Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Biotech Government News Science

New Scientific Evidence Emerges In Anthrax Case 216

Posted by kdawson
from the out-of-sequence dept.
sciencehabit writes "A Science Magazine investigation uses clues from a key document unveiled last week to reconstruct the trail that led the FBI to Bruce Ivins. Among the revelations: Anthrax fingerprinting was not critical to the investigation, as many reports have suggested. Rather, brute-force genetic sequencing, with the help of the J. Craig Venter Institute, helped crack the case. New potential motivations by Ivins are also revealed."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

New Scientific Evidence Emerges In Anthrax Case

Comments Filter:
  • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @09:09PM (#24577401) Homepage Journal

    This was a really well done article. One quote reminded me of something odd about this case:

    FTA:

    which Ivins had created in 1997 and of which he was the "sole custodian."

    I keep hearing this when they interview government types. It's weird, it seems like they're trying to sow doubt about their case, because:

    Ivins's lawyer (from NPR):

    But Kemp said more than a hundred people had access to the flask and, more important, actually used that exact strain of anthrax. He says the anthrax in the flask was sent to two other labs and was used in dozens of experiments by other scientists

    Response:

    "No one received material from that flask without going through Dr. Ivins," said Jeff Taylor, U.S. attorney for Washington, D.C.

    Weak...

    "We thoroughly investigated every other person who could have had access to the flask and we were able to rule out all but Dr. Ivins."

    OK, now you're getting somewhere! Why is it they only go to the relevant part when pressed?

    • by topham (32406) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @09:15PM (#24577441) Homepage

      What you mean a case is put to rest 7 years later, recent/main suspect is dead and no questions remain.

      And something looks fishy? You're just obsessive, these things are never covered up, or evidence is never made to match to current theory.
      Doesn't happen.

      • by QRDeNameland (873957) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @09:28PM (#24577535)
        Well, from the evidence I've seen, whatever may tie Ivins to this crime, I've seen nothing to indicate that Ivins acted alone. The fact that they can't place him in the Princeton, NJ area at the time the letters were mailed is a huge problem in that regard, as is the question of who fed false information suggesting Iraqi involvement to ABC's Brian Ross. These facts are not consistent with the FBI's seeming desire to close this case based upon Ivins being the sole culprit.
        • by MarkusQ (450076) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @01:12AM (#24578887) Journal

          Well, from the evidence I've seen, whatever may tie Ivins to this crime, I've seen nothing to indicate that Ivins acted alone. The fact that they can't place him in the Princeton, NJ area at the time the letters were mailed is a huge problem in that regard, as is the question of who fed false information suggesting Iraqi involvement to ABC's Brian Ross. These facts are not consistent with the FBI's seeming desire to close this case based upon Ivins being the sole culprit.

          They can't place him there because he couldn't have been there [firedoglake.com]. According to the FBI's warrants, etc. the letters were mailed from a specific box in Princeton, NJ after 5 pm on September 17, 2001. Ivins was out of the office in Frederick VA earlier in the day (after coming in briefly in the morning), but was back before 5 pm for a meeting. There is no indication that they have cracked his alibi from 5 on sufficiently to allow him to make the round trip during the time window.

          Unless they have a real whopper saved up (he hired his secret twin brother to sleep with his wife that night?) Bruce Ivins could not have done it alone. Which (right on the tail of the Hatfill fiasco and the Siegelman fiasco and all the rest) might lead a reasonable person to wonder if he was involved at all.

          --MarkusQ

          P.S. The best way I've heard of salvaging their case would be if Ivins drove up in the daytime (he might just barely have had time) and asked someone to mail the letters for him. If they had this (presumably innocent foil) in witness protection or something they might actually have a better case than they've shown. But in any case he would have needed an accomplice of some sort.

          • by rs232 (849320)
            "Bruce Ivins could not have done it alone"

            What 'evidence' is ther that Irvins was involved, traces of that particular strain was found near by, well they would find it, as he initially helped with the analysis of the anthrax-tainted envelopes. They only turned on Irvins, when the other 'suspect' (Steven Hatfill) refused to roll over ..
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          "the FBI's seeming desire to close this case based upon Ivins being the sole culprit."

          it is not a desire, but the only organizationally and culturally viable outcome - our systems of justice and punishment are subordinate to and eons less evolved, less cunning than the corruption and evil of our largest institutions. In the modern era there has been no other conclusion, America cannot process larger, hypocritical evil; it needs a single mind and body to punish, a small man, a troubled man - someone who we c

        • "I've seen nothing to indicate that Ivins acted alone"

          That's because you seen nothing at all, and how by any rules of logic, can you infer the absence of any 'evidence' that he actied alone, as being evidence that he didn't act alone.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by rve (4436)

        Funny that.

        American culture has a dull and relatively uneventful history of conspiracies, but a long and rich history of angry loners trying to kill public figures.

        Oddly enough, people always suspect conspiracies whenever something bad happens and rarely seem to find the angry loner theory plausible.

        • by Dun Malg (230075)

          Oddly enough, people always suspect conspiracies whenever something bad happens and rarely seem to find the angry loner theory plausible.

          Not so odd if you consider it for a moment. People like predictability and control in their lives. Conspiracy theories are a natural expression of that. The idea that there are wild cards out there that are largely unstoppable makes them uncomfortable. It's simply more reassuring to believe that there's a cabal of conspirators behind the evil deeds. Even if the conspiracy is beyond their personal power to stop, the notion that it's possible to stop it satisfies the desire for control.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        You're just obsessive, these things are never covered up, or evidence is never made to match to current theory.

        I'm glad that dude killed himself and they are pinning it on him. You know why? Because I did it. I'll tell you how. See anthracis is easy enough to culture (especially if you are a world expert like me), but getting it to atomize is the tough part. What I did was to add triton x100 as a surfactant and wash the cells a couple of times in a 0.5% solution of triton x100 and pure h2o. You have to pellet the cells between washes and then resuspend. Anthracis is gram positive, so I didn't have to worry too much

    • by LaskoVortex (1153471) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @09:34PM (#24577585)

      But Kemp said more than a hundred people had access to the flask

      The flask? What is up with this? How in the hell can you chase the wrong guy for five years and then go back and get "The flask". WTF do they mean by this? I don't know anyone who has a single "flask" to maintain a culture. "The flask". I've been in this business for 15 years. I know of frozen culture stocks kept in cryo vials, or transferring a culture from several flasks to another several flasks (you'd be an idiot to have just one flask for a stable culture) indefinitely, etc. Also, it looks like you could keep a stable stock in an envelop if you really think about it (or else you couldn't have the anthrax attacks themselves). But "The Flask", like there is only one--this is pure ignorance or just made up for drama. I'm not saying anything about this case except that the language used to talk about it in the media and by the FBI is sophomoric. I wonder if the language is any indication of their understanding of the science behind this case?

      • by HangingChad (677530) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @10:25PM (#24577929) Homepage

        I wonder if the language is any indication of their understanding of the science behind this case?

        The anthrax attacks are what the administration used to make the Iraq connection. John McCain himself was one of the people shopping that idea around the news media. You think this bunch would worry about a few post office employees or mail room people dying? So, yeah, the flask is as convenient as it is inexplicable. Dude committing suicide before the feds had a chance to question him, equally convenient. That the politicized Justice Dept. spent so much time stubbornly pursuing the wrong suspect, convenient. Now all this evidence that looks so obvious in one convenient package. That all the agents working this case in the last seven years either didn't see or didn't put together? Talk about straining credibility.

        Incompetence raised to a high enough level is indistinguishable from malice. We know they're incompetent and it certainly isn't straining credibility to think this bunch would be capable of doing it deliberately.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Incompetence raised to a high enough level is indistinguishable from malice. We know they're incompetent and it certainly isn't straining credibility to think this bunch would be capable of doing it deliberately.

          The real mystery here is why you think they are so incompetent, when -- also according to you -- just about everything worked out exactly as they wanted it to, and they are almost certainly going to get away from this free and clear.

      • by zappepcs (820751) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @10:37PM (#24578015) Journal

        I was thinking this same thing: the wording seems odd. After reading several other posted stories (such as http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=93381622 [npr.org]) I think that the phrase "The Flask" seems to be casual lab term that was used to relay the information from the investigators on the ground to those that report the story to the news and courts etc. In the same way that a mechanic might casually refer to a window regulator that was replaced on a car. It's not common terminology, but specific to those who work on those systems, and despite our vocabularies, it's a very handy way to refer to the motor and stuff that makes your window go up and down.

        These sites:
        http://www.bellcoglass.com/searchcategoryresult.aspx?keyword=culture%20flask [bellcoglass.com]
        and
        http://iai.asm.org/cgi/reprint/58/2/303.pdf [asm.org] would support my statements to some extent. I can't yet find anything noteworthy about there being only a single flask of this culture. It seems like a single flask is identified because of the four markers found in all the attack samples and the flask Ivins had control of. There were probably many flasks of the spores but only this one matched to the spores used in the attacks. At least that is how I read all this, despite the questions that remain unanswered.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by sgt_doom (655561)
        Outstanding points, good citizen LaskoVortex.

        I've been following this on an excellent site [blogspot.com] of Dr. Meryl Nass - highly recommended. Also, might suggest anyone to read this article [ucla.edu].

        Thanks for your excellent post.

      • good point. As someone else who grows bacteria (but not anthrax) i agree that the use of the term "flask" is wierd - it is basic microbiology 101 that bacteria are not stable in flasks; you keep them as either frozen stocks in a special freezer (-80oC !) or, sometimes, as dried filter papers or on sealed agar slants - The ATCC is a good authority here.

        maybe as suggested by another poster, "flask" is just a word that they used to keep from confusing people iwth a tech term like "cryovial" or "agar slant"

        The

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by sgt_doom (655561)

      Sorry, dood, but I call complete and utter BS on the FBI's fairy tale. Try perusing this outstanding site [blogspot.com] by a most knowledgeable individual and also read this excellent article [ucla.edu].

      Once upon a time, way back when I worked in Seattle, there was this clown of a police chief named Fitzsimons. Everytime someone was murdered, without any investigation whatsoever, Fitzsimons would proclaim the murder to be drug-related.

      Of course, it turned out in 9 out of 10 times to be an unrelated homicide of some sort - but the

    • by Weezul (52464)

      Ivins wasn't the guy. The FBI claims he mailed the letters before 5pm on the day before the letters were postmarked. Any court would throw out their case based upon this one fact for even one letter, but multiple letters means there is almost no chance that he mailed them before 5pm. So the FBIs story is flat wrong.

      Of course he could still have done it, but he'd need an accomplice. It's very hard for the FBI to invent such an accomplice since Ivins doesn't fit the right wing nut profile and Irvins finan

  • by bughunter (10093) <bughunter@@@earthlink...net> on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @09:15PM (#24577443) Journal

    For those who aren't yet aware of it, Glen Greenwald at Salon.com [salon.com] has been making a rather thorough analysis of the holes in the DOJ's case against Ivins, and is not sparing the media coverage, either.

    Read and judge for yourself.

    • by 3waygeek (58990)

      FYI, Greenwald is on vacation this week, so he probably won't be adding much to the discussion.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Dr Bruce Ivins was just a patsy. Hans Reiser actually did it.

  • by vrmlguy (120854) <{samwyse} {at} {gmail.com}> on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @09:26PM (#24577523) Homepage Journal

    A glaring omission, meanwhile, is any evidence placing Ivins in Princeton, New Jersey, on any of the days the envelopes could have been mailed from there.

    Personally, I don't see that as such a big deal. I'll assume that there's no evidence that he wasn't in Princeton on those days. Lots of criminals have been caught by credit card receipts from gas stations, but those stories have gotten lots of press over the years. Ivins was at least as smart as Lisa Nowak, who planned her crime attempt meticulously. Sure, people laughed about her using adult diapers, but I'll bet there weren't any photos taken of her at rest stops. I'd bet he not only paid cash for his gasoline, he probably checked the driving distance and his car's MPG, and bought exactly the amount used on the trip.

    • Ivins was at least as smart as Lisa Nowak, who planned her crime attempt meticulously. Sure, people laughed about her using adult diapers,

      Yet another case of the media hyping a false report.
      The diapers were BABY diapers, in a box in the backseat of her car left over from a hurricane evacuation a few years prior. No way they would fit an adult woman, even one who was air force fit. [msn.com]

      • She wouldn't have to wear them to use them, she could have simply used them to urinate in without making a mess. She herself stated that this is exactly what she did, at least according to the police report. And this would still fit perfectly well with her lawyers statements; all he said was that it was a lie that she drove to orlando wearing a diaper, he never said she didn't use them to collect urine. So the basic gist of the story is likely still accurate (could you drive 950 miles without peeing SOME

    • by Moleculo (1321509) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @10:58PM (#24578155)
      Your assumption that there is no evidence that he wasn't in Princeton might be false (see Glenn Greenwald's reporting [salon.com]). In addition, the fed are painting contradictory pictures of Ivins when it suits them: was he a sorority-obsessed homicidal madman in the middle of a psychiatric breakdown or a meticulous criminal mastermind leaving no detail to chance?
      • by vrmlguy (120854)

        In addition, the fed are painting contradictory pictures of Ivins when it suits them: was he a sorority-obsessed homicidal madman in the middle of a psychiatric breakdown or a meticulous criminal mastermind leaving no detail to chance?

        What? There's some reason he couldn't be both? [jt.org]

        Seriously, though, it's possible that he was an accomplice to the real bad guy. I'm usually the first to quote Hanlon's razor [wikipedia.org], but Dick Cheney seems to think that he's a character in a Tom Clancy novel and I can see this sort of scenario happening:

        Ivey worked late to get the anthrax, took off from work to give it to a "plumber" [wikipedia.org] the next day, and went to his early evening appointment to give himself an alibi. After realizing that he'd been lied to about the re

    • by volpe (58112)

      he probably checked the driving distance and his car's MPG, and bought exactly the amount used on the trip.

      Why? In case somebody happened to look at his fuel gauge right before his trip and immediately after, so that they wouldn't suspect he had gone anywhere, despite the odometer change?

      • by vrmlguy (120854)

        he probably checked the driving distance and his car's MPG, and bought exactly the amount used on the trip.

        Why? In case somebody happened to look at his fuel gauge right before his trip and immediately after, so that they wouldn't suspect he had gone anywhere, despite the odometer change?

        No, because the police can and will look at your driving habits. I have a short commute to work, and tend to buy the same amount of gas every week-end. If I filled my tank (paying cash) at the end of a crime spree, I'd actually buy less gas with my credit card that week, which they'd want me to explain.

        Your odometer readings, OTOH, are generally only recorded when service is done, mostly oil changes. An extra 600 miles would mean your next oil change would be done 10% earlier than expected, which is easi

  • by ericferris (1087061) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @09:35PM (#24577587) Homepage

    So if we base a clever article on a leaked document, shouldn't we first assume that the document is truthful?

    When a high-profile person commits suicide because of the pressure of an investigation, the authorities will always try to justify their action. This was observed many times. I do remember a big scandal where a perfectly honest corner shop owner was investigated by the IRS and harassed in the worst possible ways. He turned out that his books were perfectly clean, but there was nevertheless an attempt at a smear campaign against the poor guy after his death.

    I am sure that this suicide is embarrassing some higher-ups at the FBI and that they will do their best to avoid being blamed.

    So I'd take these revelations with a grain of salt.

  • by Swampash (1131503) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @09:46PM (#24577663)

    Call me paranoid, but I'm instinctively suspicious when the guy who unexpectedly ends up dead and thus isn't around to defend himself is revealed by the government to be TEH GENIUS CRIMINAL MASTERMIND!!!1.

    • and when that lawyer dropped dead during the Clinton years we spent how many years of amateur sleuths telling us what a grand conspiracy it was?

      Just consider this "what goes around, comes around"

      There is a conspiracy anywhere you have a crackpot

  • Case not cracked (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MSTCrow5429 (642744) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @09:54PM (#24577723)
    Contrary to the triumphalist tone of the uber-parent, the case has not been cracked, chipped, broken apart, or otherwise solved.
  • by Fear the Clam (230933) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @10:00PM (#24577757)

    Considering the avalanche of bullshit the Justice Department has been spewing out (and/or failing to remember) during this administration, I honestly don't know why they're bothering to make a case. I'm not going to bother reading anything about this story because I'm pretty sure its just going to be more of the same.

    I was cynical before, but at this point I don't even bother reading the news.

  • by briancarnell (94247) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @10:34PM (#24578001) Homepage

    I realize I'm expecting a lot, but couldn't a Slashdot summary be accurate, just once.

    First, its Bruce IVINS. Not IVANS. The Russians had nothing to do with this.

    Second, the linked article doesn't provide any new information at all regarding IVINS' alleged motivations. It just repeats what's been reported already. And those don't make a lot of sense (the claims that he was psychologically unstable make much more sense, if those are reliable).

    Third, yes anthrax fingeprinting was crucial to this case. Yes they brute forced the DNA sequencing (duh!) but the main evidence against Ivins is a statistical fingerprint based on four specific mutations in the anthrax that the FBI claims was present in the anthrax mailed to Congress critters, etc. and the anthrax in a vial that only Ivins controlled. But as the linked article points out, without knowing more you can't really conclude much from that. For example, the similarities could occur in portions of the anthrax DNA that are hypervariable which would significantly reduce their value.

    So, so far it looks like the FBI case is based largely on two facts: a) Ivins began working late nights in the weeks prior to the anthrax mailings -- he apparently claimed he had trouble at home and found solace in his work which the FBI apparently found absurd; b) a statistical similarity in certain unspecified mutations among the anthrax mailed out and the anthrax in a vial that only Ivins had access to.

    The Science article also suggests that the FBI assumed that because the envelopes used to mail the anthrax were purchased in Maryland or Virginia that the anthrax *had* to be produced there, so they then used as a basis for their investigation that the anthrax *had* to come from USAMRIID . . . which is why they focused on Hatfill so intensely.

    Maybe Ivins was the killer, but the Science article seems to raise more questions about how solid the FBI's case really is. Maybe future, more detailed information releases will bring this more into focus, but so far this doesn't appear to be the slam dunk that the FBI has so far made it seem.

    • by Moraelin (679338) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @05:56AM (#24580137) Journal

      Ivins began working late nights in the weeks prior to the anthrax mailings -- he apparently claimed he had trouble at home and found solace in his work which the FBI apparently found absurd;

      Absurd, eh? And what have we learned here? Never do overtime.

      If you'd rather stare into a flask than see your wife again, do yourself a favour and go get wasted at the pub. Sure, it ruins your liver, but so does Tylenol. Or get a mistress. Get a divorce. But for the love of Bast, don't be the last guy at the office.

      Sure, you may think you're an IT dude, no way someone would link anthrax to your servers. Right? We'll see who laughs last when some idiot script kiddie defaces a DOD web server, and people go "OMG, it was in the same county as a computer which controls the nukes! The hacker mastermind must have planned to reprogram the computer to load itself into a truck, drive there and plug itself into the secure network! It's teh Al Qaeda! Terrorism! Jihad! Concerted attack on our freedoms! It's those dastardly... umm... hey, Jack, which country has oil and we didn't bomb already? Right, it was those dastardly Canadians and their false prophet!"

      So leave Slashdot, close that SSH window, turn off the computer (is the uptime willy-waving worth someone inferring that you must have been there if the computer was up and doing stuff on the servers?), tell a bunch of co-workers "good bye" and walk out that door. Yes, you can do it. For the love of all that's good and holy, walk out that door.

      And if your boss doesn't like it, tell him you're doing your patriotic duty. When that arab genius mastermind hacks a computer to load itself into a truck and drive to a nuke base, the CIA can chase him instead of wasting valuable time and resources on chasing you. It would be unpatriotic to interfere with their investigation by setting yourself up as a decoy. The future of democracy and freedom may depend on it. If you don't do it, the terrorists win!

  • Paranoia or logic? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @11:30PM (#24578345)

    How does an anti-terrorist bioweapons expert in the service of US military turn to a domestic terrorist right after terrorists attacked USA, and decide to launch a terrorist attack of his own?

    All within one week, creating his own strain of anthrax, getting the stuff needed for manufacturing it and mailing it, all without leaving any evidence? Or was Ivins prepared to carry out the anthrax attacks even before 9-11 took place?

    It is apparent that people with GOP connections received warnings and went on Cipro before any of the anthrax letters were even mailed.

    Ivins was also a part of the investigation team, which would be standard CIA procedure, if this was a CIA op. (This is why FBI agents and coroners are used for assassinations inside USA, because they can be used to coverup the crimes.) Ivins would also likely have been easy to talk into the op since he was a rabid arab hater and neocon, as well as easy to blackmail later to take the blame, since he had a wife and 2 kids.

    A lone person just doesn't spontaneously feel motivated to join al-Qaeda terrorist attacks against their own nation, especially if they work for the US military anti-terrorim team, even if their invention were to get more use.

    This Salon guy has lots more discrepancies in the official story:
    http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2008/08/01/anthrax/index.html

    It is clear to me that FBI is covering up one of the GOP's illegal Casus Belli operations for Iraq war. You can keep your head in the sand, while calling others paranoid, but it won't make you any more secure.

  • by FrenchSilk (847696) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @12:51AM (#24578787)
    One of the oddest aspects of this case is the way that Ivins supposedly chose to commit suicide. Tylenol typically causes a horrible, drawn-out death that takes two to three weeks. The impression given by the media is that he tossed down a bottle of Tylenol, grabbed his throat and keeled over. But that just isn't the way it happens, and Ivins would have known that.

    This article [emedicine.com] provides an excellent discussion of the time line of deterioration and eventual death that results comes from Tylenol poisoning.
    • by winwar (114053) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @01:10AM (#24578873)

      "Tylenol typically causes a horrible, drawn-out death that takes two to three weeks. The impression given by the media is that he tossed down a bottle of Tylenol, grabbed his throat and keeled over."

      Dying from liver toxicity sucks. But he took tylenol with codeine. Enough codeine tends to suppress breathing (Codeine: toxic dose about 240 mg). Typical doses of codeine are 15 to 60mg with a maximum of 360mg per 24 hours. Not breathing for a period, say over 10 minutes, will tend to result in death.

      If you have tylenol with codeine, you probably have enough to overdose.

  • by LwPhD (1052842) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @01:41AM (#24579045)

    It is certainly possible that enough evidence has been collected to nail Ivins. However, the evidence so far produced is far, far from convincing, especially the explanation of the TIGR data. It does seem like they've used a relatively small number of markers to identify the strain. If these markers are SNPs, then there is a fairly non-trivial chance that parallel mutations could cause false positives and that further mutations on the original strain could cause false negatives. And by what criteria did they choose only 4 of the mutations they successfully found? Even if they are less common mutations, there is abundant evidence that mutations of all kinds (duplications, deletions, even inversions) can happen rather frequently. But with no information, we're left wondering.

    The interpretation of polymorphism data through ad hoc statistics compounded with arbitrary ascertainment bias could potentially allow the FBI to implicate anyone. If they were malicious (or trying to perform some CYA) they could even choose which markers to use and whatever hand-wavy analyses they wanted to implicate particular strains. Perhaps the research is completely above-board and is rigorous and implicates Ivins beyond a reasonable doubt. I'm very much open to that possibility. However, two things give me pause. First, the sketchy details we have concerning the data render them highly suspect. Specifically, if I'm to take literally everything I've read as being the essence of the most convincing evidence the FBI has, then I'd have to say they don't have a scientific case. (Convincing a credulous jury is another issue. See Simpson, O.J.) Secondly, the way they present the evidence is highly suspect. As one commenter suggested, what does the shoddy description of the details of the case tell us about the FBI's understanding of the relevant issues? As a scientist, I can say that I'm underwhelmed by their ability to communicate basic ideas.

    Whether this is the FBI being secretive and leaving out key details or this is just incompetence, I can't tell. In either event, the cloudy picture currently painted in the public sphere is so suspect as to make anyone who knows anything about population variation to hear loud alarm bells regarding this case.

  • Oh please !! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Weezul (52464) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @09:54AM (#24582269)

    Bruce Ivans wasn't the anthrax mailer. He wasn't even a right wing nut job. He was just who the FBI got the "crack". FBI agents aren't that bright, they just assume anyone who cracks is guilty.

    Anyway, read the FBIs story about how he mailed the letters. They claim he drove to Princeton, mailed the letters, and returned to work. He was seen at work that same day at 5pm. However, this story blatantly contradicts the fact that the letters were post marked the following day! How can he have mailed them well before 5pm but have the letters postmarked the following day?

    In fact they have given no evidence pointing to Bruce Ivins except for the fact that he committed suicide. Btw, the FBI is also classifying the letter blaming that egyptian guy as a mere coincidence, despite the fact that this letter was mailed first. I'm not sure if the FBI knows who the anthrax mailer was, but it's crystal clear that they don't want to know who blamed the egyptian guy.

  • There have been so much lies and ridiculous claims about this case. That its hard to judge what you can believe. It al started with blaming Al Qaida for sending anthrax letters to politicians that where opposed to Bush and his war(!!). And it just went downhill from there.
  • trail of evidence .. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rs232 (849320) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @10:24AM (#24582893)

    Bruce Edwards Ivins (the Anthrax suspect) aka Jimmy Flathead aka
    jimmyflathead@yahoo.com

    From: jimmyflathead@yahoo.com (jimmyflathead)
    NNTP-Posting-Host: p-903.newsdawg.com

    http://groups.google.co.uk/group/alt.literature/msg/d305ab96c3af13b9?hl=en [google.co.uk]

    p-903.newsdawg.com = 64.209.5.103
    -------
    OrgName: Global Crossing
    OrgID: GBLX
    Address: 14605 South 50th Street
    City: Phoenix
    StateProv: AZ
    PostalCode: 85044-6471
    Country: US

    NetRange: 64.208.0.0 - 64.209.127.255
    -------

    Global Crossing [NSA-affiliated IP ranges]
    Phoenix AZ US

    64.208.0.0 - 64.209.127.255
    64.210.0.0 - 64.210.127.255
    64.211.0.0 - 64.211.223.255
    64.212.0.0 - 64.215.255.255

  • Like the JFK murder, or the downing of flight KAL007, rumors are starting to change into facts, and we are arguing about what someone said about what someone said about...
    Can we get some data and squelch the silly rumors that waste time ?
    were the spores weaponized or not ? I see a lot of people with strong statements, but no evidence or data.
    Can we get an answer at this point, and move on ?

    were the envelopes used really only available in the Va area ?

    What are the 8 other labs that the FBI says had the suppo

  • by SailorBob (146385) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @12:58PM (#24585783) Homepage Journal
    An article in the Wall Street Journal argues that it was impossible for Ivans to have been responsible.
    URL for this article:
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121789293570011775.html [wsj.com]

    Bruce Ivins Wasn't the Anthrax Culprit

    By RICHARD SPERTZEL
    August 5, 2008
    PageA17

    Over the past week the media was gripped by the news that the FBI was about to charge Bruce Ivins, a leading anthrax expert, as the man responsible for the anthrax letter attacks in September/October 2001.

    But despite the seemingly powerful narrative that Ivins committed suicide because investigators were closing in, this is still far from a shut case. The FBI needs to explain why it zeroed in on Ivins, how he could have made the anthrax mailed to lawmakers and the media, and how he (or anyone else) could have pulled off the attacks, acting alone.

    I believe this is another mistake in the investigation.

    Let's start with the anthrax in the letters to Sens. Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy. The spores could not have been produced at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, where Ivins worked, without many other people being aware of it. Furthermore, the equipment to make such a product does not exist at the institute.

    Information released by the FBI over the past seven years indicates a product of exceptional quality. The product contained essentially pure spores. The particle size was 1.5 to 3 microns in diameter. There are several methods used to produce anthrax that small. But most of them require milling the spores to a size small enough that it can be inhaled into the lower reaches of the lungs. In this case, however, the anthrax spores were not milled.

    What's more, they were also tailored to make them potentially more dangerous. According to a FBI news release from November 2001, the particles were coated by a "product not seen previously to be used in this fashion before." Apparently, the spores were coated with a polyglass which tightly bound hydrophilic silica to each particle. That's what was briefed (according to one of my former weapons inspectors at the United Nations Special Commission) by the FBI to the German Foreign Ministry at the time.

    Another FBI leak indicated that each particle was given a weak electric charge, thereby causing the particles to repel each other at the molecular level. This made it easier for the spores to float in the air, and increased their retention in the lungs.

    In short, the potential lethality of anthrax in this case far exceeds that of any powdered product found in the now extinct U.S. Biological Warfare Program. In meetings held on the cleanup of the anthrax spores in Washington, the product was described by an official at the Department of Homeland Security as "according to the Russian recipes" -- apparently referring to the use of the weak electric charge.

    The latest line of speculation asserts that the anthrax's DNA, obtained from some of the victims, initially led investigators to the laboratory where Ivins worked. But the FBI stated a few years ago that a complete DNA analysis was not helpful in identifying what laboratory might have made the product.

    Furthermore, the anthrax in this case, the "Ames strain," is one of the most common strains in the world. Early in the investigations, the FBI said it was similar to strains found in Haiti and Sri Lanka. The strain at the institute was isolated originally from an animal in west Texas and can be found from Texas to Montana following the old cattle trails. Samples of the strain were also supplied to at least eight laboratories including three foreign laboratories. Four French government laboratories reported on studies with the Ames strain, citing the Pasteur Institute in Paris as the source of the strain they used. Organism DNA is not a very reliable way to make a case against a scientist.

    The FBI has not officially released information on why it focused on I

We have a equal opportunity Calculus class -- it's fully integrated.

Working...