Sunday, August 3, 2008

ANTHRAX UPDATE

Amanda Ripley, Time - For now, we do know that Bruce Ivins had a history of hiding relatively minor anthrax-related security breaches from his supervisors. He also was well-positioned to access anthrax, and his lab benefited enormously in money and resources from the fall-out of the anthrax attacks. Along with other scientists, he was listed as a co-inventor on two patents for an anthrax vaccine, and he could have stood to gain financially from the rise in vaccinations that followed the anthrax attacks. Days before his death, he was accused by a counselor of making violent threats.

But when it comes to the FBI and the anthrax investigation (or "Amerithrax," as the Feds so inelegantly call it), things are rarely as they first appear. Ivins had been cooperating with the FBI for six years, according to his attorney. In other cases, that's what happens when the FBI doesn't have a smoking gun but wants to wear a suspect down into confessing. But it's worth remembering that just one month ago, the federal government paid $5.8 million to Steven Hatfill, another scientist who worked at the very same research lab. Hatfill's name had been leaked to the media as a primary suspect during the years-long bioterrorism investigation. He was never arrested or charged, and when he sued the government for ruining his career, a federal judge found "not a scintilla of evidence" linking Hatfill to the mailings. Hatfill's lawyer, Thomas Connolly, said neither he nor his client had any comment on Ivins.

The FBI had been watching Ivins' house for some time, according to neighbors' accounts, and it appears that the Los Angeles Times had also been investigating him well before he died.

Ivins' lawyer says his client was totally innocent and that he killed himself because of the FBI's harassment. He was receiving psychotherapy in the weeks before his death and was banned from the premises of his research lab.

Marilyn W. Thompson and Amy Goldstein, Washington Post - Nearly two years after anthrax-spore mailings killed five people and sickened 17 others, Army scientist Bruce E. Ivins accepted the Defense Department's highest honor for civilian performance for helping to resurrect a controversial vaccine that could protect against the deadly bacteria. . .

The shy, socially awkward anthrax scientist was on the verge of indictment in the anthrax-spore mailings case, according to officials familiar with the investigation, and killed himself with a drug overdose as the FBI ratcheted up the pressure against him. The anthrax-laced letters, officials said, may have been part of a plan to test his cure for the deadly toxin. The Justice Department said yesterday only that "substantial progress has been made in the investigation." The statement did not identify Ivins. . .

Ivins's attorney asserted the scientist's innocence and said he had cooperated with investigators for more than a year. . .

For more than a decade, Ivins had worked to develop an anthrax vaccine that was effective even in cases where different strains of anthrax were mixed - a situation that made vaccines ineffective - according to federal documents.

Among the small circle of scientists who worked with him, Ivins was solid, quiet, eccentric, even and a bit nerdy. But he also had a darker side, as suggested by court papers filed last month by Jean C. Duley, who asked a Frederick judge for a protective order against Ivins, saying he had repeatedly threatened her.

"Client has a history dating to his graduate days of homicidal threats, actions, plans," the woman wrote in note attached to her request for protection.** She said Ivins' psychiatrist had confided to her that the scientist was "homicidal, sociopathic with clear intentions." She also noted that she had been subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury about a capital murder case involving Ivins.

It was a far different Ivins from the one colleagues and neighbors knew. As a microbiologist at the Army's main lab for studying bioterror agents, Ivins labored for years on the development of anthrax vaccines and had access to various strains of the anthrax bacteria, including the one used in attacks on media outlets and congressional offices. . .

Ivins' profile increased after the anthrax mailings in October 2001, when the Fort Detrick labs went into a frenetic response to the crisis, testing suspicious mail and packages virtually around the clock. He was part of a response team that analyzed the handwritten letter sent to then senator Tom Daschle packed with Bacillus anthracis spores that matched the primary strain used in Fort Detrick research and had been used in the US biological weapons program until the 1970s. . .

In early 2002, without notifying his supervisors, Ivins began sampling suspicious areas in the Detrick lab space that he believed might be contaminated with anthrax. He took unauthorized samples from the laboratory containment areas and later acknowledged to Army officials this was a violation of protocol.

Ivins's odd behavior was detailed in an Army investigation, but his name never surfaced as a suspect in the mailings case. . .

He also never raised the suspicions of coworkers, many of whom remained convinced Ivins had nothing to do with the case.

"Almost everybody at 'RIID believes that he has absolutely nothing to do with Amerithrax," said a USAMRIID employee, referring to the FBI code name for the investigation. "The FBI has been hounding him mercilessly."

The constant scrutiny "really pushed this poor guy to the edge," the employee said, and noted that his colleagues were upset at the way Ivins had been treated.

Glenn Greenwald, Salon - The 2001 anthrax attacks remain one of the great mysteries of the post-9/11 era. After 9/11 itself, the anthrax attacks were probably the most consequential event of the Bush presidency. One could make a persuasive case that they were actually more consequential. The 9/11 attacks were obviously traumatic for the country, but in the absence of the anthrax attacks, 9/11 could easily have been perceived as a single, isolated event. It was really the anthrax letters - with the first one sent on September 18, just one week after 9/11 - that severely ratcheted up the fear levels and created the climate that would dominate in this country for the next several years after. It was anthrax - sent directly into the heart of the country's elite political and media institutions, to then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD), Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt), NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw, and other leading media outlets - that created the impression that social order itself was genuinely threatened by Islamic radicalism.

If the now-deceased Ivins really was the culprit behind the attacks, then that means that the anthrax came from a U.S. Government lab, sent by a top U.S. Army scientist at Ft. Detrick. Without resort to any speculation or inferences at all, it is hard to overstate the significance of that fact. From the beginning, there was a clear intent on the part of the anthrax attacker to create a link between the anthrax attacks and both Islamic radicals and the 9/11 attacks. . .

By design, those attacks put the American population into a state of intense fear of Islamic terrorism, far more than the 9/11 attacks alone could have accomplished.

Much more important than the general attempt to link the anthrax to Islamic terrorists, there was a specific intent - indispensably aided by ABC News - to link the anthrax attacks to Iraq and Saddam Hussein. In my view, and I've written about this several times and in great detail to no avail, the role played by ABC News in this episode is the single greatest, unresolved media scandal of this decade. . .

It's extremely possible - one could say highly likely - that the same people responsible for perpetrating the attacks were the ones who fed the false reports to the public, through ABC News, that Saddam was behind them. What we know for certain - as a result of the letters accompanying the anthrax - is that whoever perpetrated the attacks wanted the public to believe they were sent by foreign Muslims. Feeding claims to ABC News designed to link Saddam to those attacks would, for obvious reasons, promote the goal of the anthrax attacker(s). . . .

There can't be any question that this extremely flamboyant though totally false linkage between Iraq and the anthrax attacks - accomplished primarily by the false bentonite reports from ABC News and Brian Ross - played a very significant role in how Americans perceived of the Islamic threat generally and Iraq specifically. As but one very illustrative example, The Washington Post's columnist, Richard Cohen, supported the invasion of Iraq, came to regret that support, and then explained what led him to do so, in a 2004 Post column entitled "Our Forgotten Panic":

"I'm not sure if panic is quite the right word, but it is close enough. Anthrax played a role in my decision to support the Bush administration's desire to take out Saddam Hussein. I linked him to anthrax, which I linked to Sept. 11. I was not going to stand by and simply wait for another attack - more attacks. I was going to go to the source, Hussein, and get him before he could get us. As time went on, I became more and more questioning, but I had a hard time backing down from my initial whoop and holler for war."

Cohen - in a March 18, 2008 Slate article in which he explains why he wrongfully supported the attack on Iraq - disclosed this:

"Anthrax. Remember anthrax? It seems no one does anymore - at least it's never mentioned. But right after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, letters laced with anthrax were received at the New York Post and Tom Brokaw's office at NBC. . . . There was ample reason to be afraid.

"The attacks were not entirely unexpected. I had been told soon after Sept. 11 to secure Cipro, the antidote to anthrax. The tip had come in a roundabout way from a high government official, and I immediately acted on it. I was carrying Cipro way before most people had ever heard of it.

"For this and other reasons, the anthrax letters appeared linked to the awful events of Sept. 11. It all seemed one and the same. Already, my impulse had been to strike back, an overwhelming urge that had, in fact, taken me by surprise on Sept. 11 itself when the first of the Twin Towers had collapsed. . . .

"In the following days, as the horror started to be airbrushed - no more bodies plummeting to the sidewalk - the anthrax letters started to come, some to people I knew. And I thought, No, I'm not going to sit here passively and wait for it to happen. I wanted to go to 'them,' whoever 'they' were, grab them by the neck, and get them before they could get us. One of 'them' was Saddam Hussein. He had messed around with anthrax . . . He was a nasty little fascist, and he needed to be dealt with.

"That, more or less, is how I made my decision to support the war in Iraq.". . .

We now know - we knew even before news of Ivins' suicide last night, and know especially in light of it - that the anthrax attacks didn't come from Iraq or any foreign government at all. It came from our own Government's scientist, from the top Army bioweapons research laboratory. More significantly, the false reports linking anthrax to Iraq also came from the U.S. Government - from people with some type of significant links to the same facility responsible for the attacks themselves. . .

Update: Atrios writes: "now that we know that the US gov't believes that anthrax came from the inside, shouldn't Cohen be a wee bit curious about what this warning was based on?" That applies to much of the Beltway class, including many well-connected journalists, who were quietly popping cipro back then because, like Cohen, they heard from Government sources that they should. Leave aside the ethical questions about the fact that these journalists kept those warnings to themselves. Wouldn't the most basic journalistic instincts lead them now -- in light of the claims by our government that the attacks came from a government scientist -- to wonder why and how their government sources were warning about an anthrax attack? Then again, the most basic journalistic instincts would have led ABC News to reveal who concocted and fed them the false "Saddam/anthrax" reports in the first place, and yet we still are forced to guess at those questions because ABC News continues to cover up the identity of the perpetrators.

Washington Post - For nearly seven years, scientist Bruce E. Ivins and a small circle of fellow anthrax specialists at Fort Detrick's Army medical lab lived in a curious limbo: They served as occasional consultants for the FBI in the investigation of the deadly 2001 anthrax attacks, yet they were all potential suspects.

Over lunch in the bacteriology division, nervous scientists would share stories about their latest unpleasant encounters with the FBI and ponder whether they should hire criminal defense lawyers, according to one of Ivins's former supervisors. In tactics that the researchers considered heavy-handed and often threatening, they were interviewed and polygraphed as early as 2002, and re-interviewed numerous times. Their labs were searched, and their computers and equipment carted away.

The FBI eventually focused on Ivins, whom federal prosecutors were planning to indict when he committed suicide last week. In interviews yesterday, knowledgeable officials asserted that Ivins had the skills and access to equipment needed to turn anthrax bacteria into an ultra-fine powder that could be used as a lethal weapon. . .

"I really don't think he's the guy. I say to the FBI, 'Show me your evidence,' " said Jeffrey J. Adamovicz, former director of the bacteriology division at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases, or USAMRIID, on the grounds of the sprawling Army fort in Frederick. "A lot of the tactics they used were designed to isolate him from his support. The FBI just continued to push his buttons."

Investigators are so confident of Ivins's involvement that they have been debating since Friday whether and how to close the seven-year-old anthrax investigation. That would involve disbanding a grand jury in the District and unsealing scores of documents that form the basis of the government's case against Ivins.

Negotiations over the legal issues continue, but a government source said that the probe could be shuttered as early as tomorrow. The move would amount to a strong signal that the FBI and Justice Department think they got their man -- and that he is dead, foreclosing the possibility of a prosecution. No charges are likely against others, that source added.

Once the case is closed, the FBI and Justice Department will face questions -- and possibly public hearings -- from congressional oversight committees, which have been largely shut out of the case the past five years. . .

Ivins's daily routine included the use of processes and equipment the anthrax terrorist likely used in making his weapons. He also is known to have had ready access to the specific strain of Bacillus anthracis used in the attack -- a strain found to match samples found in Ivins's lab, he said.

"You could make it in a week," the expert said. "And you could leave USAMRIID with nothing more than a couple of vials. Bear in mind, they weren't exactly doing body searches of scientists back then."

But others, including former colleagues and scientists with backgrounds in biological weapons defense, disagreed that Ivins could have created the anthrax powder, even if he were motivated to do so.

"USAMRIID doesn't deal with powdered anthrax," said Richard O. Spertzel, a former biodefense scientist who worked with Ivins at the Army lab. "I don't think there's anyone there who would have the foggiest idea how to do it. You would need to have the opportunity, the capability and the motivation, and he didn't possess any of those.". . .

Authorities cast doubt yesterday on reports that Ivins had acted for financial gain based on patents and scientific advances he had made. Experiments by Ivins, working with several other Fort Detrick colleagues, led to two patented inventions considered crucial in the development of a genetically modified anthrax vaccine made by VaxGen, a California company that secured large government contracts after the 2001 anthrax attacks.

But sources familiar with details of the Army's patent process said it was unlikely that Ivins or the other scientists would reap a big financial windfall from VaxGen's vaccine production. They say the government restricts income from inventions produced in its laboratories to no more than $150,000 per year, but the amount is often considerably less.

Court records obtained yesterday shed further light on the concerns of a mental health professional who met Ivins during his final months -- a period when, friends say, he fell into depression under the strain of constant FBI scrutiny. The records also suggest that a Frederick social worker, Jean Duley, passed on her concerns to the FBI after receiving death threats from Ivins.

Duley became so worried that she petitioned a local judge for a protective order against Ivins. According to an audio recording of the hearing, she said she had seen Ivins as a therapist for six months, and thought he had tried to kill people in the past.
"As far back as the year 2000, [Ivins] has actually attempted to murder several other people, [including] through poisoning," she said "He is a revenge killer, when he feels that he's been slighted . . . especially towards women. He plots and actually tries to carry out revenge killings," she told a judge.

She described a July 9 group therapy session in which Ivins allegedly talked of mass murder.

"He was extremely agitated, out of control," she said. Ivins told the group he had bought a gun, and proceeded to lay out a "long and detailed homicidal plan," she said.

"Because he was about to be indicted on capital murder charges, he was going to go out in a blaze of glory; that he was going to take everybody out with him," she said.

2 Comments:

At August 3, 2008 3:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://www.oilempire.us/anthrax.html

Anthrax sent to Democrats and the media
just before passage of the USAPATRIOT Act

Uncle Sam's Army (USA)
Packages of Anthrax Terrorized Representatives Into Obliterating Tolerance (PATRIOT)


http://www.ratical.org/ratville/CAH/theFword.html

FASCISM - who sent the anthrax to Congress?


http://www.freefromterror.net

Government by Anthrax
Who could have sent the anthrax letters and who has a motive? Here's evidence the letters were sent to grease the skids for the Patriot Act then before Congress.
By Richard J. Ochs


http://www.freefromterror.net/other_articles/gov_anthrax.html

The glaring coincidence of the anthrax attacks with the passage of the Patriot Act can only be ignored as an elephant is ignored at a tea party. It is believable that this coincidence was overlooked in the fall of 2001 due to all the confusion, including letters to other places. In historical hindsight, the connection is obvious. It can be ignored now only as Germans ignored the death camps – the brazenness of the crime was unbelievable. Moreover, to admit the crime’s existence requires a courageous response. Timid souls may be tempted to stick their heads in the sand rather than do what is required to expose and root out criminals in high places, especially in time of war. The obvious response would be a Congressional investigation with no holds barred, even if it goes all the way to the top.

 
At August 3, 2008 3:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://www.oilempire.us/anthrax.html

Anthrax sent to Democrats and the media
just before passage of the USAPATRIOT Act

Uncle Sam's Army (USA)
Packages of Anthrax Terrorized Representatives Into Obliterating Tolerance (PATRIOT)


http://www.ratical.org/ratville/CAH/theFword.html

FASCISM - who sent the anthrax to Congress?


http://www.freefromterror.net

Government by Anthrax
Who could have sent the anthrax letters and who has a motive? Here's evidence the letters were sent to grease the skids for the Patriot Act then before Congress.
By Richard J. Ochs


http://www.freefromterror.net/other_articles/gov_anthrax.html

The glaring coincidence of the anthrax attacks with the passage of the Patriot Act can only be ignored as an elephant is ignored at a tea party. It is believable that this coincidence was overlooked in the fall of 2001 due to all the confusion, including letters to other places. In historical hindsight, the connection is obvious. It can be ignored now only as Germans ignored the death camps – the brazenness of the crime was unbelievable. Moreover, to admit the crime’s existence requires a courageous response. Timid souls may be tempted to stick their heads in the sand rather than do what is required to expose and root out criminals in high places, especially in time of war. The obvious response would be a Congressional investigation with no holds barred, even if it goes all the way to the top.

 

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