sachs case (which weren't irradiated) even if the culprit "wore gloves when handling the letters and additionally used furniture polish to wipe down the envelopes and stamps."
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2007, thru Saturday, November 10, 2007
November 7, 2007 (B) - As expected, Judge Walton granted the request by Toni Locy and James Stewart for more time (until Dec. 17) to respond to Dr. Hatfill's Contempt Motion in the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit. There's also some cryptic legal mumbo jumbo in the "Minute Order" about this and that being "moot."
November 7, 2007 (A) - I hope it isn't a sign of things to come, but I was just asked to remove all Reuters articles from this web site. I deleted the page which included the Reuters articles, leaving just the references to the articles. The request didn't come from Reuters itself, it came from some organization which has reprint rights.
November 5, 2007 (B) - Apparently the "Stay" in the Hatfill v FBI lawsuit doesn't prevent Toni Locy and James Stewart from requesting more time to review "now-sealed deposition transcripts." They've just asked for an extention of time until December 17, 2007, and since all parties agree, they'll probably get it.
November 5, 2007 (A) - The New Yorker magazine just published an interesting article with the misleading title "Dangerous Minds - Criminal profiling made easy." It doesn't mention the FBI's profile of the anthrax mailer, but it's still relevant to the anthrax investigation because it seems to perpetuate a common misconception about criminal profiling -- that if an investigative tool is not 100% reliable, it is worthless. It even refers to one specific criminal profile as being "so full of unverifiable and contradictory and ambiguous language that it could support virtually any interpretation."
There is no mention of the very basic fact that a criminal profile is simply a tool that investigators can use if they have nothing else to work with. It's really just an educated guess based upon knowledge of who committed such crimes in the past (e.g., a married person killed at home is most often killed by the spouse) and upon behavioral psychology that can be implied from details of the crime (e.g., mail fraud isn't typically committed by illiterate short order cooks). If you have nothing else to work with, you need to start somewhere. So, you start by checking out the people who fit the profile.
It's also important to understand that if the investigators find a "person of interest" or "suspect," they do NOT change the profile, even if the profile doesn't match the "person of interest" or "suspect" in any way whatsoever. In the anthrax investigation, even if the FBI knows exactly who sent the letters, they cannot change the profile to match that person. A profile is only of value when you have nothing else to work with. When you have something else to work with, the profile no longer has any value until or unless that "something else" turns out to be totally wrong or worthless.
And the FBI cannot withdraw a profile even if they know who did it but cannot yet make an arrest, because (1) if they cannot yet make an arrest, the investigation is not yet completed, and (2) they would have to explain why they withdrew the profile.
November 4, 2007 - "If at first you don't succeed, try a different method." That's the basic problem solving methodology I've used most of my life. The "try, try again" methodology used in athletics and other areas doesn't seem to work very well when trying to solve problems related to changing people's minds. It's just nagging.
If the ideal method for solving a problem requires getting the FBI to release evidence in a mass murder, which they will not or cannot do, then a different, less-than-ideal method seems worth trying. Since anthrax spores are very similar to the spores of Bacillus thuringiensis, which are commonly used in making insecticides, it seems to me that looking at a scientific dispute about van der Waals forces could show that one argument about the anthrax powder used in the attacks of 2001 is totally wrong.
While I am still trying to get solid answers to the questions about Spores, Particles and van der Waals forces posed on my new web page, maybe I can get some different results with a different method: examining the main argument used repeatedly in public discussions by a scientist who argues that the anthrax spores sent to Senators Leahy and Daschle must have had a sophisticated coating of silica. He has explained many times why he believes anthrax spores will cling to each other due to van der Waals forces in a manner "almost identical" to lactose particles. Here's what he has written:
As you know, and as the idiot will never know even if he lived 1,000 lifetimes, polar, non-polar, dipolar or bipolar molecules are totally irrelevant to PARTICLE van der Waals forces. The ONLY thing that matters is particle size and Hamaker constant - and as we have seen, also to flexibility of the particle to some degree.And
As I’ve stated hundreds of times - van der Waals forces also affect PARTICLES as well as molecules. It doesn’t matter if the particle in question is composed of gold, plutonium, carbon, gnat crap or anthrax - that particle is not immune from sticking with van der Waals forces. What will vary the force to some degree is the Hamaker constant of the particle. Since anthrax spores and lactose particles are composed of very similar molecules made from the same atoms their Hamaker constants are almost identical.And
The Hamaker constant is the parameter that tells us just how strong the van der Waals adhesion is. As these authors state it ranges from about 6-150 10^-20J. The Hamaker constant for an anthrax spore is about the same as a lactose particle.And
Hamakers additivity concept applies to ANY particle - and ALL particles are made of atoms, these atoms may or may not be part of a molecule and the particle may contain thousands of different molecules - as anthrax spores undoubtedly do. The Hamaker constant for an anthrax spore is roughly the same as a lactose particle - since the molecules are basically of the same composition - carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.This is totally out of my area of expertise, but I have to question whether Hamaker's constant is of any value when considering an object as large and as structurally and chemically complex as a dry anthrax spore. Also, comparing a dry spore to a lactose particle would seem to be like comparing something as complex as a walnut to a solid ball of copper the size of a walnut. There are not only great differences in the material, but also in the structure. The fact that they are both made of atoms and they both contain copper doesn't really make them "identical" in any significant way.
But any argument on my part will just be met with another statement saying exactly the same thing, making it my task to either accept or scientifically challenge what he says -- even though what he says doesn't seem even remotely logical.
Because this seems like such a basic question, I cannot believe there isn't a very simple answer out there somewhere. Thousands of microbiologists work with spores every day. They are able to keep dry spores from sticking together without resorting to the application of exotic silica coatings. Yet, using silica to keep cohesive particles from clinging together is a problem which chemists and engineers endlessly address. I don't think microbiologists know of some all-purpose solution to the problems chemists and engineers continuously struggle with. The answer has got to be in the chemical and structural differences between a spore and a manufactured particle.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2007, thru Saturday, November 3, 2007
October 28, 2007 - The most significant thing to happen to me during the past week that relates to the anthrax attacks of 2001 was a discussion on FreeRepublic.com which caused me to reread a February 15, 2005 article by S.P. Velsko of Lawrence Livermore Labs titled "Physical and Analytical Analysis: A key component of Bioforensics." The claim in FreeRepublic message #60, which references the Velsko article, was that "Ed Lake likes disagreeing with scientists from Livermore." In reality, I have never disagreed with "scientists from Livermore," and we have never agreed so completely as in the mentioned article, particularly where S.P. Velsko says:
The knowledge base that is required to deduce process associations from measurement data consists of two basic components. The first is a systematic understanding of the many different possible “recipes” for generating agents. While much current expertise in this area centers around archival knowledge generated by the historical U.S. biological weapons program (and to a lesser extent, knowledge about foreign BW programs) it is important to recognize that would-be bio-terrorists are likely to utilize information from a broader range of sources, including open scientific literature, the internet, underground “cookbooks”, and information that has, unfortunately, been divulged to the news media in recent years. There is no necessary presumption that this information is always accurate or leads to an effective biological weapon. But only by collecting and organizing this information (and keeping it up-to-date) can we hope to recognize the recipe used to make an agent in the widest variety of possible incidents.That statement is just below two images of spores coated with silica in ways which would clearly NOT create an "effective biological weapon." Here are the images:
The image on the left is described as a "Shake and Bake" method of coating, and the image on the right shows how spores look when coated with fumed silica.
The Velsko article is also mentioned in the Wikipedia entry on the anthrax attacks of 2001 in the section titled "Controversy over coatings and additives," as is the book "Microbial Forensics" edited by Roger Breeze, Bruce Budowle and Steven Schutzer. That book contains similar images on page 262 and particularly on page 263, and the claim in the Wikipedia section is that "the aim of these studies is to define the forensic fingerprints of silica weaponization processes." That claim is true -- as far as it goes. However, as Velsko states, they also considered weaponization information that had "unfortunately been divulged to the news media in recent years." Based upon the images, that would be information about "silica coatings," specifically the idea of coating spores with fumed silica which was described in The Washington Post. And the statement "There is no necessary presumption that this information is always accurate or leads to an effective biological weapon" would seem to confirm that the silica coatings shown in the illustrations would not produce an effective biological weapon.
And, most significantly, there are no images in the article or the book which show silica- coated spores making an effective biological weapon. The ONLY image which shows what might be an effective bioweapon using silica is the image at the top of page 262 where PURE SPORES are mixed with silica and there are no coatings on the spores.
Finding that paragraph by S.P. Velsko, which I'd undoubtedly read before and had forgotten about, made my week a very good one, since I'd been saying what Velsko said, but just in different words. And now, instead of using my own words when this subject comes up, I can simply quote S.P. Velsko. Many thanks, Dr. Velsko!
This, of course, directly relates to the letter written by the United Nations Chief of Biological Planning and Operations to the editor of Applied and Environmental Microbiology, which I wrote about on Friday. Although the author of the letter, Kay Mereish, makes no reference at all to silica, she is still apparently taking sides in the dispute between the misinformation a journalist wrote about silica coatings in an article which the editor of Science Magazine called a "News article" that "didn't report original research" and solid, expert observations in a scientific article written by Douglas J. Beecher of the FBI labs in Quantico, VA, in which Dr. Beecher states:
Individuals familiar with the compositions of the powders in the letters have indicated that they were comprised simply of spores purified to different extents.Dr. Mereish only asked Dr. Beecher to explain himself. She evidently didn't see any reason to question the misinformation in the Washington Post and Science articles Dr. Beecher was writing about.
The conflicting articles in Science and in Applied and Environmental Microbiology are what my new web page "Particles, Spores & Van Der Waals Forces" is all about.
The responses I've received to that new page were nearly all questions instead of answers. There seemed to be some agreement that there is no reason for dry spores to bind together in any significant way, and there seemed to be some agreement that particles of different substances would bind together with different degrees of force, but no one could answer the basic question: Exactly why and how do tiny particles bind together? Simply reciting "It's due to van der Waals forces" isn't enough if you need to explain the differences in binding force between different objects of the same size. It's no different than saying "It's a mystical force." And suggesting lab experiments to evaluate differences doesn't help if the problem requires an answer that won't involve new laboratory research.
Since better questions should result in better answers, I added a few new (and hopefully better) questions to the page:
If lactose particles are made from molecules bound together by Dipole-Dipole attraction, do the particles also have some Dipole-Dipole attraction binding them together? How does it work?Last week was a very busy week, but also relatively productive. I considered it a good one.
This week, however, isn't starting out very well. This morning's emails contained a couple threats. For the first time, I've been asked to take down an article from this web site because the author claims it is a violation of his copyrights, even though the author repeatedly asked me to put that article and others on my site. I've deleted the article. I'm studying the situation regarding his other threat.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2007, thru Saturday, October 27, 2007
October 25, 2007 - This morning it was brought to my attention that Ross Getman's web site www.anthraxandalqaeda.com shows a recent letter written by Kay Mereish at the United Nations to the editor of Applied and Environmental Microbiology. Kay Mereish's official title is reportedly "UN Chief, Biological Planning and Operations."
Unfortunately, the image of the letter is a bit difficult to read. Here's what it says:
So, another voice has been added to the din of voices asking for more information about the spores used in the attacks of 2001. I hope she gets what she's asking for, but "another paper" would probably take another year or more to get through the peer review process.
Meanwhile, I'm not sure what would satisfy such a request. What can be learned from pictures of pure spores? Should Dr. Beecher have described exactly how pure spores like those in the attack letters are created? Wouldn't that do more harm than good?
The presentation in September of 2006 most likely referred to the addition of a surfactant to the wet anthrax before drying, much like adding a capful of Downey fabric softener to the final rinse when doing laundry. It removes the static charge created by drying. And the surfactant mostly evaporates during the drying process. That is totally different from additives put in spore powders to reduce clumping due to moisture.
But, this should show a lot of people that the subject of the anthrax attacks of 2001 has not been forgotten even after 6 years. And it should also show that my new web page "Particles, Spores & Van Der Waals Forces" is as relevant today as it would have been if I'd created it six years ago.
October 21, 2007 (B) - According to the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, this coming Tuesday will there will be a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on the anthrax scare of six years ago. The subject will be: "Six Years After Anthrax: Are We Better Prepared to Respond to Bioterrorism?"
October 21, 2007 (A) - On October 14, I commented about a web page I was putting together to describe a "scientific problem" I'm looking to solve. I had thought about creating a "contest," but a contest seems to require too many rules, a time limit and too many other restrictions I don't want to bother with. So, instead, I've just created a new page asking for help in solving the problem. The new page is titled "Particles, Spores & Van Der Waals Forces." It seems to be a situation where the description of the question answers the question, but I keep hoping that the question can be answered in a much simpler way. And too much of the description of the question is just more questions. Any help would be greatly appreciated. No names will be made public without permission.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2007, thru Saturday, October 20, 2007
October 17, 2007 - This morning on the "Blogger News Network," I found an interesting interview with former FBI Agent Terry Turchie, who led the FBI's hunt for domestic terrorist Ted Kaczynski for the final two years of that investigation, and who also spent over a year heading the manhunt for domestic terrorist Eric Rudolf. Terry Turchie and Kathleen Puckett PhD, an FBI profiler, coauthored a book titled "Hunting The American Terrorist," which was published on May 15, 2006. Here are the question and answer I found most interesting:
Question: Obviously 9/11 was not a ‘Lone Wolf’ endeavor but there was something that happened a little later that might be, the Anthrax packages. Do you have any thoughts?Unfortunately, since it took so long to find Ted Kaczynski and Eric Rudolf, those who still believe the anthrax attacks were the work of al Qaeda or some other foreign entity probably won't believe anything said by the person who headed those investigations.
But, Terry Turchie also has a criticism of the Amerithrax investigation:
The only idea that has been adopted post 9/11 is the recognition of the importance of analysis to any investigation or initiative. Conversely after 9/11, major terrorist investigations are run from FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C., behavioral profilers work primarily from Quantico and have seldom been assigned to work full time on just one case, local field office management has never been integrated into the role that the management team played in UNABOM, and consistency of personnel is almost unheard of. For example, there have been continuous streams of managers and agents assigned to the anthrax investigation since the attacks during the week of 9/18/01. The case is unsolved.I remember very well how disappointed I felt 2 years ago when I learned that the FBI agent I had talked with about the case on January 2, 2002, was no longer with the FBI.
October 16 -17, 2007 - The San Francisco Chronicle's article titled "House OKs bill to protect reporters in U.S. courts by wide margin" also says,
The Senate Judiciary Committee passed a similar federal shield bill earlier this month, but plans to bring it to the Senate floor have been slowed because of strong opposition from a few Republican senators. The bill's sponsors fear that one or two senators may put a hold on the bill to block its progress.And an article in Tuesday's Baltimore Sun says that, if the Federal Shield law "were presented to the President in its current form, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.'' So, if the Hatfill lawsuit was Stayed because of this legislation, it doesn't appear that anything of significance is going to happen before the Stay ends on December 3, 2007.
October 15, 2007 - An article in yesterday's USA Today says the Federal Shield law is likely to pass and gives details about the DOJ's opposition to the law.
October 14, 2007 - I spent much of the past few weeks putting together a web page in which I lay out a "scientific problem" related to the anthrax attacks of 2001. The idea was that I would hold a "contest" where I would award autographed copies of my book as prizes to those who help the most in solving "the problem." But I haven't yet gathered the nerve to put the "contest" on this site, since "the problem" seems to be too much like asking people to scientifically prove that 1+1 equals 2 only because a few individuals claim that 1+1 does not equal 2. The "best solution" seems to be to simply ignore those individuals. So, I'm not sure whether the "contest" is worth holding or not.
While doing research for that "contest," I happened upon the article titled "Decoding the Origin of a Bioagent," which I mentioned in my October 10 comment. In that article from September of 2006, chemical physicist Steve Velsko from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories was reportedly "optimistic that the research avenues being investigated will soon provide the necessary capability" to develop microbial forensic "evidentiary material that may be presented in a courtroom."
Since the article was over a year old, it made me wonder what "soon" might mean.
Continuing the research, I then came across an article by Bruce Budowle from the FBI's lab in Quantico, VA, and Rockne Harmon from the District Attorneys Office in Oakland, CA. The article is from sometime in 2005 and is titled "HIV Legal Precedent Useful for Microbial Forensics."
The article begins with this sentence:
The field of microbial forensics was formalized because of the need for attribution in events where a bioweapon has been used.So, the field of microbial forensics is now fully formalized? Is that what he's saying? It appears so.
Budowle's article provides a lot of insights into the legal hurdles which must be overcome before the new science of microbial forensics could be used to help convict the anthrax killer. And it also describes the procedures that must be followed to get the evidence admitted. The article describes the forensic case of gastroenterologist Dr. Richard J. Schmidt, who was convicted of second degree attempted murder of his paramour Janice Trahan by injection with HIV. Schmidt is currently serving a 50 year sentence.
The article says,
The admissibility of the phylogenetic analysis was challenged on the basis that there was no legal precedent for establishing similarities between the viral infections in different individuals. An admissibility hearing determination is usually an all or nothing proposition, ie, the evidence is usually deemed admissible or not. If the scientific evidence being challenged is critical and is excluded at this point, it may be necessary to dismiss the case. On the other hand, if the evidence is ruled admissible in spite of a pre-trial challenge by experts, those experts may still present their views during the ensuing trial.The appellate court also decided that the evidence was admissible, and the Louisiana Supreme Court rejected the appeal to that higher court.
What I'm seeing in these articles is an argument by investigators and scientists that microbial forensics is or is nearly ready to be used in court in the anthrax case. The problem is: investigators and scientists to not argue cases in court. Court cases are argued by lawyers. So, even if investigators and scientists feel the anthrax case is ready, lawyers from the Department of Justice may not agree.
Or they may agree but may not yet be ready to try to convince a judge that such evidence is admissible if the admissibility hearing cannot be held until after an arrest. The idea of making an arrest (publicly identifying the suspect) and then finding that the judge won't allow the evidence to be used could be a scary proposition for any lawyer.
Or I may be seeing connections to the anthrax case where none really exist.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2007, thru Saturday, October 13, 2007
October 12-13, 2007 - It has been suggested that the Stay in the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit has something to do with the fact that a full House vote is expected on the Federal Shield Law on October 16 (this coming Tuesday). It's definitely possible. I'm not sure how a new law would affect an ongoing case, nor do I know when such a law would go into effect. While researching the subject, however, I came across an opinion piece in The Denver Post titled "Newspaper execs speak out." The opinion piece contains this paragraph:
More than 40 reporters have been subpoenaed or questioned about their confidential sources, their notes, and their work product over the last few years in criminal and civil cases in federal court. The need for this legislation was underscored again when, on August 13, a federal judge ordered five more reporters from major news organizations to reveal their confidential sources in the privacy lawsuit filed by Dr. Steven Hatfill against the federal government. Dr. Hatfill is suing the government under the federal Privacy Act for being named a "person of interest" in the 2001 anthrax investigation. Reporters are now becoming the first stop, rather than the last resort, for civil litigants and prosecutors attempting to obtain the identity of confidential sources.More interesting, however, is the blistering response posted by Dr. Hatfill's lawyer Mark Grannis. It follows the Denver Post's opinion. The response is worth reading in it's entirely. Here's the first part:
Shield Law Talking Points -- Sloppy, Sloppy, SloppySince both Dr. Hatfill and The Department of Justice reportedly oppose the Federal Shield Law, I'm not sure why they would both agree to a Stay of the civil proceedings until December 3 because a vote will be taken in the House on October 16. But, if such a law were passed, I can see that the media might generate a lot of motions regarding Dr. Hatfill's efforts to get reporters to name their confidential sources. And they might even try to undo things already done.
October 11, 2007 - For some unexplained reason, the government has evidently asked for and has been granted a 55 day Stay of the Civil Proceedings in the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit. Here's the entire text of Judge Walton's Order:
The Court, having considered the Government's Motion for a Consent Stay of the Civil Proceedings it is hereby:I have no idea what this is all about. An entry in the Docket this morning says that a Status Conference will be held December 14, 2007, at 09:00 AM in Courtroom 16 before Judge Reggie B. Walton. Checking out the legal term "Consent Stay," I can find nothing. It appears to simply mean that both parties have agreed to the Stay. But, since the depositions are continuing, I'm not even sure what has been "Stayed." It seems to mean that there will be no further motions or replies until December 3. But I could be totally wrong.
October 10, 2007 - While doing some research, I happened upon an article about Microbial Forensics I'd never seen before. It's titled "Decoding the Origin of a Bioagent," and it appeared in the September 2006 issue of Science & Technology Review (pages 13-19), published by The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. It has a lot of interesting information. For example, on page 17 it says,
Bacterial spores are composed of approximately 50 percent carbon, 15 percent nitrogen, 3 percent calcium, 1 percent phosphorus, and trace amounts of about 20 other elements. Chemically related elements can substitute for one another. For example, strontium and barium are related to calcium and can substitute for it.And on page 18 it says,
The team found that the outer spore coats resembled honeycomb or rod-shapedAnd on page 19 it says,
Investigators often search for microbial evidence among fibrous materials, such asand
“Forensics data are most valuable when different techniques provide the same results,” notes Malkin. NanoSIMS, AFM, gene typing, and other technologies are being combined to construct an attribution profile for microorganisms turned into bioweapons. “Strain identification must be quick enough to allow for an adequate medical and public health response, yet it must also endure the rigorous standards for evidentiary material that may be presented in a courtroom,” says [chemical physicist Steve] Velsko. It’s a tall order. Still, Velsko is optimistic that the research avenues being investigated will soon provide the necessary capability.Unfortunately, but expectedly, the article says nothing about what "signatures" were found in the attack anthrax of 2001. And, it seems to suggest that, as of September 2006, the new science of Microbial Forensics had still not reached the point where evidence produced by the science could be used in court.
October 7, 2007 - It may have been too much to expect that Judge Walton would respond to Dr. Hatfill's Motions to cite Toni Locy and James Stewart for Contempt in the same week that Dr. Hatfill filed the Motions. But, I can see no reason for any prolonged delay. So, it could happen this week. (However, I'm really bad at predicting what's going to happen next in this lawsuit.)
While we're waiting, maybe it's a good time to summarize what's happening with all six reporters and what got them into this situation:
1. Toni Locy (formerly of USA Today) claims that she cannot recall which sources made which disclosures to her. So, she's arguing that she should not be forced to name all of the possible sources, because some sources could be totally uninvolved. In her latest deposition she says over and over,
Refusing to answer is the only way for me to have an appeals court decide whether I must reveal confidential sources who may not have provided the information at issue in this case.One of Toni Locy's sources has identified himself to Dr. Hatfill as being a source to both Toni Locy and to another one of the reporters. So, there are three other FBI or DOJ employees who she refuses to identify until an appeals court says she must, and maybe not even then.
An article by Toni Locy dated May 28, 2003 shows the sort of thing Dr. Hatfill's lawyers would want to know more about:
The sources, who requested anonymity because the anthrax probe is active, say the focus on Hatfill stems from the belief by many investigators — but not all of them — that he was behind the mail attacks that killed five people, sickened 17 others and forced thousands to take antibiotics. But two of the sources say evidence gathered against Hatfill by nearly 80 FBI and Postal Inspection Service agents is largely circumstantial.2. James Stewart (formerly of CBS news) has identified one FBI source who gave him information, but refuses to name three others. In August of 2002 this appeared on CBS's web site:
Federal law enforcement sources told CBS News that Dr. Steven Hatfill was "the chief guy we're looking at" in the probe. The sources were careful not to use the word suspect, but said they were "zeroing in on this guy" and that he is "the focus of the investigation."And on May 8, 2003, there was this:
Publicly, not much at all has happened in the FBI's anthrax investigation since the search last winter of a small pond in upper Maryland. Divers went to the bottom but came up empty handed. Privately, however, agents say it would only have been icing on the cake because they believe they already have their man, even if they never get his indictment, reports CBS News Correspondent Jim Stewart.3&4. Michael Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman of Newsweek appear to be off the hook because their two sources came forward on their own, identifying themselves to Dr. Hatfill. The "confidential information" seems to be about the August 2002 Newsweek article, "The Hunt for the Anthrax Killer," which described details about how "the Feds believed they were finally on the verge of a breakthrough" when they used bloodhounds to sniff around a Denny's restaurant in Louisiana and elsewhere Dr. Hatfill had been. (My analysis, however, indicates the real purpose for using bloodhounds was totally different.) Other court documents indicate the feds are willing to answer questions Dr. Hatfill's lawyers may have about the bloodhound incident.
The article by Toni Locy cited above also contains a key sentence about this:
FBI officials believe they can't risk the embarrassment of losing track of Hatfill, even for a few hours, and then being confronted with more anthrax attacks.5. Allan Lengel of the Washington Post seems to be (at least temporarily) out of the picture. He wasn't named in any motion to cite reporters for Contempt. The last information I saw about him was that he was trying to get waivers from his confidential sources so that he could provide their names to Dr. Hatfill.
6. Brian Ross of ABC is a special case in more ways than one. If he is cited for Contempt, it will be done by Judge Alvin Hellerstein in a District Court in New York City, not by Judge Reggie Walton in Washington, D.C. I haven't been able to locate any court documents about this from Judge Hellerstein's courtroom.
It was Brian Ross who claimed in an article dated June 9, 2003:
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.In an article dated January 9, 2003, he wrote:
Federal investigators on the anthrax task force continue to focus on former government scientist Steven J. Hatfill as the man most likely responsible for the bioterror attacks last year that killed five peopleAnd the Peter Jennings "World News Tonight" broadcast of October 22, 2002, began with Peter Jennings summarizing the anthrax case to date, and then saying,
"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."To which Brian Ross responded,
"That's right, Peter. Steven Hatfill. And while there is no direct evidence, authorities say they are building what they describe as 'a growing case of circumstantial evidence.'"Of course, all this is contradicted by article after article stating that the FBI does not consider Dr. Hatfill to be a suspect in the anthrax attacks of 2001:
FBI sources say that Hatfill is not a suspect but is merely one of about 15 scientists whose homes were searched in the investigation and that no incriminating evidence was found in the search.The National Review:
As Hatfill pointed out, the FBI has said repeatedly that he is not a suspect, and the FBI does not officially use the term "person of interest"CNN:
Investigators have turned up no physical evidence linking Hatfill to the anthrax attacks, according to federal sources, and say they don't consider him a suspect in the case.CNN again:
The FBI says he's not a suspect, but the way Dr. Steven Hatfill sees it, he is the designated fall guy in the FBI's anthrax investigation.FOX News:
FBI spokesman Chris Murray told Fox News in response to the presser, "We are unaware of any FBI employee who has named a suspect in the anthrax deaths investigation" and "the FBI does not alert the news media to the service of search warrants."The Associated Press (via The Michigan Daily):
Law enforcement officials have said Hatfill, 48, is not a suspect in the deaths of five people killed by anthrax-tainted letters. They also have said no evidence links him to the letters.The Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC):
Law enforcement officials describe him as a "person of interest," but they say he is not a suspect and there is no evidence linking him to the anthrax letters last fall.The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC):
While the FBI say he is not a suspect, Dr Hatfill's home has been searched twice.The Chronicle of Higher Education:
Although the FBI has maintained that Dr. Hatfill is not a suspect, he is the only person on the list of "persons of interest" whose name is publicly known.When you find news media articles claiming that Dr. Hatfill IS a suspect and other articles stating that he is NOT a suspect, it becomes necessary to figure out which is most likely the truth. Long ago, my analysis of the situation determined that Dr. Hatfill was never an actual suspect, he was just the subject of a six month campaign by some conspiracy theorists to get him publicly investigated. The "facts" those people used to point the finger at Dr. Hatfill were later shown to be mostly nonsense, but the pressure put upon the FBI by polilticians and people in the media who believed the conspiracy theorists became so great that the head of the FBI's Washington Field Office, Van Harp, caved to the pressure and publicly investigated him.
It seems likely that at least some of what the "confidential FBI sources" told the media came from confidential DOJ files recording what the conspiracy theorists told the FBI.
Hopefully, some day we'll no longer have to talk about what is "most likely" and "very likely" because we'll have court testimony stating exactly why people did what they did -- but it's a certainty that nearly all of them will say they did and said what they believed was right at the time. The legal question is: Did they reveal confidential information from FBI or DOJ files?
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2007, thru Saturday, October 6, 2007
October 6, 2007 - As expected, there have been a number of 6-year anniversary articles in the media about the anthrax attacks of 2001. Today's Palm Beach Post probably contains the most interesting article so far. It says that in 2001 "there had been 30 anthrax cases nationwide," which is untrue. There were only 22 cases. One would think that the total number of cases would be something that every journalist could get right. Evidently not. But this sentence is the sort of thing that really drives me up the wall:
The anthrax, they know now, was on a letter that Stevens had apparently brought to his desk at the AMI building. He had trouble reading small print, so they imagine he'd held the letter close to his face.How do they "know" this "now"? Who knows this "now"? Where did this information come from? Is it just a reporter's belief based upon memories of incorrect news articles from that time, instead of new research? Evidently so. The facts indicate that when they found anthrax spores on Stevens' computer keyboard, they didn't realize that the entire building was contaminated. There were spores everywhere. Later, further tests showed that the third floor, where Stevens' desk was located and where he examined the so-called "J-Lo letter," was the least contaminated floor in the building.
I'd hoped the media might dig up some "new" information about the 2001 anthrax attacks. Instead, it appears all we're going to get is just more mistaken beliefs about what happened back then. The only "new" information in the article are some details about Maureen Stevens' lawsuit against the government which is still underway:
Attorney Richard Schuler is alleging that the strain of anthrax that killed Stevens was the Ames strain, which can be traced to Fort Dietrich, the Army's biowarfare defense lab outside Washington.This doesn't really tell us anything new about the anthrax attacks of 2001, but this information does show us that there could still be interesting revelations coming.
October 2, 2007 - Dr. Hatfill is evidently having no success in getting Toni Locy (formerly of USA Today) and James Stewart (formerly of CBS news) to name their confidential sources. According to the Docket in the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit, he has just filed motions to have them held in Contempt of Court. The proposed orders call for a $1,000 per day fine for the first 7 days they continue to refuse, and then each week adding another $1,000 to the daily fine. (Fines are paid to the court, not to Dr. Hatfill.)
According to The Associated Press,
After the reporters attempted to contact their sources to see if they still sought anonymity, Stewart identified one FBI official and Locy's attorneys identified an FBI official and a former Justice Department official. Stewart refuses to reveal three other FBI sources and Locy refused to reveal any of her remaining contacts, Hatfill's attorneys wrote.There's no guarantee that Judge Walton will agree to the amount or schedule proposed by Dr. Hatfill. The Docket indicates that Judge Walton gave Dr. Hatfill only 30 days to get his depositions complete instead of the 45 days Dr. Hatfill requested. That means the depositions must be completed by October 20.
Michael Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman of Newsweek still appear to be off the hook after two of their confidential sources came forward on their own. Nothing was said today about Allan Lengel of The Washington Post. Nor was there any mention of Brian Ross of ABC, who somehow managed to get his refusal to comply before Judge Hellerstein in New York City, instead of Judge Walton in Washington, DC.
September 30, 2007 - So far, I haven't seen a single article in the media about the 6th anniversary of the anthrax attacks of 2001. But there might be something this week. The anniversary seems to be generally identified with the time the news broke that Bob Stevens had been diagnosed as having inhalation anthrax (October 4, 2001) or the date he died (October 5, 2001). Last year, there were a number of articles on those dates, with more appearing on and after October 15, the anniversary of the date when the Daschle letter was found and it was suddenly made clear to everyone that anthrax had definitely been sent through the mails.
The hope is, of course, that some reporter will find someone in authority willing to talk about the case and will come up with some new fact of some kind. It's been a long time since there were any new facts brought to light in the case. But, even if nothing new is learned, it would still be great if some key "known fact" were to be officially verified or clarified. The #1 "known fact" that seems to need official FBI clarification is that the powders in the letters "were comprised simply of spores purified to different extents." Clearly, the 2006 report by Douglas Beecher of the FBI labs isn't enough as long as the AFIP newsletter which stated that silica was detected and was a "key component" in the Daschle powder hasn't been retracted or clarified. More than one sentence in one scientific article is needed to offset the dozens upon dozens of news articles which claimed that (mostly unidentified) scientists were saying that there were coatings on the spores and/or additives in the powder in the anthrax letters.
Perhaps the FBI will even issue a new "Amerithrax Fact Sheet" to replace the one they issued in September of 2006.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2007, thru Saturday, September 29, 2007
September 28, 2007 - Today's New York Sun confirms that Brian Ross of ABC News has been ordered by Judge Alvin Hellerstein of the U.S. District Court in Manhattan to name his confidential sources in the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit. The article explains:
The litigation involving Mr. Ross's sources is proceeding in New York separately because of jurisdictional issues.So, while Judge Walton is in charge of the actual case in the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia, and his order applies to five reporters, for some unexplained jurisdictional reason, Judge Hellerstein had to handle the confidential sources issue involving a sixth reporter, Brian Ross at ABC.
September 26, 2007 - It appears that Brian Ross of ABC news is still being deposed as part of the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit. A different judge is involved, but it's apparently not a different case. When two DOJ employees used as confidential sources by Newsweek revealed themselves and came forward to be deposed, Dr. Hatfill's September 17, 2007, Motion to extend the deadline for discovery, included this:
Additional source identifications may also result from the September 7, 2007 Order of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (Hellerstein, J.), which ordered Brian Ross of ABC News to disclose his sources, for substantially the same reasons as this Court ordered the other five reporters to do so.Back in mid-June, when Dr. Hatfill filed an earlier Motion to extend the discovery deadline, this item was mentioned:
9. On June 4, 2007, Dr. Hatfill moved to compel further testimony from one reporter who had previously testified pursuant to a subpoena from the Southern District of New York. That reporter had previously testified that he obtained information he reported about Dr. Hatfill from two FBI employees. However, on the ground of the reporter’s privilege, this reporter refused to disclose the sources’ identities or any other identifying information. The reporter opposed Dr. Hatfill’s motion. The matter has been fully briefed and is set for argument on June 19 before Judge Hellerstein of the Southern District of New York.So, Brian Ross is a sixth reporter who has been ordered to name confidential sources in the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit. But, for some reason, that Order was issued by Judge Hellerstein, not by Judge Walton. And, for some reason, Judge Hellerstein's Order hasn't been made public as far as I can tell.
Meanwhile, Editor & Publisher says that a federal shield law to protect reporters from being compelled to reveal the names of their anonymous sources is set to be considered by a Senate committee tomorrow. Newspapers nationwide have been weighing in with their support for the idea via editorials all week.
September 25, 2007 - The responses I'm getting from people regarding Sunday's and Monday's comments are that they hope I'll now stop writing about The True Believer and The Conspiracy Theorist. I'm told that everyone knows there are such people around, so there's really no need to publicize their views.
That's probably a correct observation. And I feel a great relief that those two say they won't be filling my inbox with angry emails anymore. Maybe now I'll have time to dig into a few things I never had time for before and get back to the purpose of this web site: to collect and analyze data (not beliefs) related to the anthrax attacks of 2001.
September 24, 2007 - Well, "The Core Four" just ousted me as a member. They decided that they do not want their opinions mentioned on my web site, even if I do not identify them by name. Too bad. Arguing with them and exchanging opinions has been a big part of this web site over the years. It's going to make it more difficult for me to think of things to comment about. (However, it should be a relief to not have The True Believer filling my inbox with messages about al Qaeda every day, and there'll be no more tirades from the Conspiracy Theorist telling me I'm a "total moron" over and over and over and over.) The True Believer and the Conspiracy Theorist would like to see this site shut down completely, so that they can spread their beliefs without me constantly challenging them and pointing to the facts on this site. The Follower, on the other hand, believes "analysis" is just another word for "speculation," so it's a waste of time to try to figure out the facts. He seems to believe that, if there is any dispute, speculation by a five year old with no facts is no more certain than the analysis (a.k.a. "speculation") of a professional analyst with a mountain of facts. Instead, we should all just wait for some Messiah to tell us what is absolute fact. (I think he may just be fed up with 6 years of debate and no certain way to tell fact from fiction.)
Quoting Winston Churchill didn't help:
True genius resides in the capacity for evaluation of uncertain, hazardous, and conflicting information.By the way, someone outside of "The Core Four" has been sending me emails about a brand new conspiracy theory. It has nothing to do with the anthrax case or 9/11, but it definitely seems to be getting some people excited. Click HERE for details.
September 23, 2007 - It seemed like the entire past week was just one long argument, an endless flood of messages in my email inbox. But, unlike all past arguments, during the past week many arguments came from someone who doesn't typically argue.
In recent years, my debates about the anthrax attacks of 2001 have just involved "The Core Four": The True Believer, The Conspiracy Theorist, The Follower, and The Analyst (me). (In the past year or two, I've rarely heard from The Alarmist, The Jewish Militant, The Rug Maker and others.) It was The Follower who almost dominated discussions last week. That's a first. Like the others (except me and the name I've given myself), he probably won't like the descriptive name I've just given him. I imagine that they would all like to be called "Truth Seeker." But, The Follower doesn't make any secret of the fact that he tends to rely on the person with the best credentials to help him separate fact from fiction. He does very few analyses for himself. His main authority seems to be Edward J. Epstein.
The Follower believes the motive behind the anthrax attacks was money. He doesn't know how the culprit planned to make money from such an attack or whether he succeeded. He doesn't have any idea who the culprit is.
He tried to make a point of how the anthrax attacks were very similar to the Tylenol attacks back in 1982 when someone took Tylenol bottles off the shelves at the stores where they were sold, filled the capsules with cyanide and then returned them back to the shelves. He recalled that there was a demand for money in the Tylenol case. But, then he did some research and found a Court TV web page titled "Death In A Bottle." It's filled with fascinating details about the Tylenol case.
As I've always been told, the authorities seem to know who put the cyanide into those Tylenol capsules. They just didn't have a solid case to take to court. (A very familiar situation.) The Court TV article says:
According to a Newsweek article, a 48-year-old amateur chemist and dockhand that worked at a warehouse that supplied Tylenol to two of the stores where the tainted bottles were sold became the FBI and local law enforcement agencies primary suspect. The police claimed that he admitted to having worked on a project that involved the use of cyanide. The article further stated that after a search of his apartment, investigators found various weapons, two one-way tickets to Thailand and a suspicious book that described, "how to kill people by stuffing poison into capsules."Then, whatever case the authorities might have been able to put together was made much more complicated by people using the Tylenol case for their own purposes.
Shortly following the Tylenol murders, J&J received a handwritten extortion letter demanding $1 million dollars for an end to the poisonings. The extortionist asked J&J to respond to his demand via the Chicago Tribune. Instead, the company contacted the authorities who began to trace the letter's source. It didn't take them long to trace the letter to a man named James W. Lewis, a tax accountant and known con artist, who was also sought in connection with the brutal murder of an elderly man in Kansas City and a jewel robbery. The police quickly issued a warrant for Lewis's arrest in connection with the Tylenol killings.The article goes on to show that Lewis was not the Tylenol killer:
Aside from the letters, investigators could not find any evidence linking James Lewis or his wife to the Tylenol murders. Registration records produced by the police showed that during the time the bottles were tampered with, the Lewises were living in a hotel in New York. Further evidence proved that LeAnn Lewis was at her job daily in New York at the time and witnesses claim that James Lewis was known to meet her everyday for lunch and after work.And, after reading this article, The Follower seemed to conclude that the motive behind the Tylenol murders may not have been money. It may have been the same motive that is behind the vast majority of murders: anger.
John Douglas and Mark Olshaker's book Journey into Darkness provides further insight into the Tylenol terrorist. The authors write that the killer was likely a loner who was motivated by anger directed at society in general. It is possible that the killer may have had some kind of psychiatric treatment in the past to help deal with extreme feelings, such as depression, anger, anxiety and control issues.I've always wondered if the anthrax mailer did something similar: contacting people in power who could do something about preventing a bioweapon followup to 9/11.
The Follower also found a new Wall Street Journal article titled "Most Science Studies Appear to Be Tainted By Sloppy Analysis." It's fairly interesting.
While this was going on, The Conspiracy Theorist was arguing about this sentence and citation from Dr. Douglas Beecher's article about analyzing how anthrax spores were spread through the mail bags by the Leahy letter:
Individuals familiar with the compositions of the powders in the letters have indicated that they were comprised simply of spores purified to different extents (6).Reference (6) is:
6. Matsumoto, G. 2003. Bioterrorism. Anthrax powder: state of the art? ScienceThe Conspiracy Theorist was arguing that Beecher cited Gary Matsumuto's article in Science magazine as his ONLY AUTHORITY there were no additives.
And my response was that no such thing is said in the Science article, [so] that cannot possibly be what is meant.
I finally found a source which said,
he [Beecher] cited the Science article because it contains all the different opinions he was writing about.This morning, I found 16 more messages in my inbox from the other three members of The Core Four. One was a message from The Conspiracy Theorist claiming that when Geisbert saw some mysterious "goop" oozing out of the Daschle anthrax, he was really seeing a coating on the spores, and no one can prove otherwise. Another was from The True Believer who wanted me to put a full chapter from a new book by Retired USAF Colonel Randall J. Larsen on my site. Instead I'll just provide the LINK. I see only one sentence that seems to contain something new. It's a minor detail about the Daschle letter, but I think it may conflict with other reports:
The young intern running the automatic letter-opening machine saw a fine mist of powder emerge from the envelope, and the Capitol Police were summoned.Larsen's book seems to have sent The True Believer into another panic attack, since he sent me a half dozen messages about it and about Larsen, including one which shows that Colonel Larsen didn't know what he's talking about when he said this on The Larry King Show on October 10, 2001:
LARSEN: The reporter was talking to the anchorperson and said the Ames strain of this anthrax is resistant to vaccine, the anthrax vaccine. Well, first of all, that is wrong. The Ames vaccine -- or the Ames strain was catalogued about 50 years ago in Ames, Iowa. That is the strain of anthrax we use to test our vaccine. So, obviously, it is not resistant to it.And, in an interview Larsen did just yesterday with a "blogger" called "The Talking Dog," he said:
I travel all over the country giving speeches on homeland security. I just talked to the top 340 Senior Executive Service employees of the EPA, and asked them, using state of the art instant voting equipment, how many of them were aware that Mohammad Atta’s roommate had cutaneous anthrax… not one of the 340 knew.That response is easy to understand, since there is no reason for anyone to believe that "Mohammad Atta's roommate had cutaneous anthrax." Maybe, if he'd asked how many people had heard the report that Mohammad Atta's roommate had gone with Atta to a pharmacist to get some help because Atta had red hands, the response would have been different. According to my information, Mohammad Atta's roommate, Marwan al-Shehhi, bought a bottle of Robitussin for what pharmacist Chatterton described as a hacking cough. Is a hacking cough a symptom of cutaneous anthrax?
But, most likely, Larsen was talking about Ahmed Ibrahim A. Al Haznawi, who had a gash in his leg from bumping into a suitcase. The gash became infected, and he visited a doctor named Christos Tsonas. Later, the doctor was persuaded to say that the gash could have been a cutaneous anthrax lesion. Details are in The Washington Post.
In "The Talking Dog" interview, Larsen goes on to say,
Five times a year, I brief top officers of the government and military, and only 1 or 2, if that, ever know! When you take all of the facts I have presented, I’m not suggesting that there would be no reasonable doubt possible, but the anthrax case and 9-11 case were the largest investigation in history! And yet, the FBI has turned up nothing on the anthrax case– because they went in the wrong direction.If it was possible, I suppose that makes it a "fact" in the minds of some people.
And, late in the day, The Conspiracy theorist accused me of using one of my henchmen to change the Wikipedia article about the anthrax atttack of 2001 back on September 12 to remove the "Congressional oversight" section about how Dwight Adams Adams "admitted that there was scientific information concerning the nature of the anthrax organism that was deemed by his superiors too sensitive to share with Senators Daschle and Leahy." That, of course, proves that the FBI is keeping secrets from the American people. The Wikipedia change log says the changes were made by someone at IP address 22.214.171.124, which traces back to Owingsmills, MD. I don't have any henchmen in Owingsmills or anywhere else. It still looks to me like that person was just trying to clean up some unnecessary blather that clutters up the article. But one person's "cleanup" is another person's "vandalism." Someone put the section back.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2007, thru Saturday, September 22, 2007
September 20, 2007 (B) - Judge Walton just granted the extention of time requested by Dr. Hatfill. The Docket has been updated. That means the next scheduled event in this ongoing drama is a status conference set for November 12.
September 20, 2007 (A) - As expected, some of the changes I made to the Wikipedia article about the Anthrax Attacks of 2001 have been undone. The log shows that they were undone by someone in Texas. (I know who he is because I can match IP addresses to emails he's sent me.) It's not really worth the effort for me to change things back. As stated in my Sept. 9 (B) comment, conspiracy theorists are a lot more aggressive and dedicated to converting people to their beliefs. I don't really care if anyone believes my analysis or not. I only care if my analysis is right or wrong. So, there's no point in getting into an endless sequence of revising and unrevising items on Wikipedia.
Besides, perhaps having this statement in the opening paragraph will encourage the FBI to release more information about the attack anthrax:
Senator Patrick Leahy, one of the recipients of an anthrax letter, publicly stated just before the sixth anniversary of the case that he believes people within the US government know the source of the anthrax powder.That statement isn't incorrect, so I didn't change it, even though it implies that something sinister is going on, which is not necessarily the case.
Here's an example of a change I did make which was undone. The section about Journalist Gary Matsumoto said this:
In his Science article, Matsumoto reports that the powder in the Senate letters most closely resembled the advanced aerosols now being made in U.S. biodefense labs.Since Matsumoto isn't a scientist and had no access to the powder in the Senate letters, I changed that sentence to this:
In his Science article, Matsumoto speculated that the powder in the Senate letters most closely resembled the advanced aerosols now being made in U.S. biodefense labs.It was changed back.
And, of course, all references I added which stated that Gary Matsumoto either wrote or co-wrote the infamous articles which falsely claimed there was bentonite in the Daschle anthrax were removed as being "personal attack vandalism."
Most puzzling, however, were the dozens of emails I received from that person in Texas objecting to two paragraphs I deleted because they were about microbial forensics and not really about the anthrax attacks of 2001. To me, they seemed out of place.
But, evidently, to a conspiracy theorist they are very important. The paragraphs are:
In February 2005, Stephan P. Velsko of Lawrence Livermore National Labs published a paper titled "Physical and Chemical Analytical Analysis: A key component of Bioforensics". In this paper, Velsko illustrated that different silica coating processes gave rise to weaponized anthrax simulants that look completely different from one another. He suggested that the difference in the look of products could provide evidence of what method the lab that manufactured the 2001 anthrax used, and thus provide clues to the ultimate origin of the material.I've been informed in every way imaginable that the fact that these published works discuss silica coating processes proves that weaponized spores are coated with silica. And, since "everyone knows" the attack spores of 2001 were "weaponized," these published works show that, if the FBI were inclined to do so, they could very easily locate the lab that produced the attack anthrax by simply analyzing the silica coatings.
My argument was that Velsko's article simply shows what silica coated spores look like, and the book "Microbial Forensics" shows what coated spores and uncoated spores mixed with silica look like so that forensic scientists will never again believe that uncoated spores are actually coated (as a scientist at USAMRIID fantasized in the early days after the attack) or that pure spores somehow contain additives that no one can see, as happened at AFIP. I also asked why these published works do not show the kinds of supersophisticated coatings the conspiracy theorists believe were actually on the attack spores. According to the conspiracy theorists, that is the kind of coating used on virtually ALL "weaponized" anthrax spores. I could get no answer to that question. He just wanted the two paragraphs he put back to be left there. No problem.
Since the book "Microbial Forensics" shows pictures of uncoated spores mixed with silica and says they are "weaponized," I asked if that doesn't destroy the argument that "weaponized" anthrax spores must be coated. The answer was, "Weaponization is by degree. Partially coated, or mixed, is partially weaponized. Fully coated is fully weaponized." It proves that anything can be rationalized to fit a belief.
September 19, 2007 - While it has absolutely nothing to do with the anthrax attacks of 2001, you might find it interesting to check into the "Jihad-BOOM" postcards sent to a all or most of the highschools in Marion County, Florida. On FreeRepublic.com they were discussing the handwriting and trying to make a connection to the anthrax attacks. There are lots of interesting clues and aspects to his situation where someone apparently wanted to scare people into believing al Qaeda is going to bomb some highschools in one specific Florida county, plus the School Board for that county.
Meanwhile, Ross Getman has somehow managed to get PostalMag.com to display a 10,811 word treatise Getman wrote titled "Anthrax Letters Still Being Sorted 6 Years Later." Someday I might slog through it. I assume it's all about his beliefs. It's yet another in the many many long articles he has written for various web sites and blogs.
September 17, 2007 - As if responding to my bad guesses about what is going on in the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit, Dr. Hatfill has filed a motion to extend the discovery deadline. The documents says that two former DOJ employees have come foreward to say they gave information to reporters, and, as a result, they have to be deposed, too. And their depositions may result in further depositions. Plus, the document says that Toni Locy, James Stewart and Allan Lengel have refused to identify their sources, but they are looking to get confidentiality wavers from their sources. Plus, a different court has asked Brian Ross to identify his sources, and Ross is not one of the five reporters in this case, but his sources may relate to this case. As a result of all this, Dr. Hatfill is looking for an extention until November 12, 2007, when a new "status conference" should take place. Presumably, Judge Walton will agree. We'll find out when he signs or doesn't sign the Order.
September 16, 2007 - It's now over a month since Judge Walton issued his Order to five reporters to "provide full and truthful responses to questions propounded to them by Dr. Hatfill's attorneys."
Even though the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit has been in progress for years, it's difficult to believe it could take so long just to schedule and obtain those depositions. And, since it's assumed that the five reporters will all refuse to name their confidential sources, the depositions should be very brief -- if they are done at all.
It's certainly possible that everyone has been on vacation. I have no proof otherwise. And, I suppose it's even possible that the five reporters are all in hiding in Tierra del Fuego or somewhere similarly remote, in order to avoid being deposed. However, there is another way to avoid being deposed: talk about settlement. That seems the most likely explanation for why we haven't heard anything: everyone is in settlement talks again. That doesn't mean that a settlement is imminent. Such talks could easily collapse. But a settlement is still the most likely outcome for this lawsuit.
Meanwhile, because last week was the 6th anniversary of 9/11, I was contacted by a few conspiracy theorists, including Francis Boyle and "the jury coordinator of the San Diego Citizens' Grand Jury into 9/11 crimes in NY City." It was like I stepped into a time machine and went back to early 2002. The mountain of facts I've accumulated in the past 4 years was all new stuff once again -- to them.
This coming Tuesday is the 6th anniversary of the day the first anthrax letters were postmarked. But the 6th anniversary of the day it was learned that anthrax had been sent through the mails is still a month off. Presumably, some news organizations will have "retrospectives" on the subject in the next month or so. Hopefully, there'll be some new additions to the "mountain of facts." But pas experiece indicates that the view of the mountain from the Left and the Right may be largely obscured by fog.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2007, thru Saturday, September 15, 2007
September 11, 2007 - The entire interview in which Sander Hicks from The New York Megaphone discussed Dr. Hatfill and various 9/11 conspiracy theories with Scientist Jerome Hauer is now on line as an .mp3 file HERE. The article is HERE. This part of the article provides a good example of what happened during the interview:
In his interview with The Megaphone, Hauer repeatedly referred to the Grand Jury as “a bunch of nutjobs” and he defended Steven Hatfill. But when asked directly if Hatfill was innocent, Hauer was less than clear:Can anyone "conclusively say that Hatfill was uninvolved in the anthrax attacks" without knowing every single detail about the attacks? If Hauer had given any kind of "conclusive" answer, the interviewer would have used it as "proof" that Hauer had inside knowledge of the attacks. And since Hauer did not give a "conclusive" answer, the interviewer can claim Hauer was evasive.
September 9, 2007 (B) - I learned something last week that I truly never fully realized before: As an analyst and accumulator of facts, I play a relatively passive role in debates about the anthrax attacks of 2001. And the FBI is even more passive than I, withholding nearly all their arguments for the time when it will be necesssary to convince a jury in a courtroom of the facts.
Conspiracy theorists, on the other hand, are very aggressive about convincing the public to share their beliefs. (And True Believers are the most aggressive of all.)
Yes, for weeks I've been debating with a conspiracy theorist on FreeRepublic.com while a True Believer just endlessly preaches sermons to disrupt the debate because the debate isn't about his beliefs. But that doesn't make me "aggressive".
I don't really care if others accept my analysis or not. I'm only interested in whether or not my analysis is correct. I look for ways to test it. I look for facts I may have missed. I look for debates to challenge my analysis. But I'm not trying to convert anyone. I fully understand that I could be totally wrong. In fact, I'm endlessly looking for proof that I am wrong. I would definitely like to find such proof (if it exists) before anyone else does. But, so far, while there have been minor tweaks over the years, generally speaking, everything I've found has shown that my analysis is correct.
The fact that others simply don't believe me doesn't mean I'm wrong. Generally, it just means that Conspiracy Theorists and True Believers don't seem to see any possibility that they could also be wrong.
The point I'm trying to make is that I now realize that countering someone else's beliefs by presenting facts is really very passive compared to the aggressive process of actually trying to convert others to your beliefs.
When someone comes to my door to try to convert me to their beliefs, even if I present him with a stream of endless facts showing that he is wrong, that doesn't make me "aggressive." The important difference is that he will just go next door and try to convert my neighbor, and then he'll go to the next place down the block. Meanwhile, others who believe as he does will be knocking on doors all over the city, all over the country and all over the world. And while all this is happening, I'm just sitting around totally content and chuckling about how I clearly proved that that one guy who knocked on my door was wrong.
That difference was made clear in a couple different ways last week.
For the first time in a long time, I happened to read the Wikipedia article about the anthrax attacks of 2001, and I noticed that the section about the "Silica Coating Controversy" is much larger than it used to be. It's now paragraph after paragraph where the author(s) distort things as they try to show with bad information from old news articles, articles written by conspiracy theorists, and distorted interpretations of other articles, that the attack anthrax was coated with some form of silica. The few mentions about the other side of the "controversy" are just there to show that the FBI is trying to cover up something.
This Wikipedia entry is probably the prime source of information about the anthrax attacks of 2001 for most students researching the subject for the first time. They only come to my site if they follow certain links in the Wikipedia articles.
I could try being aggressive and change that section of the Wikipedia entry, but past experience has shown that when I try to fix such things, others just change them back. (I did make a couple changes last week. I changed the section about Don Foster to show that the lawsuit with Dr. Hatfill had been settled -- a solid fact which cannot be disputed. And I changed end of the section about "The Anthrax Material" to show that Dugway never attempted to "reverse engineer" the attack anthrax even though erroneous news reports in 2003 said they did, and I supplied the news source.)
Being a "passive," fact-oriented person, it seems to me that before I could rightly change the entry about the "Silica Coating Controversy" I'd have to have solid and virtually incontrovertable proof that the anthrax was NOT coated with silica. General science isn't enough. Logic isn't enough. Even expert testimony isn't enough. But, unfortunately, the only organization which can supply incontrovertable proof is the FBI, which, like me, is also "passive" and fact-oriented.
Maybe the FBI will someday realize that ignoring conspiracy theories could be harmful to the Amerithrax investigation and to the public's view of the FBI. Maybe the FBI will someday actually release some scientifically verifiable facts showing whether or not there was a silica coating on the attack anthrax. Maybe the fact that the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP) is once again depicted as being in dispute with the FBI will someday be clarified by someone providing new and indisputable information on the subject of silica coatings on the attack anthrax spores. Maybe.
Meanwhile, the aggressive conspiracy theorists will probably continue to make changes to the Wikipedia article to persuade people that there is a sinister conspiracy behind the "controversy." They do not need solid, verifiable facts which cannot be disputed. All they need is their beliefs and "facts" which can be twisted to fit their beliefs.
The other way I was shown that conspiracy theorists are far more aggressive and numerous than I had previously realized occurred when I received an email from a "journalist" for "The New York Megpahone." He asked my opinion of a 20-25 minute telephone interview he had done with a scientist who knew Dr. Hatfill. I listened to it very carefully. During the course of the interview, it was mentioned that the scientist being interviewed had been "indicted" in a "Conspiracy To Commit Mass Murder" by a "San Diego Citizens' Grand Jury."
This was a real surprise to me, since I'd never heard anything about this "indictment" before. (A little research later showed it wasn't a real grand jury.) In the interview, the scientist laughed about it, saying it was "a joke" because the "grand jury" was "a bunch of nuts." "You can't take these people seriously," the scientist explained, and he felt that his reputation was helped, not harmed by such a "nut job" indictment. The "journalist" clearly didn't share that point of view, however. And, throughout the interview, the "journalist" seemed to be trying to get the scientist to say something which could be twisted to show that the scientist was part of some conspiracy. And the "journalist" went through a whole list of conspiracy theorist beliefs about 9/11 to see what the scientist believed, always phrasing things to put the scientist in conflict with conspiracy theorist "evidence" that the World Trade Center was brought down by controlled explosives planted by the CIA, that Osama bin Laden once worked for the CIA, that the 9/11 terrorists were supported by the Pentagon and other government agencies, and that the Amerithrax investigation is a farce because "it's clear that the Department of Defense was weaponizing anthrax" and that the Ames strain anthrax "was trackable back to Fort Detrick" and to Dr. Hatfill, etc. Near the end of the interview, the scientist seemed to sum up nearly all of the reporter's beliefs very nicely when he told the reporter, "You are misinformed."
While doing research about all this, I found that there is a whole stack of books written by 9/11 conspiracy theorists who I never heard of. (Since they are "controversial," it wouldn't surprise me if they all weren't selling much better than my book.)
And, what all this showed me was that these conspiracy theorists are aggressively working day and night to convert people to their beliefs. Meanwhile, I sit passively hoping that some of those people will not just accept what they are being told but will take some time to visit my web site to examine what facts I have accumulated about the anthrax attacks of 2001, in hopes that such facts might provide a very different view of what is true and what is not true. My fingers are crossed as I passively sit and hope. But my expectations aren't very high.
So, while there wasn't any news about the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit last week, nor any information about the Amerithrax investigation or the Goldman Sachs threat letters, it was still a fairly busy and very interesting week for me.
September 9, 2007 (A) - The Danbury News-Times contains a very well-written article titled "Anthrax has long history" which includes a statement from an expert who says: The 2001 letters -- while scary -- did not involve weaponized anthrax. According to an email I received, the expert, Jennifer Nuzzo, a senior analyst at the Center for Biosecurity at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, used the Beecher report as the source for that statement. Conspiracy theorists will undoubtedly be upset by that.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2007, thru Saturday, September 8, 2007
September 7, 2007 (B) - The New York Times is reporting that health officials have been testing the Connecticut property where two cases of cutaneous anthrax have recently occurred, and they've found the area is contaminated with spores. It's more proof that, contrary to the beliefs of conspiracy theorists, even ordinary and uncoated anthrax spores will float around an area and thoroughly contaminate it.
September 6, 2007 (A) - While browsing the Wikipedia entry on the Anthrax Attacks of 2001 to see how many facts have been distorted by people with a cause making updates, I happened upon a new link to an interesting conversation with Senator Patrick Leahy that apparently took place within the past few days for a blog called Vermont Daily Briefing. Here is the anthrax-related part of that conversation (which also includes descriptions of emotions):
VDB: Okay, I wanted to jump to the anthrax letter, what’s now known as the Leahy Letter. There was the one that was mailed to you, and the one that went out to Tom Daschle —Hopefully, it's the FBI that knows where the letters and the anthrax came from. But, as I've said many times, knowing who did it and proving to a jury who did it are two very different things.
September 5, 2007 (B) - It was reported in the Danbury News-Times today that two cases of cutaneous anthrax showed up in people in Connecticut who either make drums or who buy drums make in Africa. It's just another reminder that even natural and "unweaponized" anthrax spores are dangerous.
September 5, 2007 (A) - Someone brought to my attention an interesting article from yesterday's Washington Post which technically doesn't have anything to do with the Amerithrax investigation, but which has a lot to do with why it's so difficult to change the minds of conspiracy theorists and True Believers. The article contains these paragraphs about research into debunking myths:
The research does not absolve those who are responsible for promoting myths in the first place. What the psychological studies highlight, however, is the potential paradox in trying to fight bad information with good information.It seems clear that some conspiracy theorists know this, since in arguments on FreeRepublic.com I see a conspiracy theorist literally posting the same words over and over and over, while I try to debunk his myths by using different words every time under the assumption that the "right words" might sink in or might generate a productive series of questions and answers.
However, I'm not really trying to get the conspiracy theorist or the True Believer to change their minds. I know that is virtually impossible. My reason for arguing with them for year after year after year is that every time I do so using different words and/or a different set of facts, there is a possibility that I could stumble upon a new idea or thought and/or a flaw in my own argument which would require research to evaluate. I haven't found any flaws in a long long time, but I've definitely found lots and lots of new ideas and thoughts. This morning I wrote something that seems "new" to me, although I may have said similar things many times in the past. The discussion was about why the FBI wasn't telling Congress details about critical evidence in the Amerithrax investigation back in early 2002. I wrote:
[T]the facts also indicate that at that time they did not know what kind of evidence could be extracted from such traces of lab contamination or from other Microbial Forensic investigation methods. And if they didn't know what kind of evidence they might be able to collect, they couldn't possibly know if the culprit might be able to somehow negate the evidence if he knew what they were looking for.It may be a minor point, but if anyone dismisses the idea that it was too late to find new evidence back then, I can give them a reason why it may NOT have been too late.
September 2, 2007 - Whenever I do a media interview, particularly "live" interviews, I tend to spend the following week or so shaking my head and kicking myself because I didn't say this and didn't say that and didn't mention some other thing. What is said pretty much depends upon what the interviewer asks.
Evidently, Ed Norris on radio station WHFS in Baltimore has a segment each Tuesday around noon where he talks about "cold cases." I was told that they had someone else scheduled for last Tuesday, but that person cancelled at the last minute. So, they contacted me. As a result, I didn't have time to let people know I via this web site that I was going to be interviewed.
During the interview, I mentioned that I didn't think the Amerithrax investigation was a true "cold case." The FBI has repeatedly stated that they and the Postal Inspection Service have over 2 dozen people who are actively pursuing the investigation full time. I have no reason to believe they are lying.
I also mentioned that I don't think those 2 dozen agents are stumbling around blindly looking for suspects. I believe that the FBI knows who sent the anthrax letters, but proving it in a court of law is an entirely different matter.
However, I've been kicking myself because I didn't mention the situation with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
“The President must now restore credibility to the office of the Attorney General. Given the serious loss of public trust and the disarray at the Department of Justice, the American people must have absolute confidence in the integrity of the next Attorney General as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer and as defender of our constitution independent of political influence."From an editorial in the Charlotte Observer:
His performance as attorney general left him without a shred of credibility with Congress and steered the Justice Department into partisan disarray.From an editorial in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times:
Gonzales will leave office, he said in an announcement yesterday, on Sept. 17. He leaves a department in deep disarray.Even if the FBI had concluded its Amerithrax investigation, they could not make an arrest if the Department of Justice was not ready or if the Department of Justice felt it was unable to successfully prosecute the case. As I've stated before, this is not a case the Department of Justice or the FBI can afford to lose. And, since it's clearly a very complicated case, the prosecuting attorneys would really have to be ready. That poses the question: Can they be ready when the Department of Justice is in "deep disarray"?
Furthermore, according to USA Today:
When Attorney General Alberto Gonzales leaves office Sept. 17, he will bestow to his successor a department plagued by investigations, high vacancies and low morale, former agency lawyers say.From CBS:
His presence as attorney general was hindering public confidence in the work of the Department of Justice, impeding its ability to deal with Congress, shattering morale through its halls, and generally embarrassing the administration which he supposedly serves.Suppose the FBI had arrested the anthrax mailer a month ago, before Gonzales resigned. Suppose they arrested someone who had never before been mentioned in connection with the Amerithrax investigation -- Dr. Joe Blow. And suppose Dr. Blow claimed to be innocent? And suppose friends of Dr. Blow were all over the media expressing shock over the arrest of such a respected citizen. And suppose the Bill of Indictment was loaded with difficult to understand scientific evidence.
What would the reaction have been by the public and by the media? Would it have been viewed as an attempt to get the pressure off Attorney General Gonzales?
And what about the unresolved Hatfill lawsuit? If Dr. Joe Blow had been arrested, would all the people in the scientific world and in the media who have been pointing their fingers at Dr. Hatfill for years suddenly nod their heads and acknowledge that they were totally wrong and that Dr. Blow is clearly the anthrax culprit? Or would they be lining up to declare that the indictment was an attempt by the Bush Administration to continue the cover up of Dr. Hatfill's guilt by using scientific mumbo-jumbo to accuse some innocent man?
When the Department of Justice is headed by a man who a large portion of the media and the general public considers to be incompetent and a partisan political hack, and who even the Director of the FBI has publicly disputed, is it the right time to make an arrest in the Amerithrax investigation?
Of course, I could simply be rationalizing why there has not yet been an arrest in the Amerithrax case. It's possible that they simply don't have enough evidence. Or they might have the evidence, but the spectre of the O.J. Simpson case hovers over them as they wonder if the jury will accept the evidence.
And there was another question from the WHFS interview that I'm still kicking myself over: I was asked if I thought the FBI was doing a good job on the Amerithrax investigation. My response was that I haven't seen any solid evidence that they aren't doing a good job, except, perhaps, for allowing themselves to be pressured into publicly investigating Dr. Hatfill. (It's always easy to declare that someone else should have stood up to intense pressure.)
But, I regret that I didn't mention the evidence I've seen of the FBI doing a good job on the investigation -- in spite of mistakes made by other agencies.
When scientists at The United States Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) mistakenly believed that chemicals they themselves had used to kill a spore sample were put into the spores by the anthrax mailer, they compounded their mistake at a White House meeting on October 24, 2001, by passing around pictures of the mysteriously oozing "goop." And that quickly resulted in leaks to the media. Reports indicate that the FBI saw right through the error, since the FBI immediately requested additional tests to see what the mysterious "goop" oozing out of the spores might actually be. (USAMRIID had been sitting on their erroneous finding for over a week without doing further tests.)
When scientists at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP) mistakenly assumed that the presence of the elements silicon and oxygen in the Daschle powder meant it was "weaponized" with silica, the FBI evidently realized that that made no sense if the silica could not be seen under a Scanning Electron Microscope. So, the FBI began consulting with experts on weaponized anthrax powders to see what other explanations there might be for the unexpected presence of those elements. The answer -- lab contamination -- turned out to be extremely critical to the investigation.
When the CDC reported that the onset of Bob Stevens' illness began "11 days after handling suspicious mail on September 19," they were referring to the J-Lo letter. Based only upon eye-witness testimony, the CDC reported that two letters received at the office of American Media Inc. (AMI) contained powders. They did not mention that sampling tests for the presence of anthrax spores on the three floors of the AMI building clearly showed that only one of the letters contaminated the building with anthrax. So, the FBI went back into the AMI building to search for both letters and, evidently, to do further tests to make certain which letter contained anthrax, and, presumably, to determine if the anthrax powder (or powders) were from the same batch and same mailing sent to ABC, CBS, NBC and The New York Post -- or a different batch and a different mailing.
Errors and unclear statements made by other agencies complicated an already very complicated case. And so did the Hatfill fiasco. Maybe it's just wishful thinking on my part, but I think the FBI may still make an arrest in the Amerithrax investigation. I can see good reasons why they didn't do it during Alberto Gonzales' time as Attorney General. I just hope there will be a "right time" in the near future.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2007, thru Saturday, September 1, 2007
August 29, 2007 - Yesterday, at around 12:40 p.m. EDT, I was interviewed on "The Ed Norris Show" on radio station WHFS in Baltimore. I'd be interested in learning how I sounded on the show. Did I ramble too much? Did I talk too softly? It's been a long time since I've done any live interviews. I feel like I'm out of practice.
Also, if you're interested in shield laws for the media, check outTHIS LINK. It's not about the anthrax case, but it's interesting.
And so is the news about Richard Jewell.
August 27, 2007 - The resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales probably won't have any effect on the anthrax case, but there were signs of conflict between Gonzales and FBI Director Mueller, and one wonders if anyone would have wanted to prosecute an extremely complex and politically sensitive case in an atmosphere where the FBI doesn't trust the Attorney General.
Meanwhile, the Marin Independent Journal has an opinion piece titled "Congress needs to approve a federal shield law for reporters" which contains a couple interesting paragraphs about the Order from Judge Walton in the Hatfill v FBI lawsuit:
The order comes in a civil suit filed by Steven Hatfill, the bioterrorism expert whom federal investigators suspected was behind the 2001 anthrax mailings.The author, Peter Scheer, is a "lawyer and journalist." When a journalist writes information like that without naming sources, I can understand how and why he would want to be shielded from prosecution.
August 26, 2007 - While there seemed to be absolutely no official news of any kind last week, it wasn't exactly quiet. For me, waiting for news in the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit was like watching a fuse burn when you don't know how long the fuse is nor what kind of explosion it's going to set off.
Since the vast majority of lawsuits are settled out of court, the odds are that the Hatfill lawsuit will end the same way. That seems all the more true in a battle where one side has nearly all the ammunition and the other side has only money.
Meanwhile, things seem dead quiet in the Amerithrax investigation. There is still a lot of discussion in various forums, but nothing new came of it.
And the Goldman Sachs threat letters case is still under investigation.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2007, thru Saturday, August 25, 2007
August 19, 2007 - I'm no lawyer, but, I think I can imagine all the legal steps that must be followed before we see what happens next in the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit.
Although Judge Walton has ordered those five reporters to name their confidential sources, that apparently means that Dr. Hatfill's lawyers must first arrange a deposition meeting with each of the reporters. At the meetings, Dr. Hatfill's lawyers must then once again ask each of them to name their sources. If the reporters once again refuse, Dr. Hatfill's lawyers will report that fact to Judge Walton. Judge Walton may then order them to appear before him in a courtroom or his chambers. If they personally tell Judge Walton that they will not name their sources, Judge Walton will almost certainly then declare them to be in Contempt of Court and will then decide on what penalty to apply for failing to obey his order.
I don't know how long all that will take, but it hopefully won't be more than another couple weeks or so. (However, in this case, nothing ever happens as fast as I hope it will.)
It won't go by unnoticed. When reporters are jailed or fined, it is always BIG news. This won't be any exception.
Meanwhile, discussions on FreeRepublic.com have provided some interesting insights into what kind of thought processes may have been behind the Goldman Sachs threat letters. The FBI has probably figured out who sent the letters, but, once again, knowing who did it and proving who did it are very different matters.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2007, thru Saturday, August 18, 2007
August 15, 2007 - I finally found some time to study Judge Walton's Memorandum Opinion. Although I'm not a lawyer, I think I can summarize it this way: Judge Walton says that Dr. Hatfill has met all requirements of the law and that Dr. Hatfill's case requires the identification of those confidential sources. Therefore, Judge Walton ordered the five reporters to name their confidential sources.
Judge Walton also decided that obtaining records from their parent companies and testimony from corporate representatives "would be putting the cart before the horse." So, he denied that motion. If the five reporters name their sources, then there is no need to obtain such records or testimony. So, first the reporters have to refuse to name their sources, then Dr. Hatfill can go to the next step and go after their employers. And the same with getting new depositions from reporters for The New York Times, The Associated Press and The Baltimore Sun. If Dr. Hatfill gets the information he needs from the five reporters at Newsweek, The Washington Post, CBS and formerly at USA Today, then he doesn't need to get depositions from reporters at those other media organizations.
In other words, Judge Walton is prepared to give Dr. Hatfill everything he needs to prove his case, but first things first. If Dr. Hatfill hasn't exhausted step one, he doesn't have the full legal right to move on to steps two or three.
Hopefully, this doesn't mean the case will drag on for years to come.
The next step will be to see what penalties are imposed if (or when) the reporters refuse to obey Judge Walton's Order and demonstrate Contempt of Court.
August 14, 2007 - As expected, this morning there are a lot of news reports about Judge Walton Order. According to The Washington Post:
The decision from U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton is yet another blow to the news industry as it seeks to shield anonymous sources who provide critical information -- especially on the secret inner workings of government.The Associated Press added this:
The journalists gave depositions under a court order but refused to reveal their sources, arguing that the First Amendment and a federal common-law privilege shield them from having to disclose the names.On page 4 of Judge Walton's Opinion he cites the ruling in the Wen Ho Lee case which said,
The Supreme Court has noted in the context of privilege in grand jury cases that it "cannot seriously entertain the notion that the First Amendment protects a newsman's agreement to conceal the criminal conduct of his source, or evidence thereof, on the theory that it is better to write about a crime than to do something about it.I think that about sums it up.
So, now we wait to see what happens next.
August 13, 2007 - It looks like I may have been wrong about a settlement being in the works (or the discussions have fallen apart). According to the Docket in the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit, Judge Walton just issued an Order to various reporters to "provide full and truthful responses to questions propounded to them by Dr. Hatfill's attorneys." Judge Walton also provided a Memorandum Opinion to support his Order. I'll need to study the memorandum to see what it says before commenting further. But I expect that the media will be providing lots of explanations and analyses very shortly.
August 12, 2007 - Judge Walton's denial on Friday of a motion filed by Toni Locy of USA Today can be interpreted as a sign that Locy is resisting being corralled into any settlement agreement with others. Unlike other reporters who were simply refusing to name names, Toni Locy was claiming that she just couldn't remember which sources in the government she talked with. Or I could be totally misinterpeting the situation. Time will tell.
Meanwhile, things have never before been so quiet for so long in the Amerithrax investigation. There's been absolutely no news of any kind for months and months. However, the 6th anniversary is coming up in a month or so. That could result in reporters digging up some news. Time will tell.
While those matters drag on, I've been busy studying the Goldman Sachs threat letters. I couldn't help but notice that the "explanation letters" which were sent to Newsday, The Daily News and the NYPD, were postmarked July 11. That's the day I completed the first version of my web page about the case. I'd been working on it since the 8th, and it had been on-line while I was working on it. I feel fairly certain that the person who sent the letters is a regular visitor to this web site. (The visitor logs won't mean anything, since I have many regular visitors.) That's why these hoax letters are so much more interesting to me than the thousands of other hoaxes. They're also much more interesting because of all the clues the hoaxer supplied. That many clues demand analysis.
Reading the "explanation letter" over and over, it seems that the writer is saying that he doesn't see anything wrong with what he did. He says, if the mailing of his 70 threat letters hadn't "unfortunately" "coincided with the horrendous events in England and Scotland" (i.e., the bungled car bomb attempts by the Muslim doctors), everything would have been okay. He seems to confirm that when he calls his stunt "a stupid, childish prank gone wrong." In other words, his plan was good, but those pesky Muslims screwed things up for him. That's pretty dumb thinking. So is begging the police and media to stop pursuing the matter further. It also indicates that he'll do it again if given a chance.
He also seems to be dumb enough to believe that he can explain away the fact that he wrote 70 threat letters, addressed 70 envelopes and then wrote 3 more "explanation letters" all in the same hand. The threat letters used the pronouns "we" and "us" and were supposed to be from a group he called "A.Q.U.S.A." And the "explanation letters" claim there was actually a group of three teenagers behind the letters. Either way, it makes no sense that only one person would do all that writing - particularly since the handwriting of multiple individuals would have shown that a group was involved. The totally unbelievable explanation he gives is that the girl's handwriting was deemed "prettier." The facts indicate that only one person is involved, that he's "scared" because his plan went wrong and people won't understand, and that he's trying to mislead the police with his explanation letters.
But his absurd explanation letter just provides more tantilizing clues to who he is. The mention of using "furniture polish to wipe down the envelopes and stamps" is most fascinating to me. Are we supposed to believe that furniture polish was used to wipe fingerprints off the envelopes and stamps the way you would wipe fingerprints and smudges off items of furniture? Using furniture polish for that purpose on paper is probably a first in the history of criminology. Who would be dumb enough to think that way?
Page 3 of the explanation letter contains this paragraph:
THEY WORE GLOVES WHEN HANDLING THE LETTERS AND ADDITIONALLY USED FURNITURE POLISH TO WIPE DOWN THE ENVELOPES AND STAMPS.Are we supposed to believe he wiped the envelopes with furniture polish before writing the addresses on them with red ink? If he had done so, even though he used a felt tip pen, wouldn't there be indications that the red ink couldn't soak into the paper due to the wax (or silicone) in the polish? Or are we supposed to believe he wrote the addresses on the envelopes in red ink before he sprayed them and wiped them down? Is that possible without smearing the red ink? (I tried it and the ink smeared.) There's no sign of smearing on the one image of an envelope that we have. Would the cancellation stamp work on an envelope saturated with wax or silicone? I don't know.
But furniture polish evidently was used. And the letter writer supposely also wore gloves. Yet, according to media reports, the FBI is very interested in fingerprints on the letters and envelopes. They have asked reporters and editors at the newspapers which received the threat letters to supply their fingerprints, apparently so that they can be separated from other fingerprints on the letters and envelopes.
The suggestion that the furniture polish was used to wipe away forensic information could be a very dumb way of trying to point away from the real reason furniture polish was used. (If he hadn't mentioned furniture polish, the police probably wouldn't have thought to test for it. Who puts furniture polish on envelopes?)
If the furniture polish wasn't used to wipe away fingerprints, what other explanation could there be for doing such a thing except that he was trying to leave behind trace elements of silicon and oxygen as were found in the attack anthrax? He would have had to use a silicone based furniture polish to do that, even though wax based furniture polishes are much more common. (Unfortunately, we don't know what kind of furniture polish was used.) And he would probably have wiped down or sprayed only the interiors of the envelopes.
If it was a silicone based furniture polish, that would indicate some very "specialized knowledge" in the same way as his mention that the 70 newspaper addresses were obtained from "a directory at the library" indicates he didn't get the addresses off the Internet, which would be the method most people would probably use.
It should be very interesting to find out who this hoax letter writer is. There seems little doubt that he will be caught. But, as with the Hatfill lawsuit and the Amerithrax investigation, everything seems to take a lot longer than an outsider would guess.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
August 5, 2007,
thru Saturday, August 11, 2007
August 11, 2007 - Things are still happening in the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit. A Docket entry dated yesterday shows that Judge Walton has denied a July 9 motion by Toni Locy in which she evidently argued some time-constraint technicalities regarding Dr. Hatfill's use of her deposition testimony.
August 7, 2007 - Newsday also received the new letter explaining the motivation behind the Goldman Sachs threat letters. And they provided images of all four pages. The letter writer handwrote this copy, too.
August 6, 2007 - The New York Daily News has received a new letter explaining the motivation behind the Goldman Sachs threat letters. The FBI isn't totally buying the explanation, and neither am I. But the handwriting seems a definite match. Perhaps, most intriguing is this bit of information:
Investigators' interest was piqued by the claim that the letters were wiped with furniture polish to erase forensic evidence, which was confirmed by tests.If the furniture polish was silicone based instead of wax based, I'd find that very very interesting.
August 5, 2007 - There are times when no news can justifiably be considered to be evidence of something. The fact that there has been no news in the Hatfill v FBI lawsuit since July 25 can be seen as evidence that we are not just waiting for Judge Walton to write his Order to compel reporters to name their confidential sources. It makes no sense that he would take so long to write an Order he evidently researched and decided upon long ago.
So, if we're not waiting for Judge Walton to write his Order, what are we waiting for? The answer may be in another matter where we have no news: There has been no news about the mediation sessions when were supposed to have ended on July 20.
And there has also been no news about the final pre-trial status conference which was vacated on July 25 and has not been rescheduled.
There has also been no news regarding any motion requesting more time. If only one side had asked for more time, that side would have had to do it in the form of a motion. And it would have been met with arguments against the motion. The only explanation seems to be that both parties have asked Judge Walton to delay issuing his Order.
And there seems to be only one explanation for why both parties would ask for a delay: the parties are in the final stages of working out a settlement.
However, the "final stages" can take awhile. In the Hatfill v Vanity Fair & Readers' Digest lawsuit, it took 45 days, then 15 more days to nail down the final agreement.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, July
thru Saturday, August 4, 2007
July 29, 2007 - It's a good thing I didn't predict that something would happen last week in the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit. It appears that, once again, "Everything in the legal system seems to take longer that it should reasonably take."
As I also said last Sunday, There will be a ruling from Judge Walton on the motion to compel the naming of confidential sources unless there is a settlement first. The reason for the long delay may be that every chance for a settlement is being explored before Judge Walton issues his ruling.
The problem is: I seriously doubt that Dr. Hatfill would agree to any settlement unless it includes some public announcement that there was never any real reason to believe that he had any involvement in the anthrax attacks. And such an announcement wouldn't have any real meaning unless all the supporting facts are also made public, i.e., facts about why and how Dr. Hatfill became a "person of interest" in the first place. All the facts are in the depositions, so it shouldn't require the release of any sensitive information about the Amerithrax case. But it may require some embarassing admissions about internal FBI procedures and about how the media checks or doesn't check facts before printing what could be libelous statements.
It seems clear that the government also needs to have facts made public. If there were to be a secret settlement, it would seemingly confirm the beliefs of the conspiracy theorists and their supporters in the media, the government and the scientific community. They would immediately start telling the world that the secret agreement was proof that Dr. Hatfill was working for the Bush administration when he sent the anthrax letters, and the "secret settlement" is his payment for a job well done.
Only the media would benefit from a secret settlement. It would be generate countless articles and books about conspiracy theories until the end of time.
We have to remember that, technically, the lawsuit is about government employees releasing confidential information about Dr. Hatfill from confidential government files to the news media in violation of the Privacy Act. However, in reality, it doesn't make any difference what the lawsuit was aboutif all parties agree to a settlement. So, it isn't necessary to resolve the Privacy Act question in order to reach a settlement. It's only necessary that all parties find a mutually agreeable way to settle.
There is some risk for Dr. Hatfill in going to court. Judge Walton indicated that he felt case law required that the details about the violation of the Privacy Act be made clear: i.e., who actually gave what confidential information to whom? And it seems fairly clear that most of the media outlets will firmly resist providing such information.
The government almost certainly doesn't want to go to court, since it could lead to the jury awarding some huge amount of money to Dr. Hatfill. In a settlement agreement, the government would have some say in how much the amount would be.
Lastly, the news media wants to avoid having Judge Walton order them to name their confidential sources, since he will probably also order huge fines for every day the media fails to comply. And the media also wants to avoid establishing some legal precedent which would make other libel lawsuits against the media easier to win.
So, the situation is right for a settlement. But that doesn't mean there will be a settlement. All it takes to prevent a settlement is to have one party refuse to agree.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, July
thru Saturday, July 28, 2007
July 27, 2007 - The person who sent the hoax anthrax scare letter to Sam Champion at ABC last month has reportedly confessed. According to The New York Post,
"Please have this tested," kooky fan Andrew Dunleavy, 46, of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, said he wrote the forecaster when grilled last month about his scary mailing - which contained nothing more than handwritten hysteria. "For the past few years I have been living in mortal fear of terrorism," he admitted to prosecutors.It's nice to see a solution to a mystery once in a while, even if it's incomprehensible.
July 26, 2007 (B) - A strange
just appeared in the Docket for the Hatfill v
et al lawsuit. Here it is:
So, it appears that the "status conference" Judge Walton scheduled for tomorrow has been cancelled and will be rescheduled.
That's all the docket entry says, but reading between the lines, it certainly seems to say that something is going on that they don't want to mention in the docket. It would seem that the "status" of the lawsuit is in a state of flux. And it would seem that Judge Walton may be delaying the issuing of his ruling regarding compelling reporters to name their confidential sources until the "status" is more ... settled.
July 26, 2007 (A) - Someone provided a link to a copy of the Goldman Sachs threat letter sent to the Knoxville News Sentinel. I commented on aspects of it in my page about the letters. The article also says the FBI is trying to get fingerprints from editors and reporters to separate their fingerprints from those of the letter writer.
July 22, 2007 - Everything in the legal system seems to take longer that it should reasonably take. There will be a ruling from Judge Walton on the motion to compel the naming of confidential sources unless there is a settlement first in the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit. I could predict that something will happen this week, but who knows? All I can safely predict is that something will happen before very long.
Meanwhile, news seems to have dried up in the Goldman Sachs threat letters case.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, July
thru Saturday, July 21, 2007
ORDERED that the parties are referred to mediation for a period of sixty days commencing on May 21, 2007, and concluding on July 20, 2007.Friday of this week is July 20. Since that date is almost upon us, it seems to me that Judge Walton might delay his ruling on the motion to compel reporters to identify their confidential sources until the mediation is concluded.
July 17, 2007 (A) - While there may be more coming from other sources, I found it strange that so far only a web site called TurkishPress.com has mentioned that the Amerithrax investigation was discussed at a briefing today on the National Intelligence Estimate. The article is titled "US admits anthrax attacks still a mystery."
July 15, 2007 - Presumably, Judge Walton is currently busy preparing his Order and proof-reading the list of legal precedents and pertinent case law before ruling on whether or not to compel reporters to name their confidential sources in the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit.
Meanwhile, New Scientist Magazine has published an interesting article titled "The lure of the conspiracy theory." The article contains instructions for how to "Create the perfect conspiracy theory":
Pick your adversaryThe old but very persistent "conspiracy theory" that the FBI and key scientists are covering up the "fact" that there was a super-sophisticated coating on the anthrax spores used in the letter attacks of 2001 was discussed in great length on FreeRepublic during the past week. Check it out.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, July
thru Saturday, July 14, 2007
July 13, 2007 - Anyone interesting in handwriting analysis should check out the images of four different Goldman Sachs threat letters. They are on my new supplemental page "Thoughts About The Goldman Sachs Threat Letters."
July 9-11, 2007 - I'm no lawyer, but it looks like the hearing held Monday in Judge Walton's courtroom regarding the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit was sufficient for him to make a ruling of some kind. This entry appeared in the docket on the 9th:
Minute Entry. Proceedings held before Judge Reggie B. Walton : Motion Hearing held on 7/9/2007; Judge will do a ruling via hard copy; (Court Reporter Phyllis Merana.) (mpt, ) (Entered: 07/09/2007)I presume that means he's about to issue a written Order.
Another entry on July 11 makes it clear that no further hearings are needed:
MINUTE ORDER. The motion hearing scheduled for July 12, 2007 at 2:00 p.m. is hereby vacated. Signed by Judge Reggie B. Walton on July 11, 2007. (MDW, ) (Entered: 07/11/2007)July 8, 2007 (C) - I originally put some thoughts about the Goldman Sachs threat letters as a comment here, but on the 10th I moved them to a new supplemental page.
July 8, 2007 (A) - According the the docket in the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit, Judge Walton will be hearing arguments from the media on Monday and Thursday. So, no ruling by Judge Walton can be expected before Friday.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, July
thru Saturday, July 7, 2007
July 4, 2007 - It looks like the "fireworks" in the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit will not take place until late next week -- at the earliest. An article about the lawsuit in today's Washington Post says this about yesterday's hearing:
U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton, who is presiding in the case, began hearing arguments on the issue yesterday in Washington. He set aside time next week for further arguments before he issues a ruling.The two sides of the argument are described well in these paragraphs:
Hatfill's lead attorney, Charles Thomas Kimmett Jr., said his client has met the requirements of "a two-pronged test," established in case law, under which the reporters should be compelled to disclose the identities of their sources.From a layman's point of view, it appears to me that the media's lawyer is arguing that the law is wrong and shouldn't be enforced. That's a tough argument to win in Judge Reggie Walton's courtroom.
July 1, 2007 (B) - Today, The Los Angeles Times has what seems to be an exposé about Ken Alibek. The article indicates that he's a scientist who sometimes exaggerates his claims about his accomplishments. Duh? Is there a scientist who doesn't? Whatever the purpose of the article, it's clearly more about politics than science.
July 1, 2007 (A) - This week we should be seeing some "fireworks" in the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit. Hopefully. Two days from now, on Tuesday, July 3, Judge Reggie Walton is scheduled to hear the arguments about compelling reporters to name their confidential sources. Will "fireworks" ensue? Time will tell.
It's also important to remember that the parties to the lawsuit have supposedly just completed their 6th week of mediation. That mediation began on May 21 and is supposed to continue for 60 days ... to see if some kind of settlement can be reached.
It's also important to remember that the media has demonstrated that it will go to great lengths to avoid naming confidential sources, but their options are very limited due to the extreme care Dr. Hatfill's lawyers have taken in meeting all requirements of the law. Plus, Judge Walton has already stated that the wealth of case law seemingly requires that the reporters be compelled to name their confidential sources in this case.
The situation is made more interesting by the facts which show that the media is supporting illegal activities by refusing to name names. This is no "whistle blower" issue. It's about a bunch of influential conspiracy theorists and their gullible supporters who interfered with a criminal investigation. It's about how they persuaded the media to join in an effort to apply pressure upon the FBI to publicly investigate an innocent man. It's about identifying the government employees who allegedly violated the Privacy Act by giving reporters confidential information from confidential government files. It's about how an innocent man was turned into a "suspect" in the anthrax mailings of 2001 by the conspiracy theorists who systematically destroyed his career in order to foster a political agenda.
It will be interesting to see how justice is served when the media opposes justice.
Right now, what the Amerithrax investigation seems to need more than anything else is a public clarification of why and how Dr. Hatfill came to be a "person of interest."
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, June
thru Saturday, June 30, 2007
June 24, 2007 - With absolutely nothing visible happening in the anthrax investigation at the moment, and without even any discussion going on, I decided to look at my web site statistics and particularly the list of "referrers." A "referrer" is a web site which contains a link to my site, and every time someone clicks on that link to come to my site, an entry appears in a log of accesses to my site. Sounds dull, but it can be interesting.
For example, there were the 119 visitors so far this month who came to my site from links on the Wikipedia page about the anthrax attacks. 33 more came via the links on the Wikipedia page about Steven Hatfill. 8 others came via the links on the Wikipedia page about "Person Of Interest." 8 others came via the links on the Wikipedia page about Judge Reggie Walton. According to this link, there are 8 entries on Wikipedia which contain links to my site, but I count 9 with Judge Walton.
Meanwhile, 15 people linked in from this hate-filled site about Dr. Hatfill and another 15 from this page for 911 Skeptics. 14 came from this FreeRepublic.com page. There were 12 visitors who linked in from the UCLA Department of Epidemiology site. 9 others came from Richard Smith's anthrax site. 9 came from this hate-filled site about Dr. Hatfill. 6 came from this blog about the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. 4 came from this Ross Getman site and 2 others from this Ross Getman site. 3 came from the Muslim-Jewish-Christian Alliance for 9/11 Truth. 2 came from the site about the December 2, 2003 interview I did for TechTV. There was 1 visitor from the link on this site in Alaska, 1 from the link on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Weblog, 1 from the "Handwriting University" and 1 from the Salon.com article in April by Glenn Greenwald. There was also 1 link each from long ago discussions on the alt.security.terrorism, misc.writing.screenplays and talk.politics.misc newsgroups. And the list goes on and on, with some links being totally inexplicable, like the ones at the bottom of this page, this page and this page.
Checking this stuff out is a way to spend a few hours when nothing else is happening. It gives a sense of who might still be interested in the anthrax attacks of 2001.
Search engines such as Google (including everything from Google Latvia to Google China), Yahoo!, search.msn, AOLsearch, Ask.com, Yodao, MyWebSearch, Altavista, Answers.com, Vivisimo and Mama are technically also "referrers." But the most interesting thing about visits which come in via search engines is what the person was looking for.
The most common search so far this month (and most months) is for "handwriting analysis". Here are the top 15 search strings (from many hundreds) with the number of times it was used, the percentage of the total and the search string:
Pcnt. Search String
The only thing unusual search in this list is the 17 searchs for cristine cruz bio wsvn, but checking the logs I find that all 17 searches occurred on June 16 in a fraction of a second from the same person in the Atlanta area. Christine Cruz works for TV station WSVN. So, it was really just one search and meaningless to the anthrax investigation. If nothing else, it shows that there's no need to get excited over something unusual, it just means you need all the data to understand what is going on.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, June
thru Saturday, June 23, 2007
June 20, 2007 - The hearing set for June 26 in the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit has been pushed off a week until 2:30 p.m. on July 3, 2007. No reason given.
June 19, 2007 - As far as I can tell, The New York Post is the only media source to identify who sent the hoax anthrax letter to Sam Champion at ABC last week.
June 17, 2007 - Last week, the media reported on a hoax anthrax letter sent to Sam Champion, the weatherman on ABC's "Good Morning America." Since one of the real anthrax letters in the attacks of 2001 almost certainly went to Peter Jennings at ABC, hoax letters now get a lot more attention everywhere than before the real attacks. But at news organizations they get extra special attention. They should just be reminders of how many stupid and irresponsible people there are in the world, but, unfortunately, such hoaxes are also reminders that the person (or persons) responsible for the attacks of 2001 has not yet been brought to justice.
The linked article about the ABC hoax letter says:
ABC News said police were questioning a "person of interest" in connection with the case.The term "person of interest" is now part of the American language, and authorities can try to explain that "person of interest" is not the same as "suspect" or even "potential suspect," but as long as nearly all of the "persons of interest" we read about in the media are "potential suspects," the terms will always be interchangeable in the public mind. And who (except the police) bothers to think about the difference between "potential suspect" and "suspect?"
The difference is enormous and can destroy lives -- as we saw during the past week in the news about the Duke lacrosse rape case. "It's been truly a fiasco," said Chairman Lane Williamson in his ruling to disbar District Attorney Michael B. Nifong of Durham County, North Carolina. Disbarment is probably just the first punishment Nifong can expect because "he had intentionally and repeatedly lied and cheated as he prosecuted three former lacrosse players on rape charges."
There are far greater dangers in jumping the gun and naming "persons of interest" than in keeping the names of all "persons of interest" secret whenever possible. And when politics becomes an important factor in an investigation, and when the media takes sides, sorting fact from fiction and "persons of interest" from "innocent victims" can be extremely difficult. It becomes a lethal minefield through which both the police and the prosecutors must travel. And when you have officials in the legal system who are either politically motivated or who can be manipulated via political pressures, that minefield can harm many more people who are innocent than guilty.
In the Amerithrax investigation, the FBI was pressured by a band of conspiracy theorists and their followers into publicly investigating Dr. Hatfill, and then the head of the Justice Department had to explain why they were investigating Dr. Hatfill without making it look like the entire Justice Department can be manipulated by a angry, septuagenarian college professor from upstate New York. (The worst kinds of mines are the ones known as "Bouncing Bettys." They pop out of the ground unexpectedly and spray everyone in range with material designed to maim and cripple.)
Closely following every detail of the anthrax investigation for over five and a half years has given me a view of the legal system that I never had before. In January of 2002, I fully expected that the case would be solved in a matter of months -- if not weeks. Then I saw the variety of ways a complicated case can be made even more complicated by political pressures. (I still wonder if the culprit couldn't have been brought to trial years ago if the case hadn't been complicated by those political pressures.)
Some people might be disheartened and discouraged by the time it has taken to resolve these cases and by the complications added by stupid and irresponsible people sending hoax letters and distorting facts to promote personal causes and absurd points of view. But, I look at it in total amazement that anything gets done at all. And it's even more amazing that the vast majority of legal cases are resolved quickly and fairly.
The only way to make the mass of mankind see the beauty of justice, is by showing them in pretty plain terms, the consequence of injustice. -- Sydney Smith (1771-1845)My glass isn't half empty, my cup brimeth over.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, June
thru Saturday, June 16, 2007
June 14, 2007 - While it had nothing to do with the Dr. Hatfill lawsuit or the anthrax investigation, Judge Reggie Walton was in the news today. The New York Times and others are reporting that Judge Walton ordered that "Scooter" Libby must go to jail while awaiting his appeal. Libby will have to report to prison in six to eight weeks. The report also mentions this:
There were no surprises at today’s court session, since Judge Walton had said earlier that the evidence against Mr. Libby was overwhelming and that he saw no realistic prospects for a successful appeal. Still, today’s hearing was not without drama.The following paragraph probably says a lot about how Judge Walton will view all the legal arguments from media lawyers suggesting he was wrong in saying "case law" indicated Dr. Hatfill needed to compel reporters to name their confidential sources:
One telling moment came as Judge Walton referred to a motion filed by 12 law professors asserting that there were appealable issues in the case. The judge dismissed the motion, remarking acidly that it was “not worthy of a first-year law student.”June 13, 2007 - According to an entry just placed in the Docket for the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit, Judge Walton has set up a motion hearing for Tuesday, June 26, 2007, nearly two weeks from now. Presumably he will hear and/or rule on the various Motions to Compel at that time. So, we've still got a while to wait.
June 12, 2007 - Yesterday's Gainesville (FL) Sun contains an Associated Press article about the status of the lawsuits filed by Maureen Stevens as a result of her husband's death from anthrax in 2001. The article explains why her lawsuits against the government and against Battelle Memorial Institute have been hung up for years:
The lawsuit is on hold pending an appeal of a federal trial judge's decision to let the lawsuit proceed after finding that the government and Battelle had a duty under Florida law to protect members of the public from the anthrax used in their facilities.So, there are things going on. And we're all getting some good lessons in how the legal system works.
June 10, 2007 - I hope the flood of memorandums and replies has ended. All sides in the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit seem to have stated their positions very clearly in every way possible, yet every memorandum seems to generate new memorandums in support or in opposition to that memorandum. Nevertheless, the issues are very clear:
The media claims it has (or should have) the right to keep names of anonymous sources confidential even if that involves protecting government employees who committed illegal acts. They made promises to these people who supposedly committed illegal acts, and they do not feel they should be forced to break their promises.
The government claims that the media was either just making up their stories about Dr. Hatfill or the media used sources which don't really have access to confidential files. So, unless the reporters name their confidential sources so that those sources can be questioned, there is no way to determine whether the Privacy Act was violated or not.
Dr. Hatfill has depositions from reporters where the reporters state that unnamed FBI and DOJ employees provided confidential information about Dr. Hatfill, information which seemingly could only come from confidential government files in violation of the Privacy Act. Dr. Hatfill feels (or felt) that he has a good case even if the reporters do not name names.
And Judge Hilton has stated that the "wealth of case law suggests that in order to prove that a violation of the Privacy Act has occurred, the actual source of the information must be identified."
So, all the pieces are in place for an historic First Amendment conflict. Does the media have the right to protect government employees who committed illegal acts? (Federal law seems to say that the media doesn't even have the right to protect confidential sources who did NOT commit illegal acts.) Does the media have the right to join with politically motivated conspiracy theorists and help them point the finger at an innocent man without any fear that the innocent man may fight back?
It's difficult to see how Judge Walton could deny Dr. Hatfill's motion to compel the media to name their confidential sources. But, he's a busy man with other cases, so there might be reasons why he won't issue his Order to Compel this week (or deny Dr. Hatfill's motion, which is always a remote possibility).
If the Order is issued, hopefully the media won't spend all their time on publishing woeful editiorials about how it could bring about the fall of the free press in America. We still need them to dig into what's happening with the Amerithrax investigation. To most people, if there is nothing in the media, that means that nothing is happening. But, in reality, things are happening whether the media reports on them or not. It often just means that the latest news about Paris Hilton has a higher priority for them.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, June
thru Saturday, June 9, 2007
June 7, 2007 - It appears there was a flood of new memorandums and attachments after I checked the Docket in the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit on Tuesday. Dr. Hatfill filed a "Memorandum in Support of Motion to Compel Further Testimony" from journalists Isikoff, Lengel, Klaidman and Stewart, and he filed another "Memorandum in Support of Motion to Compel Further Testimony from Toni Locy." In the first he says,
Their arguments are based not on what the law is, but what they wish the law would be."and
This is no Watergate. Here, the press was not exposing and checking government abuse; instead it acted as a conduit for illegal activity. The reporters now actively seek to cover up their sources' unlawful conduct because of the promised anonymity.It makes interesting reading as Dr. Hatfill's lawyers show again and again that the media not only doesn't have any legal justification to withhold the names of their confidential sources, but their arguments are all over the map. The media argues:
Dr. Hatfill does not need the leakers' names because, on the one hand, his case cannot succeed even with that information, and on the other, his case is so strong he should win summary judgement without it. They argue that Dr. Hatfill has no case because the leaked information was not "about" him and thus not a Privacy Act "record." [...] Mr. Stewart argues Dr. Hatfill is entitled to a summary judgement because he knows the leakers were employed by the agency defendants.Dr. Hatfill filed a separate Memorandum about Toni Locy of USA Today because she claims to have forgotten who said what.
Specifically, she argues that because she claims to be unable to attribute specific disclosures about Dr. Hatfill to a particular anonymous source, she should not be compelled to reveal the identities of any of her sources.Today, the government filed a Response to those memorandums from the media, arguing their belief once again that Dr. Hatfill has no case unless those confidential sources are identified.
... if the reporters do not divulge the identities of their sources, defendants will be unable to meaningfully cross examine the reporters, and their testimony will be inadmissable.Hopefully, this flood of paperwork will soon come to an end with an Order by Judge Walton. The media will undoubtedly fight any Order compelling them to name names, but since Dr. Hatfill has wiped out most of their legal arguments, it's difficult to guess what they will try to use instead to fight against naming names. Settlement isn't an argument, but it certainly could be an option.
June 5, 2007 - Yesterday, in the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit, the government filed an awkwardly titled document "Defendants' Consolidated Response, and Memorandum in Support, to Reporters' Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion to Compel." The title seems to indicate that the Memorandum supports the reporters, but in reality it's a motion in support of Dr. Hatfill and his Motion to Compel. The titles of the various sections of the "Argument" say everything:
A. Without the Names of Sources, Dr. Hatfill Cannot Carry His Burden of Proof in Establishing Liability Under the Privacy Act for the Disclosures He Alleges.
It's a kind of "left handed support" for Dr. Hatfill, stating that he absolutely requires the identification of the confidential sources in order to win his case, while probably assuming that the names will never be provided.1. Without the Names of Sources, There is No Way To Test the Validity of the Testimony Offered by the Reporters.B. Without the Names Of Sources, Dr. Hatfill Similarly Cannot Establish Liability for Any Safeguarding Claim that He May Wish To Pursue.
The ruling by Judge Walton may have been delayed by the need to work on more pressing matters, such as the ruling today to sentence Lewis "Scooter" Libby to 2-1/2 years in prison and to fine him $250,000 for his role in the "CIA Leak" case.
June 4, 2007 - Hmmm. Someone just informed me that a new fictional book by author Greg Bear titled "Quantico" has a fictional villain who sent the anthrax letters. On page 115 it says, "Tommy Juan Battista Juarez was the Amerithrax killer." It appears to indicate that the anthrax which killed Bob Stevens was in the J-Lo letter. Most likely, Greg Bear got that bogus info from Robert Graysmith's 2003 book "Amerithrax - The Hunt for the Anthrax Killer" which opened with several chapters about how the J-Lo letter killed Stevens. Fiction based upon fiction! I find that interesting. And it would seem that Greg Bear is convinced that the actual culprit will never be caught -- or at least not until his book completes its run through hardback and paperback.
June 3, 2007 - Digging more thoroughly through the documents filed on Friday in the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit, I can find little else of interest.
Dr. Hatfill subpoenaed the "outtakes" from a CBS interview of Van Harp, but CBS repeatedly claims that the "outtakes" contain nothing about Dr. Hatfill:
Specifically, CBS retains unaired footage, or "outtakes," of an interview with Van Harp, then assistant director of the FBI's Washington Field Office, conducted by Mr. Stewart in advance of the May 8, 2003 broadcast identified by the subpoena. Both men have testified under oath in this case that Mr. Harp did not provide Mr. Stewart any information about the Plaintiff.Basically, even though the actual lawsuit between Dr. Hatfill and the government is presumably in mediation, the media's role in the lawsuit appears to be still waiting on an Order by Judge Walton's to compel those five reporters (Michael Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman from Newsweek, Allan Lengel from The Washington Post, Toni Locy from USA Today, and James Stewart from CBS) to name their confidential sources. If the Order is issued, it will be an Order that the media will presumably try to fight, even though Dr. Hatfill has seemingly wiped out all grounds for appeal by exhausting all other means of getting those names.
The most important matters are (1) the mediation and (2) the motion to compel the naming of confidential sources. Everything else seems to be a side issue of one kind or another -- although I'm no lawyer, so there could be things there which I cannot see.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, May
thru Saturday, June 2, 2007
June 2, 2007 - It appears that other documents were filed yesterday by other news agencies in the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit. (It costs me 8 cents to check. So, I didn't check a second time yesterday. Costs add up, particularly since I'm providing a free service.) The other documents appeared after I checked at around noon Central Time. Glancing through the new documents, the one mentioned yesterday still seems to be the only one of interest. The others just say that any Motion to compel the release of documents is premature, since the Motions to Quash have not yet been ruled upon.
June 1, 2007 - An entry dated today in the Docket for the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit shows that ABC, The Washington Post and Newsweek filed another document in opposition to Dr. Hatfill's motion to compel the release of documents. They claim that
The documents plaintiff seeks are indisputably protected by the reporters' privilege under the First Amendment and federal common law.and, in their opinion,
The "leaks' at issue here did not cause any public harm; Dr. Hatfill is simply seeking to vindicate a private reputational interest. And the value of the disclosures is plain to see -- the public was informed about the status of a major investigation and, to a substantial degree, reassured that the notorious anthrax mailings were not believed to be another terrorist attack from outside the country.The fact that they believed the investigation was showing that the attacks came from some domestic source becomes very interesting when you read the footnote on page 7:
Months before any FBI source linked Dr. Hatfill to the investigation, [...] it was Dr. Hatfill who was meeting with members of the ABC news team, hoping to convince them to report that the FBI was "wasting its time looking at American scientists" instead of making a connection between the attacks and Saddam Hussein, a connection Dr. Hatfill boasted "he could prove".Perhaps of even more interest are a few segments of deposition from ABC's Brian Ross where he tells how rumor mongers and conspiracy theorists among Dr. Hatfill's former colleagues were pointing at Dr. Hatfill as a likely suspect in January and February of 2002 because his behavior was "strange and unusual."
Page 262 of the deposition begins with some discussion of a person who is not named but who should be very easily identified by what Brian Ross says about her:
Answer: She -- if I recall she had a whole theory about essentially the United States Government had a secret anthrax production in violation of international treaties and this was the tip of the iceberg and it was pretty -- it will bring down the military, and it got too rich for my blood.The deposition makes it very clear that scientists were giving their theories to Brian Ross at least five months before the FBI began its public investigation of Dr. Hatfill. But anyone who has read my book or this web site should already know that.
May 31, 2007 - An Order issued today by Judge Walton in the Hatfill v FBI et all lawsuit denies The Department of Justice's motion to amend/correct Judge Walton's Order of March 30. That means that Dr. Hatfill can expand his depositions to include new media organizations such as The New York Times and the Associated Press.
Judge Walton explains his decision this way:
ORDERED that the plaintiff is entitled to depose any third party who he in good faith believes possesses information pertaining to the alleged source or sources at the Department of Justice or the Federal Bureau of Investigation who disclosed information to news reporters concerning the criminal investigation conducted by those agencies.This would appear to be a major victory for Dr. Hatfill.
May 30, 2007 - Yesterday, media companies issued a new flurry of documents in the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit. Each gives its own reasons for wanting to quash Dr. Hatfill's subpoenas.
According to the Associated Press and the Baltimore Sun, "Plaintiff [Dr. Hatfill] contends that 'the court made me do it' and acknowledges that his primary interest in issuing all of the new subpoenas is to line up more deep-pocket media entities."
The New York Times claims that "[Dr. Hatfill] argues that the Court has in effect authorized him to subpoena any press entity that ever reported on the criminal investigation of him."
ABC, Newsweek and The Washington Post also argue about the significance of Judge Walton's March 30 Order. They rightly claim that Judge Walton didn't actually request that confidential sources be identified, nor did Judge Walton actually state a reporter's "privilege" would not apply in this case. He just stated that Dr. Hatfill "may, at his discretion, proceed with discovery to attempt to obtain the identity of the alleged source or sources at the Department of Justice ("DOJ") and the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI") who allegedly provided information to news reporters concerning the criminal investigation of Dr. Hatfill."
Judge Walton also stated that while it is conceivable that Dr. Hatfill may be able to use purely circumstantial evidence to prove to a jury that the DOJ and FBI violated the Privacy Act, "the wealth of case law" suggests otherwise.
I could be wrong, but it looks like Judge Walton's Order to the media will be coming very soon. These latest documents appear to be final attempts to stop or delay it.
May 27, 2007 - Digging through the new documents released last week in the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit, it's difficult to determine exactly what's going on.
Toni Locy of USA Today, filed a Memorandum opposing Dr. Hatfill's motion to compel her to name her confidential sources, and it just says what she said in her deposition. Here's how her lawyers summed it up on page 1 of her Memorandum:
Plaintiff subpoenaed Locy for a deposition on May 19, 2006. At the deposition, Locy produced all the documents in her possession relating to those articles; she withheld nothing. She told what she remembered about preparing the articles, but she repeatedly and unequivocally testified that she could not recall the identities of her confidential sources for the articles. He has no notes to refresh her recollection as to the sources' identities, and she never told anyone else who they are.The Memorandum filed by the lawyers for Michael Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman of Newsweek and Allan Lengel of The Washington Post takes the same point of view that Dr. Hatfill took before Judge Walton told him Dr. Hatfill that he needed to get the reporters to name names. On page 22, the Memorandum sums it up this way:
... Dr. Hatfill cannot demonstrate that the identities of the journalists' confidential sources are centrally relevant to his lawsuit. Even assuming that he could identify some disclosures to Messrs. Isikoff, Klaidman and Lengel that could have been violations of the Privacy Act, he has already established that the disclosures were made by the defendant agencies. Under the Privacy Act, that is all the information he needs.In other words, they appear to be saying that Judge Walton was mistaken when he told Dr. Hatfill he needed to compel the reporters to name names, and that Dr. Hatfill was right when he said he didn't need to do so. It's difficult to see how that argument will work in Judge Walton's courtroom. But, if it doesn't work, the Memorandum also attempts to make the case on page 27 that "Dr. Hatfill Cannot Overcome The Reporters' Privilege Under Federal Common Law." That's going to be a tough argument to win, too.
The Memorandum filed by James Stewart of CBS is similar to the Memorandum from Newsweek and The Washington Post. This is from page 2:
... Plaintiff has amassed substantial evidence that he says points to willful agency conduct that either facilitated or manifested to the leaks that the agencies knew were coming from their employees. Nothing more is required to establish liablity under the Privacy Act, and no names of sources are required to make out that case. As a result, the reporters' privilege cannot be overcome because the names of sources are unnecessary to proceed with this case.So, they, too, are saying that Judge Walton was mistaken. But their argument also seems to be that the agencies are at fault and violated the Privacy Act, not individual employees. Therefore naming individuals is irrelevant. That's an argument I find hard to fathom. And I think Judge Walton would probably feel the same way. When a government agency violates a law, I need to know exactly who in that agency violated the law. It's not enough to point the finger at the Attorney General's office or the Director of the FBI and say they are responsible for everything that happens in their domains. Without knowing exactly who violated the law, you can't be absolutely certain that the law was violated.
But that's just my viewpoint -- the viewpoint of a non-lawyer. Defense attorneys obviously see things very differently.
Meanwhile, the Memorandum filed last week by The New York Times asks for more time to clarify issues involving the Times. The issues relate to Dr. Hatfill's lawsuit against the Times and questions about whether documents already prepared in that lawsuit can serve in this lawsuit, etc.
Judge Walton clearly has a lot of issues to sort out. It still seems clear that he will order the reporters to name their confidential sources, but it's not quite as clear as it was a week or so ago.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, May
thru Saturday, May 26, 2007
May 24, 2007 - Evidently, things seemed very quiet lately because everyone was busy writing lengthy memorandums in opposition to Dr. Hatfill's motion to compel reporters to name names. They were all placed on the Docket late yesterday. There are too many documents for me to download, much less put them all on this site. The few I did download will take awhile to study to see what the reporters have to say. In addition, for some reason, there appear to be a bunch of new lawyers coming in for all sides. I have no idea what that's all about. Maybe it has something to do with being ordered into 60 days of mediation. Or maybe not.
May 20, 2007 - Last week, I fully expected that Judge Walton would agree to Dr. Hatfill's Motion to Compel and would issue an Order compelling those five reporters to name their confidential FBI/DOJ sources. But it didn't happen. It almost certainly will happen, but the question is: When? Another question: What will the penalty be if the reporters do not comply? Another: Why was Brian Ross excluded?
And another puzzling question: How come there are now document numbers missing from the Court Docket? While they didn't always make every document available to the public, the Docket for the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit seemed to list all documents from the start of the case on August 26, 2003, until document #157 on May 9, 2007. Now, suddenly, there's a gap. The next document is number #164 on May 17, 2007. What are the 7 missing documents? And why are they missing?
The only clue is the mention of document #162 in the texts for two entries dated May 17. One text says, "Memorandum in opposition to re 162 MOTION to Quash". The other mention is similar. Best guess: Document #162 was a Motion to Quash from The New York Times Company. What's secret about that? Is it because the New York Times' confidential sources in this case are the same confidential sources Dr. Hatfill was trying to identify in his lawsuit against The New York Times? Does the fact that the connection to another lawsuit mean that the documents are considered confidential or restricted in some way? Could be.
Did those missing documents cause Judge Walton to delay his Order? Or was his Order to Compel delayed by all the earlier Motions to Quash and the need for Dr. Hatfill to respond. Dr. Hatfill did respond last week, causing some confusion as he filed #164 and then apparently refiled the same document as part of #165.
Looking for clues in Document #164/165 "Plaintiff's Consolidated Opposition To Media Companies' Motions to Quash," I found this tidbit of information on page 7:
When non-party media entities or reporters refuse to comply with an order to identify sources, courts often will impose monetary sanctions to compel compliance. [...] Those sanctions are paid to the Court, not to the litigant seeking the sources; thus such sanctions are of no value to Dr. Hatfill unless and until they succeeded in compelling compliance. [...] The past has proven, however, that sanctions imposed against reporters seldom lead to the compliance they are designed to obtain. For example, in Lee, the reporters who were fined $500 per day never identified their sources. Although this amount would quickly become burdensome to most individuals, the case ultimately settled without any reporter complying.It's also important to understand that the purpose of the Motions to Compel is to get the reporters to name the confidential sources so that the sources can be compelled to confirm or deny and to testify at trial. Document #164/165 says that on page 8:
Once media companies identify or provide information sufficient to identify the sources, Dr. Hatfill will be able to obtain testimony directly from the sources regarding disclosures in deposition and at trial.The subject heading on page 17 could explain something: "The Objective of Dr. Hatfill's Discovery is to Obtain the Sources' Names, Not to Force Non-Parties to Contribute to a Settlement Payment."
Whatever the answers to all the questions may be, on Friday Dr. Hatfill filed a new Motion to Compel which includes obtaining documents from the media companies, not just names of confidential sources. The Memorandum in Support of that Motion include hints about what might be in the requested documents:
Assistant Director in Charge Van Harp testified that he sat down for a long interview with CBS reporter Jim Stewart shortly after he retired from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. [...] The extensive interview included detailed questions regarding Dr. Hatfill and the Amerithrax investigation. [...] CBS did not air all of the footage from that interview, but presumably has it in its custody. Based upon Assistant Director Harp's testimony it appears that footage of several of the unaired responses are responsive to the document requests.and
Brian Ross, an ABC employee, testified that Vic Walters, his producer, not only knows the identity of one of his anonymous sources, but actually negotiated the promise of confidentiality with the source.Hopefully, Judge Walton will soon rule on the Motions to Compel.
And it's also important to remember that Judge Walton Ordered the parties into 60 days of mediation beginning tomorrow.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, May
thru Saturday, May 19, 2007
May 17, 2007 - I just learned that youtube.com has all of the History Channel "Conspiracy" program about the anthrax investigation which they aired years ago. If you want to see how Dr. Hatfill became a "person of interest," click HERE.
May 15, 2007 - I seem to be having problems with my web site hosting service. So, if this site suddenly disappears, it's not because the guys in the black helicopters swept in and whisked me away to Gitmo. It'll be because my web site hosting service went out of business, and I have to find a new one.
May 13, 2007 - The coming week promises to be pretty interesting, since we should be seeing an Order from Judge Reggie Walton to compel those five reporters from Newsweek, The Washington Post, USA Today and CBS to name their confidential government sources.
While last week may have seemed very quiet to most people, for me it was an endless series of arguments in two different forums. In an email-based forum, I endlessly argued with a True Believer who tried a new game. The "game" was to try to figure out who I believe most likely sent the anthrax letters by looking for clues on my web site. That by itself wasn't a problem (Since I could be wrong in my analysis, I've gone to great lengths to make sure my web site doesn't point to any specific person as being the anthrax mailer.), but it became a problem when someone mentioned a scientist's name to the True Believer and the True Believer began doing research.
I told the True Believer that I had never heard that scientist's name before. But he was convinced the person I thought had sent the anthrax letters had been identified. And that's how he was discussing this person: "Ed's Anthrax Guy". Suddenly, he was doing as True Believers do when they believe something: he went looking for proof to verify his belief that this was my "suspect". He found the person's name in some obscure articles on my web site, proving that I had heard the name before. It made no difference that it was just one name from among the many thousands of names which appear in articles and documents on this site. As far as he was concerned, he had proven that I had "lied". To him, that was proof he was on the right track. So, he had incentive to dig further for information about "Ed's Anthrax Guy." But, because he had his own suspect (al Qaeda), his motive was also to prove that I was wrong about who I believed was the culprit. So, it didn't take long before he had plenty of proof that this person he was talking about could not possibly be the anthrax mailer.
In other words, he was more convinced than ever that he was right and that I am wrong, because he had found facts to prove that my "person of interest" didn't do it. But that "person of interest" was just a meaningless name to me.
That's when the "game" turned malicious and irresponsible, if not downright insane. He indicated that he might just contact this scientist and determine for himself whether the scientist was the anthrax mailer or not. And he'd probably discuss my web site and the "fact" that my web site implied the scientist was the anthrax mailer. He'd done that in the past with a different scientist.
I don't know if he actually contacted this new scientist. When I told him I planned to describe this insane "game" in this comment this morning, he seemed to change his tune, he seemed to realize that it was so obvious that the scientist could not possibly be the anthrax mailer that it didn't seem logical that I would suspect him. (The scientist doesn't even live in New Jersey, but the True Believer just rationalized that I was lying when I said that's where the person lives who most likely sent the anthrax letters.)
It was a lesson for me, however. I need to be careful with whom I discuss the anthrax case. There are True Believers out there who will go to bizarre, malicious and irresponsible lengths to prove they are right about who they think sent the anthrax letters of 2001. I should have realized that, since I'd seen Conspiracy Theorists go to similar extremes to try to shut down anyone who did not accept their conspiracy theories about the "super-sophisticated" nature of the attack anthrax.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, May
thru Saturday, May 12, 2007
May 9, 2007 (B) - Today the Docket in the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit shows that Dr. Hatfill has filed the expected Motion to ask Judge Walton to compel reporters to name their confidential sources within the FBI. Unexpectedly, however, and the Motion only names five reporters: Michael Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman from Newsweek, Allan Lengel from The Washington Post, Toni Locy from USA Today, and James Stewart from CBS. Not only was Brian Ross from ABC omitted, but so were all the reporters from The New York Times who were recently subpoenaed.
May 9, 2007 (A) - For what it's worth, the Docket in the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit shows that CBS has also filed a Motion to Quash Dr. Hatfill's subpoenas.
May 6, 2007 - Someone sent me an article from yesterday's Toronto Star titled "Terror plots and information overload." Evidently, his motivation was to show me that my picture puzzle analogy did not apply to the anthrax investigation, since the sender used this quote from the article as his message to me:
The complexity of data collection is like a jigsaw puzzle of a million pieces, says Gavin Cameron, president of the Canadian Association for Security and Intelligence Studies. Most of the pieces don't fit, you don't even know what the picture is and other countries may be hiding key pieces.What the person who sent me the article evidently failed to realize is that there is a BIG difference between "intelligence gathering" and "forensic analysis." Although some of the techniques may be similar, and both involve assembling lots of puzzle pieces, "intelligence gathering" is basically about trying to predict the future. It's about trying to determine what someone in a secret organization is thinking about and plotting before they actually do the deed. That is very VERY different from looking at the evidence of a crime that has already occurred to try to determine who did it and why. The biggest difference may be that with a past crime, you can generally see what pieces fit and what pieces do not fit. The picture isn't constantly changing. The deed is done. No one is changing their mind anymore.
But, I still like this quote from the beginning of the article:
"Whatever the complexities of the puzzles we strive to solve and whatever the sophisticated techniques we may use to collect the pieces and store them, there can never be a time when the thoughtful man can be supplanted as the intelligence device supreme."There are still some things which cannot yet be done better by machines.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, April
thru Saturday, May 5, 2007
May 5, 2007 - Yesterday, the lawyers for ABC, The Washington Post and Newsweek filed a Motion to quash the subpoenas Dr. Hatfill recently issued as a first step toward getting reporters to name their confidential sources. At the same time, the Defendants filed a "Reply in Support" of their Motion to restrict Dr. Hatfill's new discovery to just the six reporters previously named. Since there is absolutely no chance of agreement between parties, it's all going to fall into Judge Walton's lap for resolution.
May 4, 2007 - According to the Global Security Newswire (which cited "Roll Call" as its source), in March, the FBI finally briefed Senators Leahy and Grassley on the status of the Amerithrax investigation. No one from the House of Representatives was included in the briefing. The key phrase in the news report is probably this one:
Neither Leahy nor Grassley provided any substantive details of the briefing or of the investigation.May 3, 2007 - Dr. Hatfill's somewhat testy reply to the government's complaint about depositions of reporters who were not previously listed contains a few tidbits of information that seem new to me. Here's one snippy comment:
And despite their argument to the Court that their defense in this case depends upon having an opportunity to cross-examine individual leakers -- a dubious argument in light of their past failure either to subpoena any press witnesses or to move to compel answers from any the plaintiff subpoenaed -- the defendants now step forward and ask the Court to prevent Dr. Hatfill from obtaining the very information they have previously pretended to need.The Defendants claim their case "depends upon having an opportunity to cross- examine individual leakers"? That's interesting. Presumably, the leakers would be cross-examined to see if they got their information from confidential files or just spoke "off the cuff" about their personal beliefs.
The document also gives some insight into Dr. Hatfill's plans:
if Dr. Hatfill is genuinely supposed to "proceed with discovery to obtain the identity of the alleged source or sources," he must pursue the desired information not only from individual reporters, but also from their corporate employers, whose accountability to their public shareholders may give them a more responsible conception of the Court's authority in such matters.Dr. Hatfill's lawyers expect to file a motion to compel the reporters "very soon". Presumably, they have to give the reporters one more chance to do name sources without being compelled by Judge Walton. And there's a good chance that heavy fines will be levied if the reporters and their corporate employers do not comply.
It appears that the FBI made no serious effort to find out who leaked confidential information to the media. One of the attachments includes an interesting exchange between Dr. Hatfill's lawyer Tom Connolly and FBI Special Agent Bradley Garrett:
Garrett: [...] if I were in charge of determining where the leaks came from, what would I do?And it goes on from there, with Garrett agreeing that Van Harp (the former head of the FBI's Washington Field Office) would be a good person to question about leaks, since Harp was with the FBI, he was "frustrated", and he evidently talked specifically about Dr. Hatfill on camera to CBS on May 8, 2003. It was also Van Harp who was caught between the rock (established FBI procedures) and the hard place (Dr. Rosenberg and those Senate staffers) a week before the public investigation of Dr. Hatfill began.
May 2, 2007 - Reading through a blog entry on the Legal Times web site, I noticed that it mentioned that reporters from the Associated Press were also newly added to Dr. Hatfill's subpoena list. Checking the subpoenas again, I found I had gotten a few things mixed up. I went back and corrected the entry for April 27 to properly place Gretchen Parker and Curt Anderson with the Associated Press (instead of the Baltimore Sun) and to properly place Scott Shane and Frank D. Roylance with The Baltimore Sun (instead of The New York Times, even though Shane is now with The Times).
April 30, 2007 - While George Tenet doesn't seem to mention the anthrax attacks of 2001 in his new book "At the Center of the Storm", he does mention al Qaeda's interest in anthrax. Someone sent me these paragraphs from pages 278-279:
Another key Al-Qa'ida connection to biological weapons was Yazid Sufaat, the Jemaah Islamiya associate who hosted the first operational meeting of the 9/11 hijackers at his apartment in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in January 2000. In fact, Sufaat had provided commercial cover for Zacarias Moussaoui's trip to the United States. Sufaat was also the self-described "CEO" of al-Qai'da's anthrax program. U.S. educated and with a Malaysian military background, Sufaat had impeccable extremist credentials. In 2000 he had been introduced to Ayman al-Zawahiri personally, by Hambali, as the man who was capable of leading al-Qai'da's biological weapons program.While these paragraphs do not mention or even indicate any connection between al Qaeda and the anthrax attacks of 2001, Tenet certainly provides enough vague information to allow True Believers to inject an imagined connection. However, all this information has been known for a long time, and even after five years there still isn't any evidence that the program produced powdered anthrax or that any anthrax from the program was used as a weapon anywhere, much less that they had the Ames strain or transported any powder to the United States. And, of course, we have the unverified NBC news report that the anthrax powder was made in the Northeastern U.S.
April 29, 2007 - I've been told (and I've verified) that former CIA Director George Tenet's new book “At the Center of the Storm” doesn't even mention the anthrax attacks of 2001. I find that interesting, since Bob Woodward's book "Bush At War" contained this information about Tenet's beliefs during a meeting which took place on October 17, 2001, just two days after the Daschle anthrax letter was opened:
The powder in the letter mailed to Senator Daschle's office had been found to be potent, prompting officials to suggest its source was likely an expert capable of producing the bacteria in large amounts. Tenet said, "I think it's AQ" --meaning al Qaeda. "I think there's a state sponsor involved. It's too well thought out, the powder's too well refined. It might be Iraq, it might be Russia, it might be a renegade scientist," perhaps from Iraq or Russia.Evidently, he has decided he was wrong about that belief, too. Otherwise, he'd almost certainly have mentioned it as something he was right about.
Also, I found it interesting that the Dean of Admissions at MIT has admitted that she lied on her resumé. She claimed she had degrees from Union College, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the Albany Medical College even though she hadn't graduated from any of those colleges. Newsday contains this bit of information:
Some experts estimate that 10 to 30 percent of job applicants include distortions, if not downright fabrications, on resumes, according to the Chicago-based outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.There are apparently some people who believe that Dr. Hatfill should be prosecuted for 5 murders whether he's guilty or not, just because he lied on his resumé. Using that standard, shouldn't the MIT dean be accused of some unrelated crime, too?
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, April
thru Saturday, April 28, 2007
April 27, 2007 - It appears from the Docket in the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit that the government has filed a Motion indicating that they are upset that Dr. Hatfill didn't just subpoena the six reporters who previously refused to name their confidential sources (Brian Ross, James Stewart, Toni Locy, Allan Lengel, Michael Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman), but Dr. Hatfill has also "served a new round of subpoenas .... upon news organizations that he failed to question during the discovery period." The government is asking Judge Walton to rule on whether this should or should not be allowed. They feel it's starting discovery all over again.
Looking through the subpoena attachments to the government's Motion, it appears that the reporters who are newly mentioned are mostly from The New York Times (Nicolas Kristof, David Johnson, William Broad, Kate Zernike, Judith Miller), The Baltimore Sun (Scott Shane and Frank D. Roylance) and the Associated Press (Gretchen Parker and Curt Anderson). In addition to Allen Lengel from the Washington Post, the subpoenas mention Marilyn Thompson, David Snyder, Guy Gugliotta, Tom Jackman, Dan Eggen and Carol D. Loenning, who are also from the Post. And, in addition to Mark Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman from Newsweek, the subpoenas also mention Mark Miller. All the names in red are new. (It's certainly understandable why they would want to compel the reporters from The New York Times and The Washington Post to name names.)
(NOTE: the above paragraph was corrected on May 2, 2007.)
April 24, 2007 - Someone sent me a link to a video-taped April 19, 2002, discussion involving Ken Alibek and William Patrick III. While it contains nothing new, it does allow the viewer to see for himself or herself what these two bioweapons experts said about the anthax powders in the letters sent to Senators Daschle and Leahy. It's a 36 minute show, and at around the 24 minute mark Ken Alibek starts talking about the attack powders. He says it's not very hard to find the information needed to create the attack powders, and he goes on to say,
You know, one of the biggest debates we have so far.... Many people say it's very hard to manufacture. You know I analyzed specifically this anthrax case we saw in October. I analyzed all parameters of the product. You know, in my opinion, of course, we made several mistakes when we claimed that it was highly sophisticated product, that it was a weaponized product, that it was a product that nobody else but a very sophisticated group could produce. In my opinion it is absolutely not sophisticated. Concentration says about nothing, since because it's a very simple technique to have this concentration.At about the 29 minute mark, William Patrick III comments on the same subject.
There's been a lot of information - I think wrong information regarding the quality of the anthrax powders in the Daschle and Leahy letters. Now, obviously it's a good quality. But there have been a lot of people in Washington who have made the statement "this is weapons-grade anthrax." Well, the number of people who can look at a powder and tell that it is weapons-grade is -- the number of people is very very rare. [Ken] can do it. I can do it.They also discuss a lot of related subjects, including what is meant by the term "weaponization." It's old material, but it also shows that experts were trying to correct the bad information being reported and spread around by the media and people with a political agenda.
The problem is: In an era where everything needs to be put into a 60-second sound bite or no one will listen, some things are too complex to be explained in a 60-second sound bite.
April 22-23, 2007 - A few weeks ago, I tried a different approach toward resolving the endless arguments I've been having for the past five years with people who disagree with me about who sent the anthrax letters. I decided that an analogy could be a very helpful way to communicate complex concepts and ideas where there is "no meeting of the minds". I hoped it would help the others to see my point of view - even if they still didn't agree with it .
I used a picture puzzle analogy. Here's the way it went:
Doing an analysis of the facts is like collecting pieces of a picture puzzle and putting them together in the way that all the pieces fit best. The problem, however, was that the pieces for this particular puzzle didn't come in a box with the solution printed on the cover, the pieces were found dumped in the center of an attic floor in a big heap. So, it became a big sorting and matching job.
Many of the pieces fit together very neatly and clearly. But it also became clear fairly early in the process that I didn't have all the pieces of the puzzle. Some pieces were scattered in hidden places around the cluttered attic. So, we all had to search for them. Plus, around the attic there were scraps of paper and pieces of junk which looked vaguely like puzzle pieces but weren't, which added an extra complication.
So far, it appears to be a 500-piece picture puzzle, and I think I've located about 430 of the pieces. I've spent over 5 years putting together the 430 pieces I've found. Two years ago I wrote a book about how the pieces fit together.
All the 430 pieces I've found fit together perfectly. As I see it, the edges of the puzzle are nice and straight, the picture itself is fairly clear, and the missing pieces are just random holes scattered throughout the picture.
As I see it (in this analogy), it's a farm scene. The sky is there, the fences and barn are there, and the house and trees, and the cows in the pasture are all there. None of the missing pieces would likely cause a dramatic change to the overall picture.
However, I'm arguing with people who insist the picture is actually Times Square on New Years' Eve. And others insist the picture is actually a four-masted sailing ship on the high seas. Still others insist it is an abstract painting by Picasso, and others insist it's a photograph of Jennifer Lopez.
They all insist that unless I have all the pieces I cannot tell what the picture really is. To me that is absolute nonsense. I can clearly see what the picture is from the pieces I've already assembled. I may not be able to see every detail, but it is a farm scene.
So, they argue that I've assembled the pieces incorrectly, and that's why it looks like a farm to me. They claim I wanted to assemble a picture of a farm, and that's why I ended up with a picture of a farm. To me that is virtually impossible. I can see no way the pieces can be reassembled to create a picture of Times Square or a sailing ship or a Picasso painting or a picture of Jennifer Lopez. How could a barn be in any of those pictures? I can see the barn clearly. There is no doubt that it's a barn. And the same with the cows. There are cows in the picture -- beyond any doubt.
The others claim that I'm seeing cows because I want to see cows. The ones who believe it's a picture of Times Square say it could be images of cows on a billboard. The ones who say it's a sailing ship say it could just be the way the clouds look -- like animals. The ones who say it's a Picasso painting say that everything Picasso did can be misinterpreted. The ones who say it's a photograph of Jennifer Lopez say the cows could just be some decoration on her costume. And they say if I cannot prove that they are wrong, then that means I could be wrong. And, if I could be wrong, and, if they could be right, then they believe they are right.
So, we're at an impasse. They believe what they believe, and they say I'm just believing what I want to believe -- even though I have the assembled image and it is clearly a farm. Furthermore, all the new pieces which have been found in the past two years fall neatly into place and just make it more certain that it is a picture of a farm.
On the other hand, when I look at what the others have assembled, I see that they have put together pieces of paper and pieces of junk, and they only use the few pieces of the actual puzzle which fit their idea of what the picture should be. They ignore most of the pieces which do not fit their beliefs and paint over some pieces and even use a scissors to cut other pieces to make them look like they fit. That's what I see. They, of course, see things differently.
I acknowledge that it is possible that I could be wrong. But that doesn't mean I am wrong. So, until I am shown proof that I am wrong and learn how I became wrong, then I cannot see how I could be wrong. (I suppose it's possible that the missing pieces might show some movie stars, and the picture might actually be a scene from a movie, but it's still basically a farm scene. The missing pieces would just provide more information about what's already there.)
The pieces all fit together perfectly. They cannot all be assembled any other way.
Leaving the analogy and getting back to the anthrax investigation:
As if to prove my point, no one produces any new pieces which provide solid proof that I am wrong. All they do is argue that they put the puzzle together correctly, and I didn't. The proof, they all claim, is in the missing pieces. Once the missing pieces are found, they are all certain they will be shown to be totally correct. They all agree on that, even though some say the missing pieces will show that al Qaeda did it, some say the missing pieces will show that Dr. Hatfill did it, some say that the missing pieces will show that a pharmaceutical company did it, and some say the missing pieces will show that the Bush administration did it.
Nope, I say. The partially assembled puzzle clearly shows that a scientist who lives and works in Central New Jersey sent the letters. I don't need the missing pieces to see that, although I do need the missing pieces to be absolutely certain of which individual did it. The pieces that have already been found and assembled only show the general picture with certainty. As I see it, all the missing pieces will do is end the debate.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, April
thru Saturday, April 21, 2007
April 20, 2007 - In Judge Walton's Order issued today, he grants Dr. Hatfill 60 days (starting today) to conduct further discovery to compel reporters to identify "alleged" confidential sources, and he "ordered that the parties are referred to mediation for a period of sixty days commencing on May 21, 2007 and concluding on July 20, 2007". A status conference will be held on July 27, 2007.
My legal dictionary defines "mediation" this way:
Mediation: n. the attempt to settle a legal dispute through active participation of a third party (mediator) who works to find points of agreement and make those in conflict agree on a fair result. Mediation differs from arbitration, in which the third party (arbitrator) acts much like a judge in an out-of court, less formal setting but does not actively participate in the discussion. .... However mediation does not always result in a settlement.April 18, 2007 (B) - This morning, The New York Sun has an article titled "Free Press Battle Looms in Hatfill Case" which contains some predictions about how Dr. Hatfill's plan to compel reporters to identify confidential sources will affect the case:
Attorneys monitoring the lawsuit said the new subpoenas will likely trigger appeals that could drag out the case for more than a year. "Even assuming the worst case scenario, nobody's going to jail immediately," one press freedom advocate, Jane Kirtley of the University of Minnesota, said.A lot may also depend upon what Judge Walton includes in his order.
April 18, 2007 (A) - Hmm. Looks like Amazon.com finally lowered the price for my book. They're now selling it for $18.95. So, for all those people who didn't need to know the facts immediately and have been waiting for two years for the price to come down, your dreams have been answered! ;-)
April 16, 2007 (B) - According to a Notice filed today, Dr. Hatfill will begin attempting to compel reporters to name their confidential sources as soon as Judge Walton orders that the 60 days for additional discovery can begin. If the reporters refuse to name names, additional time may be needed. Interestingly, the Notice also mentions "settlement discussions" and says that "Dr. Hatfill and the agency defendants are in agreement that they would prefer a court-appointed mediator for settlement discussions." That's an interesting development, since it previously appeared that a settlement was totally out of the question. But now a Wen Ho Lee-type settlement seems possible, where media outlets and the government join in paying a settlement.
Meanwhile, for those who have purchased copies of my book: Amazon.com ordered 4 copies today. They were shipped immediately. They should arrive at Amazon on Wednesday. Presumably, 3 copies will be used to fill customer orders and 1 copy will be put in stock on Thursday. Also, Amazon confirmed that their customers generally prefer to order a book when it is in stock. If that's your situation, you might consider trying Barnes & Noble's web site. They have at least one copy in stock, maybe two. Otherwise, you can try to get the copy Amazon should be putting in stock on Thursday.
April 16, 2007 (A) - While I'm not going to put it in my archives, lawyer Ross Getman has placed another "article" on another web site: "'Leahy Law': Why Senator Leahy Was Targeted With Anthrax." Another version can be found HERE. Another version of the earlier article is HERE. And there's another article HERE. And another HERE. There seems no end to the list of sites where he can tell people about his beliefs.
April 15, 2007 - Tomorrow, Dr. Hatfill is expected to tell Judge Walton whether or not he will to attempt to compel reporters to name their confidential FBI and DOJ sources.
On Tuesday, Attorney General Gonzales will be testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the firing of those eight U.S. Attorneys, and some people expect that he may also be confronted with more questions about the Amerithrax investigation.
Monday may also provide information for another analysis I'm doing: Last Monday, the 9th, Salon.com released that article which mentioned me and my book. About 600 people appear to have visited my site for the first time on that day (out of 1,085 total visitors for the day). The two copies of my book which Amazon.comhad in stock sold out almost instantly. Amazon's automated ordering system detected the out-of-stock situation and placed an order to the publisher for ONE copy that evening. The copy was shipped to Amazon the next day, Tuesday. It arrived at Amazon on Thursday. Their web site showed it for sale on Friday morning. Friday afternoon it had been sold, and they were out of stock again.
I expect another automated order on Monday. (Amazon appears to order slow-moving books only once per week.) Do people only order when the book is "in stock"? Will the new restocking order be for just one copy? Or have customer orders for my book been accumulating, waiting for Amazon's restocking system to place the weekly order? Am I correct in believing that Amazon keeps taking orders when they are out of stock? I contacted Amazon to ask that question, but I got an automated response which didn't answer it. So, Monday I should have more information to analyze.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, April
thru Saturday, April 14, 2007
April 14, 2007 - Attorney Ross Getman has managed to put yet another one of his "articles" on another web site. This time it's on a site called "Mens News Daily," which appears to be just another conservative web site with an inpressive sounding name. And, he's contacted me to ask that I put the article in my archives - evidently to help counter any influence I may have toward convincing people that al Qaeda was not behind the anthrax attacks. Getman's article is titled "Is Ayman Zawahiri Behind The Anthrax Mailings?" I've added the article to my archives, but I also informed him that it will be the last article of his that I will archive unless he manages to get something that is both new and informative into a "recognized" periodical. There seems to be no end to these obscure web sites which allow "guests" to post rants on their favorite subject, and then the rants show up as "news" when I do a Google on "anthrax".
April 13, 2007 - If you are interested in seeing how some people put together facts about the anthrax investigation, click on this link to a FreeRepublic thread.
April 11, 2007 - Today's Newark Star-Ledger and the Asbury Park (NJ) Press both have articles this morning describing a new push by Congressman Rush Holt and postal union leaders to get more information about the anthrax investigation. Good luck.
Ross Getman, an attorney in New York who has conducted exhaustive research into the anthrax mailings, believes a code used by Al Qaeda implicates the terror organization in the anthrax attacks. Also, the American Thinker reports of "some new findings" in the case. RELATED: Cost-effectiveness of vaccination strategy for anthrax attack against a USPS P&DC - Postal union leaders protest probe into anthrax attacksThe long, long article by Ross Getman is titled "The Code Used In The Anthrax Letters" and rehashes his theories about al Qaeda being behind behind the anthrax attacks of 2001 in the same way Dany Shoham and Stuart M. Jacobsen rehashed their theories in their article "Technical Intelligence In Retrospect: The 2001 Anthrax Letters Powder"about Iraq being behind the attacks and about super-sophisticated coatings on the anthrax spores, even though the facts say such theories are almost certainly total nonsense. All they do is ignore any facts which say they are wrong, they twist facts to support their theories, and they argue things which were disproven long ago as if the proof was never mentioned and doesn't even exist. Clearly, the objective is not to find the truth but to spread the word about their theories. They'll always be able to find someone who never heard them before and who is willing to believe.
And while all this was going on, Salon.com has another piece from Glenn Greenwald titled "Response from ABC News re: the Saddam-anthrax reports" where an ABC executive says Brian Ross corrected the story on November 1, 2001, with this:
ROSS: Well, Peter, today the White House said that despite initial test results which we reported suggesting the presence of a chemical called bentonite, a trademark of the Iraqi weapons program, a further chemical analysis has ruled that out.It's hard to believe there was ever any analysis which indicated the presence of bentonite. When you use an X-ray spectrometer to analyze the composition of an object, it won't show aluminum (which is in the bentonite) when there is no aluminum. It's probably scientifically impossible. And Richard Preston provided step by step information on how the anthrax was analyzed. Although there was some confusion about what the test results meant (as described in Chapter 15 of my book), the confusion was never about whether or not there was aluminum in the anthrax.
April 10, 2007 (B) - Because of the Glenn Greenwald piece in Salon.com, Amazon.comalmost instantly ran out of stock of my book. (They had only two copies.) But it only takes about 5 days to replenish their stock. Ordering your copy now will assure that it will ship as soon as new copies are received.
April 10, 2007 (A) - Another "opinion piece," this time in American Thinker, gushes over the Shoham/Jacobsen article in the International Journal of Intelligence and Counter- Intelligence, and it includes a link to the actual article: "Technical Intelligence In Retrospect: The 2001 Anthrax Letters Powder."
April 9, 2007 - Today, Salon.com has another opinion piece by Glenn Greenwald. It's titled "The unresolved story of ABC News' false Saddam-anthrax reports" and it seems to be generating a flood of visitors to my site, probably because it includes comments like this one:
The best publicly available investigative work by far on the anthrax attacks and subsequent investigations is, unsurprisingly, not from a "credentialed journalist," but from someone named Edward G. Lake -- an American citizen, a non-journalist, who is a retired computer systems analyst in Racine, Wisconsin. To his credit, the Times' Broad quoted Lake in his article on the FBI's recent anthax findings, because Lake knows more about the anthrax investigations than any national journalist, by far.And it goes on from there.
April 8, 2007 - Last week, I had the opportunity to talk with someone "close to the Amerithrax investigation" about the October 2006 article in the International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence titled "Technical Intelligence in Retrospect: The 2001 Anthrax Letters Powder" which based its reasoning on the coating method described in the nonsense-filled Science Magazine article "Anthrax Powder: The State of the Art?"
His thinking can be summed up this way: If the attack anthrax had been prepared in the fanciful and super-sophisticated way described in the article, it would be a relatively straightforward matter to track down where it was made. The number of possible places would be very very small. What is truly difficult is tracking down the source of a powder that is not super-sophisticated and which could have been made in any one of hundreds or thousands of laboratories -- as was the case with the attack anthrax.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, April
thru Saturday, April 7, 2007
April 7, 2007 - The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has provided a good overview of what Judge Walton recommended to Dr. Hatfill. Salon.com has an interesting commentary titled "National journalists believe you should trust them" which includes some meaningful references to the anthrax investigation. And, Senator Grassley's web site has a "Grassley Statement at The FBI Oversight Hearing" which seems to indicate that because the FBI isn't doing as conservatives like Senator Grassley want, there is a movement afoot to create a new "separate domestic intelligence service." The statement doesn't mention it, but presumably that the new agency would be called "The Gestapo". The Boston Globe, meanwhile, has an opinion piece titled "How the FBI failed us -- and how we can fix it" which seems to be a more liberal proposition that the new agency should be something like a "think tank." If the Right wants a Gestapo and the Left wants a "think tank", one wonders what the negotiated result would be -- an elephant with wings?
April 4, 2007 - Today, the New York Sun reports: "Judge Urges Hatfill To Compel Outing of Sources". They seem to be the only media source to find this newsworthy.
April 1, 2007 - Six months ago, in October of 2006, the International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence published an article titled "Technical Intelligence in Retrospect: The 2001 Anthrax Letters Powder". It was in Vol. 20, No. 1, on pages 79 to 105. The authors were Dany Shoham and Stuart M. Jacobsen.
Unfortunately, I can't put the article on this site at this time because I'm uncertain about copyrights. However, there's nothing preventing me from reviewing the article.
The "reasoning" within the article begins with the thoroughly debunked belief that the anthrax spores used in the attack of 2001 were coated in the super-sophisticated way described in Gary Matsumoto's article in Science Magazine, and it builds its theories from there. It totally ignores or distorts all information that the spores were not coated, and it considers the AFIP newsletter to be gospel, stating:
In October 2002, the U.S. Armed Forces Institute of Pathology published a newsletter confirming media reports over the previous twelve months that the Senate anthrax was weaponized with silica. Although no quantitative details were given, giving for example the total weight percentage of silica present, the U.S. Army officially went on record confirming that the purpose of the silica was to prevent the anthrax from aggregating, making it easier to aerosolize.Interestingly, the "Retrospect" article appeared two months after the publication of the article by FBI Scientist Douglas Beecher which stated very clearly that it was a "misconception" that the anthrax spore powders contained additives and/or that "sophisticated engineering" was required to make the powders. Dr. Beecher also very pointedly stated that articles printed by The Washington Post, The Washington Times and Science Magazine (among others) "may misguide research and preparedness efforts and generally detract from the magnitude of hazards posed by simple spore preparations." So, now we have another inaccurate article which goes one step further in misguiding research and preparedness efforts, etc.
Using muddled logic, the authors of the article appear to conclude that Iraq was most likely behind the attacks, since "the former regime of Saddam Hussein [was] the most sophisticated manufacturer of anthrax in the world." And it even names individuals who may have helped supply Iraq with the Ames strain. One of the authors, Dany Shoham, previously wrote an article titled "The Anthrax Evidence Points to Iraq" for the same magazine.
So, we have another "peer-reviewed" and supposedly "scientific" article which seems to me to be absolute nonsense from start to finish. And it is intended to influence the people who read the International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence.
However, what it most clearly demonstrates is that there is a great need to have the facts about the attack anthrax powder stated publicly and officially in an unambiguous way (by the FBI, not just by a scientist who works for the FBI, and accompanied by scientific proof). And it shows a great needfor AFIP to clarify what they said. This article was published 5 years after the attacks, and yet much of the information about the anthrax powder in the article are still based upon debunked beliefs instead of facts, causing scientists and others in intelligence and counterintelligence to be misled.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, March
thru Saturday, March 31, 2007
March 31, 2007 - Six days ago, on March 25, I made this comment:
For some reason, even though the facts seem very clear, very few seem to believe that the FBI was forced into publicly investigating Dr. Hatfill as a result of an 8-month political campaign waged by a band of conspiracy theorists. I don't recall ever seeing anyone in the media even mention this possibility, even though the depositions also appear to show it to be true.Yesterday, I found an article I'd never seen before which does mention that possibility. It's titled "I'm ready for my close-up, Sen. Daschle." And there's a companion article which I had previously put on my site but forgot about. It's titled "Bio-sleuth or crackpot?" Both are from Salon.com.
They seem to be the "exceptions that prove the rule."
March 30, 2007 - Today, Judge Walton issued the Order he previously stated he was "inclined to" issue, with certain modifications. It appears to me that he did indeed Order the FBI to answer some important questions about whether Dr. Hatfill was or was not a suspect. And since the FBI has agreed to answer some questions about the bloodhounds, Judge Walton seems to have stated that is good enough.
Probably most important, however, is the instruction that Dr. Hatfill "may, at his discretion, proceed with discovery to attempt to obtain the identity of the alleged source or sources at the Department of Justice ("DOJ") and the Federal Bureau of Investiga- tion ("FBI") who allegedly provided information to news reporters concerning the criminal investigation of Dr. Hatfill."
Judge Walton states that while it is conceivable that Dr. Hatfill may be able to use purely circumstantial evidence to prove to a jury that the DOJ and FBI violated the Privacy Act, "the wealth of case law" suggests otherwise. If Dr. Hatfill wishes to compel reporters to name their sources, Judge Walton grants him an additional 45-60 days to do so. And Dr. Hatfill must make up his mind about that by April 16, 2007.
It looks to me like Dr. Hatfill has no alternative but to try to compel reporters to name their sources.
March 29, 2007 - Judge Walton was evidently in Austin, Texas, for a couple days this week to chair a commission on eliminating prison rapes. That probably explains why there has been nothing new on the Docket for the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit.
March 25, 2007 - As we get closer to a trial in the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit, it could be interesting to see how the FBI defends their very public investigation of Dr. Hatfill.
There are many who believe that the FBI picked on Dr. Hatfill because they had to show the American public they were accomplishing something, even though they had no idea who sent the anthrax letters. That's the basic claim in Dr. Hatfill's lawsuit.
Many others believe that the FBI publicly investigated Dr. Hatfill because he is truly their prime suspect (some believe he is their only suspect). This option is accepted by both those who believe Dr. Hatfill did it and by those who believe the FBI is totally incompetent and Dr. Hatfill did not do it.
For some reason, even though the facts seem very clear, very few seem to believe that the FBI was forced into publicly investigating Dr. Hatfill as a result of an 8-month political campaign waged by a band of conspiracy theorists. I don't recall ever seeing anyone in the media even mention this possibility, even though the depositions also appear to show it to be true. Most people just simply refuse to believe it. They imagine there are other facts (a.k.a. imagined or imaginary facts) somewhere which will support their beliefs. The media seems to have other reasons for not believing.
Two days ago, the FBI stated in their written Response to Judge Walton's Order that they will tell Dr. Hatfill's lawyers Dr. Hatfill's relative position on the FBI's "person of interest" list in the Amerithrax investigation. The FBI's willingness to answer that particular question makes me wonder if it wasn't an unintentional "trick" question. They almost certainly rank "suspects," but does the FBI rank "persons of interest"? Why? Maybe the list of "persons of interest" is maintained in alphabetical order. What would we learn from being told he's filed under "H" in an alphabetical list? Hopefully, we'd learn if Judge Walton would accept that or not.
Those who believe Dr. Hatfill is the anthrax mailer might see some hope in the FBI's willingness to answer a few questions about what evidence the bloodhounds found in a dumpster behind Dr. Hatfill's apartment, but the answer may be that the bloodhounds found nothing. The FBI may be willing to release that fact in order to show that the media falsely reported that evidence was found. It would help the FBI's case.
The FBI wants Dr. Hatfill to file a motion to compel reporters to name names about where they got their information. Judge Walton also sees that as the only way to get many key answers. But, the answers could help either side.
I can see three reasons why Dr. Hatfill's lawyers might not do it: (1) The reporters might refuse to name names, and that might help the government's lawyers support a claim that the media's sources do not truly exist. (2) The reporter's might confess that they were not getting their information from actual FBI or DOJ sources, which could destroy a lawsuit claiming the FBI and the DOJ violated the Privacy Act. (3) The reporters could name names and those names could be actual FBI and DOJ sources, but those sources were not part of the Amerithrax investigation, and they weren't technically violating the Privacy Act when they told reporters about rumors and beliefs.
On the other hand, there's a good very chance that the sources were indeed within the FBI and the DOJ and that the information did indeed come from confidential files. But, Dr. Hatfill's lawyers may be able to convince a jury of that without taking the risk of compelling reporters to name names. If the FBI has no solid information implicating Dr. Hatfill, then a jury could easily side with Dr. Hatfill even if Dr. Hatfill's lawyers cannot provide a long list of proven instances where the FBI violated the Privacy Act during their public investigation of Dr. Hatfill. A short list may be more than enough.
Whatever happens, if or when the Hatfill lawsuit against the FBI goes to trial, it could be one of the most interesting trials in many years.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, March
thru Saturday, March 24, 2007
March 23, 2007 - According to a Response filed by the FBI to Judge Walton's Order in the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit, the government will respond voluntarily to some of Dr. Hatfill's questions. Unfortunately, I still don't know where to find the "requests for admissions." But the Response says the government will voluntarily respond to these two questions about the surveillance of Dr. Hatfill:
37.i: whether or not the FBI had Dr. Hatfill under scrutinyAnd the government will also voluntarily respond to the following questions about the bloodhounds:
57.v: that the FBI used bloodhounds to investigate Dr. HatfillThe responses to the questions in redmight be interesting, but the questions in black seem to have answers which would be virtually worthless.
There's no way of telling whether or not the FBI will refuse to answer any of the other questions if Judge Walton orders them to do so. Best guess: They will refuse. But, I could be wrong.
So far, I've found no information at all about what happened in today's meeting. Judge Walton's followup Order will probably be filed Monday or Tuesday.
March 21, 2007 - It's interesting that Judge Walton has given the parties just a few days to respond to his Order dated March 20. They're going to have another meeting on Friday. It looks like it's catch-up time, and the Judge is getting things back in motion.
It's also interesting that Judge Walton's Order is not really an Order but a description of what he is inclined to do if.... but it doesn't say if what. Presumably, it's if Dr. Hatfill does not file a motion to compel reporters to reveal the names of their FBI sources.
I haven't been able to figure out where the "requests for admissions" mentioned in Judge Walton's Order are located, or even if they are available to the public. There seem to be at least 482 such requests, and I think I'd have noticed them if they were around somewhere for the public to read. So, I can't comment on what "request for admissions" Judge Walton would be "inclined to" grant, deny or reserve rulings about.
On page 2, however, Judge Walton starts referring to items on Dr. Hatfill's First Amended Complaint as filed on November 18, 2005. That document is available.
So, unless I'm totally off track on this, Judge Walton has indicated that he is "inclined to" grant Dr. Hatfill's requests that the FBI/DOJ be required to answer such things as
37.i: whether or not the FBI had Dr. Hatfill under scrutinyJudge Walton also indicates he is "inclined to" reserve rulings on requiring the FBI/DOJ to answer - if they do not first voluntarily answer - a series of questions about what role - if any - the bloodhounds played in the investigation.
And Judge Walton also indicates he is "inclined to" deny Dr. Hatfill's requests that the FBI/DOJ be required to answer questions about things reported by the media:
37.j: whether or not Dr. Hatfill had access to anthrax while at USAMRIIDAnswers to the questions about the bloodhounds could be very interesting and damaging to the FBI, since my analysis of the FACTS shows that the FBI's explanation for why the bloodhounds were used was totally bogus. And there seems no doubt that the FBI did indeed give reporters a totally bogusstory regarding the true reason for using the bloodhounds, since we have sworn depositions from others who were told the same thing. And that totally bogus story pointed the finger at Dr. Hatfill as having been proven by the bloodhounds to be the anthrax mailer.
Obviously, compelling reporters to name names could dramatically change the list of what Judge Walton is "inclined to" deny. Judge Walton and the Defendants seem to want Dr. Hatfill to file a motion to compel. About the only way it could hurt Dr. Hatfill's case is if it turns out that the reporters just made everything up or got their information from non-FBI and non-DOJ sources. We'll have to see what happens on Friday.
It's nice to have this lawsuit moving along once again. The trial should be extremely interesting.
March 19, 2007 (B) - On the blog for Legal Times there's a very interesting entry from someone who evidently attended today's hearing in the Hatfill v FBI, DOJ et al lawsuit. She was evidently not a reporter, but there's no reason to believe she's not correctly reporting what she heard. The subject was: How can Dr. Hatfill get the information he needs regarding the leaks to the media of confidential information about him from FBI files? The blogger's comments include this:
"The investigation is not a cold case," [DOJ attorney Elizabeth Shapiro] told [Judge] Walton, noting that more than 20 agents are still working full time to find the culprit in the anthrax attacks.So, will we see subpoenas going out to the reporters who refused to name names? And what happens if they continue to refuse to name names? Jail time? That should get some major media coverage. Time will tell. All that the Docket says is that Judge Walton deferred ruling on the matter.
March 19, 2007 (A) - Evidently, on Friday Judge Walton dismissed the part of the lawsuit Dr. Hatfill filed against John Ashcroft and others as individuals. Unfortunately the Order and the Supporting Memorandum don't specifically state that the lawsuit against the FBI, DOJ and various people "in their official capacities" will continue, but that seems to be clear to a lawyer I've talked with. The First Amended Complaint, which is the complaint addressed in the Order, is a complaint filed by Dr. Hatfill against
JOHN ASHCROFT, in his individual capacity;So, it seems to me that the lawsuit is still on -- but it now only applies to what is in red in the list above. John Ashcroft is totally off the hook. And so is Van Harp.
The other big issue, which is being heard today, involves compelling the FBI to ignore Law Enforcement privilege in their depositions, will most likely be denied. That, too, will probably have little effect on the lawsuit.
All this really means is that some legal maneuvering is being settled prior to trial.
March 18, 2007 - Tomorrow, Judge Reggie Walton will be hearing arguments about a critical motion in the Hatfill v Ashcroft et al lawsuit. The motion filed by Dr. Hatfill's lawyers back in May of 2006, asks for "an order compelling discovery and overruling Defendants' assertion of Law Enforcement privilege over information disclosed to the press." Details of what Dr. Hatfill is asking for are HERE.
I'm no lawyer, but as I read the court documents, Connolly is saying that either the FBI and DOJ agree to further discovery to clarify matters about their leaks to the media, or the discovery already completed should be interpreted as proving that the FBI provided confidential information from FBI files to reporters in violation of the Privacy Act. (This appears to be the "matter of existential truth" which Tom Connolly recently mentioned in his interview with Lesley Stahl on "60 Minutes".) In other words, does the discovery already completed provide the "smoking gun" information proving the FBI's and DOJ's guilt beyond any doubt or should the FBI and DOJ be compelled to answer more detailed questions? And the FBI and DOJ are saying that answering more detailed questions would violate Law Enforcement privilege.
Judge Walton presided over the recently completed Lewis "Scooter" Libby trial, which is the prime reason there's been such a long delay in resolving this question. Back in September, Judge Walton asked the parties to provide information "in camera" to help him determine how he should rule.
If Judge Walton hadn't had the "Scooter" Libby trial to deal with, it's very possible the Hatfill v Ashcroft et al lawsuit trial could have been underway or over by now. All the facts seem to indicate that Dr. Hatfill has an excellent case to take to trial. And it appears that Dr. Hatfill and his lawyers are not willing to settle this case. They seem to want a trial. (Dr. Hatfill apparently had to change law firms in the Hatfill v Don Foster et al lawsuit because Vanity Fair and Readers' Digest were offering excellent settlement terms which Dr. Hatfill wanted to accept, but Tom Connolly's law firm wanted to go for the really BIG and meaningful victory they'd get by going to trial.) As we saw in the resolution of the Hatfill v Foster et al lawsuit, however, a settlement can leave virtually all the major questions unanswered for the public. That almost certainly won't happen with a public trial in the Hatfill v Ashcroft et al lawsuit. Many of the outstanding questions have already been answered in the depositions. They just haven't been on the evening news and on the front pages of newspapers.
Judge Walton's return to presiding over the Hatfill v Ashcroft et al lawsuit is almost certainly the reason "60 Minutes" broadcast their distorted report about case. As we saw, to some of those on the Left, Dr. Hatfill is still viewed as the most likely "person of interest" in the anthrax investigation. The Left-Wing conspiracy theorists seem to believe that if Dr. Hatfill wins, it will simply be a reward or payoff from the Bush administration for a job well done.
Meanwhile, as we have seen, those on the Right see the upcoming trial as proof that Dr. Hatfill is innocent and that the FBI was just mindlessly following some "dogmatic" belief that the anthrax attacks "must" have been perpetrated by a "domestic" culprit. The Right Wing has absolutely no doubt that some foreigners must have done it.
A trial in the Hatfill v Ashcroft et al lawsuit will not resolve the question of who sent the anthrax-filled letters back in September and October of 2001, but it could answer a lot or all of questions about how Dr. Hatfill became a "person of interest," and it might also answer some questions about how "the pursuit of Dr. Hatfill" affected the Amerithrax investigation.
The Far Right and Far Left will stick to their dogmatic beliefs, but the vast majority of Americans in or near The Center will hopefully be greatly enlightened.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, March
thru Saturday, March 17, 2007
March 16, 2007 - Today, the right wing Wall Street Journal has an editorial about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's confession, and the Journal makes this comment:
Perhaps most ominously, KSM also admitted to being "directly in charge" of "managing and following up on the Cell for the Production of Biological Weapons, such as anthrax and others, and following up on Dirty Bomb Operations on American Soil." Given such a confession, is it too much to ask the FBI to reconsider its dogmatic view that the 2001 anthrax attacks could only have had a domestic source?There seems to be no end to distortions of facts by the media. Who's really mindlessly preaching dogma here? The Wall Street Journal or the FBI? One thing we know, the FBI has never said that "the 2001 anthrax attacks could only have had a domestic source." They've always said that they've discounted no possibilities. And anyone who understands human nature should also know it's usually the people who twist the facts who are locked into some kind of mindless "dogma". And Right Wingers do it more often than anyone.
Another right wing media outlet is U.S. News and World Report. The "Barone Blog" on The U.S. News and World Report's web site has U.S. News' senior writer Michael Barone twisting facts about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's confession this way:
The mention of anthrax–if it was mentioned–is particularly disturbing. I've blogged about this before and noted that the FBI says it hasn't the faintest idea who launched the anthrax attacks in the weeks just following September 11.I'd like to see when and where the FBI said that. My research indicates that they've had a list of 20 to 30 "persons of interest" since the early months of the case, and CBS recently reported that list now contains about a dozen names.
But, until there's an actual arrest, both the right wing and left wing media can always foster their own political agendas by claiming that the FBI has absolutely no idea who sent the anthrax letters, and with most of the facts of the case being kept secret until there's an arrest and trial, no one can prove them wrong.
March 12, 2007 - CBS News has provided a detailed report that is almost a transcript of last night's 13 minute report on "60 Minutes" about Hatfill versus The FBI. From my point of view, even though the show was fascinating and technically well-done, "60 Minutes" added a major entry to the long list of inaccurate and distorted media reports about the anthrax investigation.
To me, it was as if they had reported on the destruction of the World Trade Center on 9/11, and began by showing and talking about the fires burning on the upper floors of the buildings, without ever mentioning what or who caused the fires.
The "60 Minutes" report was on the destruction of Dr. Steven Hatfill, beginning with the FBI's first public search of his apartment on June 25, 2002, but with absolutely NO information about what or who caused that search. Here's how Lesley Stahl described the eight months between the finding of the anthrax letters and that first public search:
At first, everyone thought this was another al Qaeda terrorist attack.There was absolutely NO mention of Barbara Hatch Rosenberg's 6-month campaign to get the FBI to publicly investigate Dr. Hatfill. She wasn't mentioned in the program at all. Yet, in some ways the report seemed to be a continuation of her campaign. She once put this on the Federation of American Scientists' web site:
I have never mentioned any names in connection with the anthrax investigation, not to the FBI, nor to media, nor to Senate Committees or staffs, not to anyone. I have never said or written anything publicly that pointed only to one specific person. Anyone who sees parallels is expressing his own opinion.The "60 Minutes" report made it seem like the destruction of Steven Hatfill was all the FBI's doing. There was also no mention of Nicolas Kristof's articles in The New York Times. And there was no mention of the lawsuits Dr. Hatfill filed against the media and Don Foster. When the media was mentioned, it was about how the FBI leaked information to the media.
They had a number of interesting people on the show, including actual deposition video tapes of John Ashcroft, Richard Lambert and FBI Agent Roth being questioned by Hatfill's lawyer. But there was nothing new from the FBI. The report said,
The FBI wouldn’t agree to an interview, and wouldn’t tell 60 Minutes whether an indictment of Hatfill is likely or not. What we do know is that Hatfill is still a "person of interest." One reason – there are questions about his credibility.Everything they said about Dr. Hatfill which might suggest he was the culprit was pure innuendo or speculation (like the fact that he wrote a book about a biological attack), and they showed how some of it was meaningless (like the fact that, at the time of the anthrax attacks, Dr. Hatfill was taking Cipro as a result of a sinus operation), but they still seemed to suggest that all the innuendo and speculation came from the FBI. The reality seems to be that all the innuendo and speculation came from conspiracy theorists led by Barbara Hatch Rosenberg.
And there's also this from the article (which was a lot more detailed in the program):
There's a split at the FBI, with some agents now thinking Hatfill didn’t do it; but others still believe he did.If I were to sum up the "60 Minutes" report, I would describe it as an accusation that, if Dr. Hatfill is the anthrax culprit, the FBI bungled the investigation by turning their investigation of him into a public spectacle, and if Dr. Hatfill is not the anthrax culprit, the FBI bungled the investigation by making it look like Dr. Hatfill was the culprit.
The report, however, seemed to want to point the finger at Dr. Hatfill as being the most likely suspect without actually pointing such a finger. They described the FBI vs. Hatfill situation as "The hunter and the hunted." They made a big deal out of the fact that the lied on his resume. And I got the distinct impression that Lesley Stahl felt Dr. Hatfill was not only getting away with the murder of five innocent Americans, he might also win his lawsuit against the FBI and end up with millions.
It was definitely not "60 Minutes'" finest hour.
March 11, 2007 - I'm going to wait until tomorrow to comment on the "60 Minutes" segment about Dr. Hatfill and the anthrax attacks, which will air tonight. It will probably take time for me to put my thoughts together, even though I don't expect the show to contain anything truly "new".
Going over the CBS article about the show again, I took a closer look at this comment:
60 Minutes has also learned that the FBI's biggest hope to crack the case turned out to be a dead end created by one of its own investigators.This looks like it could be one of those wildly distorted stories the media loves, a good example being the widely circulated nonsense about how the FBI could not "reverse engineer" the attack anthrax. It was true that the FBI was trying to determine "how the spores were produced and who may have manufactured them," but that's not the same as "reverse engineering." And, when the facts became known, it was clear that no one even attempted to "reverse engineer" the attack anthrax. All they did was use various techniques to create samples for analysis.
This DNA story seems very similar. It implies that the FBI did something wrong, when in reality they did everything right, and they even developed a new testing technology to aid in other investigations. If the culprit's DNA had been on the envelope (which seems extremely unlikely, considering how many people in the post office may have handled it) the "contamination" by the FBI investigator would not have destroyed it. It would only have meant that there would be TWO DNA samples on the envelope. Finding the investigator's DNA was a disappointment, but NOT a damaging mistake. And it was a harmless mistake which should teach lessons for the future.
Thomas Edison tried over 6,000 different methods to create the filament for a light bulb before he found the right one. In today's world, Edison would probably be considered an "incompetent" because he didn't find the right method on his first try. If the objective is to find fault, it's easy to do -- particularly in a highly political situation.
As I've mentioned many times before, in my book I have a chapter titled "To Err Is Human" which describes some errors made at USAMRIID and AFIP in the first days after the attacks. Some people learn from their mistakes. Others don't. USAMRIID publicly admitted to making mistakes. AFIP may have done so, also. However, as far as I know, there have been NO corrections to major reporting blunders by the media which range from totally stupid to irresponsible. The list of mistakes made by the media in their reporting on the anthrax investigation just grows longer and longer, as we saw with the twisting of facts in the reporting by The New York Sun on the settlement of the Hatfill v Foster et al lawsuit just 12 days ago.
We'll have to wait and see if tonight's "60 Minutes" adds to that long list.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, March
thru Saturday, March 10, 2007
March 9, 2007 - This coming Sunday, the CBS TV show "60 Minutes" will have a segment about Dr. Hatfill and his lawsuit against the FBI et al. The CBS article about it on their web site is titled "Tables Turned In Anthrax Investigation".
The article describes how the FBI's Richard Lambert said under oath in a deposition that there were 20 to 30 other people besides Dr. Hatfill who were considered to be "persons of interest," and it adds this:
60 Minutes has learned that today at least a dozen of those other people still have not been eliminated as so-called "persons of interest."The article discusses how the bloodhounds "went crazy" at Dr. Hatfill's home and adds this:
60 Minutes has learned that the bloodhounds reacted similarly at the home and office of another scientist, too. And two of the dogs have been wrong on a number of occasions ...And the article concludes with this tidbit:
60 Minutes has also learned that the FBI's biggest hope to crack the case turned out to be a dead end created by one of its own investigators.All this (except the last tidbit) shouldn't be news to readers of this web site. CBS will evidently use Senator Grassley as the "authority" on the progress of the investigation:
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, agrees that stovepiping undercut the investigation. He also charges that the FBI used the leaks to cover a lack of progress in the case.But, we can always hope the FBI will respond with some actual facts. A segment on "60 Minutes" can create a lot of pressure by generating a lot of talk.
March 6, 2007 - Readers' digest has sent a letter to the New York Sun asking for a retraction of what was implied in the Sun's article about the settlement of the Hatfill v Foster et al lawsuit. As I read it, Readers' Digest says that the Sun twisted their words, turning this
"all I can say is that the case was resolved to the mutual satisfaction of all parties."into this
"all I can tell you is we're very satisfied with the results"The implication in the Sun's version is clearly that only the magazines were satisfied with the results. The reality is that "all parties" were satisfied.
As it says in the letter, "Given the nature of this matter, every word is important."
March 5, 2007 - Hmm. Not only has Dr. Hatfill filed an appeal in the Hatfill v The New York Times lawsuit, but the New York Times has filed a cross appeal. That means that both parties have appealed Judge Hilton's ruling. That could make sense to someone, but not to me. Doing some research, I found this:
A cross-appeal occurs only if the appellee requests that the higher court review some aspect of the lower court's decision, and not to simply uphold the lower court's decision.So, there would be no "cross appeal" if the Times simply wanted the appeals court to uphold the lower court's ruling. They're asking for something else. I could try to guess, but think I'd better wait for more information.
Anyone who thought this lawsuit was over was definitely wrong.
March 4, 2007 - Someone pointed out on a discussion forum that Readers' Digest "has its own legal staff" and that employees of Readers Digest "were justifiably proud of having NEVER lost an editorial lawsuit" because
it was primarily due to the top-notch in-house editorial research staff. RD's fact-checking procedures were [...] the best in the industry.Since Readers' Digest agreed to a settlement instead of going to trial, they may still be able to say they never lost an editorial lawsuit.
That forum discussion made me think back about factors which led up to the settlement.
The biggest factor behind the settlement was undoubtedly the statements in Judge McMahon's Decision when she took over the case. I reviewed many of the statements in my comments on November 9, 2005. But here are some of the most important:
"only an unreasonable reader would conclude that the articles were merely reports about an official investigation."and ...
"since Hatfill has not been charged with any crime, the articles in suit cannot be described as accurate reports of charges of wrongdoing."and ...
"Foster came up with these theories and conjectures, not in his role as a Vassar professor, but in his second life as a crime fighter. Early in the article, Foster explains that he lives a double life reminiscent of Indiana Jones."and most of all ...
"Foster's use of the Richard Jewell comparison, in the overall context of the article, is more than sufficient for me to conclude, as a matter of law, that Foster intended to imply that Hatfill was the anthrax murderer."So, according to the judge trying the case, "as a matter of law" Don "Foster intended to imply that Hatfill was the anthrax murderer."
I concluded my comments about Judge McMahon's Decision this way:
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?In early 2006, Dr. Hatfill changed lawyers. On October 15, 2006, I speculated about that action this way:
Since this lawsuit appears the easiest for Dr. Hatfill to win, the facts seem to indicate that Dr. Hatfill's original attorneys from Harris Wiltshire & Grannis LLP didn't want to settle with Don Foster et al, and wanted to go to court instead. Evidently, however, Dr. Hatfill wanted to settle, so Harris Wiltshire & Grannis LLP withdrew as his lawyers on this lawsuit rather than agree to a settlement.That was pure speculation on my part, but it certainly fitted the facts. And it would assume that a settlement offer had been made by the defendants, since I can see no other explanation for why Dr. Hatfill would change lawyers in a case which seemed virtually certain of a substantial financial award.
If that analysis was true, then it was just a matter of how much the settlement would be. Vanity Fair and Readers' Digest certainly wouldn't simply give Dr. Hatfill the ten million dollars he was asking. They would want to negotiate. The offer (if there was one) was almost certainly made with terms and conditions.
Based upon the final outcome, it seems clear that such "terms and conditions" involved the wording of the "retraction" and the public disclosure of the settlement amount. In an assumed standard scenario, the two magazines would offer larger and larger sums of money in return for no retraction and no public disclosure of the settlement amount (i.e. no bad publicity). They'd raise the settlement amounts until Dr. Hatfill agreed to negotiate. And both parties would know that the negotiations would involve trading back some of the settlement money for whatever Dr. Hatfill wanted.
After many months of negotiations, Dr. Hatfill ended up with "quasi-retractions" but no public disclosure of the amount of the settlement.
And "all parties" were satisfied with the outcome. Dr. Hatfill's lawyers were working on a "contingency basis," plus, they issued the settlement statement. They are evidently "satisfied." Where is the statement from the magazines' lawyers? They should be very "satisfied," They got their #1 objective: They avoided a trial by jury.
Which brings us to the media reports on this settlement. Evidently, a settlement of a libel lawsuit involving a retraction is of little interest to the news media. I've seen only two reports about it in the media, the report in The New York Sun and another in The Journal News which covers White Plains, NY, where the legal case was heard. The Sun reported,
It seems doubtful that the settlement announced yesterday delivered much, if any, money to Dr. Hatfill.What would be the basis for such a report? The Sun suggests the fact that Dr. Hatfill changed lawyers indicates that the lawsuit was "in some difficulty." Does it really? They also reported:
the case against the magazines was probably of less value than those against the Times and the government because Mr. Foster's article did not appear until after Mr. Hatfill's reputation was already damaged by press accounts and the Justice Department's identification of him as a "person of interest" in the probe.Perhaps it is of "less value" than those other lawsuits, but when the judge states that, "as a matter of law, Foster intended to imply that Hatfill was the anthrax murderer," the facts seem to indicate that Dr. Hatfill's case was SOLID and the monetary "value" of the case could still be very substantial.
So, once again I am at odds with what the media has reported about aspects of the anthrax attacks of 2001.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2007, thru Saturday, March 3, 2007
March 3, 2007 - According to The Trenton Times, Democratic Congressman Rush Holt of New Jersey is trying once again to get a status report on the anthrax investigation from the FBI.
"It seems to me this investigation is not making a lot of progress. I can't say for sure. They won't brief me," Holt said yesterday.I'd certainly like to see more information on the status of the Amerithrax investigation -- or a better explanation of why the FBI can't provide more details.
February 28, 2007 (B) - Hmmm. I was just talking with Dr. Hatfill's lawyer, Hassan A. Zavareei. Although he couldn’t talk about the settlement, he did tell me that he represented Dr. Hatfill on a "contingency basis". So, I was wrong in guessing or assuming that he was working pro bono.
Because he was working on a "contingency basis" and “all parties” are satisfied with the outcome, there could be more to the settlement than just the "quasi-retraction." But all parties have agreed to not discuss the terms of the settlement.
February 28, 2007 (A) - It's probably "a first" for the Hatfill lawsuits (and it may be "a first" for the entire legal system), but the hearing scheduled for Wednesday March 21 in the Hatfill v Ashcroft et al lawsuit has been moved forward to Monday, March 19.
Meanwhile, I find it interesting that the retraction which ended the Hatfill v Foster et al lawsuit has been almost totally ignored by the media. Plus, I keep wondering how the retractions were "issued" by Vanity Fair and Readers' Digest. Did some lawyer make a paper airplane out of the statement and "issue" it from a 40th floor window?
Some people I've talked with seem to be impressed that Readers' Digest would agree to a retraction. But, I can't help but wonder if any reasonable person could believe that the following sentence from their "retraction" is true:
In publishing the article "Tracking the Anthrax Killer" by Donald Foster in the December 2003 issue of Readers' Digest, neither Readers' Digest nor the article's author intended to imply that they had concluded that Steven J. Hatfill, M.D., perpetrated the anthrax attacks that occurred in the United States in the fall of 2001.The Vanity Fair article was crap, the Readers' Digest version was crap, and the retractions seem to be crap. But they fit the pattern: Most of what the media has written about the anthrax attacks in the past 5 years and a half years has been crap. They not only destroyed the life of an innocent man, but they also misled the country about the nature of the anthrax and the focus of the investigation.
February 27, 2007 - The Hatfill v Foster et al lawsuit was settled, probably on Friday. A statement was issued late yesterday. The most informative article about it so far is in today's New York Sun. The article says,
A statement issued today by a lawyer for Dr. Hatfill, Hassan Zavareei, said the case "has now been resolved to the mutual satisfaction of all the parties." He did not indicate whether any money changed hands.and
The quasi-retractions issued by the two publishing companies and Mr. Foster suggested that readers were mistaken if they took the articles as accusing Dr. Hatfill of the anthrax mailings. "Neither Condé Nast Publications nor the article's author intended to imply that they had concluded that Steven J. Hatfill, M.D., perpetrated the anthrax attacks that occurred in the United States in the fall of 2001. To the extent any statements contained in the article might be read to convey that Condé Nast and Prof. Foster were accusing Dr. Hatfill of perpetrating these attacks, Condé Nast and Prof. Foster retract any such implication," the statement said. The statement from Reader's Digest was essentially identical.and
It seems doubtful that the settlement announced yesterday delivered much, if any, money to Dr. Hatfill. Judge Hilton's decision could have undermined the case against Vanity Fair and Reader's Digest, which was already in some difficulty. Last year, the lawyers representing the scientist in the Times case and another case against the federal government withdrew from the case against the two magazines. Even before those blows, the case against the magazines was probably of less value than those against the Times and the government because Mr. Foster's article did not appear until after Mr. Hatfill's reputation was already damaged by press accounts and the Justice Department's identification of him as a "person of interest" in the probe.So, that lawsuit is over. And Dr. Hatfill may have gotten nothing from it except a "quasi-retraction." A lot of people hoped for more. But, along the way, a lot of people became convinced that Dr. Hatfill had no involvement in the anthrax attacks of 2001 and that it was wrong for him to have been singled out as a "person of interest." But it is difficult to focus any anger as long as the actual culprit remains at large.
February 26, 2007 - I was reminded today that Judge Reggie Walton is currently presiding over the trial of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, and that trial went to the jury last Wednesday. Judge Walton is also presiding over the Hatfill v Ashcroft et al lawsuit. Suddenly, it seems entirely reasonable that nothing much has happened in the Hatfill lawsuit in the past 4-1/2 months. And, since there's no way of telling how long the jury may be out in the Libby trial, it seems totally reasonable that Judge Walton would not schedule an important hearing in the Hatfill lawsuit for this Friday, instead delaying it until March 21.
As of 6 p.m. Eastern Time today, there was nothing on the docket of the Hatfill v Foster et al lawsuit to explain what's happening there. For all I know, there could be some simple explanation for the delay there, too.
February 25, 2007 - Without any other information to go on, I have to assume that a meeting was held with Judge McMahon in the Hatfill v Foster et al lawsuit on Friday, but we won't get an update to the docket or any information about what happened until tomorrow. That assumption could be totally wrong, but in the past there have been times when information about conferences and hearings held on Friday wasn't entered on the docket until Monday. And I have no basis for any other assumption.
Meanwhile, Dr. Hatfill's appeal in the Hatfill v The New York Times lawsuit has been put on the docket of the U S Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. As far as I can tell, no date has yet been set for hearing the appeal, and whenever a date is set, it will probably be at least another two months before the appeal is actually heard.
And then, of course, there are those new entries in the docket for the Hatfill v Ashcroft et al lawsuit. They merely say that a hearing on Dr. Hatfill's motion will be held on Wednesday, March 21, 2007. And they indicate that, while Judge Walton may have been ready to hold the hearing on March 2, someone else wasn't ready. I'm not sure what to make of this. And what's been going on for the past four and a half months? Presumably, there were ex parte and in camera meetings during that time, and the end result of those proceedings was the setting of the date for a hearing on March 21. It seems to involve information about the Amerithrax investigation which the government doesn't want publicly discussed -- at least not yet. Will it be okay to discuss it on March 21? Why? Why not March 2? Or am I totally misreading the situation?
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2007, thru Saturday, February 24, 2007
February 23, 2007 - While there is no news nor any new docket entry in the Hatfill v Foster et al lawsuit as of 5 p.m. CT, the docket for the Hatfill v Ashcroft et al lawsuit has new entries for the first time since November 16. The first entry says that a hearing on the Plaintiff's motion to compel has been set/reset for March 2. But that entry is immediately followed by another entry resetting it to March 21. Presumably, this pertains to Dr. Hatfill's "Motion to Compel Discovery and Overrule Defendant's assertion of Law Enforcement Privilege Over Information Disclosed to the Press." It also appears this may be one cause for the long period of silence. The judge may have been studying ex parte declarations and unredacted copies of certain materials to which the defense referred in an earlier hearing. (See Document #135.)
February 21, 2007 - I'm checking the docket about twice a day, but it occurs to me that even if the parties have reached an agreement on a settlement in the Hatfill v Foster et al lawsuit, we may not hear any details about it until Friday. The case is being heard in White Plains, NY, and Judge McMahon only holds court in White Plains on Fridays. The rest of the week she holds court in New York City. While some indicator might show up on the docket, any actual hearing probably wouldn't happen until Friday.
February 18, 2007 - While things continue to be strangely quiet, we should get some news about the Hatfill v Don Foster et al lawsuit this week. By endorsing the letter dated January 30, 2007, Judge McMahon agreed to continue the STAY in the case for another 15 days because the defendants' attorney had written:
I write on behalf of all the parties to advise the Court that the parties are close to finalizing the settlement agreement in the [...] matter. We respectfully request that the stay ordered in Judge McMahon's endorsement of my December 20th letter be continued for another fifteen days while the parties work out the final details of the settlement.Those fifteen days should be up on Tuesday or thereabouts. It's possible they may ask for another short extention, and it's also possible that the agreement may fall apart, but it seems more likely that the matter will be settled this week.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2007, thru Saturday, February 17, 2007
February 15, 2007 - Someone sent me an email asking a vague question about the $2.5 million reward, and I misinterpreted the question to mean: Who put up the money? When I did the research, I found a CNN transcript from January 23, 2002, that wasn't on my site and which provided the answer, but which also contained a few comments I'd never seen before.
The transcript was part of a press conference, and the person making the comments was Kevin Donovan, who at the time was the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Newark Field Office. The first comment which I found extremely interesting was
I think there are some things I said before when we appeared before you that we wouldn't give out, because it may hinder the investigation. There are indications if I comment on some of those things now, we will not be able to use [them] for investigative purposes at a later date in time.I've been scratching my head over that one, but I couldn't get a discussion started about what sorts of things Donovan meant.
Another comment from Donovan about the fliers they were mailing to 500,000 postal customers in the areas of South Central, New Jersey, and Bucks County, Pennsylvania, however, did generate some discussion. Here's the comment:
The letters were mailed from here. There is a familiarity with this area. I think that we believe that this individual knows this area well enough to mail the letters from here. We're hoping that by putting this poster out, that we're able to focus on some of the unusual parts of the envelope that maybe somebody would be able to say, this is what I saw one of my loved ones mailing one day, the handwriting is similar. That's what our focus is. We're trying to ask the public to give us those unique clues only they know as a result of association with the individual."Unusual parts of the envelope" probably means that it was a pre-stamped envelope from the post office, which is not typically used for personal mail.
Generally speaking, when one is talking about "loved ones", they aren't talking about pathological mass murderers or Muslim terrorists -- although both presumably can have mothers who love them.
Clearly, they are looking for information from a relative, like the information from the brother which brought an end to the Unabomber investigation. It appears the FBI felt the culprit had relatives in the area. That relative could be a brother or sister, but might also include a "non-relative" such as a husband or wife ... or ex-husband or ex-wife. It's interesting to think about what other type of person with "loved ones" they may have been trying to contact.
February 11, 2007 - As they say in the movies, "It's very quiet .... too quiet." Even Senator Grassley seems to have shut up.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2007, thru Saturday, February 10, 2007
February 8, 2007 - An article in today's Miami Herald states that the decontaminated building in Boca Raton, FL, which once housed American Media Inc. (AMI) will be reopened. The article also reopened old arguments. It begins with this:
The letter addressed to Jennifer Lopez, containing a Star of David and a bluish powder, arrived in the mailroom of The Sun newspaper in Boca Raton on Sept. 19, 2001.It evidently doesn't matter that the FACTS say that the J-Lo letter had nothing to do with the anthrax attacks. Fact #1: The J-Lo letter was opened and passed around on the third floor, which was the least contaminated floor in the building. Fact #2: Most of the people who handled the J-Lo letter did not test postive for exposure to anthrax. Fact #3: Stephanie Dailey was on vacation when the J-Lo letter was opened, yet she tested positive for exposure to anthrax. Fact #4: Stephanie Dailey recalled seeing a different powder-filled letter, which she opened on September 25. Fact #5: The area around Stephanie's desk was the most contaminated area in the building.
The article also says,
In addition to Stevens, five others died from anthrax spores, from Florida to Connecticut, and 16 fell ill.It doesn't say who the sixth person was or why no one else reported a sixth person.
I've been pointing out all the errors in such news articles for over five years, and the errors just keep coming. Evidently, the media will just continue to print what they believe to be true - regardless of what the facts say.
And the people who have theories based upon the J-Lo letter being filled with anthrax will continue to use articles like this one as proof of their beliefs.
February 6, 2007 - The Docket for the Hatfill v The New York Times lawsuit shows that Dr. Hatfill has officially filed notice that he will appeal Judge Hilton's decision.
Yesterday, the PBS program "American Experience" had an episode called "The Living Weapon." It contained a lot about anthrax, although it didn't mention the anthrax attacks of 2001. It was about the history of America's bioweapons program, starting with World War II. Lots of familiar faces were part of the program: Jeanne Guillemin, Matthew Meselson, William Patrick III, Richard Preston, etc. It addressed the fact that, in wartime, some people don't see any difference between killing the enemy using bombs or using germs, but others see a very big difference. If you missed it, you might consider watching for a rerun. This issue is behind most of the conspiracy theories which have plagued and distorted the discussion of the attacks of 2001.
February 4, 2007 - One of the more interesting things about last week's bizarre "bomb" scare in Boston was described in The Christian Science Monitor:
It all began Wednesday morning when a transit worker spotted a wired device on a girder underneath Interstate 93. After police found similar devices across the city, they shut down key roads and subway stations and called in federal officials with Homeland Security.While this isn't specifically about the anthrax investigation, it is about how the Internet can often provide a means of quickly finding facts. As we have seen with the anthrax investigation, however, the facts are often like needles buried in a haystack of initial misconceptions, opinions and speculation. The first people to notice the devices were expecting something terrible, and they believed they found what they were looking for. As word spread, thousands were speculating on what the devices were while thousands of others knew exactly what they were. So it was with the anthrax powder in the envelopes sent to the two senators. Elements of the initial examination were wildly inaccurate because the "experts" were expecting something else. And later, thousands speculated on how the powder was made, while thousands of others knew exactly how to make such a powder. People with the right knowledge weren't located quickly enough.
Fortunately, in the Boston incident we quickly learned who was behind the planting of the devices, otherwise, it may have become another situation where we'd be debating years later about the motivation behind the "scare", whether it was done by domestic or foreign "terrorists" and whether or not the "terrorists" truly intended to bring a major American city to a standstill.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2007, thru Saturday, February 3, 2007
February 2, 2007 (B) - Today, we also have new information about the Hatfill v Don Foster et al lawsuit. According to a letter just filed, "the parties are close to finalizing the settlement agreement" and they have asked for and received another 15 days to work on it. That should mean a settlement is expected on or before February 20.
February 2, 2007 (A) - This morning's New York Times includes an article about Judge Hilton's Memorandum Opinion in the Hatfill v The New York Times lawsuit, and it answers the key question about whether or not Dr. Hatfill will appeal:
Mark A. Grannis, a lawyer for Dr. Hatfill, said Judge Hilton’s opinion was unsurprising and was not the last word in the case.This morning's Washington Post also has an article about the Opinion and, like the Times, mentions a comment Judge Hilton made about Dr. Hatfill having a "spinner flask of anthrax simulant" in his refrigerator. Unlike the Times, however, the Post provides an explanation:
Hilton's opinion recounted parts of the government's investigation of Hatfill and said FBI searches of his apartment, his car and a condominium owned by his girlfriend recovered among other things "a spinner flask of anthrax stimulant" and a container of Cipro, an antibiotic commonly prescribed for anthrax. Hatfill had previously said the Cipro was for a lingering sinus infection.That "spinner flask" has previously been described as a "canister." Don Foster's Vanity Fair article from October 2003 described it this way:
Searching his refrigerator, agents found a canister of Bacillus thuringiensis, or B.t. -- a mostly harmless pesticide widely used on caterpillars -- which USAMRIID adopted for study in 1995, after UNSCOM discovered that B.t. was Iraq's favored anthrax simulant.So, this isn't really "news", although it seems to be news to a few people.
Judge Hilton rules that Dr. Hatfill was a "public figure" at the time Nicholas Kristof wrote the columns about Dr. Hatfill, and therefore Dr. Hatfill must prove actual malice, which Judge Hilton feels Dr. Hatfill did not and cannot do. I'm not a lawyer, so I don't want to fully pick apart Judge Hilton's ruling. I'll let Dr. Hatfill's lawyers do that. However, on page 16, Judge Hilton wrote:
Based upon this conduct, the court can rightly conclude that Plaintiff voluntarily assumed a role of special prominence in the public debate over the nation's preparedness for a biological attack, and indeed sought to influence government policy.I question whether there was a "public debate" or "controversy" over America's preparedness for a bioweapons attack. Who was arguing that America was fully prepared? To have a "controversy" or "public debate" there must be an opposing side. There is no "controversy" if I point out something which has simply not been realized before -- or something about which the public is not aware.
I could probably write a whole book about my thoughts regarding the issues in this ruling, but you can just read the Memorandum Opinion for yourself. However, I found this section from page 20 regarding "actual malice" to be particularly interesting:
Plaintiff contends that Mr. Kristof was warned that one of his main sources, Dr. Barbara Rosenberg, was not trustworthy. Plaintiff's attempt to paint Dr. Rosenberg as a conspiracy theorist with absolutely no credibility is contrary to the evidence on record. Dr. Rosenberg was considered an expert in the field of bioweaponry, and headed a working group for bioweapons for the Federation of American Scientists. She was called upon by the FBI to discuss the anthrax investigation, and briefed Senate members on the investigation. Given her background, Plaintiff has shown no reason that Mr. Kristof should have doubted the veracity of Dr. Rosenberg as an informant, even if others expressed disagreement with her theories.So, it all boils down to credentials. If you mindlessly accept what someone with impressive credentials tells you when you print something in a newspaper, there is no malice on your part -- even if there may have been malice on the part of the person with the credentials, and even if others with impressive credentials say differently.
I guess that's the difference between a journalist and an analyst. When an analyst has two different sources with impressive credentials and differing opinions, an analyst checks the FACTS to see who is right -- or if both could be wrong. A journalist evidently just goes with the opinion which fits his own beliefs, or the one which will sell the most newspapers.
Does Judge Hilton's Order provide grounds for an appeal? Time will tell. I'm not a lawyer. However, I find it disturbing that, in order to show that Dr. Hatfill was a "public figure," Judge Hilton frequently refers to things which happened after Kristof's columns were written and published, such as the search of Dr. Hatfill's apartment, Dr. Rosenberg's meeting with Senate staffers and Dr. Hatfill's appearance on TV defending himself. Kristof's columns helped set up those events. It's a bit like saying that Dr. Hatfill is a "public figure" because Kristof's columns made him a "public figure." But was he truly a "public figure" before that? Does being interviewed on a subject make you a "public figure"? Wouldn't that make all "experts" on nearly all subjects "public figures"? Is that what the law intended?
January 30, 2007 - The Federation of American Scientists' "Secrecy News" site has provided a copy of Dr. Hatfill's rebuttal to the "state secrets doctrine" motion by the New York Times. The FAS article sums things up this way,
In a December 12 motion, the New York Times had argued that classification restrictions imposed on government witnesses were equivalent to an assertion of the state secrets privilege and that the case should be dismissed on that basis, since the restrictions limited the Times' ability to obtain the information needed for its defense.The rebuttal is an interesting read. Among other things, it includes tidbits like this one from page 2:
Wielding a subpoena power that journalists can only wish they had, The Times has deposed more than twenty persons (including multiple representatives of government agencies), and has obtained more than 20,000 pages of documents. Indeed, while it is always possible to speculate that someone somewhere mighthave evidence that differs from evidence already obtained, there is no factual basis for believing that any "classified" information identified by The Times would prove the truth of assertions made in 2002. No one forced Mr. Kristof to write about Dr. Hatfill in 2002, and no one forced The Times to publish his accusations; they alone decided they knew enough then to go ahead. For the Times to claim now that it knows too little to defend its own assertions is almost the height of hypocracy.and from page 3:
The Times position thus "brings to mind the young man who, having pled guilty to murdering his parents, begged the mercy of the court on the ground that he was an orphan."and this one from page 19:
The DOD disclosed to the Times that Dr. Hatfill did not have a security clearance while employed at USAMRIID and that because any work Mr. Patrick performed at USAMRIID was classified, that necessarily means Dr. Hatfill was not involved in any of Mr. Patrick's work.and from page 20:
The Times also obtained testimony from DOD representative Dr. Huggins, who was Dr. Hatfill's USAMRIID supervisor. Dr. Huggins testified that Dr. Hatfill never worked with anthrax at USAMRIID and that after Dr. Hatfill left USAMRIID in September 1999 -- two years before the anthrax attacks the Times claims he committeed -- he would have had absolutely no access to any of the USAMRIID's biocontainment facilities [...] that Mr. Kristof's source testified were essential to manufacturing first rate anthrax.and this from page 23:
Mr. Kristof's primary source, Dr. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, entertained an outlandish theory that the CIA was behind those attacks.It further confirms what I wrote in my book: that the conspiracy theorists led by Barbara Hatch Rosenberg were behind the totally baseless idea that Dr. Hatfill had something to do with the anthrax attacks.
Meanwhile, we continue to wait to see how Judge Hilton justifies his dismissal of a case where an innocent man was publicly labeled a possible mass murderer, and how that was apparently okay because Dr. Hatfill can be considered to be a "public figure".
January 28, 2007 - I can't recall a time when there have been so many outstanding questions on all matters related to the anthrax investigation -- and so few answers. It's like everyone is waiting to see what happens next, but nothing seems to be happening. When will Judge Hilton publish his Order to dismiss the Hatfill v The New York Times lawsuit? What will it say? How will he justify his order? And what about the Hatfill v Don Foster et al lawsuit? Will it be affected by Judge Hilton's Order? And, if it isn't affected, what will happen on February 5 when the matter is scheduled to come off of suspension? And what about the New York Times' "state secrets doctrine" gambit? How does that affect things if it was done as "graymail"? And, whatever happened to the Hatfill v Ashcroft et al lawsuit? Why has there been nothing happening in that lawsuit since September? And how will Senator Grassley respond to being told by the Department of Justice that the Senate Oversight Committee can't simply say: "This is what I want; I'm going to get it." And, most of all, when Attorney General Gonzales said, "I know that the director [of the FBI] is very committed to seeing [the anthrax investigation] to some kind of conclusion in the relatively near future," what does "relatively near future" mean??? Plus, of course, the BIG question: Who done it?
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2007, thru Saturday, January 27, 2007
January 22, 2007 - Today, the Federation of American Scientists posted an article titled "The State Secrets Doctrine and the Hatfill Case" which includes links to the motion filed by The New York Times where the Times claimed,
the times has been denied potentially critical evidence on grounds of national security. Both SAIC and USAMRIID have refused to produce relevant evidence concerning "classified" projects, including those on which the plaintiff worked.and to a partially redacted supporting memorandum which says,
A core issue in this case is whether the columns at issue falsely state that the plaintiff had both an "expertise" with biological agents and access to anthrax prior to the deadly anthrax mailings in late 2001. Plaintiff denies he had either. These are central factual issues in the case and, in the event that its pending motion for summary judgment is not granted, the Times unquestionably has the right at trial to attempt to establish the substantial truth of the challenged statements.Since this memorandum basically contains a threat to use the "state secrets doctrine" in the trial if Judge Hilton doesn't dismiss the case by Summary Judgment, it's possible that Judge Hilton's dismissal Order may mention that threat -- but don't bet on it.
January 21, 2007 - On Thursday, there was an exchange between Senator Grassley and Attorney General Gonzales on the subject of the Amerithrax investigation. I've finally obtained a copy. The exchange covers several topics, so I've cropped it down to just provide the bits about the anthrax investigation:
GRASSLEY: I wrote you in October to ask a series of questions regarding the FBI's investigation of the anthrax attacks. It's been over five years without any sign of real progress. It's been over three years since the FBI briefed any congressman.If I understand this exchange correctly, Attorney General Gonzales told Sen. Grassley that he would not be getting a briefing on the Amerithrax investigation. Gen. Gonzales says that their "competing interests" won't allow it. (I wonder what those "competing interests" are. Politics versus law enforcement?)
Later, Senator Grassley tries to get Senator Leahy to include him in the briefing:
GRASSLEY: Mr. Chairman, I would like to be involved in that briefing that you have on the anthrax, if I could be.I think that makes it clear that Grassley is not invited. Only Senators Leahy (a Democrat) and Specter (a Republican) will be briefed. And there's no actual agreement that Specter will be included, even though Senator Leahy wants it.
I find it intriguing that in the same session where Attorney General Gonzales said, "I know that the director [of the FBI] is very committed to seeing [the anthrax investigation] to some kind of conclusion in the relatively near future," Attorney General Gonzales is saying that Senator Leahy will be briefed because he was a victim, but other politicians will not be briefed -- including those on the Senate oversight committee. Also interesting is the fact that Senators Grassley and Specter are on the "oversight committee," but Senator Leahy is not.
There seem to be a lot of "clues" in this, but clues to what? All I can tell for certain is that something is going on that appears to be out of the ordinary.
Meanwhile, I'm getting an endless stream of complaints that I'm displaying a total lack of objectivity by not posting information about the reports where "anthrax powder" was recently found in the possession of a Taliban member in Afghanistan. It seems that any mention of "anthrax" in the same sentence as "Taliban" or "al Qaeda" or "Iraq" is seen by some people as proof that Muslim terrorists were behind the anthrax attacks of 2001. This morning there is a long long long long article on an Australian web site, Melbourne Intermedia, which makes that connection. It's an example of someone posting their beliefs on an "independent news" web site which Google then picks up and displays as actual "news".
Am I now being "objective" by mentioning this anthrax report?
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2007, thru Saturday, January 20, 2007
January 19, 2007 - Yesterday, Attorney General Gonzales appeared before The Senate Judiciary Committee (which is chaired by Senator Patrick Leahy), and Senator Arlen Specter brought up the subject of the anthrax investigation. The exchange below was sent to me by someone who subscribes to the Congressional Quarterly:
SPECTER: Attorney General Gonzales, will you inform this committee, or at least the chairman and ranking member, about what is happening on the anthrax investigation which hit not close to home but at home?So, we learned three things: (1) FBI Director Mueller is going to brief Senator Leahy on the anthrax investigation. (2) The Senate claims a legal right to be briefed on the nitty-gritty details of an ongoing investigation. (3) For the first time, the DOJ is talking about a "conclusion" to the anthrax investigation in the "relatively near future."
Meanwhile, in the House of Representatives, the Congressional Record also contains these statements from Congressman Rush Holt of New Jersey:
HOLT: Thank you.Will Congressman Holt also get a briefing by Director Mueller? Stay tuned.
January 18, 2007 - It would probably be best for me to wait for Judge Hilton's written order to see exactly how he justifies his ruling to dismiss Dr. Hatfill's lawsuit against The New York Times, but various forum discussions have pointed out a few things worth mentioning here.
A public figure (such as a politician, celebrity, or business leader) cannot base a lawsuit on incorrect harmful statements unless there is proof that the writer or publisher acted with malice (knowledge or reckless disregard for the truth). The burden of proof is higher in the case of a public figure.That Wikipedia entry also provides a definition of a "public figure":
A fairly high threshold of public activity is necessary to elevate a person to public figure status. Typically, they must either be:With that definition, it will be interesting to see how Judge Hilton decided that Dr. Hatfill was a public figure at the time Nicholas Kristof's columns were printed. Dr. Hatfill certainly wasn't "pervasively involved in public affairs" like a politician, and it's difficult to believe that by agreeing to be interviewed for a tiny 1998 article in Insight magazine on the subject of bioterrorism it meant he had thrust himself to the forefront of a public controversy. What controversy?
The Wikipedia entry about the landmark lawsuit Sullivan v The New York Times also addresses the subject of what "actual malice" means:
Many people have seen the term actual malice as puzzling, since the standard spelled out in the decision refers to knowledge or reckless lack of investigation, not to malicious intent. This term was not newly invented for this case, but was a term from existing libel law. In many jurisdictions, including Alabama (where the case arose), proof of "actual malice" was required in order for punitive damages to be awarded, or for other increased penalties. Since proof of the writer's malicious intentions is hard to provide, proof that the writer knowingly published a falsehood was generally accepted as proof of malice, under the assumption that only a malicious person would knowingly publish a falsehood.A January 6, 2007, AP article about the Hatfill/NYT lawsuit contained this:
[Dr. Hatfill's lawyer, Mark] Grannis said that in addition to the editor's warning, several of Kristof's sources testified in pretrial depositions that they did not provide information to Kristof as the columnist claims.Does that mean Kristof "knowingly published a falsehood"? Time will tell.
The various forum discussions also went into the "state secret doctrine" issue which was first mentioned on this web site on January 11, 2007. The issue is clearly not what it seems, and breaking the events down into small pieces which can be independently examined gives a very different picture of events:
A. The New York Times filed motions asking the judge to compel the government to talk about classified matters. According to The Reporters Committee For Freedom Of The Press:
1. "[S]everal government agencies refused to provide information to the Times, saying the investigation into the anthrax attacks is still open"B. The judge refused to compel these entities to reveal such information.
C. The Times evidently then said that because the judge denied the motions from The Times, the JUDGE was invoking the "state secret doctrine" and therefore the case should be dismissed.
D. It seems like a clever legal trap. The Times, in effect, seems to have been on a "fishing expedition" to look for something they could use to defend themselves, but, in reality, they seem to have "graymailed" the judge by asking him to do something he could not justify doing. And it seems that when Judge Hilton denied the motions, he may have said it was because the information was "classified".
E. The judge is part of the Judicial Branch of the government and is therefore part of "the government".
F. The Times then apparently filed a motion to have the case dismissed because "the government" (a.k.a. Judge Hilton) had invoked the "state secrets doctrine."
G. Judge Hilton did not rule on that motion, but instead he dismissed the case based upon the motion for Summary Judgment filed by the Times.
I don't know if there is any way around this legal trap, but an appeals court might just say that the judge did NOT use the "state secrets doctrine" but just ruled against a defendant who was on an unjustified "fishing expedition" to look for something they could use in their defense. Or Judge Hilton may have screwed up in the way he phrased his denial order. A new judge wouldn't make the same mistake.
I'm anxiously awaiting Judge Hilton's written Order dismissing the case. That should tell us more about what can be done and what can't be done.
This is like the end of the second act (where things seem darkest just before the calvary arrives) of a three act legal drama.
I hope there is a third act. It could be very interesting.
January 17, 2007 - It was a very good idea to wait for more information about those "state secrets" before doing any speculation. As it turns out, my interpretation of that entry in the Docket of the Hatfill v The New York Times lawsuit was totally wrong. The Reporters Committee For Freedom Of The Press issued a report yesterday which provides some very important details:
Hilton did not rule on a motion the Times made in December to have the case dismissed under the state secrets privilege, which allows for the withholding of information that could endanger national security.It really helps to have access to the actual documents of the case.
I cannot help but wonder about the information provided on Sunday about "graymail" and whether or not that is what happened here - although not in a standard way. Did The Gray Lady try to use "graymail" to get the case dismissed?
January 14, 2007 - It's tempting to speculate on the meaning of what happened last week regarding the Hatfill v The New York Times lawsuit, but it seems clear that I don't have all the facts. So, it's probably a good idea for me to just wait for more facts.
That's particularly true when the "state secrets doctrine" is involved. The mention of that "doctrine" in the court Docket could have been inadvertent. It was mentioned in an "amended notice" to something that was deliberately omitted from the public docket. As they say in the military, "There's always someone who doesn't get the word."
Being an analyst, it's things like that which grab my attention. But, as an analyst, I also know that there are times when some things should be kept secret.
Most secrets are temporary secrets.
Clearly, things are going on which people do not want made public just yet -- or at all. Hopefully, we'll find out what some of those things are before very long.
The best source of information about the "state secrets doctrine" that I've seen so far is the decision in the Sterling v George Tenet lawsuit. Here are a few passages from that document:
[From page 5]Since the government is not a party in the Hatfill v The New York Times lawsuit, it appears that they must have filed a "move to intervene". There was something about the lawsuit which involved "state secrets" or government interests, and, for whatever reason, the government moved to stop the case from going to trial. (See AT&T v Electronic Frontier Foundation.)
Big issues are at stake here. So, it's important to have all the facts before making judgments. So far, there's no reason to believe that we've seen all the facts that will be made public. Dr. Hatfill still has two other lawsuits in the system, the FBI says the anthrax case is being "actively investigated", there are grand jury matters involved, and there are Senate inquiries into exactly what is going on.
It's also important to note that the "state secrets doctrine" was not used to dismiss Dr. Hatfill's lawsuit against The Times. The lawsuit was instead dismissed in a Summary Judgment resulting from The Times' claim that Dr. Hatfill was a "public figure" at the time of Nicholas Kristof's columns. Dr. Hatfill can appeal that dismissal. He would not have been able to appeal a dismissal based upon the "state secrets doctrine."
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2007, thru Saturday, January 13, 2007
January 13, 2007 - As expected, this morning the media is filled with reports about the dismissal of Dr. Hatfill's defamation lawsuit against The New York Times. The Times has an article titled "Judge Rejects Defamation Suit Against The Times."
The article says that Judge Hilton "is expected to file a detailed written opinion in coming days." It also says,
Whether there is any leeway for Dr. Hatfill to mount an appeal as he did before would depend on how Judge Hilton fashions his ruling.So, we'll have to wait and see what the opinion says.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post's article is titled "Suit Against Times to Be Tossed Out" and says,
Hilton first threw out the case in 2004, ruling that Kristof accurately reported that the scientist was a focus of the FBI probe. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit reinstated the suit in 2005 and said Kristof's columns could be read as blaming Hatfill for the attacks.I haven't yet checked opinions from forums and emails, but it appears that no one is even suggesting anymore that Dr. Hatfill is guilty, only that, because he's a "public figure," it's okay to imply that he's a mass murderer.
January 12, 2007 - If I correctly understand the most recent entry in the Docket for the Hatfill v The New York Times lawsuit, the lawsuit is DISMISSED. Here's the entry:
January 11, 2007 - Uh oh. This morning I found a very worrying entry in the Docket for the Hatfill v The New York Times lawsuit. It's a Motion that was apparently filed on the 5th of January but not entered onto the Docket until the 9th. It says,
Why would the U.S. Government ask for a dismissal of a libel complaint filed by a citizen against a newspaper? And why would such a dismissal involve the "State Secrets" Doctrine? I hope there's an explanation somewhere in the making, because this will really set off the conspiracy theorists!
Presumably, this is something that would also have a major impact on Dr. Hatfill's other two lawsuits, Hatfill v Ashcroft et al and Hatfill v Foster et al. Presumably, all three lawsuits are involved here. And so is Senator Grassley's demand for a briefing.
The one hopeful sign in this is that a hearing will be held on the motion on Jan. 19, which is next week Friday. So, it isn't exactly a fait accompli, even though, according to Wikipedia, there have been only 5 instances (out of 60) since the 1950s where a judge has denied a motion from the government to dismiss a case under the "State Secrets Doctrine." A hearing could provide answers about who and why -- if nothing else. And then there's the other puzzling question: After all these years, why now?
As I wrote on Sunday, it seems to be "crunch time".
January 9, 2007 - An article in yesterday's USA Today gives one reporter's view of the scientific study by Navy scientists reported on last week. The USA Today article is titled "Study: People outside Senate office infected with anthrax". The reporter makes one very unscientific observation which I fully expected would set off the conspiracy theorists, and it did. The observation is:
The surprise finding supports previous analyses indicating that the spores were engineered to float long distances in the air.To conspiracy theorists this means the Navy is disputing the FBI and Dr. Beecher's comment that it is a "widely circulated misconception".. "that spores were produced using additives and sophisticated engineering supposedly akin to military weapon production."
But, in reality, it just means that another reporter is continuing to circulate that "widely circulated misconception."
The discussion also got me to thinking about the Navy's report, and it occurs to me that, for someone with all the details of her movments, the Navy report could provide some critical clues as to how Kathy Nguyen contracted anthrax.
January 7, 2007 - It seems clear that the Hatfill v The New York Times lawsuit is in a critical stage. While it's possible that it may be dismissed before it goes to trial at the end of this month, it's also noteworthy that when Judge Hilton previously dismissed the case, a higher court overruled him. It's also possible that Judge Hilton may rule that Dr. Hatfillis a public figure, even though one could say that he wasn't a "public figure" until the Times helped make him a public figure by pointing at him as a likely suspect in a mass murder. Does becoming an expert in a field and talking with the media make you a "public figure" who the media can point to as a possible mass murderer without fear of a lawsuit for libel?
The Hatfill v Foster, Vanity Fair et al lawsuit seems to be awaiting decisions on such questions. It's on hold until February 5, a week after the New York Times case is scheduled to go to trial.
Meanwhile, the Hatfill v Ashcroft et al lawsuit seems inexplicably on hold, too. The pending questions in the media lawsuits seem to have nothing to do with the Ashcroft case. Whatever the cause of the lack of progress, it's not something which shows up on the Court Docket. I just double-checked, and the last significant entry in the docket was back on September 8, 2006, when Judge Walton denied the government's motion and ordered that the government be liable for "non-pecuniary damages," which would mean there would be almost no limit to what they might be forced to pay if the government loses the case. At the same time, the government's motion to have Dr. Hatfill submit to an independent medical examination was granted. Dr. Hatfill agreed to that, so the only question was "the scope of the examination". There's nothing in that which would explain why there has been nothing new for 4 months. But, in the Wen Ho Lee case, the government and the media joined together in a settlement. It seems doubtful that is happening here, but it's possible. It's "crunch time" for everyone.
And then there's all those senators demanding a briefing on the progress of the anthrax investigation. It's "crunch time" there, too.
It seems that all the sides are standing eyeball to eyeball waiting for the next move. I'm waiting, too.
|Updates & Changes: Monday,
2007, thru Saturday, January 6, 2007
January 6, 2007 - According to an article by The Associated Press, Dr. Hatfill's lawyers uncovered an email warning from an editor at the New York Times telling Nicholas Kristof "to remove incriminating passages from a column that raised suspicions about Steven Hatfill's role in the 2001 anthrax attacks."
Kristof left the passages in the May 2002 column despite the warning, lawyers for Hatfill said Friday. Hatfill claims that a series of Kristof columns that year falsely implicated him as the culprit in the anthrax mailings that left five people dead.The article also verifies the reason the Times is giving for wanting the lawsuit dismissed. They claim Dr. Hatfill was a "public figure" and therefore, according to the law, you need to prove "actual malice" in order to win a defamation lawsuit.
Hatfill's lawyers dispute that their client should be classified as a public figure. But even if he were, they said, they have uncovered numerous flaws in Kristof's reporting that are so flagrant that Hatfill would win his case even if forced to proceed as a public figure.And there's more:
Grannis said that in addition to the editor's warning, several of Kristof's sources testified in pretrial depositions that they did not provide information to Kristof as the columnist claims.The New York Times also released an article about Friday's hearing. It is titled "Editor’s E-Mail May Be Used in Suit Against The Times," and it describes the situation from their point of view, including these details:
As a public figure Dr. Hatfill would have a far greater burden in his effort to win a defamation suit. To prevail, a public figure has to prove that the material was published with “actual malice,” that is with the knowledge that the statements were false or with reckless disregard as to whether they were false.It looks like the lawyers for The New York Times have no facts about Dr. Hatfill's guilt to support their case, so they are using every point of law they can find to try to prevent the Times from losing the lawsuit.
January 5, 2007 (B) - Here's the Docket entry showing what happened in today's hearings in the Hatfill v The New York Times lawsuit:
Minute Entry for proceedings held before Judge Claude M. Hilton : Motion Hearing held on 1/5/2007. Appearance of counsel for Pltf, Dft, and SAIC.  OBJECTIONS to the Magistrate Judge's  Order Denying Motion to Compel Discovery from Nonparty Science Applications International Corporation filed by The New York Times Company - Denied, ruling of the Magistrate Judge is Affirmed;  MOTION in Limine filed by The New York Times Company - Taken under advisement;  MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by The New York Times Company - Argued and taken under advisement. Order to follow. (Court Reporter Linnell.) (tarm, ) (Entered: 01/05/2007)I'm not sure exactly what it means to take "under advisement" a motion to dismiss, but, presumably, it means Judge Hilton needs to think about it for awhile before making a decision and handing down a ruling. The two motions couldn't be more critical. One is a motion to exclude from evidence all the columns written by Nicholas Kristof where he was referring to Dr. Hatfill as "Mr. Z" because it might predjudice the jury against the Times. Duh. The other is a motion by the Times to dismiss the case entirely via a Summary Judgment. The Times got the case dismissed back in 2005, but that dismissal was overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th circuit on July 29, 2005, and by the full 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on October 14, 2005. If at first you don't succeed, try try again -- evidently.
January 5, 2007 (A) - The University Of Chicago has a link to the study mentioned yesterday, and a link to an editorial comment about the study. I don't see any new information about the nature of the anthrax powder. It's all about immune responses.
January 4, 2007 - A press release about a new new article in The Journal of Infectious Diseases says the 2001 "Anthrax attack posed greater potential threat than thought." I haven't yet read or gained access to the actual article, but according to the press release, "Immune responses occurred not only in subjects in or near the Daschle office but also in those elsewhere in the Hart building, or even outside the building; the extent of exposure was thus greater than predicted." The press release also says,
No associations were seen between exposure levels and immune responses or symptoms, but the most-exposed subjects were the only ones to have high-magnitude responses. Low-level exposure did not appear to trigger an antibody response, but did induce a response by cells of the immune system, Intermediate exposure induced both. Finally, cellular immune responses declined with post-exposure use of antibiotics, suggesting that the intervention impeded spore germination and implying that it may reduce the incidence of both subclinical and clinical B. anthracis infection.January 2, 2007 - I just noticed that on Friday there was another flurry of paperwork in the Hatfill v The New York Times lawsuit. Judge Hilton affirmed Judge O'Grady's ruling denying the Times motion to compel discovery from SAIC (Dr. Hatfill's former employer). The Times objected, and there is a hearing set to hear the objection this coming Friday, January 5, 2007. That is also the day when Judge O'Grady will hear the Motion in Limine that the newspaper columns written by Nicholas Kristof prior to June 18, 2002, be unadmissible as evidence (apparently because they would prejudice the jury against the Times). And that is also the day that Judge O'Grady will hear the New York Times' Motion for a Summary Judgement and dismissal of the case.