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FBI Stands by 'Powerful' Evidence in Anthrax Case

POSTED: 10:34 AM ET, 08/19/2008 by Derek Kravitz

The FBI had a strain of the anthrax linked to the deadly 2001 mailings that killed five people, but destroyed it after it apparently "did not meet the standards investigators set out in a subpoena," The Post's Carrie Johnson and Joby Warrick reported today.

Officials conceded that the destruction of the anthrax strain was a "misstep," saying that, in hindsight, they would have done things differently, The Post reported.

The revelation comes as FBI officials try to bolster their case against Army scientist Bruce E. Ivins, the prime suspect in the case who unexpectedly committed suicide last month.

The most convincing pieces of evidence presented at a news conference yesterday were details about Ivins's mysterious flask of anthrax bacteria. His special strain -- labeled RMR-1029 -- was "a mix of normal anthrax cells and four mutated varieties or genetic oddballs," The Post reported.

Only eight of more than 1,000 anthrax samples collected by the FBI in the years after the attack have the same makeup and all eight can be linked back to Ivins's flask, officials said.

Still, the FBI has had a difficult time making its case to a skeptical public and scientific community. A hair sample snagged from a Princeton, N.J., mailbox linked to the attacks turned out not to match that of Ivins.

Some Congressional critics have questioned whether one man could really have carried out the elaborate attacks.

But FBI officials continue to press their case.

"I don't think we're ever going to be able to put the suspicions to bed," said Vahid Majidi of the FBI Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate. "There's always going to be a spore on the grassy knoll."

By Derek Kravitz |  August 19, 2008; 10:34 AM ET
Previous: Potential Conflicts Cloud Government Procurement | Next: EDGAR Is Getting a Facelift


Please email us to report offensive comments.

In order to restore confidence in our federal police organizations, Homeland Security should call for an independent investigation of this case and the convenient suicide of a suspect against whom there seems to have been little evidence.

Posted by: Michael Hughes | August 19, 2008 11:58 AM

"There's always going to be a spore on the grassy knoll."

I have a question for Vahid Majidi, your expression seems to have some subtext in it, and i am not following. I would like a further explanation of this expression

it is an expression he coined himself. Grassy Knoll? The White House Lawn? I think i can gather what you mean by spore.

although Malignant cancer seems more appropriate.

Any further elaborations appreciated


WFKU radio

Posted by: WFKU-radio | August 19, 2008 12:22 PM

What ever happened to "innocent until proven guilty"? Thanks to the FBI, this man's life was over before he officially ended it. Guess that's what you get for a lifetime of service to your country.

Posted by: Greg L | August 19, 2008 12:37 PM

Dr. Bruce Ivins is innocent!

Posted by: Galileo | August 19, 2008 12:58 PM

Is there a transcript of the conference available anywhere? Some of us who are trained to analyze these data would like to know much more about the types of tests, etc. that were run.

Posted by: Mike the Mad Biologist | August 19, 2008 1:33 PM

The anthrax attack right after 9/11 was used as further rationale for the invasion of Iraq. The anthrax used in the attack came from a government lab. The FBI chased the wrong guy for dog's years. The FBI homes in on another suspect in the government lab. He dies. A disturbing history surfaces. I think Irving was a patsy. What do you think?

Posted by: Suspicious | August 19, 2008 1:38 PM

Clearly the reference is to the conspiracy theories that continue indefinitely about the assassination of President Kennedy. Mr. Majidi is suggesting that there will always be conspiracy theories and alternate histories and general second-guessing of the investigation of this crime as well.

Posted by: Nawlins | August 19, 2008 1:58 PM

There has been no case publicly presented against Ivins as of yet that would convict anyone of a crime in this country.
It's very reminecent of the 911 investigations, where accusations were made without proof, and we invaded two other countrys soley on the accusations and now apparently, forged evidence.
It's time to stop playing this game and demonstrate to the public that you truly have solid evidence, or is the FBI just trying to close up loose ends by closing the book on another botched 911 investigation?

Posted by: Hooked on Koolaid | August 19, 2008 2:26 PM

Some outstanding questions issue:

1. FBI please show us a photo of the actual lyophilizer or speed-vac that Ivins checked out in 2001 and the ticket recording it. Please show the room he worked in and whether the lyophilizer would fit through the door. Was it on wheels and too big?

2. How long to dry 1 gram of powder with the machine used? How much liquid to start with for 1 gram of powder? How many total grams of powder recovered? Estimate of how much sent?

3. Spray dryer or fermenter available? Show photo and ticket to check out.

4. What is frequency distribution of the sizes of spore clumps in the anthrax in Daschle and Leahy letters? I.e. how much is 1.5 to 3 microns, how much less, how much more, and how much more? Other samples recovered same question.

5. Can the FBI reproduce the same frequency distribution of spore clumps using the same equipment Ivins had checked out.

6. You can buy this equipment on open market and photos are on Internet, its not secret what these machines look like.

7. In LA Times article, the FBI said the postal machines ground the powder fine. But this doesn't make sense. As powder is ground to 1.5 to 3 microns, and the envelope is still being pushed on, that causes already ground spores to leave. You can't grind all the powder in the envelope instantly to a smooth 1.5 to 3 micron distribution in one second. Instead it takes a long time. As the postal machines do it, under this scenario, the already ground up powder will leak out since the envelope is still under force to grind the remaining powder. So the machines did it scenario doesn't make sense. Also it doesn't make sense for unopened letters even if for ones split open by machines.

Posted by: Old Atlantic | August 19, 2008 3:00 PM

"Mission Accomplished"

"Case Solved"

see the connection?

Posted by: Chas | August 19, 2008 4:03 PM

As a recovered alcoholic, I would like to point out, from what I have read, that Dr. Ivins had active serious alcohol and drug addictions as well as his so called female counselor. One does not recover from these problems in mere months but in years. Dr. Ivins can only be considered an insane (alcohol and drugs) man and therefore he had no persistent sane logic or sane behavior no matter his wish or the projected veneer to those about him. His problems were compounded by seeking help from others that were as sick as he was. In my opinion, he was completely capable it not expected to carry out his crime.

Posted by: Phillip J | August 19, 2008 4:11 PM

The attacks happened seven years ago.

Any chance now that the FBI will investigate Philip Zack, who would appar to be among the likely suspects from the start?

No, I didn't think so. Case closed. Patsy identified. Zionists exonerated (never mentioned, actually, in mainstream discourse).

Q: Why is America so sick?

A: Because it has been taken over by a parasitic gang of murderers.

Remove the parasites and the problem will resolve itself. What a shame they run the Washington Post - along with most of the mainstream media - so this letter will never get published.

Only anti-Muslim venom is welcome here - with occasional anti-Christianity.

Negative comments concerning 'God's Chosen' are not permitted.

Look what happened to Irvins...

Posted by: Free Vanunu-Now | August 19, 2008 10:10 PM

The attacks happened seven years ago.

Any chance now that the FBI will investigate Philip Zack, who would appar to be among the likely suspects from the start?

No, I didn't think so. Case closed. Patsy identified. Zionists exonerated (never mentioned, actually, in mainstream discourse).

Q: Why is America so sick?

A: Because it has been taken over by a parasitic gang of murderers.

Remove the parasites and the problem will resolve itself. What a shame they run the Washington Post - along with most of the mainstream media - so this letter will never get published.

Only anti-Muslim venom is welcome here - with occasional anti-Christianity.

Negative comments concerning 'God's Chosen' are not permitted.

Look what happened to Irvins...

Posted by: Free Vanunu-Now | August 19, 2008 10:11 PM

I have two major problems: motive and means.

Ivins didn't have the motive to target two senior Democratic Senators (who were in position to block anti-privacy legislation). The FBI suggestion that both Senators and Ivins were all Catholic, and Ivins targeted them because they weren't pro-life enough is absurd (Ivins was a registered Democrat).

Ivins didn't have the means to create the military grade anthrax used. That anthrax was impossible to weigh because it hung in the air, utilizing micro-silica. The FBI suggestion that the micro-silica was picked up from the environment, rather than added by the anthrax's maker is absurd (Ivins worked on the vaccine end, not on the weapons end).

Frankly, the FBI even forwarding such an implausible motive and mean clearly demonstrates the FBI is blindly deturmined to close the Amerithrax case for political reasons. Worse, it forebodes the catastrophic failure of the FBI to fulfill it's domestic counter-terrorism duties.

Posted by: Brad Arnold | August 20, 2008 5:15 AM

It's a shame the FBI has failed America in it's criminal pursuits.

Posted by: Paul | August 20, 2008 6:59 AM

"There's always going to be a spore on the grassy knoll."

Yeah right. Of course we should simply accept the FBI's explanations, no matter how absurd or vacuously proven. In the same way in which we should accept that a man from Afghan caves and 19 mediocre small plane pilots could have executed a plan that somehow allowed them to avoid all military response during a two-hour hijacking drama -- without *anyone* being fired (but instead promomoted) afterwards.

Posted by: Scandinavian | August 20, 2008 7:37 AM

If you paid a dog to run around in circles for 40 years, replacing it when it expired, that dog would sniff out more evidence than the KGB-West, but only because the dog is actually trying to solve the case, which ultimatley leads to this question, if the fbi isn't going to solve a case or be honest, why is there an fbi. Time to disband.

Posted by: Federalists Botching Investigations | August 20, 2008 1:56 PM

There should actually be a game show called, wrong house idiot.. where a group of drug lords and a swat team of homeland security steroid-heads try to find the address on an issued warrent... the former group would be too slow to find it and the latter would be too hyped up on 'terror energy pills' to care about innocent people to pinpoint the right door, the only difference is that the swat team is actually ending up now as both the daily joke and the daily embarrassment in the constitution of 300 million americans minds who just can't figure out, "what are they feeding these people?" Disgrace. Maybe when they get to heaven God will just shake his head in failure and ask, "where was your honor?"

Posted by: Wrong House Idiot | August 20, 2008 2:03 PM

"FBI Stands by 'Powerful' Evidence". Is that like Bush having "Incontrovertible Evidence of WMD in Iraq"? One has to wonder, when Republicans use such superlatives, whether they think we're actually buying their load of bull?

Posted by: Art M. | August 20, 2008 2:06 PM

Maybe it is time for a real man to stand up in one of our law enforcement agencies and say, 'guys maybe its time we stop amping ourselves up so much, we are becoming way to arrogant and that is counter productive.' If law enforcement can't be themselves and have to resort to violence and arrogance to 'win', that only means that they are mentally weak individuals who don't belong in a country that has the words 'home of the brave' in its anthem. Disgusting cowardice on every level, no matter if the intentions are the worst or if it just over compensating for weakness, when it comes down to those who participate, the words 'pointless waste of life' couldn't be more truer than it becoming with every story of these 'people' making a joke of protect and serve. Its time for the babies to grow up and be men.

Posted by: Real Men Wanted In FBI | August 20, 2008 2:12 PM

So we have evidence?

Oh, yes, SIR, we have evidence.

Is it STRONG evidence?

Oh, yes, sir, it's strong!

Is it POWERFUL evidence?

Oh, yes, sir, it's powerful!

Does it have manly muscles?


Now what about the evidence for the anthrax case???

Posted by: Lust in the Dust | August 20, 2008 2:16 PM

DHS spokesman Russ Knocke told the paper that the retention period was justified.

"History has shown, whether you are talking about criminal or terrorist activity, that plotting, planning or even relationships among conspirators can go on for years," he said. "Basic travel records can, quite literally, help frontline officers to connect the dots."

Ha! In most botched raids, these people can't connect the simple address on a piece of paper to the correct apartment before they bust in and hurt innocent citizens, children and pets, while letting real criminals roam the streets. Maybe they should learn to read and write before they move on to art class. I would be suprised to see a picture of a torture taser smeared with red bull for cops before any real dots get connected. Worthless.

Posted by: Connect The Dots | August 20, 2008 2:39 PM

Other than allowing 9/11 to happen anybody know of a case that wasn't botched by the FBI?

Posted by: Name a Solved Case | August 20, 2008 2:42 PM

Brad Arnold is right.

Real agents who swore to uphold the Constitution need to step up and blow the whistle.

As for Ivins, he should have a railroad named after him.

Posted by: BenF | August 20, 2008 3:34 PM

Here is a blog of an anthrax expert who knew him. She doesn’t buy any of this crap:

Posted by: BenF | August 20, 2008 3:54 PM

Posted by: BenF | August 20, 2008 4:18 PM

Well, look at this. It looks like no one is buying the bull of the government and their good friends the media, except one. I think the people are waking up, and it's about freaking time. Just wait until the dollar crashes. Guess who the people are going to blame? It won't be themselves, nor should it be, as predators have been eating at the people for too long within our economy. The people time will come. Freedom means nothing left to lose.

Posted by: Truth | August 21, 2008 12:49 AM

What we have here is a situation where the prosecution has been allowed to present their case without a fair rebuttal
by the defense.

Just imagine if every case was decided in this manner, where
the prosecution was taken at their word without any consideration of a defense to those charges.

It is clear that The American People and The Estate of Bruce Ivins both have sufficient "probable cause" to launch a full scale Congressional investigation into this matter.

I hope the editors of The Washington Post continue to dedicate resources to this investigation for the greater good of all.

Posted by: OgreDaddy | August 21, 2008 8:29 AM

This is for WFKU radio. its a reference to the kennedy assassination.

Posted by: Taylor | August 21, 2008 11:36 PM

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