Skip to comments.A Trained Eye Finally Solved the Anthrax Puzzle
Posted on 08/21/2008 10:10:54 PM PDT by neverdem
When the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced it had cracked the long-unsolved anthrax case, the turning point cited by the bureau was its identification of a laboratory flask as the source of the anthrax.
The dots, or in this case more than a thousand separate anthrax samples, were connected with the help of a group of scientists working secretly for some seven years. They succeeded by using a combination of new techniques not even invented in late 2001 when the anthrax-laced letters were sent, and that most old-fashioned attribute of expert scientists and detectives: a trained eye.
Now, in their first interviews, after being released this week from their vows of silence, several scientists explained how they charted a new frontier in microbial forensics, one that could have the same evidentiary power as DNA fingerprinting in criminal cases.
The scientists say they are confident the F.B.I. has identified the source of the anthrax, a flask in the custody of Bruce E. Ivins, whom the F.B.I. considers to have been the perpetrator of the attacks. But almost a hundred other people were known to have had access to cultures from the flask, and the scientists say they have no opinion as to whether Dr. Ivins, who committed suicide last month, was the culprit. Some former colleagues and other experts have questioned whether the government was right in suspecting Dr. Ivins, a researcher at the Army Medical Institute of Infectious Diseases in Fort Detrick, Md. But the technical feat of matching the attack anthrax to its source is itself a gripping tale of scientific detection.
The scientific chase began in late 2001 as the first person to contract anthrax from powder in a letter lay dying in a Florida hospital. The victim, Robert Stevens, 63, a photo editor at The Sun, a...
(Excerpt) Read more at nytimes.com ...
((Ping))This Ivins thing isn’t over by a long shot, is it?
Having a molecular biology background, I’d say the FBI did it right and Ivins was the guy.
This Ivins thing isnt over by a long shot, is it?
Who knows? He's dead. He can't defend himself. They were building a case against the proverbial mad scientist.
I read entire article and couldn’t understand the logic. If you take one colony of cells (all arising from a single cell and identical) and replate it, will the new plate show different morphs? Why?
The perfect suspect!
If they did not get the right guy there will be more problems, sooner or later.
With over a hundred individuals having access to that flask, and some of them Muslims with connections to Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt, you still want to stick with “Ivins was the guy”?
“In a filing unsealed this Spring, Dr. Ali Al-Timimis lawyer explained that his client was considered an anthrax weapons suspect. Al-Timimi was a microbiologist who had worked in the building housing the Center for Biodefense funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). He came to have an office 15 feet from the leading anthrax scientist and the former deputy commander of USAMRIID. Dr. Al-Timimis counsel summarizes:
we know Dr. Al-Timimi:
* was interviewed in 1994 by the FBI and Secret Service regarding his ties to the perpetrators of the first World Trade Center bombing;
* was referenced in the August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing (Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US) as one of seventy individuals regarding whom the FBI is conducting full field investigations on a national basis;
* was described to his brother by the FBI within days of the 9-11 attacks as an immediate suspect in the Al Qaeda conspiracy;
* was contacted by the FBI only nine days after 9-11 and asked about the attacks and its perpetrators;
* was considered an anthrax weapons suspect;
* was described during his trial by FBI agent John Wyman as having extensive ties with the broader al-Qaeda network;
* was described in the indictment and superseding indictment as being associated with terrorists seeking harm to the United States;
* was a participant in dozens of international overseas calls to individuals known to have been under suspicion of Al-Qaeda ties like Al-Hawali; and
* was associated with the long investigation of the Virginia Jihad Group.
The conversation with [Bin Ladens sheik] Al-Hawali on September 19, 2001 was central to the indictment and raised at trial. Al-Timimi called Dr. Hawali after the dinner with Kwon on September 16, 2001 and just two hours before he met with Kwon and Hassan for the last time on September 19, 2001.
[911 imam] Anwar Al-Aulaqi goes directly to Dr. Al-Timimis state of mind and his role in the alleged conspiracy. The 9-11 Report indicates that Special Agent Ammerman interviewed Al-Aulaqi just before or shortly after his October 2002 visit to Dr. Al-Timimis home to discuss the attacks and his efforts to reach out to the U.S. government.
[IANA head] Bassem Khafagi was questioned about Dr. Al-Timimi before 9-11 in Jordan, purportedly at the behest of American intelligence. [redacted ] He was specifically asked about Dr. Al-Timimis connection to Bin Laden prior to Dr. Al-Timimis arrest. He was later interviewed by the FBI about Dr. Al-Timimi. Clearly, such early investigations go directly to the allegations of Dr. Al-Timimis connections to terrorists and Bin Laden [redacted]
The letter by Al-Timimis counsel attached as an exhibit is equally meaty. An example of an additional detail is that in March 2002, Dr. Al-Timimi spoke with Dr. Al-Hawali (Bin Ladens sheik who was the subject of OBLs Declaration of War) about assisting Moussaoui in his defense.
The filing and the letter exhibit each copy defense co-counsel, the daughter of the lead prosecutor in Amerithrax. That prosecutor has pled the Fifth Amendment concerning all the leaks hyping a POI of the other Amerithrax squad, Dr. Steve Hatfill.
In an e-mail obtained by FOX News, scientists at Fort Detrick openly discussed how the anthrax powder they were asked to analyze after the attacks was nearly identical to that made by one of their colleagues.
Then he said he had to look at a lot of samples that the FBI had prepared ... to duplicate the letter material. Then the bombshell. He said that the best duplication of the material was the stuff made by [name redacted]. He said that it was almost exactly the same his knees got shaky and he sputtered, But I told the General we didnt make spore powder!
FOX News reports:
The FBI has narrowed its focus to about four suspects in the 6 1/2-year investigation of the deadly anthrax attacks of 2001, and at least three of those suspects are linked to the Armys bioweapons research facility at Fort Detrick in Maryland, FOX News has learned.
Among the pool of suspects are three scientists a former deputy commander, a leading anthrax scientist and a microbiologist linked to the research facility, known as USAMRIID.
It thus appears that the FBIs theory is that it was more than a happy coincidence for Ayman Zawahiri that an active supporter of the Taliban and supporter of jihad was a US biodefense insider. Microbiologist Al-Timimi worked in the same building as famed Russian bioweapons scientist Ken Alibek and former USAMRIID Deputy Commander and Acting Commander Charles Bailey. Dr. Bailey would publish a lot of research with the Ames strain of anthrax. Al-Timimi was a current associate and former student of Bin Ladens spiritual advisor, dissident Saudi Sheik al-Hawali. Ali would speak along with the blind sheiks son at charity conferences the blind sheiks son served on Al Qaedas WMD committee. Al-Timimis mentor Bilal Philips was known for recruiting members of the military to jihad. The first week after 9/11, FBI agents questioned Al-Timimi. He was a microbiology graduate student in a program jointly run by George Mason University and the American Type Culture Collection (ATCC). Ali, according to his lawyer, had been questioned by an FBI agent and Secret Service agent in 1994 after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. He had a high security clearance for work for the Navy in the late 1990s. The defense webpage reported that in 1996, for two months had worked for the White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card (who had been Secretary of Transportation in 1992-1993). As time off from his university studies permitted, Ali was an active speaker with the charity Islamic Assembly of North America”
You can find the above at “Obama On Anthrax”. It is an archived posting on Free Republic.
Even now only those going to CENTCOM AOR and South Korea are required to get it and only those staying longer than two weeks.
It is a sham and a disgusting abuse of position and power by a few folks that we have AVIP and the pain and injustice it has caused thousand of soldiers.
The FBI found its guy.
Read post number eight!
We found out in the original written brief that the scientists tested more than 1000 samples from labs around the world. This is presumably an exhaustive sampling of all known samples of Ames strain anthrax.
Problem #1: They could necessarily only test samples of Ames strain anthrax that they already knew existed. What if there are samples of Ames strain anthrax that the scientists did not test because they did not know they existed? Aside from Saddams non-existent WMD anthrax research, I could easily imagine any number of other governments (including our own) with highly secretive bioweapons programs hiding this information from the FBIs anthrax investigators.
All the FBI can say is that the flask in Ivins possession is one possible source. They cant prove that it is the only source.
Problem #2: To allay these concerns, the FBI can claim that it is likely that it is the source since, out of 1000 samples tested, all of the ones that matched could be traced to Ivins flask.
What?! More than one sample matched?! Yes a total of 8 samples matched. B-but, b-but, they could all be traced to Ivins, stutters the FBI. We already know that Ivins was not the only person with access to his flask. But now we learn that, in addition to the 100 other people who had access to Ivins flask, there are at least 7 other people (and probably many, many more) who had access to anthrax that is biologically identical to the mailed anthrax. These 7 other samples were not located at AMRIID.
So, although we were initially told by the FBI-parroting media that sophisticated scientific techniques could uniquely identify Ivins flask as the smoking gun, we learn that even this flimsy piece of evidence isnt true: there are 8 known smoking guns and a theoretically infinite number of unknown smoking guns.
Kathryn Muratore is an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at American University. She holds a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cell Biology from UC Berkeley.
Can we assume that since the only "terrorists" ever identified are American "conservatives" - is it possible Ivins was a Republican?
“s it possible Ivins was a Republican?”
It’s already on the record that Ivins was a lifelong voting democrat, and a very involved one at that.
Suddenly the world seems saner...
Besides, now they won't be seriously expected to look under that Saddam/Al Qaeda rock...
The FBI is more concerned with agent diversity than solving any ongoing case.
It is easier to go after someone living a middle-class life in the U.S. and who has tried to help authorities nail the terrorists.
It is far more difficult for the government to admit culpability, that they allowed someone with radical ties to extreme terrorist groups access to anthrax, along with nearly a hundred other people.
I haven't trusted the FBI in years seeing this in the NYT simply reinforces that suspicion.
An anthrax expert says this about the Sandia Press Release (relating to silica):
[The press release] propagates faulty logic about the relevance of the presence of additives. It says regarding whether or not additives were present that This information was crucial in ruling out state-sponsored terrorism. It goes on to say that Weaponization of the spores would be an indicator of state sponsored terrorism. Which physical law of the universe says that if a state were to sponsor an anthrax attack that the spores would HAVE to have silica or some other additive in it? Conversely, where is it written that a person who is not sponsored by a state must NOT put additives in his anthrax spores? The use of additives as performance enhancers of powders is a very widespread practice. One doesnt need military training to understand its value, and if one does understand its value one is not compelled to use it.
Evolution. Random mutations happen all the time. DNA polymerase (the protein that copies DNA) has a set error rate. Proofreading enzymes lower it, but every time a cell divides, there are mutations. When these occur in a gene or control sequences for genes (promoters), then problems or visual changes are seen. The DNA tests for people used in courts or for paternity look at repeated sequences. These repeats can be different sizes. That’s basically what those tests are determining. The anthrax work involved sequencing the whole bacterial genome.