Bruce Ivins: Fall Guy to Cover Secret Anthrax Weaponization Program
by Sheila Casey / August 19th, 2008
US Attorney Jeff Taylor was sweating on August 6, as he laid out his case against the late Dr. Bruce Ivins at a news conference-and with good reason. Anyone familiar with the case is well aware that Dr. Ivins was railroaded, and that the news conference was a flimsy web of lies.
Ivins had nothing to do with the 2001 anthrax attacks. The attacks were almost certainly carried out by the only group that had the means to produce the highly weaponized anthrax in the letters: the CIA, its contractor Battelle Memorial Institute of West Jefferson, Ohio., and the Army at Dugway in Utah.
The DOJ-FBI frame-up of Ivins rests heavily upon the claim of new advances in genetic testing which supposedly prove that the killer anthrax could have come only from Ivins’ flask.
Jeff Taylor stated: ‘The FBI sought out the best experts in the scientific community and, over time, four highly sensitive and specific tests were developed that were capable of detecting the unique qualities of the anthrax used in the 2001 attacks.’
This is an outright lie. No special tests were required to assess the genetic heritage of the Ames strain in the envelopes. The Washington Post reported on December 16, 2001 that ‘only five laboratories so far have been found to have spores with perfect genetic matches to those in the Senate letters.’
The distinguishing feature of the anthrax that killed five people in 2001 is not related to its genes. What made that anthrax unique was that it was highly weaponized. Anthrax is a common pathogen found in the soil in many places. It doesn’t become lethal unless produced in such a way that it behaves like a gas, floating easily in the air and deep into a victim’s lungs.
The anthrax used in the attacks was beyond cutting edge. Donald A. Henderson, former assistant secretary for the Office of Public Health Preparedness at the Department of Health and Human Services, told Science magazine: ‘It just didn’t have to be that good’ to be lethal.
Why the killer anthrax was so deadly
1. Precisely sized particles-1.5 to 5 microns. Anything smaller is exhaled, anything larger tends to get caught either in the nose or in the cilia in the trachea.
2. Coated with silica. The silica acted as a buffer, preventing spores from adhering to one another. The silica on the attack anthrax rested on a thin layer of polymerized glass, which is a highly advanced technique for coating anthrax spores. To do this required a ’spray dryer,’ the cheapest of which sells for $50,000. The lyophilizer in Ivins’ lab is used to dry anthrax, but can NOT be used to coat the spores with silica. Ivins did not have a spray dryer.
3. Highly concentrated. The letter to Senator Daschle’s office contained two grams of anthrax, about the weight of a dime. Each gram contained a trillion pure spores of anthrax, or enough to kill 200 million people.
4. Electro-statically charged. The slight charge on each spore caused it to repel the other spores and spread out into the room after the envelope was opened.
It is these attributes of the anthrax-not its genetic heritage-which made it so unique and so lethal.
The source of the anthrax was clear in 2001
US Attorney Jeff Taylor characterized a flask in Dr. Ivin’s possession as ‘the murder weapon.’ But a Dec. 12, 2001 article in the Baltimore Sun stated:
For nearly a decade, U.S. Army scientists at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah have made small quantities of weapons-grade anthrax that is virtually identical to the powdery spores used in the mail attacks that have killed five people.
The article refers to Dugway as ‘the only site in the United States where weapons-grade anthrax has been made in recent years,’ and also includes this:
Dugway’s production of weapons-grade anthrax, which has never before been publicly revealed, is apparently the first by the U.S. government since President Richard M. Nixon ordered the U.S. offensive biowarfare program closed in 1969.
The following day, the Washington Post echoed the Sun article:
An Army biological and chemical warfare facility in Utah has been quietly developing a virulent, weapons-grade formulation of anthrax spores since at least 1992.
On Dec 16, 2001, the Washington Post corroborated the Sun report by stating that ‘Dugway is the only facility known in recent years to have processed anthrax spores into the powdery form that is most easily inhaled,’ also stating, ‘Army officials in Washington said yesterday that Fort Detrick does not have the equipment for making dried anthrax spores.’
On September 4, 2001, the New York Times explained:
Over the past several years, the United States has embarked on a program of secret research on biological weapons … even the [Clinton] White House was unaware of their full scope. The projects, which have not been previously disclosed … have been embraced by the Bush administration, which intends to expand them.
These projects involve the CIA, Battelle Memorial Laboratories in West Jefferson, Ohio, and the Army at Dugway in Utah.
[T]he need to keep such projects secret was a significant reason behind President Bush’s recent rejection of a draft agreement to strengthen the germ-weapons treaty, [the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention,] which has been signed by 143 nations.
Had the treaty been strengthened, the Dugway and West Jefferson sites would have been subject to international inspections. It is important to note that Battelle not only operates its own labs in West Jefferson, but also is contracted by the Army to operate the labs at Dugway.
The DOJ-FBI news conference on August 6, 2008 was a deliberate attempt to divert attention from the secret anthrax weaponization projects by pinning the crimes on a dead man. So far the DOJ-FBI have succeeded in covering up the real perpetrators of the crime, concealing the illegal weapons program, and persuading many that it is time to close the investigation.
Dr. Ivins was an immunologist; he had neither the knowledge nor the equipment to produce the silica-coated, electro-statically charged, 1.5 to 5 micron sized, one trillion spore per gram anthrax that was mailed to Senators Leahy and Daschle.
The DOJ has made much of the fact that Ivins worked 45 extra hours in September and October of 2001. Yet when the FBI attempted to reverse engineer the weaponized anthrax from the attacks, they admitted after a year of trying that they were unable to come up with a product as potent as that in the letters.
Scientists doubt FBI’s story
As far back as October 28, 2002, the Washington Post reported that bio-weapons experts were skeptical about the view that the anthrax in the letters could have come from a lone nut:
‘In my opinion, there are maybe four or five people in the whole country who might be able to make this stuff, and I’m one of them,’ said Richard O. Spertzel, former deputy commander of USAMRIID (the Army bio-defense facility at Detrick). ‘And even with a good lab and staff to help run it, it might take me a year to come up with a product as good.’
Writing in the New York Times on Aug. 9, 2008, Gerry Andrews, an assistant professor of microbiology at the University of Wyoming, described the envelopes’ contents as:
“a startlingly refined weapons-grade anthrax spore preparation, the likes of which had never been seen before by personnel at Fort Detrick.’ He continued: ‘It is extremely improbable that this type of preparation could ever have been produced at Fort Detrick, certainly not of the grade and quality found in that envelope.’
Abundant evidence that Ivins is innocent
Ivins passed two polygraph tests and no link was made between his handwriting and that on the anthrax letters. Investigators were so frustrated at Ivins passing the polygraph tests that they searched his house for books or articles on how to fool a polygraph, but found none.
US Attorney Jeff Taylor stated that the investigators zeroed in on Ivins when they ‘conducted additional investigative steps,’ and thus were ‘able to narrow the focus even further, exclude individuals, and that left us looking at Dr. Ivins.’
Those ‘additional investigative steps’ were polygraph tests. Where passing a polygraph test was enough to exclude certain people, it did not exclude Ivins.
Ivins’ car, work locker, safe deposit box and house were thoroughly swabbed for anthrax spores multiple times over the space of years; not a single spore was found, although the killer anthrax was so highly weaponized that it behaved like a gas and was very difficult to contain.
None of the materials in the mailings were found at his house: not the tape, the envelopes, nor the pen used to write the letters. There isn’t one piece of evidence placing him in New Jersey at the time the letters were mailed: not a credit card receipt, restaurant receipt, nor a witness.
On August 3, 2008, Glen Greenwald wrote in Salon:
It is so vital to emphasize that not a shred of evidence has yet been presented that the now-deceased Bruce Ivins played any role in the anthrax attacks, let alone that he was the sole or even primary culprit. Nonetheless, just as they did with Steven Hatfill, the media (with some notable and important exceptions) are reporting this case as though the matter is resolved.
Bruce Ivins: juggler, Red Cross volunteer, pianist
Jeff Taylor’s case against Ivins rests heavily on claims that Ivins was mentally ill. If Ivins was truly so unhinged, why was he allowed to work with toxic substances? His security clearance was never revoked.
Certainly a brilliant homicidal serial killer who is determined to avoid detection would immediately get rid of the Ames strain with the incriminating genotype in his flask, if he had used it to make weaponized powder and kill five people. Yet seven years later, the same genotype was still in Ivins’ lab!
The DOJ and FBI ask us to believe that Ivins launched the attacks because his vaccine research was not going well and he feared he might lose his job. It’s just not a plausible motivation.
In 2003, Ivins received the Decoration for Exceptional Civilian Service: the highest award given to the Defense Department’s civilian employees. He had been a respected scientist at USAMRIID for 35 years and had a very secure job.
Ivins had been married for 33 years. He played keyboard at his local church, he was a member of the American Red Cross, an avid juggler and founder of the Frederick Jugglers. He also played keyboards in a Celtic band and would often compose and play songs for coworkers who were moving to new jobs.
The FBI focused on him as a probable fall guy in 2006, and for two years was all over him, repeatedly questioning him, searching his home, car and office, and confronting him and his family in public with accusations that he had ‘killed people.’ His daughter was shown pictures of dead anthrax victims and told ‘your father did this.’ His son was promised $2.5 million and a sports car of his choice if he would implicate his father in the anthrax attacks. Who among us would not resort to drink, or drugs, or fantasies of revenge under those circumstances?
Who had the expertise to weaponize anthrax?
William C. Patrick III, and Ken Alibek.
William Patrick was the originator of the first anthrax weaponization process. He has five patents on anthrax weaponization and wrote a paper in 1999 setting out exactly what an anthrax attack by mail would look like.
Patrick’s scenario is very similar to what actually happened in 2001. For example, he suggests no more than 2.5 grams of anthrax per envelope; the envelopes contained two grams. One footnote in his paper reveals ‘we now have the ability to purify to one trillion spores per gram.’ William Patrick was a consultant to the CIA, Battelle, the Army, the DIA and the FBI on bio-weapons.
Ken Alibek headed up the Soviet bio-weapon programs until defecting to the USA in 1992. He brought with him the technology that was key in the anthrax attacks: using polymerized glass to attach silica to the anthrax spores. He worked for Battelle Memorial Institute in the late 90s.
These men had to have been instrumental in developing the technology used in the 2001 anthrax attacks.
Who can control the FBI, DOJ and the media?
The significance of the railroading of the deceased Ivins cannot be overstated. This railroading is not a matter of incompetence. In detail after detail, the joint FBI-DOJ prosecution deliberately lies, evades and obfuscates in a desperate attempt to pin blame somewhere and close the case. (A transcript of the entire August 6 news conference is available on npr.org, titled ‘DOJ News Conference On Bruce Ivins.’)
US Attorney Jeff Taylor states at the news conference that the envelopes used in the attacks were ‘very likely sold at a post office in the Frederick, Md. area,’ and that Ivins had a post office box there. This is another outright lie. Taylor’s own application for a search warrant stated:
[E]nvelopes with printing defects, identical to printing defects identified on the envelopes utilized in the anthrax attacks during the fall of 2001, were collected from the Fairfax Main post office in Fairfax, Virginia, and the Cumberland and Elkton post offices in Maryland.
Taylor and his supervisors at DOJ must be hoping that no one will notice or care that they are blatantly lying about their evidence against Ivins.
Reading the transcript, it is striking how often Jeff Taylor and Joseph Persichini refuse to answer questions. They either refer reporters to the Department of Defense (which is not holding a news conference) or to the documents they have been given.
When asked when their all new, ground-breaking DNA research would be published, Taylor replies ‘I’m not going to comment on (that).’ When asked a direct question about how many others were investigated other than Ivins, Taylor replies, ‘I’m not going to get into the details.’ Not only does he not get into the details, he doesn’t even give us the broad strokes. When asked how he can be so sure that there wasn’t another person involved, Taylor replies:
The evidence I described in my statement, and that I’ve described throughout this question-and-answer period, as I said, led us to conclude that Dr. Ivins is the person who committed this crime. We are confident, based on the evidence we have, that we could prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt.
In other words, he doesn’t answer.
Honest citizens must ask themselves: who are the FBI and DOJ protecting? Who has the ability to control and corrupt an investigation of this importance? And why, after sitting through a news conference that is obviously a hastily constructed web of lies, have so many journalists dutifully reported the story just as instructed by Jeff Taylor?
We no longer have a working government in the United States. What we have are functionaries in various departments-Congress, FBI, DOJ, CIA-who take their orders from the corporations who make vast sums of money waging war and selling vaccines. Their influence extends to the major media outlets who control the flow of information to the American people. We are increasingly enslaved, manipulated and murdered by these corporations, and very few of us seem to realize it.
Barry Kissin contributed to this article. Barry Kissin is an attorney/peace activist based in Frederick, MD, home of Fort Detrick.
Sheila Casey is a DC-based journalist. Her work has appeared in the Denver Post, Buzz Flash, Common Dreams and the Rock Creek Free Press. She also writes a blog. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Read other articles by Sheila.