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The FBI's Road to Ivins

POSTED: 03:13 PM ET, 10/27/2008 by Derek Kravitz
TAGS: FBI, anthrax

FBI microbiologist Jason D. Bannan, shown at a lab in Quantico, worked on the investigation that identified suspect Bruce Ivins. (Dominic BraccoIi / The Washington Post)

A mutant strain of anthrax, evolving technology and Bruce E. Ivins's status as "the expert" in producing "exceptionally pure concentrations of anthrax spores" helped guide FBI agents through their investigation and ultimately led them to the Fort Detrick scientist they deemed responsible for the 2001 domestic bioterror attack.

The Post's Joby Warrick reconstructed the government's investigation into Ivins, plotting the timeline from when an Army lab technician, Terry Abshire, noticed an odd grouping of mutant anthrax back in October 2001, all the way to Ivins's suicide this summer.

Uncertainties continue to surround Ivins's role in the attack, which killed five people. FBI officials have been trying to bolster their case against Ivins, but the bureau has run into 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 and some congressional critics have questioned whether one man could really have carried out the elaborate attacks. Rep. Rush D. Holt (D-N.J.), a member of the House intelligence committee, has questioned whether the bureau's scientific discoveries were "inconsistent with the FBI's conclusions."

To address such concerns, a panel of the National Academy of Sciences has been asked to independently review the government's case.

By Derek Kravitz |  October 27, 2008; 3:13 PM ET
Previous: Campaign Trail Mix, Gitmo Tribunal Probe, FDA Evidence Gap | Next: Early Voting Might Relieve Polling Pressure


Please email us to report offensive comments.

"Trail of Odd Anthrax Cells Led FBI to Army Scientist," by Joby Warrick, is unavailable online, so I must respond here.

The article is extremely detailed, so it must be true. It even includes a paragraph admitting that unbelievers exist, so no one can doubt your objectivity and honesty. I do not care how detailed the case against Bruce Ivins is, unless there is proof to back up each detail. Pardon me if I do not trust the neocon terrorist government or its press lackeys.

It is possible to disprove "Debunking the 'weaponization' myth." The anthrax powder sent to Senators Daschle and Leahy was weaponized, and Senator Leahy received the most advanced weaponized anthrax ever made. They just happened to be Democratic opponents of the USA Patriot Act. Congress fell in line after that.

FBI Sweeps Anthrax Under the Rug - Weaponized Anthrax Came from CIA/Battelle Program

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.

It was impossible for Dr. Ivins to produce such a weapon. It is quite possible, however, that he was murdered to prevent him from talking. Since the anthrax letters were sent to all the television networks, The New York Post, the National Enquirer and Sun tabloids and Senators Daschle and Leahy, shortly after 9/11 terror hoax, one has to suspect it was a message to keep your mouths shut.

Posted by: markoller | October 27, 2008 7:11 PM

I have no exprience with weaponized anthrax, but I do have experience with weaponized Sweet 'n Low.

Once the bag is opened, the particles self-disperse through the air quickly and actively. They spray across the room. Once you set the bag down and cover it with a glass, then there's a static electricity based, 1,000 moustraps dynamic that causes the spores to keep dispersing from one another and into the air by themselves.

The commercial use, which was to be described in an open patent, was intended for development to make some consumer products pour more like sugar and less like chalk dust.

Posted by: blasmaic | November 2, 2008 1:03 PM

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