Sunday, May 20, 2012

May 20 - May 26, 2102 Discussions

The main topic for my Sunday comment was the fact that a literary agency asked to see my book -- not because I'd sent a successful query letter, but because a science writer with many published books to his credit offered to assist me in finding an agent.  He succeeded on his second try.

So, I sent the agent the entire book via emails, and now I'm waiting to see what's going to happen.  But, I'll still self-publish if the agent turns it down and I cannot find another agent who wants to represent it.

I also commented on how "Anonymous" seems to have decided against further posts to this blog, and he sends me emails instead (often carbon copying Mr. Rowley).  The email I received this morning was nearly incoherent and about me citing "the PR person of an X-ray company" when I quoted a document on this blog last week which said there had been "hundreds of thousands" of hoax emails.  "Anonymous" feels I should have used official FBI statistics instead.
Why doesn't he argue that on this blog?  Apparently because he doesn't want his own mistakes documented for the world to see.



  1. Something else I mentioned in my Sunday comment was the things I want to add to my book, things like additional pictures and whatever can be gleaned from Ivins' personal emails - if and when they are made public.

    This afternoon, I was glancing through Jeanne Guillemin's book "American Anthrax" and noticed some things I might also want to add to my book, although I probably say the same things already:

    From page 215:

    "Ezzell and others knew that putting a suspension of spores in a centrifuge would create a pellet of graded purity: shave off and dry the whiter layer and you had a powder similar to the anthrax letter material. It was by no means a mass production method, but it would have been sufficient for the five anthrax letters."

    From page 241:

    "Although long retired from the institute, Spetzel refused to believe that Ivins could work alone there for hours. And despite common knowledge about the use of a centrifuge to make pure spore powder, Spertzel still refused to believe the USAMRIID had the equipment to create 'essentially pure spores'.

    "Others at USAMRIID, certainly John Ezzell and Art Friedlander, knew better but remained silent and let the Spertzel claim stand. Adding to the confusion, on August 4 [2008], a USA Today interview with former USAMRIID commander David Franz misquoted him, making it seem he agreed with Spertzel. Franz quickly emailed the reporter: 'We [at USAMRIID] absolutely had, and they still have, the equipment to produce dried anthrax spore preps ... as do many laboratories in academe, industry and the rest of the the government."


  2. So far, I haven't been able to find the USA Today article from August 4, 2008, but I found one from February 19, 2010 HERE that says:

    "In an updated version of a story from 2008, USA TODAY reporters Dan Vergano and Steve Sternberg explore some of the basic questions about anthrax and the attack:"

    And among the questions and answers are this question and answer:

    "Q: Did Ivins and other researchers for the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Md., work with dried anthrax spores?

    A: The lab probably did have the capability to produce small quantities of dried anthrax spore preparations, says Col. David Franz, USAMRIID's commander until 1998, as do many other laboratories in academia, industry and government. But, USAMRIID chose not to set up a system to aerosolize dried anthrax, because wet anthrax was sufficient to carry out the institute's experiments and was much safer to use."


  3. Ah! I found the Aug. 3, Q&A session. It was just a matter of using the right search argument:

    It's HERE. And, it says:

    "Q: Did the lab have equipment to produce dried anthrax?

    A: No, Franz says, adding that it would be difficult for Ivins or others to carry out the work without detection."

    I don't see any sign of the correction that Franz asked USA Today to make.


  4. Science 11 May 2012:
    Vol. 336 no. 6082 p. 669

    “Presumed Guilt in the Anthrax Case”

    In his review of my book American Anthrax on the 2001 anthrax letter attacks (“Have we ‘met the enemy?,’” 3 February, p. 540), D. A. Relman accuses me of imposing a “presumption of guilt” on the FBI’s prime suspect, U.S. Army microbiologist Bruce Ivins. In fact, I described many ambiguities in the case against Ivins and took no personal position on his guilt or innocence. I relied on the report of the National Research Council committee that evaluated the FBI science, and, regarding a possible foreign source for the letter spores, I accepted its conclusion that “We consider these data to be inconclusive regarding the possible presence of B. anthracis Ames at this undisclosed overseas site” (1). Relman served as vice chair of the committee that reached this conclusion.

    [Corrected 14 May 2012 to replace earlier version posted in error.]

    Jeanne Guillemin

    Security Studies Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.

    Note: Yazid Sufaat does not deny to me in chat or Facebook post that he was using virulent Ames

  5. Anonymous,

    What's your point?

    Posting ambiguous information may be okay on Lew Weinstein's blog, but on this site I prefer that people try to explain what they are trying to prove.

    Your comment, "Yazid Sufaat does not deny to me in chat or Facebook post that he was using virulent Ames," is meaningless, since it doesn't say Sufaat was using the Ames strain, it just says he does not deny it. And, even if he said he had possession of the Ames stain, why would anyone but you believe him?

    Plus, the facts say that Bruce Ivins was the anthrax mailer.

    In Guillimen's book she says at the bottom of page 194 and into page 195:

    "On another front, in response to CIA intelligence, FBI investigators traveled to the site of a rudimentary bioweapons laboratory that al Qaeda operatives had attempted to start in the Afghan city of Kandahar. Yazid Sufaat, trained in chemistry at California State University in Sacramento, had set up a makeshift enterprise near the city's airport and apparently experimented with local strains of anthrax. When the U.S. bombings began in October 2001, Sufaat fled to Pakistan and then to his native Malaysia, where he was arrested and held for questioning.[18] If there were an al Qaeda connection to the anthrax letters, the Bureau's hazardous response experts might find it in Kandahar. In addition to environmental samples, they shipped back furniture and plumbing for thorough anthrax testing. On the first go-round (using polymerase chain reaction), two samples yielded one of five possible genetic markers that could indicate anthrax and possibly the Ames strain. But no B. anthracis could be grown from any sample. Two more missions were conducted, with more test samples acquired, but none of these tested positive for anthrax."

    Note 18 refers to an October 9, 2003 article by CBS reporter Lauren Johnston titled "Is Al Qaeda Making Anthrax" that can be found on my site by clicking HERE and which inexplicably appears on CBS's web site as a Feb. 11, 2009 article HERE.

    So, your post says nothing of value.


    1. As the vice-chair of the NAS committee David Relman pointed out in the SCIENCE article you did not read, Professor Guillemin in her book described the findings incorrectly.

      "In addition, she describes some of the details of the science-based
      investigation incorrectly, such as the number of positive samples from a
      clandestine effort to assess a possible overseas source of the spores and
      the number of collection missions that yielded positive samples. Although
      seemingly minor, these incorrect descriptions of the scientific findings may
      lend credence to the Department of Justice’s overstated conclusions …”

      Instead of citing the Science piece or the NAS findings, you cite a 2003 news article. The later positive findings related to the Ames strain -- not local strains.

      I don't recall that you even linked or posted David Relman's response to her letter.

      You need to read the literature and scientific findings if you are going to understand the scientific debate. You still have not even read the original Relman piece.

    2. Anonymous wrote: "I don't recall that you even linked or posted David Relman's response to her letter." AND "You still have not even read the original Relman piece."

      I've read the Relman piece. I have the .pdf file. I also have the .pdf file of the response by Guillemin and the response to the response by Relman. I haven't put them on my site because I don't have any links which go to the actual writings, only to abstracts.

      I also quoted to you the section from Guillemin's book which shows that what Relman claimed in his review was total nonsense.

      Relman's review of Jeanne Guillemin's book is a biased, self-serving justification of the ridiculous recommendations contained in the NAS report.

      The NAS report ignores the reality of criminal investigations and suggests that nothing is proved in criminal cases until it's proved to a scientific certainty. That is just plain STUPID.

      The biggest blunder the FBI committed in the Amerithrax case was to hire the NAS to review the case.


    3. The article containing the interview of Yazid Sufaat states: "Trained as a biochemist on a government scholarship in the United States, this top student of the Royal Military College who retired as a captain with the army was part of a biological warfare programme under the Defence Ministry."

      Bruce Ivins used a method that resulted in the presence of Meglumine and Diatrizoate in RMR 1029.

      Yazid Sufaat did not.

      Thus, the finding tends to be exculpatory of Dr. Ivins.

      You dispute an expert, a PhD chemist, who straightforwardly summarizes the article by the FBI scientists .

      But have you even read the article or are you just relying on the abstract?

      You haven't even read Laurie Garrett's book. She wrote the blurb for Ed Regis' book years ago and has long been a notable and quotable.

      To not read the relevant material disqualifies you from discussing the matter.

    4. Anonymous wrote: "Thus, the finding tends to be exculpatory of Dr. Ivins."


      "To not read the relevant material disqualifies you from discussing the matter."

      To NOT UNDERSTAND the relevant material disqualifies YOU from discussing the matter.

      The attack powders were NOT - REPEAT NOT taken directly from flask RMR-1029. That has been known all along. It was obvious. (1) The spores in the letters were no more than two years old. The spores in flask RMR-1029 were FOUR years old in 2001. (2) The powder in the media letter was 6 percent agar, 84 percent matrix material and only 10 percent spores. That say even more clearly that the attack spores didn't come DIRECTLY from flask RMR-1029, since the flask didn't contain any agar OR matrix material.

      Therefore, the fact that flask RMR-1029 did not contain Meglumine and Diatrizoate only says what other evidence said again and again and again:

      Spores from flask RMR-1029 were used to grow NEW SPORES on plates. The NEW SPORES were used in the letters. There would be no reason for any Meglumine or Diatrizoate to be associated with the NEW SPORES.

      Your suggestion that this is somehow "exculpatory of Dr. Ivins" is ridiculous and shows total ignorance of the facts.


  6. Hello.

    + Has anyone identified the child who wrote the letters poisoned with anthrax?


  7. Joseph,

    No one has officially identified the child who wrote the anthrax letters.

    There may be enough facts in the public domain to figure out who the child most likely was, but that child would be almost 17 years old now, his handwriting would be totally different, and he might not even remember helping Dr. Ivins by writing the letters and addressing the envelopes.

    The FBI didn't need the handwriting evidence to make their case against Bruce Ivins, so they just considered the handwriting to be inconclusive. Their outside experts don't seem to agree on anything about the handwriting. So, there's nothing they can use in court.

    Also, it's quite possible that the parents of the child won't let him talk with the FBI. And, it's quite possible that the FBI just doesn't see any reason to ruin the innocent child's life by naming him as the person who helped the anthrax killer by writing the anthrax letters and addressing the envelopes.


  8. Laurie addresses her understanding of the testing and the times that it was done in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. You'll want to pull the FBI documents submitted to the NAS for authoritative details as to the unclassified material has been disclosed. The FBI did not produce any of the classified material. The FBI waited to produce what it did until many months after the last presentation to the NAS committee. There is no justification for any of the material to be classified.

    Reporting on Biosecurity from America to Zaire
    Author: Laurie Garrett, Senior Fellow for Global Health
    January/February 2012
    Bulletin of Atomic Scientists

    Garrett: Most of the evidence regarding Ivins has to be viewed as circumstantial. The sum total of that circumstantial evidence is weaker than the sum total of circumstantial evidence pointing at Al Qaeda. And that evidence includes the following: Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania, and unbeknownst to most of the public, the investigators were able to identify the bodies of the hijackers and test them for anthrax, and at least one of them came up positive. That individual is the same one who went to an emergency room in Florida, when they were all down there for flight training, seeking help for a black sore on his hand. Retrospectively, the physician concluded that it could very well have been cutaneous anthrax. Two other individuals involved in the Florida training group sought pharmaceutical assistance for pain on their hands and skin rashes. And Mohamed Atta attempted to purchase a custom-made crop duster with all but the pilot’s seat removed for a double-size tank. Fortunately, he was not able to obtain a bank loan to purchase this custom-made plane. There was an individual who appears to have been connected with the group in New Jersey and had an online greeting-card company; through his office, he ordered a giant spore lyophilizer [freeze dryer]. I interviewed folks, who spoke to me off the record, who had been involved in the Special Forces team that tried to capture Osama bin Laden in December 2001. They captured a complex of caves in Tora Bora, one of which was described as a laboratory. Back in 2002, my source in that team told me this was a real lab and that—if I had seen it—I would have been astonished. It was scoured and swabbed for spores on four occasions: twice by an unnamed agency, but I believe it to be the Special Forces team and the CIA, in 2001 and 2002; and then several years later, on two occasions, by the FBI. The first two scourings of this cave came up positive not only for anthrax but for the Ames strain, which would be highly unlikely as a natural occurrence in Afghanistan. The second two scourings by the FBI came up negative.

  9. Anonymous,

    Thanks for the link to the Q&A with Laurie Garrett. That's something I hadn't read before, and it really shows how removed from reality Garrett is. (Her book isn't in my local library, and I certainly wouldn't pay money to buy a copy of something that seems to be mostly ignorant nonsense.)

    I may write something for my web site where I'll show each of the incorrect statements she makes in the Q&A about the Amerithax case. It could take awhile, since she just makes one ignorant blunder after another.


  10. Anonymous,

    After a more careful reading, I found that the Q&A with Laurie Garrett actually contains a lot of things I agree with. She's totally off base in thinking that "The sum total of that circumstantial evidence [against Ivins] is weaker than the sum total of circumstantial evidence pointing at Al Qaeda," but she has some good points about the confusion that reigned during the early days of the case.

    This is said by the person asking the questions: "In your book, you say that there was no weapons-grade anthrax found in the letters."

    Much of this week, I've been arguing on my forum with someone who firmly believes that the anthrax powders WERE "weaponized" with silica or silica. To see that Garrett realizes that is nonsense is nice. Too bad we can't put Garrett in the same room with the people who argue that the powders WERE weaponized (like Jacobsen and Niman).

    What this shows, though, is that Garrett is another "Anthrax Truther" whose beliefs are unique and do not totally agree with the beliefs of any other "Anthrax Truther."


  11. On the timing of the testing, Ron Suskind in the One Percent Solution reported, without naming a source, that "extremely virulent" anthrax was found at a house in Kandahar in Autumn 2003 (that had existed prior to 9/11).

    As part of a book proposal in which you propose your book in which you argue that a First Grader wrote the Fall 2001 anthrax mailings, you will have to represent that you have read the book by Pulitzer Prize winner Laurie Garrett. That particular section of a book proposal is designed to weed out people who do not read relevant materials.

  12. In a June 2007 Newsmax article, I give the date the virulent Ames was found as Autumn 2003, after Hambali was interrogated in Jordan.

    Anthrax Mystery: Evidence Points to al-Qaida
    Thursday, June 7, 2007

    I write:

    "Anthrax lab coordinator Hambali was arrested in August 2003 in the quiet city of Ayuttullah, in Thailand. He was sent to Jordan. In Autumn 2003, extremely virulent anthrax was found at a house in Kandahar after regional operative Hambali was harshly interrogated."

  13. Anonymous wrote: "As part of a book proposal in which you propose your book in which you argue that a First Grader wrote the Fall 2001 anthrax mailings, you will have to represent that you have read the book by Pulitzer Prize winner Laurie Garrett."


    What amusing fantasies you have!

    Anonymous also wrote:

    "In a June 2007 Newsmax article, I give the date the virulent Ames was found as Autumn 2003, after Hambali was interrogated in Jordan."

    Why don't you use your real name when you post, since you tell people who you are anyway?

    You seem to be citing yourself as an authority for your own argument.


    Thanks for the post.


  14. Anonymous,

    FYI, I just checked the statistics for Lew's site where you post your endless rantings. For the month of April, that blog got an average of 135 visitors per day.

    For the same month, my web site got an average of 607 per day.

    Let's see... Hmm. That calculates to be four and a half times as many visitors to my site.

    That certainly SEEMS to indicate that people find my comments much more interesting and informative than yours.


  15. Anonymous,

    I have deleted your rant about Yazid Sufaat and how you BELIEVE a jury would have acted in a trial of Bruce Ivins.

    You have stated your opinions endlessly on Lew's site. It's not necessary to pollute this site with postings containing repetitions of your beliefs.