FBI Proposal to NAS

Here is the FBI letter to NAS with a list of questions for NAS to address. Perhaps of interest, it is dated September 15, the day before the first Congressional hearing, but fails to commit to the study financially until October. NAS was not aware of the FBI’s interest in moving forward until Director Mueller announced it at the September 16 hearing.

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Ellen Byrne
Ellen Byrne
13 years ago

Good grief.

Can the answers to these questions tell us how the FBI excluded Battelle and zeroed in on USAMRIID and Bruce Ivins?

13 years ago

OK, I’ve got to admit – these questions go further than I thought they would. He asks about the distribution and concentration of elements (eg Si) – (the “eg Si” in parenthesis is interesting – I mean, why not “”eg Ca” or “eg P” or “eg Mg”?). He directly asks if the spores were weaponized and if powders that behaved like this could be made without special measures.
I think it’s going to be difficult for NAS to assemble a team of people who have the experience to answer these questions.
I wonder if there are any other scientists, like me, who would be willing to work pro bono on yet another independent review?

Old Atlantic Lighthouse
Old Atlantic Lighthouse
13 years ago

Questions for NAS

1. Did Ivins suffer PTSD from 9/11?

2. Could Ivins have gone to the lab and put on his hazmat suit to feel safe and to know he would be alone?

3. Don't people under stress or mentally ill often seek out places they know they can be alone? Wasn't that place for Ivins the Suite B3 at night?

4. Given all that is known, isn't this scenario more likely than that he was the anthrax producer and mailer?

Questions Re the paper

Production of Bacillus Spores as a Simulant for Biological Warfare Agents

061300 – Microbiology

Corporate Author:

Personal Author(s):
Carey, Laurie F St
Amant, Diane C
Guelta, Mark A

Report Date:
01 Apr 2004

(following is a new URL for the paper that works and is free to download)


5. Was this paper intended to be delivered as evidence by the FBI in the prosecution of Steven Hatfill to prove that no lone worker at Ft Detrick specifically including Bruce Ivins could have produced the anthrax?

6. Didn't the FBI in 2004 intend to use this paper in 2004 to prove that Steven Hatfill was the lone anthrax mailer to the exclusion of all others at Ft. Detrick including specifically Bruce Ivins?

7. Doesn't the paper in fact prove that no lone worker at Suite B3 at Ft. Detrick could have grown and dried the spores in Suite B3?

8. Doesn't the paper imply that the square feet of plate or the liters of CD "broth" required to produce approimately 5 grams of dried anthrax for the first 5 letters and 2 grams or more for the second 2 letters could not have been produced in Suite B3 by Ivins at the hours at night shown in the FBI affidavits because machines would have been running still during the day or it would have been noticeable to workers the work going on at night?

9. Are not large scale lyophilizers using liquid nitrogen a hazard in Suite B3 and similar level suites because liquid nitrogen is known to produce lab accidents that can spray projectiles that pierce hazmat suits and thus expose the lab workers to the toxins? Is it not the case that Suite B3 and similar suites don't allow liquid nitrogen lyophilizers in them for this reason? Wouldn't the use of a liquid nitrogen lyophilizer stand out to other lab workers as a danger and be something that couldn't just sit there from the first Sep 15 night to Oct 5 in 2001? Isn't that simply not allowed as too dangerous?


"Lyophilizer Explosion, March 2001

An explosion on Thursday, March 1, 2001, sent broken glass flying throughout a UCSC chemistry laboratory, injuring a graduate student but serving as a reminder about the importance of wearing safety glasses. Zia Thale, who was heating laboratory glassware at the time of the blast, was taken by ambulance from Sinsheimer Laboratories to Dominican Hospital, where she was treated for numerous lacerations to her face, neck, and hands. Thale is a graduate student working with professor of chemistry Phil Crews. The incident, however, occurred in professor of chemistry Glenn Millhauser's first-floor lab in Sinsheimer, at approximately 3:30 p.m. "

If that had happened in Suite B3 her hazmat suit would have been ripped?
If that had happened in Suite B3 she might have died? This is why they don't let the lyophilizers in Suite B3?

Without liquid nitrogen lyophilizers, the drying of sufficient "broth" to produce 2 grams of anthrax powder would have been impossible in Suite B3? Of 5 grams?

The lab workers at Ft. Detrick taken together with the above are testimony and evidence that proves that Bruce Ivins did not dry anthrax powder in Suite B3 in the quantity of 2 grams or 5 grams?

This proves Bruce Ivins was not the anthrax mailer.

The FBI knew in Septermber 2008 and its scientists know then and Director Mueller knew when he testified in September 2008 to Congress that Bruce Ivins could not have been the anthrax producer and mailer and that is why Director Mueller of the FBI refused to answer questions of the House of Rep and Senate of the United States in the anthrax attacks on the Congress of the United States and the American people?

13 years ago

To me, the questions look remarkably naive. Not questions written by someone who has an understanding of the science behind bacterial growth or anthrax weaponization. Also not questions by someone who is aware of their ignorance and who wants a real, honest and scientific analysis of the data that is available and an accurate assessment of what that data means. It looks like the questions are designed to provide “answers” that can be cherry-picked and used out of context to support the conclusion that the FBI has already reached and to provide cover for the direction (or misdirection) the investigation has gone.

The question of funding is kind of bizarre. Do they want the answer, or do they want the answer that a certain amount of funding can provide? If the FBI limits the funding enough, the NAS won’t be able to do anything except say they didn’t have enough resources to evaluate that question. Then the FBI will be able to say “even the NAS couldn’t figure it out”.

This is obviously the kind of investigation where the level of detail is unknown until after it has been gotten into. Will it take 1 person-year, 10, 100 or 1000? The biggest uncertainties are undoubtedly the non-scientific aspects of the case. Is the chain of custody of samples analyzed fool-proof, or could mole(s) have planted something to mislead the investigation? Unless they have the authority to subpoena and question under oath the various primary sources of data, including field reports, FBI agents, and their managers, and especially those inside all of the various biological weapons programs of the US government it is a useless exercise.

Like virtually all processes, the quality of an investigation isn’t something you can sprinkle on at the end and make a bad investigation turn out good. If the data is not available, conclusions can’t be made. The FBI chose to follow multiple dead end investigatory paths in series rather than follow all credible paths in parallel and to not pursue certain seemingly obvious investigatory paths. Understanding why those choices were made may shine a lot of light on why the investigation is where it is now. I am afraid that the NAS will not be allowed to investigate that aspect of the case.

Old Atlantic Lighthouse
Old Atlantic Lighthouse
13 years ago

Isn’t the reason Ivins was not a suspect in 2004 or 2005 or 2006 or 2007 when he receive the no target letter was because the US intended to use the 2004 paper to prove that no lone worker at Ft. Detrick, specifically including Bruce Ivins, could have been the lone anthrax producer?

Isn’t the reason Ft. Detrick allowed Ivins to continue as a lab worker despite all the information in the FBI affidavits because from long ago, the production figures in the 2004 were understood, and the 2004 was intended not as new science but as codification of already existing know-how at Ft. Detrick?

This is even with the knowledge of his night hours in Suite B3 and their timing?

Thus after the 2001 anthrax attacks, Ft. Detrick already knew the equivalent of the information in the 2004 paper and it already knew that Ivins could not have produced the anthrax in Suite B3 despite his night hours in Suite B3. That is why Ivins was never a suspect at that time, because Ft. Detrick knew from the equivalent of the 2004 paper that it was impossible for Ivins to have been the anthrax producer. Ft. Detrick knew that from 2001 to now.

That was also communicated to the FBI and the office of US Attorney Jeff Taylor multiple times? That’s why they had no problem with Ivins all the years from 2001 to the no target letter in 2007?

13 years ago

This whole exercise is a distraction.

The science cannot establish that Bruce Ivin committed this crime.

Why isn't anyone pointing that out? Wait — someone has pointed this out:

"I never felt that the science alone would ever solve this investigation," Fraser-Liggett concluded.


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