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A Trained Eye Finally Solved the Anthrax Puzzle
NY Times ^ | August 21, 2008 | NICHOLAS WADE

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 ...

TOPICS: Anthrax Scare; Crime/Corruption; Government; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: amerithrax; anthrax; bruceivins; genetics; genomics; ivins; microbiology
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1 posted on 08/21/2008 10:11:06 PM PDT by neverdem
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To: neverdem; Shermy; Battle Axe

((Ping))This Ivins thing isn’t over by a long shot, is it?

2 posted on 08/21/2008 10:21:12 PM PDT by smokingfrog (He that lives upon hope will die fasting. - Ben Franklin)
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To: smokingfrog

Having a molecular biology background, I’d say the FBI did it right and Ivins was the guy.

3 posted on 08/21/2008 10:35:00 PM PDT by Wacka
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To: smokingfrog; Mother Abigail; EBH; vetvetdoug; Smokin' Joe; Global2010; Battle Axe
micro ping

This Ivins thing isn’t 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.

4 posted on 08/21/2008 10:36:30 PM PDT by neverdem (I'm praying for a Divine Intervention.)
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To: Wacka

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?

5 posted on 08/21/2008 10:48:59 PM PDT by 1955Ford
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To: neverdem
Who knows? He's dead. He can't defend himself.

The perfect suspect!

If they did not get the right guy there will be more problems, sooner or later.

6 posted on 08/21/2008 11:01:04 PM PDT by Smokin' Joe (How often God must weep at humans' folly.)
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To: Wacka

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”?

7 posted on 08/21/2008 11:01:30 PM PDT by SatinDoll (Desperately desiring a conservative government.)
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To: Wacka

“In a filing unsealed this Spring, Dr. Ali Al-Timimi’s 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-Timimi’s 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 Laden’s 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-Timimi’s 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-Timimi’s 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-Timimi’s connection to Bin Laden prior to Dr. Al-Timimi’s arrest. He was later interviewed by the FBI about Dr. Al-Timimi. Clearly, such early investigations go directly to the allegations of Dr. Al-Timimi’s connections to terrorists and Bin Laden — [redacted]”

The letter by Al-Timimi’s 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 Laden’s sheik who was the subject of OBL’s “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 didn’t 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 Army’s 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 FBI’s 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 Laden’s spiritual advisor, dissident Saudi Sheik al-Hawali. Ali would speak along with the blind sheik’s son at charity conferences — the blind sheik’s son served on Al Qaeda’s WMD committee. Al-Timimi’s 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.

8 posted on 08/21/2008 11:11:37 PM PDT by SatinDoll (Desperately desiring a conservative government.)
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To: Wacka
Ivins was worried about the pending cancellation of the AVIP program by Rumsfeld. It was to happen in 3 days and then all of a sudden an Anthrax mail attack. Convenient huh? Additionally it was made clear in court that the DOD used the mailings as a “threat” which required them to FORCEABLY inject soldiers going to Iraq. Judge Sullivan found it “curious” that the threat of mailings in Washington DC and a few other places required our soldiers to be vaccinated with a vaccine that was untested and required informed consent to inject instead of some threat in theater...mainly Iraq.

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.

9 posted on 08/22/2008 12:15:35 AM PDT by ICE-FLYER (God bless and keep the United States of America)
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Read post number eight!

10 posted on 08/22/2008 12:33:33 AM PDT by quickquiver (No, means N O.)
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Comment #11 Removed by Moderator

To: neverdem


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 Saddam’s 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 FBI’s anthrax investigators.

All the FBI can say is that the flask in Ivins’ possession is one possible source. They can’t 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 isn’t 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.


12 posted on 08/22/2008 5:34:02 AM PDT by PaRepub07
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To: SatinDoll
It thus appears that the FBI’s 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.

Can we assume that since the only "terrorists" ever identified are American "conservatives" - is it possible Ivins was a Republican?

13 posted on 08/22/2008 8:18:28 AM PDT by GOPJ (If Obama can't stand up to Hillary, he can't stand up to North Korea. Iran. Or anyone.)
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“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.

14 posted on 08/22/2008 8:38:34 AM PDT by WL-law
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To: WL-law

Suddenly the world seems saner...

15 posted on 08/22/2008 9:40:49 AM PDT by GOPJ (If Obama can't stand up to Hillary, he can't stand up to North Korea. Iran. Or anyone.)
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To: neverdem
The problem the FBI had in "solving" the Atlanta City bombing was Richard Jewell was still alive and stayed that way. Ivins isn't so lucky. He's obviously guilty and besides, it saves the FBI from more egg on it's face.

Besides, now they won't be seriously expected to look under that Saddam/Al Qaeda rock...

16 posted on 08/22/2008 10:39:11 AM PDT by Gritty (The lesson of 9/11 in the fed bureaucracy is nothing changed except a few agency acronyms-Mk Steyn)
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To: Smokin' Joe

The FBI is more concerned with agent diversity than solving any ongoing case.

17 posted on 08/22/2008 10:48:30 AM PDT by Mashood
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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.

18 posted on 08/22/2008 1:17:28 PM PDT by SatinDoll (Desperately desiring a conservative government.)
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To: neverdem
I don't believe a word of this.

Not one.

I haven't trusted the FBI in years seeing this in the NYT simply reinforces that suspicion.


19 posted on 08/22/2008 1:20:42 PM PDT by Lurker (Islam is an insane death cult. Any other aspects are PR to get them within throat-cutting range.)
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To: TrebleRebel

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 doesn’t need military training to understand its value, and if one does understand its value one is not compelled to use it.

20 posted on 08/22/2008 3:53:12 PM PDT by ZACKandPOOK (
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