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Tag: anthrax

FBI Investigating Cleveland Anthrax Hoax

anthrax spores

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

The FBI is continuing an investigation into an anthrax scare in Cleveland, reports WDEF.com.

On Wednesday afternoon a letter containing white powder was found addressed to the Bradley County Circuit Court’s Office, but a mobile testing unit determined the substance was just talcum powder, according to WDEF.

No one is sick and thing are “back to normal,” the county mayor said.

“The employees that were right around there when it was opened, and the ones that actually opened it, were put through a tough time, waiting, and not knowing. Thank goodness it turned out that it wasn’t real.  It was a hoax, which is a bad thing, but it’s better than if it had been real,” said Mayor Gary Davis.

Davis said investigators now know where the letter came from but are not releasing that information to the public yet.

To read more click here.

Feds to Pay Widow of Anthrax Victim $2.5 Million

One of the real anthrax letters in 2001/fbi photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The feds are getting out the check book to cover an anthrax lawsuit filed by the wife whose husband — a Florida tabloid photo editor — was killed in 2001 by an anthrax letter.

The Associated Press reports that the U.S. government has agreed to pay widow Maureen Stevens $2.5 million to settle a lawsuit she filed.

The suit claimed the government failed to set in place security measures to assure that no one at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Md. got a hold of a the deadly anthrax strain  that was used to kill her husband and four others.

As part of the agreement, the wife has agreed to drop all other claims relating to the death of her husband Robert Stevens.

For years, some at the FBI were convinced that Ft. Detrick scientist Steven Hatfill was the culprit. But eventually investigators turned their attention toward Bruce Ivins, a scientist in the lab who committed suicide in July 2008, shortly before the feds planned to charge him in the deadly mailings that killed 5 and sickened 17 others.

 

The Anthrax Investigation: The View From the FBI

Michael P. Kortan is the assistant director of Public Affairs for the FBI at headquarters in Washington.

Michael Kortan (left) talking to ex-FBI Dir. Louis Freeh /fbi file photo

By Michael Kortan
N.Y. Times Letter to the Editor

WASHINGTON — I take issue with several points in your Oct. 18 editorial “Who Mailed the Anthrax Letters?”

First, the National Academy of Sciences report concluded that the anthrax in the mailings was consistent with the anthrax produced in Dr. Bruce Ivins’s suite. The report stated, at the same time, that it was not possible to reach a definitive conclusion about the origins of the samples based on science alone. But investigators and prosecutors have long maintained that while science played a significant role, it was the totality of the investigative process that ultimately determined the outcome of the anthrax case.

Further, scientists directly involved in the lengthy investigation into the anthrax mailings — both from within the F.B.I. and outside experts — disagree with the notion that the chemicals in the mailed anthrax suggest more sophisticated manufacturing.

To read the rest click here.

News Report Questions FBI Theory That Anthrax Suspect Tried to Deceive Investigators

A U.S. Army scientist stands near the letters used in the 2001 anthrax attacks (Photo courtesy of FBI and ProPublica)

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

An investigative report published by ProPublica points to some flaws in the FBI’s conclusion that Ft. Detrick, Md. scientist Bruce Ivins was the culprit who mailed the deadly anthrax in 2001.

The investigation, conducted by ProPublica, PBS and McClatchy Newspapers, attempts to undercut a key theory that Ivins tried to deceive the FBI. The report points to samples Ivins provided from a flask in 2002 to the FBI. The FBI said tests failed to match the anthrax sent through the mail.

Later, the news report said, the FBI  took its own samples from the flask and found matches to the deadly anthrax letters.

Authorities pointed to that as a key piece of evidence against Ivins, saying he was intentionally being deceptive to hide his guilt. Ivins committed suicide in July 2008, just before he was about to be charged.

Rachel Lieber, the lead prosecutor in a case that will never go to trial, thinks that Ivins manipulated his sample to cover his tracks, the news report said.

“If you send something that is supposed to be from the murder weapon, but you send something that doesn’t match, that’s the ultimate act of deception,” the lead prosecutor Rachel Lieber said in the report. “That’s why it’s so important.”

But the news agencies report that they “turned up new evidence that challenges the FBI’s narrative of Ivins as a man with a guilty conscience who was desperately trying to avoid being discovered.”

“Records recently released under the Freedom of Information Act show that Ivins made available a total of four sets of samples from 2002 to 2004, double the number the FBI has disclosed,” the news report said. “And in subsequent FBI tests, three of the four sets ultimately tested positive for the” anthrax.’

The report suggested that the positive samples turned over to the FBI was proof that Ivins was not trying to deceive the FBI.

Paul Kemp, Ivins’ lawyer, said the existence of Ivins’ additional submissions discredits a key aspect of the FBI case, the report said.

“I wish I’d known that at the time,’’ he said.

The Justice Department has repeatedly dismissed any reports challenging its conclusion that Ivins was the culprit. The agency has said that the conclusion was based on multiple factors.

Read full report.

 

Upcoming Article Raises More Questions About Anthrax Attack

Anthrax Suspect Bruce Ivins

By WILLIAM J. BROAD and SCOTT SHANE
New York Times

A decade after wisps of anthrax sent through the mail killed 5 people, sickened 17 others and terrorized the nation, biologists and chemists still disagree on whether federal investigators got the right man and whether the F.B.I.’s long inquiry brushed aside important clues.

Now, three scientists argue that distinctive chemicals found in the dried anthrax spores — including the unexpected presence of tin — point to a high degree of manufacturing skill, contrary to federal reassurances that the attack germs were unsophisticated. The scientists make their case in a coming issue of the Journal of Bioterrorism & Biodefense.

F.B.I. documents reviewed by The New York Times show that bureau scientists focused on tin early in their eight-year investigation, calling it an “element of interest” and a potentially critical clue to the criminal case. They later dropped their lengthy inquiry, never mentioned tin publicly and never offered any detailed account of how they thought the powder had been made.

To read the full story click there.

VP Biden’s Brother Got White Powder Package in Fla.

Great Strides Made in Nation’s Biodefenses Since 2001 Anthrax Attacks; But Concerns Linger

One of the real anthrax letters in 2001/fbi photo

By Dan Vergano
USA TODAY

Anthrax-laced letters that killed five people, targeted U.S. senators and paralyzed post offices a decade ago have reshaped the nation’s biodefenses.

While confidence is higher that the United States is better protected, there are continuing worries about potential threats in the coming era of “synthetic biology,” man-made designer microbes.

Nationwide, subways and airports now have germ-sniffing sensors, new federal biodefense labs have been erected and specially trained FBI teams stand ready to investigate bioterrorist attacks, all absent in 2001.

Bruce Budowle/univ. photo

“We are certainly better prepared for another anthrax attack,” says former FBI scientist Bruce Budowle, now of the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth. “But we still don’t know everything else that is out there in the environment, and ‘synthetic biology’ is a whole new concern.”

To rad the rest of the story click here.

Ten Year Anniversary of Anthrax Attacks; Congressman Holt Still Not Satisfied With FBI Probe

Rep. Rush Holt

By Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.)
Ashbury Park Press

Ten years ago, America was a nation shaken by grief and terror. Nearly 3,000 people had perished in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and in the thwarted attack on the Capitol. Federal authorities were warning the public that additional al-Qaida “sleeper cells” still might be at large in the United States. We were living through a national nightmare.

Less than a week later, the nightmare deepened.

Sometime on Sept. 17 or Sept. 18, someone deposited five envelopes — four addressed to media outlets in New York, and one addressed to the National Enquirer in Florida — in a central New Jersey mailbox. Later, two more letters would be mailed to members of the U.S. Senate. Each contained a highly refined dry powder containing spores of Bacillus anthracis, which can cause deadly anthrax infection in humans.

Unlike the attacks of Sept. 11, which erupted over a few terrible hours, the anthrax attacks unfolded in slow motion over several weeks. First, news reports surfaced that a Florida man had died after entering the hospital with an unknown respiratory illness. Then, the public learned he had contracted anthrax, an infection that occurs naturally but has long been explored as a biological weapon.

It was possible, at first, to believe that the Florida infection was just a freak accident, much as it was possible early on Sept. 11 to believe that the first plane crash in New York was simply a catastrophic mistake.

To read the full column click here.