FBI lab reports on anthrax attacks suggest another miscue - McClatchy Newspapers

Posted on Thursday, May 19, 2011

Bruce Ivins

Could someone other than the late Bruce Ivins be the real anthrax killer? | Photo courtesy U.S. Army Medical Institute

WASHINGTON — Buried in FBI laboratory reports about the anthrax mail attacks that killed five people in 2001 is data suggesting that a chemical may have been added to try to heighten the powder's potency, a move that some experts say exceeded the expertise of the presumed killer.

The lab data, contained in more than 9,000 pages of files that emerged a year after the Justice Department closed its inquiry and condemned the late Army microbiologist Bruce Ivins as the perpetrator, shows unusual levels of silicon and tin in anthrax powder from two of the five letters.

Those elements are found in compounds that could be used to weaponize the anthrax, enabling the lethal spores to float easily so they could be readily inhaled by the intended victims, scientists say.

The existence of the silicon-tin chemical signature offered investigators the possibility of tracing purchases of the more than 100 such chemical products available before the attacks, which might have produced hard evidence against Ivins or led the agency to the real culprit.

But the FBI lab reports released in late February give no hint that bureau agents tried to find the buyers of additives such as tin-catalyzed silicone polymers.

The apparent failure of the FBI to pursue this avenue of investigation raises the ominous possibility that the killer is still on the loose.

A McClatchy analysis of the records also shows that other key scientific questions were left unresolved and conflicting data wasn't sorted out when the FBI declared Ivins the killer shortly after his July 29, 2008, suicide.

One chemist at a national laboratory told McClatchy that the tin-silicone findings and the contradictory data should prompt a new round of testing on the anthrax powder.

A senior federal law enforcement official, who was made available only on the condition of anonymity, said the FBI had ordered exhaustive tests on the possible sources of silicon in the anthrax and concluded that it wasn't added. Instead, the lab found that it's common for anthrax spores to incorporate environmental silicon and oxygen into their coatings as a "natural phenomenon" that doesn't affect the spores' behavior, the official said.

To arrive at that position, however, the FBI had to discount its own bulk testing results showing that silicon composed an extraordinary 10.8 percent of a sample from a mailing to the New York Post and as much as 1.8 percent of the anthrax from a letter sent to Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, far more than the occasional trace contamination. Tin — not usually seen in anthrax powder at all — was measured at 0.65 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively, in those letters.

An FBI spokesman declined to comment on the presence of tin or to answer other questions about the silicon-tin connection.

Several scientists and former colleagues of Ivins argue that he was a career biologist who probably lacked the chemistry knowledge and skills to concoct a silicon-based additive.

"There's no way that an individual scientist can invent a new way of making anthrax using silicon and tin," said Stuart Jacobsen, a Texas-based analytical chemist for an electronics company who's closely studied the FBI lab results. "It requires an institutional effort to do this, such as at a military lab."

Martin Hugh-Jones, a world-renowned anthrax expert who teaches veterinary medicine at Louisiana State University, called it "just bizarre" that the labs found both tin — which can be toxic to bacteria such as anthrax during lab culturing — and silicon.

"You have two elements at abnormally high levels," Hugh-Jones said. "That reduces your probability to a very small number that it's an accident."

The silicon-tin connection wasn't the only lead left open in one of the biggest investigations in FBI history, an inquiry that took the bureau to the cutting edge of laboratory science. In April, McClatchy reported that after locking in on Ivins in 2007, the bureau stopped searching for a match to a unique genetic bacterial strain scientists had found in the anthrax that was mailed to the Post and to NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw, although a senior bureau official had characterized it as the hottest clue to date.

FBI officials say it's all a moot point, because they're positive they got the right man in Ivins. A mentally troubled anthrax researcher at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Md., Ivins overdosed on drugs not long after learning that he'd soon face five counts of capital murder.

In ending the inquiry last year, the Justice Department said that a genetic fingerprint had pointed investigators to Ivins' lab, and gumshoe investigative techniques enabled them to compile considerable circumstantial evidence that demonstrated his guilt.

Among these proofs, prosecutors cited Ivins' alleged attempt to steer investigators away from a flask of anthrax in his lab that genetically matched the mailed powder — anthrax that had been shared with other researchers. They also noted his anger over a looming congressional cut in funds for his research on a new anthrax vaccine.

However, the FBI never found hard evidence that Ivins produced the anthrax or that he scrawled threatening letters seemingly meant to resemble those of Islamic terrorists. Or that he secretly took late-night drives to Princeton, N.J., to mail them.

The FBI declared Ivins the killer soon after paying $5.8 million to settle a suit filed by another former USAMRIID researcher, Steven Hatfill, whom the agency mistakenly had targeted earlier in its investigation.

Anthrax is one of the deadliest and most feared biological weapons. Once inhaled, microscopic anthrax spores germinate into rapidly multiplying, highly toxic bacteria that attack human tissue. The resulting illnesses are lethal within days if untreated.

The letters, mailed just weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, not only went to the New York Post, Leahy and Brokaw, but also to American Media Inc. in Boca Raton, Fla., and to Democratic then-Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota. Five people died, 17 were sickened and about 31,000 were forced to take powerful antibiotics for weeks. Crews wearing moon suits spent several weeks eradicating the spores from a Senate office building and a central Postal Service facility in Washington.

The FBI guarded its laboratory's finding of 10.8 percent silicon in the Post letter for years. New York Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler asked FBI Director Robert Mueller how much silicon was in the Post and Leahy letters at a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee in September 2008. The Justice Department responded seven months later that silicon made up 1.4 percent of the Leahy powder (without disclosing the 1.8 percent reading) and that "a reliable quantitative measurement was not possible" for the Post letter.

The bureau's conclusions that silicon was absorbed naturally drew a gentle challenge in February from a panel of the National Academy of Sciences, which evaluated the investigation's lab work.

While finding no evidence that silicon had been added to the mailed anthrax, the panel noted deep in its report that the FBI had provided "no compelling explanation" for conflicts in silicon test results between the Sandia National Laboratories and its own lab.

Sandia — which used electron microscopes, unlike the FBI — reported only a tenth as much silicon in the New York Post letter as the bureau's lab did. Sandia said it was all embedded in the spore coatings, where it wasn't harmful.

The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology ran a third set of tests and found pockets of heavy silica concentrations, but it couldn't say whether they were inside or outside the spores.

Jacobsen, the Texas chemist, suspects that the silica pockets represented excess material that went through a chemical reaction and hardened before it could penetrate the spores.

The National Academy of Sciences panel wrote that the varying composition of the powder might have accounted for the differing findings.

While finding no evidence that silicon was added, the panel said it "cannot rule out the intentional addition of a silicon-based substance ... in a failed attempt to enhance dispersion" of the New York Post powder.

Tufts University chemistry professor David Walt, who led the panel's analysis of the silicon issue, said in a phone interview that "there was not enough silicon in the spores that could account for the total silicon content of the bulk analysis."

He said it was unclear whether the "trace" levels of tin were significant.

During the FBI's seven-year hunt, the Department of Homeland Security commissioned a team of chemists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California to grow anthrax-like spores under varying conditions to see how much silicon would end up naturally in the final product.

They found little, if any, silicon in most cases, far less than was in the New York Post letter, said Stephan Velsko, one of the two researchers. He called the tin readings from the FBI's anthrax data "baffling."

Peter Weber, Velsko's co-researcher, said the academy panel's focus on the conflicting data "raises a big question," and "it'd be really helpful for closure of this case if that was resolved."

He suggested that further "micro-analysis" with a highly sophisticated electron microscope could "pop the question marks really quickly."

In a chapter in a recently updated book, "Microbial Forensics," Velsko wrote that the anthrax "must have indeed been produced under an unusual set of conditions" to create such high silicon counts. That scenario, he cautioned, might not be "consistent with the prosecution narrative in this case."

About 100 tin-catalyzed silicone products are on the market, and an even wider array was available in 2000 and 2001, before the mailings, said Richie Ashburn, a vice president of one manufacturer, Silicones Inc., in High Point, N.C.

Mike Wilson, a chemist for another silicone products maker, SiVance, in Gainesville, Fla., said that numerous silicon products could be used to make spores or other particles water-repellent. He also said that the ratios of silicon to tin found in the Post and Leahy samples would be "about right" if a tin-catalyzed silicone had been added to the spores.

Jacobsen, a Scottish-born and -educated chemist who once experimented with silicon coatings on dust particles, said he got interested in the spore chemistry after hearing rumors in late 2001 that a U.S. military facility had made the killer potions. He called it "outrageous" that the scientific issues haven't been addressed.

"America, the most advanced country in the world, and the FBI have every resource available to them," he said. "And yet they have no compelling explanation for not properly analyzing the biggest forensic clue in the most important investigation the FBI labs had ever gotten in their history."

As a result of Ivins' death and the unanswered scientific issues, Congress' investigative arm, the Government Accountability Office, is investigating the FBI's handling of the anthrax inquiry.

(Tish Wells contributed to this article.)


PowerHouse Coverup

Despite the FBI conclusions being discredited for years by scientists and the best professional experts and thinkers, like 9/11, the truth, which has entered a virtual solid state, is suspended half way up a "steep incline" by massive propaganda.

When will it come crashing down?

formal introductions are in order

Glenn Greenwald, meet Stuart Jacobsen. Stuart Jacobsen, meet Glenn Greenwald. I think we need a symposium. It's time to pull the research together.

And let's not forget this...

On September 11, the president and White House staff began taking a regimen of Cipro, a powerful antibiotic. The public interest group Judicial Watch filed lawsuits in June 2002 against federal agencies to obtain information about how, what and when the White House knew on 9/11 about the danger of anthrax weeks before the first known victim of the anthrax attacks.


The issue, therefore, is on what grounds governmental officials were alerted to prepare for the coming anthrax attacks, which were later traced to a U.S. army medical research institute.

In other words, how did they know to prepare for what would turn out to be an inside job?

Btw, could someone tell me something about McClatchy Newspapers?

okay, we've got a panel of experts

Make that Glenn Greenwald journalist/attorney, Tom Fitton of Judicial Watch, Stuart Jacobsen the chemist, Paul Thompson can bring the timeline... Am I forgetting anyone?

McClatchy Newspapers - 9/11 stories

I have noticed that over the years, McClatchy has picked up a variety of 9/11 related stories and/or presented tidbits of information which other mainstream publications often omit.

Here is a McClatchy Newspaper story about NIST's report on Building 7 which ran in the UK.
...James Quintiere, professor of fire protection engineering at the University of Maryland, questioned how NIST was able to definitively rule out explosives, a longtime theory.
"They don't have the expertise on explosives, so I don't know how they came to that conclusion," said Quintiere, a frequent critic of the agency, where he formerly worked as chief of its fire science and engineering division... ...
...The scientific investigation considered other credible possibilities of what caused the building to fall, Sunder said, including explosives and a stored diesel fuel supply for backup generators. "We did not, even from the beginning, we did not have any evidence at all that demolition or charges or a blast were used to bring the building down," he said....

So it is a mainstream publication?

I ask because I'm not at all familiar with McClatchy Newspapers.

Framed. Pure and simple.

And then there is this:


These images, linking the anthrax attacks to "radical Islam" were dutifully shown, in endless-repetition mode, on the mainstream media to the already shocked and awed US public. Coming right after 9/11, an event already linked to Muslims before any investigation had happened, the anthrax attacks were also linked directly to Muslims.... and the preconditioned US public eagerly lapped this "information" up without question.

When it was discovered that the anthrax originated, not from some clandestine "al Qaeda" mobile laboratory, but instead from the bioweapons research facility at Ft. Detrick, MD, what happened? The media, in "all anthrax, all the time" mode, dropped the story at a stroke. I remember this vividly because I was following these events closely and became mystified why the coverage suddenly ceased, almost as if it never happened. I have to add that this was well before I considered that either 9/11 or the anthrax letters were anything other than what we had been informed.

If I may speculate (a little bit ...if that is allowed?!!).... it is quite obvious that the two events were linked: a "one-two" terrorism punch, and maybe, perhaps, both events were planned and executed by the same people. After all, White House staff were ordered to take Ciprofloxacin, the powerful antibiotic specifically prescribed to treat anthrax infections. http://www.infowars.com/saved%20pages/Prior_Knowledge/bush_cipro.htm

The anthrax event should be the subject of the same type rigorous type of independent, full subpoena power investigation that we require, but have not yet been granted, for 9/11. And there is no way that we should put the SLIGHTEST trust in the FBI: they have appeared to be complicit in various degrees as regards not only the anthrax and 9/11 attacks, but also the Feb 26, 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Read: http://www.serendipity.li/wot/adam.htm

Whoever organized 9/11 and the anthrax attacks, IMHO, had it in for the world's Muslim community. it worked a treat... that community have become our new "National Piñata"... against whom it has become normalized, in the public awareness, to bomb into the stone age, no questions asked.

FBI Lab Reports on Anthrax Attacks Suggest Another Miscue

FBI Lab Reports on Anthrax Attacks Suggest Another Miscue

The FBI is part of the problem, as opposed to the solution.

Of course the FBI is not going to get "re-involved". Their mission in both the anthrax and 9/11 attacks, is to protect, rather than prosecute the perpetrators. Otherwise they would follow leads, and in both cases, they are stonewalling.

Rumsfeld/Gilead Sciences/Zack

Still find this interesting:


“Assaad believes there is a possible link between the person who sent the unsigned letter to the FBI and the terrorist who sent anthrax to Democratic politicians and prominent members of the media. Whoever it was seemed to display eerie foreknowledge of the biological attacks, since the letter was sent to the FBI well before any anthrax terror attacks were known to the public.”

“Before the investigation ended, both Zack and Rippy were reprimanded. Then Zack left USAMRIID in December 1991, first heading to the Army’s Walter Reed Institute, then going to the private pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, and then to a company in Colorado acquired by St. Louis’ Nexstar Financial Management. Several calls by Salon to his last known phone number and address in Boulder, Colo., went unreturned, and Nexstar says it no longer has any record of Zack. Rippy, who left USAMRIID shortly after Zack, in February 1992, worked for a while at Eli Lilly, but could not be located by Salon.”

“Assaad is puzzled that after clearing him of the accusation that he could be a bioterrorist, the FBI showed no interest in talking with him about his days at Fort Detrick. “The whole world wants to talk to me, except the FBI,” he said, as his lawyer’s phones rang nonstop this week, with media organizations seeking interviews with him. “Something’s wrong here.”

For some reason, Rozen declines to name “a company in Colorado” where Zack was employed. And of course Nexstar “no longer has any record of Zack”.

But perhaps this obscure scientific paper can provide a clue.


“Auteur(s) / Author(s)
DROLET Daniel W. (1) ; NELSON Joyce (2) ; TUCKER Christopher E. (1) ; ZACK Philip M. (1) ; NIXON Kerry (2) ; BOLIN Richard (1) ; JUDKINS Mark B. (2) ; FARMER James A. (2) ; WOLF Julie L. (1) ; GILL Stanley C. (1) ; BENDELE Raymond A. (1) ;

Affiliation(s) du ou des auteurs / Author(s) Affiliation(s)
(1) Gilead Sciences Inc., 2860 Wilderness Place, Boulder, CO 80301, ETATS-UNIS
(2) Sierra Biomedical, 587 Dunn Circle, Sparks, NV 89431, ETATS-UNIS”

So “a company in Colorado” is Gilead Sciences. And what is interesting about Gilead Sciences? In 2000, when this paper was published, Gilead was under the Chairmanship of one Donald Rumsfeld. Yes, the same PNAC signatory who later regaled us with tales of Saddam’s WMD.



There are many far-more-accurate nouns.

Or noun phrases

Such as, say, 'tampering with evidence.'

Emptywheel On Anthrax 9/11 Propaganda


Discussed is attempts to tie the Flight 93 "hijackers" to the anthrax attacks by supposedly testing their remains(?) for anthrax.

Here is a comment from Leveymg in response to another poster, "What the evidence seems to point to here is that the anthrax was made to look like it was Iraqi,and those findings came from Dept. of Defense labs. Furthermore, the FBI never did adequately trace that back to determine exactly by whom and why that apparent fakery was carried out.

The implication I read here is that the anthrax attacks were carried out as part of the falsified intelligence that got us into the Iraq War. As we all know, much of the Iraq deception operation was organized by the Office of Vice President Cheney and the Office of Special Plans (OSP) under Donald Rumsfeld, Steve Cambone, Doug Feith, Luti, et al., and that this same group was also involved in engineering the faked aluminum tubes findings."