Bruce Ivins's lawyer, colleague share details FBI left out

[Thanks to 7man for the heads up on this]

Bruce Ivins's lawyer, colleague share details FBI left out

by Megan Eckstein @ The Frederick News-Post

Nine years have passed since five people were killed and 17 sickened by anthrax spores mailed to lawmakers and news outlets, and it's been nine months since the FBI closed its investigation into those attacks.

But new information about the anthrax, the investigation and the suspect still continue to emerge.

On Nov. 29, the University of California's Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation hosted a seminar on the Amerithrax investigation. Experts have spent years doubting that Fort Detrick scientist Bruce Ivins committed the crime, as the FBI alleges, but they have never gathered to share their knowledge and theories until Monday's meeting at the university's Washington Center.

Drying anthrax

Among those in attendance Monday was John Ezzell, a former researcher at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases who hired Ivins.

Ezzell sat quietly in the audience until a technical question was asked and he stood up to share his insight. He wound up speaking for about 15 minutes in what were his first public comments about anthrax and the subsequent investigation into the attacks.

As part of his comments, Ezzell spoke in detail about how to turn wet anthrax samples, such as the kind Ivins worked with, into the dry powder used in the attack letters. He said the wet anthrax would first have to be put in a centrifuge, which turns the spores into a pellet that is dark brown on the bottom, tan in the middle and white on top.

"The upper part, which is white, is almost pure spores," Ezzell said. "So when you're purifying spores out of a material like (Ivins'), you use the centrifuge, you only remove the upper portion of that, and then you wash it and discard the bottom two colors."

From there, Ezzell said a scientist would have to carefully dry the spores with a lyophillizer or a speed vacuum. The tough part about that process is that either method will cause the pellet to blow apart. Ezzell said that, based on his knowledge of anthrax production and the specifics of the anthrax used in the attacks, he believes the spores were under high centrifugation while being dried with a speed vacuum, the combination of which would dry the anthrax while keeping it in pellet form. From there, a razor blade could chop up the pellet into the form it was found in in the first two letters, which were of poorer quality than the more uniformly colored and textured anthrax in the second two letters.

'Snow white' or pepper-like?

Ezzell surprised the crowd Monday when he said the anthrax in the first two letters, addressed to TV newsman Tom Brokaw and the New York Post, resembled pepper more than the white fluffy powder everyone imagined. The anthrax in the second group of letters, sent to Sens. Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy, were of noticeably better quality but still not nearly as pure as what Ezzell was producing in his lab.

"The spores that were prepared in my lab were snow white, whereas the spores in the Daschle and Leahy letters were tan, and the material that went to Tom Brokaw's office and the New York Post were very granular and multicolored," Ezzell said. Whoever produced the anthrax in the first two letters likely chopped up the entire anthrax pellet instead of just the white section with pure anthrax spores.

"The material in the Daschle and Leahy letters, I don't think that was quite as pure as people think it is," Ezzell said, adding he disagreed with the FBI's assertion that those samples resembled the spores he produced.

Anthrax samples lost

Ivins' attorney, Paul Kemp, who spoke during the seminar's first panel, said the FBI lost or broke a sample of anthrax Ivins submitted for analysis, one of a number of mistakes that he said compromised the agency's investigation.

In the FBI's 92-page report released in February when the department closed the Amerithrax case, a section titled "Dr. Ivins Made Many Statements, and Took Many Actions, Evidencing his Guilty Conscience" describes Ivins as improperly submitting samples of his own anthrax strains to the FBI for analysis. But Kemp said Ivins' did that because no one admitted to him that the first sample had been mishandled.

"These were samples produced by Bruce himself on February 5th of 2002; they were the kind of samples you submit by stirring up the anthrax, not by pure culture samples just going in and collecting anthrax from any of the beads in the wet anthrax, but by mixing it all up so you get all the morphological variants," Kemp said.

The FBI requested another sample in April 2002, according to Kemp because they needed to replace the first sample they mishandled. But Ivins, not knowing the FBI no longer had his first sample, sent in the other type of sample, the pure culture sample that kept each colony of bacteria separate instead of mixing them together.

"They then say that his April sample which they asked him to submit is questionable or suspicious because it was a pure culture sample, not the mixed-up kind of sample where you stir it all up," Kemp said. "He submits the only other kind of sample there is, the pure culture sample. And he submits many variations, many slants of that, in April. É He did so timely, without any protest, without any delay."

Tylenol overdose

Meryl Nass, a physician who has written extensively about anthrax vaccines and the Amerithrax investigation, gave the seminar attendees some insight into Ivins' final days.

Ivins overdosed on Tylenol PM on July 26, 2008, and died on July 29. But Nass said, medically speaking, the outcome of his overdose should have been different.

Ivins was brought to Frederick Memorial Hospital by an ambulance early on the morning of July 27. He was under constant surveillance, and Nass said the FBI agents watching him could have, but didn't, inform the doctors that he had purchased two bottles of Tylenol PM a few days earlier.

Nass said there is no evidence that the FBI agents helped get Ivins medical attention quicker or let anyone know about the Tylenol purchase.

"It takes from two to several days for liver failure to occur after ingesting a large dose of Tylenol," according to a document Nass handed out at the seminar. She said there is an effective antidote, called N-acetyl cysteine, that helps the body detoxify the substance created as the liver metabolizes the Tylenol. Nass said death rates from a Tylenol overdose is "extremely rare when this safe, easily available treatment is given in a timely manner."

Copyright 2010 The Frederick News-Post. All rights reserved.


Thanks for posting this.

The post-9/11 Anthrax attacks seem to get forgotten by many people. At the time, I found this possibility of exposure biological weapons through the mail to be much more threatening than the events of 9/11 itself.

There are a number of interesting things in this article.

How does John Ezzell know the details he claims to about the Anthrax sent to Congress? I had thought it was ultra high purity Anthrax too. Where is this contradictory information coming from? What about weaponization? Was is it chemical and physically modified to hold a static charge?

Meryl Nass is clearly charging the FBI with at least negligent homicide. It sounds like the FBI knew Bruce Ivins was suicidal and so they just let him kill himself.

yes bofors

and as per orangutan below the weaponisation, militarisation is mentioned in :

so there seems to be a contradiction in Ezzell's info- what gives ?

This would merit a court case

"Meryl Nass is clearly charging the FBI with at least negligent homicide."

Well, if they knew that he had purchased Tylenol and did not inform medical staff about that when there would have been an effective antidote... But will anyone take this further, or will Americans be satisfied in just pointing this out?


Yes, thanks for posting this. If it could be shown that the anthrax attacks were an inside job, it would make many more question 9/11 in my opinion.

What do you mean by "IF it could be shown"?

They have been shown to have been an inside job.

I recommend professor Graeme MacQueen's presentation linked from this page. He shows how attempts were made to frame Iraq for the attacks. The failure of this had far-reaching consequences.

It may be that the WMD fiasco was the result of this failure.

If Iraq had been successfully set up by the anthrax, there would not have been a need for it.

The anthrax was probably specifically for Iraq. This also erodes the arguments like those of Chomsky, who continues to claim that having mainly Saudis as hijackers means that the "Bush administration" could not have been the culprit, and that everything that the Truth Movement does is exonerating the Bush administration and pointing the finger at Saddam or Osama. (Yes, I've been having a lengthy e-mail exchange with him after his "no evidence for Al-Qaida's involvement" statement on Press TV; let me just say here that he is not any nearer to the TM than previously.)

Perhaps there were no Iraqi patsies, because the anthrax was to do the job of framing Iraq. As it didn't, WMDs were needed.

There were no Iraqis patsies,

because they are too smart to get involved, imo.

I don't think there were very many Iraqis being recruited to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan, and that was the main patsy pool for creating the entity commonly known as "al Qaeda".

Egyptians appear to play a significant role in the creation of "al Qaeda" (e.g. Ali Mohamed, Mohamed Atta and Ayman al-Zawahir).

I agree that pointing out the problems with the Anthrax attacks definitely helps people begin to think about 9/11 more critically.


The truth shall set us free. Love is the only way forward.

Good point

"I don't think there were very many Iraqis being recruited to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan, and that was the main patsy pool for creating the entity commonly known as 'al Qaeda'. "

One more point I can raise for Chomsky. Not that it's likely to make any difference, based on how he keeps twisting my arguments to support his own fixed standpoint.

In retrospect and with a good deal of hindsight, I think neglecting the anthrax operation may have been one of the biggest omissions of the truth movement. It should be thematized much more frequently, as it

1) is closely connected with 9/11: the White House went on Cipro on 9/11 in expectation of the anthrax attacks, which duly came - as an inside operation;

2) tried to frame Arabs and Iraq in particular, but has been admitted to have been an inside job, and everything points to a multi-person conspiracy (and there is strong support for this view among the relevant scientists);

3) may partly explain why WMDs were needed: they were needed because part of the 9/11 operation - the anthrax attacks - fell apart.

In other words, I think the anthrax operation should be seen as part of 9/11, rather than as a separate issue.


Vesa said..."In other words, I think the anthrax operation should be seen as part of 9/11, rather than as a separate issue."

Damn straight. That's what got me taking another look at 9-11.

Graeme MacQueen's talk

Recall this interesting and well presented talk:

"Dr. Graeme MacQueen: The Connection between 9/11, Anthrax and Iraq 05-01-10 in Walkerton [1-5]"

This is what I have compiled regarding the Anthrax attacks.

Congressional investigators plan to examine how the FBI determined that one scientist was responsible for the deadly 2001 anthrax attacks

Wall Street Journal (2010) - The Anthrax Attacks Remain Unsolved
The FBI disproved its main theory about how the spores were weaponized.

Funny how Cheney and his staff were given doses of the anti-anthrax Cipro right after the 9/11 attacks, isn't it?

"On the night of the Sept. 11 attacks, the White House Medical Office dispensed Cipro to staff accompanying Vice President Dick Cheney as he was secreted off to the safety of Camp David, and told them it was "a precaution," according to one person directly involved."

"Let me put it this way," Bush said. "I'm confident that when I come to work tomorrow, I'll be safe."

Anthrax War Documentary 1/7

ANTHRAX WAR is an investigative documentary about the 2001 U.S. Anthrax Attacks, a trail of dead scientists and the dark secrets of germ war research.

The film begins in the days following the 9/11 terrorist attacks when anthrax-laced letters, mailed to media offices in New York and to the U.S. Senate in Washington, spread fear and panic across the United States and beyond.

Additional Resources: