Google Maps Says Maybe, Maybe Not

ivins-map.thumbnail.png

According to the WaPo, Bruce Ivins took personal leave time on September 17, 2001, which, the FBI argues, is when he would have driven to Princeton to mail the anthrax.

Meanwhile, bits of fresh information continued to come out. A partial log of Ivins’s work hours shows that he worked late in the lab on the evening of Sunday, Sept. 16, signing out at 9:52 p.m. after two hours and 15 minutes. The next morning, the sources said, he showed up as usual but stayed only briefly before taking leave hours. Authorities assume that he drove to Princeton immediately after that, dropping the letters in a mailbox on a well-traveled street across from the university campus. Ivins would have had to have left quickly to return for an appointment in the early evening, about 4 or 5 p.m.

Ivins normally got to work early–around 7:30 AM. Assuming his brief stay was half an hour (are they suggesting he went in and picked up the anthrax? and if so, did anyone ask why he’d do so during daytime hours?), he would have had eight hours to drive to Princeton and back. That’s certainly doable–Google says the drive takes 3 hours and 25 minutes. Who knows whether Ivins sped much in his 1993 Honda Civic (in 2001, he also had a 1996 Dodge van; he did not yet have his 2002 Saturn). But even if he went faster than Google says he should have (he would have been driving on I-95, after all, which pretty much requires speeding), he almost certainly would have hit rush hour traffic at least once in his drive, if not twice.

In other words, Ivins could have made the drive, but just barely.

All of which ought to raise the stakes on the FBI’s really dubious explanation for why Ivins purportedly mailed the anthrax in Princeton. After all, there are Kappa Kappa Gamma chapters at George Washington in DC, at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, and Washington and Lee in Lexington, VA–all much closer to Ft. Detrick than Princeton. So what’s the explanation for driving to Princeton (twice), when Ivins could have associated the anthrax mailing with KKG which much less effort if he had mailed it from any of a number of other schools.

And then there’s this bit, which really damns the FBI case:

Federal agents did not interview owners of shops on the street where the mailbox is located to place Ivins at the scene, judging that any witness identification would have been inherently unreliable after nearly seven years. Nor did they uncover tollbooth footage or credit card or phone records that would directly link Ivins to the day’s events.

The FBI never asked anyone in Princeton whether or not they had seen Ivins. However, we know that in August 2002, they did ask 200 people in Princeton whether they had seen Steven Hatfill.

…once the government determined the anthrax letters were mailed from Princeton, New Jersey, FBI special agents showed over 200 residents of Princeton only one photograph–a photo of Dr. Hatfill–and asked whether anyone saw him in the area.

[snip]

Immediately after Dr. Hatfill’s [August 11, 2002] public statement, in an effort to obtain any evidence adverse to Dr. Hatfill with public relations value, however unreliable and inadmissible in court, federal investigators began showing a single photo of Dr. Hatfill to residents of Princeton, New Jersey in the hope that someone would place him at he scene of the anthrax mailings. The presentation of a single photo instead of an array of photos, in dereliction of FBI protocol is so unfairly suggestive–particularly during a week in which Dr. Hatfill appeared on television and in newspapers around the nation and during the same week Newsweek published a two-page spread featuring several photos of Dr. Hatfill–that no criminal investigator could rightfully believe it to have a proper law enforcement function.

So after having asked 200 people if they had seen Hatfill, they ask no one if they had seen Ivins. I understand that Ivins didn’t become a suspect until much longer after the mailing in question. But if Ivins really had an obsession with this particular KKG chapter, rather than the ones in DC or Baltimore or Lexington, VA, perhaps he might have returned to the scene of the crime.

But the FBI didn’t check, I guess because they don’t want to subject their fragile explanation for how or whether Ivins was ever in Princeton to any scrutiny.

And this is the utterly convincing evidence (not!) that the FBI has offered to explain their certainty that, rather than leaving work and handing off the anthrax to someone whose handwriting matched the envelopes, Ivins risked missing his afternoon appointment to mail the anthrax from close to a KKG chapter that was nowhere near the most convenient to his office.

Update: Hold on. It would not be possible for Ivins to have mailed the anthrax. According to my calculations above, the window during which Ivins could have put the letter in the mailbox on September 17 was from 10:25 to 1:35. But here’s what the FBI itself says about the window in which the letter was mailed:

The investigation examined Dr. Ivins’s laboratory activity immediately before and after the window of opportunity for the mailing of the Post and Brokaw letters to New York which began at 5:00 p.m. Monday, September 17,2001 and ended at noon on Tuesday, September 18, 2001. [my emphasis]

In other words, had he mailed the anthrax when they’re arguing he did, the letter would have been picked up at the 5:00 PM pick-up (if not an earlier one–often boxes have a mid-day pick-up as well), and post-marked on September 17, not on September 18. [Note, suffragette and I were thinking along the same lines.]

Update: fixed the title per skdadl.

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  1. Rayne says:

    This is where I would be willing to pony up a few bucks for gas if somebody would make that same drive on a weekday from a publicly accessible point closest to Ft. Detrick, to the mailbox in question, round trip.

    Let’s clock it.

      • AmIDreaming says:

        Not just Princeton. The traffic through Delaware is notorious. It can easily take an hour to drive the length of Delaware from Maryland at anytime near rush hour.

        It’s especially true if you’re avoiding tolls. The circuit to avoid the Delaware toll booths is very sluggish, and you’d have to take 95 through Philly, which is similarly jammed between Wilmington and Academy Road.

        Having made the trip between Ft. Meade and Princeton more times than you can count, I can say with some certainty that the round-trip timing, during the day, is nearly impossible.

    • spoonful says:

      The story is even more stretched when one considers the connection of Kappa Kappa Gamma to the mailbox was that KKG used the building not as a sorority house, but as a storage warehouse for uniforms and the like. So unless Ivins was into KKG clothing and needed to drive over 3 hours to be near clothes with a KKG emblem, his connection to the mailbox becomes even more tenuous.

      • R.H. Green says:

        Also this KKG facination may be irrelevant. As I understand it, this mailbox is also in the vacinity of the Battele lab. Pursuing that connection may be fruitful. Just as an aside, I prefer the term facination because the term obsession has perjoritive connotations of pathology thay may not apply. I don’t know where this term originated in this case, but it has the effect of sensationalizing matters that may sell newspapers, may incriminate a fall guy, or hype the rep of a blogger; caution with psychologically technical terms is advised.

      • zenomax says:

        Various voices, here and elsewhere (Ivins’s attorney among them), have asserted that because the KKG sorority office at 20 Nassau St. in Princeton served as little more than a storage facility for sorority paraphernalia, and certainly not as a residence for sorority girls, Ivins would not have been interested in it. This claim is weak, for two reasons:

        * Regardless of the office’s actual use, it is nevertheless the listed business office of KKG in Princeton, where mail to the Princeton chapter is delivered — KKG’s official address there, in short, an address doubtless frequented by its officials. Ivins might not know how it was used, only how it was listed. Or, if he knew, he might not care; the fact that it’s KKG’s listed business office might have served his purposes (assuming he had any).

        * Ivins had a documented history of obsessive fascination with KKG paraphernalia, especially paraphernalia associated with its blindfolding rituals. On the KKG Talk Page on Wikipedia, he admitted to having burgled a KKG house to acquire their secret handbook. The fact that objects and papers, rather than living girls, occupied the Nassau St. address full time would arguably make it more, not less, attractive to him.

        Regardless, I’m convinced that Ivins could not and therefore did NOT deposit (at least) the first envelopes in the 10 Nassau St. letterbox. But I’m surprised that no one so far has floated the possibility (which, I grant is EXTREMELY improbable, but surely possible [and, thus, according to Sherlock Holmes’s famous maxim, worth considering]) that Ivins passed the envelopes off somehow to a KKG member with business at or access to the 20 Nassau St. office, who then mailed them from the 10 Nassau St. letterbox, either because it was simply convenient for her after her business there or because he directed her to do so.

        The existence of a co-conspirator might also explain the weirdness of his taking an unexplained “administrative leave” on the morning of Monday, the 17th. Perhaps he drove the package of letters part of the way to Princeton, handed it to his conspirator (she might have been in Washington on business, for instance) and returned in plenty of time to attend his afternoon meeting.

        Were he to be entirely vindicated posthumously, his suicide would nevertheless be understandable. The kind of public humiliation attendant on the detailed and specific courtroom revelations of his desire to collect representations of blindfolded women — which caused him to rent his P.O. Box in the first place — would drive many people, i dare say, to desperation.

  2. chrisc says:

    One of the freaky things about the Ivins case is that Hatfill was their man until long after they said they suspected Ivins. So, why didn’t they settle with Hatfill much sooner if they were so sure of Ivins?

    I am also beginning to wonder a bit about the DNA evidence with regard to the anthrax. Ibis Biosciences is the Carlsbad (north San Diego county) firm that did the anthrax analysis. Ibis gets a lot of government money, especially DOD and Homeland Security grants. If you want to keep that money coming, your results better be what they want. I’m not saying that the analysis was scientifically wrong- just wondering if it is as sure or significant as the feds are saying and whether or not there were results that pointed to other possibilities.

    • rosalind says:

      dick cheney was in carlsbad february 17 – 19, 2002, staying at the four seasons. did darth take an up close & personal interest in the anthrax analysis?

      (and the reason his visit to carlsbad became public knowledge is one of my all time favorite stories, involving a local guy with a penchant for night golf using night-vision goggles & glo-in-the-dark balls who picked a really bad night to sneak onto the four seasons golf course.)

  3. boloboffin says:

    He could have driven there overnight and slept during the day.

    I’m surprised the FBI didn’t consider that.

    I continue to say that there is credible evidence against him, but nothing that passes the reasonable doubt test.

    And do not forget the bentonite lie. Where did that come from?

    • emptywheel says:

      That’s only slightly better. 10PM to 7:30 (assuming when he checked out of the hot room he left the building itself, which we don’t know) is 9.5 hours. More time, and you’d avoid rush hour, but still not a whole lot of extra time.

      In any case, there’s a really good reason why that’s not possible: because the envelope was post-marked on the 18th, not the 17th. Which basically means their argument is further damaged, since he COULDN’T have mailed the anthrax late enough on the 17th.

      • LS says:

        Unless they didn’t pick up the mail from that mailbox on that particular day for some reason or it didn’t get processed until really late…not that I think that happened…just sayin’…we know that the postal service can be a bit messed up sometimes..

  4. perris says:

    In other words, Ivins could have made the drive, but just barely.

    google does not give the best directions, nor do they give an accurate estimate, in just about all cases they over estimate the time it will take

    if google estimateds it’s barely doable then it is in fact quite doable even with their directions, with proper directions (instead of google,) it’s quite doable

  5. suffragette says:

    The FBI’s own timeline shows he couldn’t have mailed it in that window.

    From the WaPo Article:

    Ivins would have had to have left quickly to return for an appointment in the early evening, about 4 or 5 p.m.

    However, on page 8 of the FBI affidavit:

    http://www.usdoj.gov/amerithra…..chment.pdf

    The investigation examined Dr. Ivins’s laboratory activity immediately before and after
    the window of opportunity for the mailing of the Post and Brokaw letters to New York which
    began at 5:00 p.m. Monday, September 17,2001 and ended at noon on Tuesday, September 18,
    2001.

    The reason for the window is that the letter was postmarked on Sept 18th, so it had to be mailed on Sept 18th or after the last pick-up on Sept 17th.

    Ivins could not be at a meeting at 4 – 5pm in Frederick and mailing a letter after 5pm in Princeton. According to the FBI’s own specification of the “window of opportunity” he could not have mailed that 1st batch of letters.

    Thanks to sfexpat2000 at Democratic Underground who caught this.

  6. AZ Matt says:

    FBI = Keystone Kops

    At least the Kops were funny. I wonder what pressures from above have been pushing the FBI to produce something. It took awhile to admit their first screw up.

    The NYT’s and the WaPo just found out that the FBI was misbehaving with their reporters’ phone records: F.B.I. Says It Obtained Reporters’ Phone Records

    WASHINGTON — The Federal Bureau of Investigation said Friday that it had improperly obtained the phone records of reporters for The New York Times and The Washington Post in the newspapers’ Indonesia bureaus in 2004.

    Robert S. Mueller III, director of the F.B.I., disclosed the episode in a phone call to Bill Keller, the executive editor of The Times, and apologized for it. He also spoke with Leonard Downie Jr., the executive editor of The Washington Post, to apologize.

    The Bureau seems to be having a so-so week.

    • perris says:

      WASHINGTON — The Federal Bureau of Investigation said Friday that it had improperly obtained the phone records of reporters for The New York Times and The Washington Post in the newspapers’ Indonesia bureaus in 2004.

      oh, and lookey here, there can be no prosecution of the telecoms for doing that

      now how did that happen?

  7. ThingsComeUndone says:

    Any traffic reports we can get for that road for that day because just one fender bender could throw off this time table. Also getting that estimated drive time report they do on some roads for the day and time in question would be good.

  8. Rayne says:

    You know what really gets under my skin?

    There are 3 or 4 research facilities in NJ, including those at Princeton and at Rutgers, which study nano-coatings, nano-drug delivery, nano-biological products. All of these would have BSL-3 labs (or perhaps BSL-4).

    Did they check these labs?

    Or did they not want to?

    I can’t help but wonder what made Ivins remark on the one batch that he’d never seen anything like it before; was it because it never came from a military bio-defense lab?

    • pajarito says:

      As I posted in previous EW thread:

      Sophisticated anthrax weapon mailed >> pros, working as team.

      Few good clues on envelopes, little evidence trail >>> pros.

      Bungled, botched, misdirected FBI investigation and scapegoating driven from the top >>> political interference.

      Now, convenient dead scapegoat, selective evidence released, resist calls for clean presentation of all information. >>>> political interference.

      Is this just intentional noise and purposeful bungling directed from the top to divert, cloud and provide escape cover for the real culprits?

      The trail is cold, and lots of evidence likely useless for forensics now.

      Another “Mission Accomplished!!!”

  9. ThingsComeUndone says:

    What was the weather on the road for that day? Rain, fog etc all would blow the drive time timeline.

  10. ThingsComeUndone says:

    Any road construction being done on the likely routes? Bridges especially they are funnels if one bridge is being worked on then Bruce would have to use the next most likely bridge which would mess up his time even more.

  11. JohnLopresti says:

    Maybe redshift might add something with concurrency about road conditions. I recall something NJ in locus about redshift’s remarks long ago. Last time I drove those highways was too far in the distant past, relative to modern hwys now available, to add much to the estimates, though broadly they sound as depicted, reasonable on a tight schedule and if the traffic is moving. Having a Honda cvcc helps in traffic though it is smart to drive conservatively around Princeton. It is an area that is forgiving but has tight regulations and they use regional radars to monitor the roads.

  12. TheOtherWA says:

    The case against Ivins is falling apart faster then the FBI can construct it. WTF are they doing?

    • dcgaffer says:

      Of all the circumstantial evidence against Ivins (and I am a skeptic), the most damning to me is the Greendale School 4th grade return address, when considered in conjunction with his subscription.

      Either Greendale school or fourth grade alone, and it doesn’t mean much. Both together, the statistical probabilities of that being random are astronomical.

      So whoever addressed the letters likely knew of that particular story. But again its only circumstantial against Ivins. Maybe he talked about it or emailed; maybe he had the magazine in his office and someone picked up the reference.

      Certainly, if a third party was taking material from the flask under his control, they’d look for other subtle clues to implicate him.

      My point is that given the information released, it is just as easy to craft 2 alternative theories:

      1. He worked with others
      2. He was framed (subtlely).

      The fact that you had two different batches in the letters, one with the contaminant and one not, needs a rationale explanation.

      The connections between the Bioport / Emergent Solutions executives and major political players, in conjunction with the fact the the principal of Bioport filed a 10b5 plan in June and has started to sell shares are cause for one to raise an eyebrow, but only that, without more.

      • emptywheel says:

        The two different batches could be explained by someone who wasn’t used to dehydrating anthrax. The first batch overcooked somewhat, killing some of its lethality.

        • dcgaffer says:

          …The two different batches could be explained by someone who wasn’t used to dehydrating anthrax. The first batch overcooked somewhat, killing some of its lethality….

          No, ew, that doesn’t work.

          The whole quote from the affidavit:

          “…Both of the anthrax spore powders recovered from the Post and Brokaw letters contain
          low levels of a bacterial contaminant identified as a strain of Bacillus subtilis. The Bacillus subtilis contaminant has not been detected in the anthrax spore powders recovered from the eenvelopes mailed to either Senator Leahy or Senator Daschle. Bacillus subtilis is a nonpathogenic bacterium found ubiquitously in the environment. However, genomic DNA sequencing of the specific isolate of Bacillus subtilis discovered within the Post and Brokaw powders reveals that it is genetically distinct from other known isolates of Bacillus subtilis. [my emphasis] Analysis of the Bacillus subtilis from the Post and Brokaw envelopes revealed that these two isolates are identical.

          Phenotypic and genotypic analyses demonstrate that the RMR-1029 does not have the Bacillus subtilis contaminant found in the evidentiary spore powders, which suggests that the anthrax used in the letter attacks was grown from the material contained in RMR-1029 and not taken directly from the flask and placed in the envelopes. Since RMR-1029 is the genetic parent to the evidentiary spore powders, and it is not known how the Bacillus subtilis contaminant came to be in the Post and Brokaw spore powders, the contaminant must have been introduced during the production of the Post and Brokaw spores. Taken together, the postmark dates, the Silicon signature, the Bacillus subtilis contaminant, the phenotypic, and the genotypic comparisons, it can be concluded that, on at least two separate occasions, a sample of RMR-1029 was used to grow spores, dried to a powder, packaged in an envelope with a threat letter, and mailed to the victims….”

          Unless the Government can identify the isolate of Bacillus subtilis in the Post and Brokaw letters — again which according to the Government is UNKNOWN — and tie it to Ivins, they got no case.

          • emptywheel says:

            Oh jeebus, thanks.

            To be honest, I didn’t read the science part of the attachment that closely. Seeing as how I haven’t touched a science lab since I was 18 (and often sweet talked boys into doing some of my lab work for me), I didn’t think I was going to be much use at reading the science stuff. There’s so much else that makes their case bogus.

            Plus, I figured some smart science types woudl read it closely–thanks for doing so.

            • dcgaffer says:

              Not a science type either, and this material is certainly way outside my comfort zone.

              It was probably too definitive to say they wouldn’t have a case: perhaps better to say that unless one can come up with a plausible explanation of how Ivins, as the alleged perpetrator, introduced the isolate of Bacillus subtilis into his first batch, and not the latter batch, you have reasonable doubt. Furthermore, if you can’t find that isolate in his lab or anywhere in USARMRIID, then you have more doubt. Finally, if you haven’t checked the other labs who had legitimate samples from RMR-1029, for this isolate, I cannot see how you could ever get a conviction.

              FWIW

          • bmaz says:

            Beautiful. And, I bet if we really had the raw data from the “new innovative genetic testing”, it would only make your analysis stronger.

          • WilliamOckham says:

            Um… Has anybody noted that Bacillus subtilis was used in U.S. bioweapons research as a simulant of anthrax? The most common simulant, Bacillus globigii (BG) is also known as Bacillus subtilis var. niger. The U.S. government has, in the past, aerosolized BG and secretly sprayed it on U.S. warships and the New York subway to test how effectively anthrax could be spread.

            If the anthrax was contaminated with an unknown form of Bacillus subtilis, that could indicate that the anthrax was prepared on equipment designed for offensive bioweapons research. Of course, we don’t do that stuff anymore. Right?

            • behindthefall says:

              Kind of takes B. subtilis out of the category of ‘environmental contaminant’, doesn’t it?! I was wondering about that particular oddity.

        • behindthefall says:

          I don’t know whether you were using the work ‘overcooked’ to refer to elevated temperature or not, but here’s a remark:

          Heat inactivates; it jiggles macromolecules out of their active configurations. To avoid denaturing proteins (and thus killing even tough things like spores), a microbiologist freezes as rapidly as possible (to avoid changes in protein configuration that might be caused by exposing the macromolecule to surface tension at an air-liquid interface, e.g.) using, typically, a bath of dry ice and acetone and then sublimes away the water molecule by molecule by placing the sample in a vacuum: lyophilization, aka freeze-drying.

          If heat WAS involved in the preparation of these spores I would be very surprized and would question the level of knowledge of the preparer.

          Regarding milling: the EMs shown to Dr. Meselson (linked to some time in the past few days here) showed individual spores with no indication of clumping or breakage. That suggests to me that milling (a distinctly statistical process that ought to give a distribution of particle sizes) was not used, but that someone did something like diluting the spore prep down to a level where aerosol droplets containing on average less than 1.0 spores/droplet could be shot into a freezing chamber, where they would form indivual pellets, preferably slowflakes, settle to the bottom, and then have the water removed from around each spore by pulling a vacuum on the fluff. Very tricky. I would not be able to scribble down the conditions for doing that off the top of my head, so, experimentation.

          THIS is what I think Ivins was marvelling at: SOMEONE had done all the experimentation and had pulled off such a prep, he had done all this in his head (as who wouldn’t have, in his line of work?), he knew most of the problems to be overcome, and he showed a workmanlike respect for the technical achievement.

          I don’t think that he did it.

      • Rayne says:

        explain to me the “containment” difference; I’ve been admittedly bad about keeping many of the details straight (relying excessively on EW to do so, given her prodigious holographic memory and my own excessively multi-tasked life).

        This is what I understand:
        – there was/were envelope(s) with a product that was very dangerous
        – there was/were envelope(s) with a product that was not as dangerous
        – there was/were envelope(s) that were fakes

        what were the hallmarks of the “dangerous” content, compared to the “not as dangerous” content?

        I’ve got a theory and need this info to kick around a bit.

        • emptywheel says:

          The dangerous content, AFAIK, was so thinly milled that it acted LIKE it had a coating–it dispersed immediately. WHereas the less dangerous stuff simply didn’t act like it was weaponized–it didn’t float everywhere immediately.

          Here’s what Ivins himself said about the spores:

          They were also fascinated, particularly Dr. Ivins, who talked repeatedly about the refinement of the spores sent with the Oct. 9 letter to then-South Dakota Sen. Tom Daschle. The spores nearly floated out of the envelope.

          “The stuff just came out without any prompting,” he told Gerald Andrews, his boss at the time.

          • behindthefall says:

            OK, I had logged out, but this brings me back. Speaking as a ex-researcher, Ivins’ comment is precisely what a person would say in surprize and admiration at a skillful bit of work. I know that feeling well, and this statement of poor Ivins’ completely convinces me, more than all talk of envelopes, trips, and medications, that the man had never seen this stuff before in his life and had not a thing to do with using it as a weapon or otherwise.

          • Rayne says:

            THAT is the part that bothers me. Makes me put the tinfoil on. It’s as if this entire thing was a test, with the test product in one batch and a standard product in another batch, to see how they would react in in real life conditions, along with the additional bonus of heightening public fear on the heels of a terrorist attack that could explain away the reasons for the attack.

            One of these was an entirely new technology that wasn’t recognized. The chain of custody on any samples gathered after the “attack” (test?) was so shoddy that it’s virtually impossible to assure ourselves that any experts actually saw the more lethal product during the investigation. The testing mailboxes is one such example; why wasn’t every bloody mailbox through which mail would have received a Princeton postmark (and then some beyond) swabbed and tested IMMEDIATELY after the discovery of the postmark?

            Were I to dream up a lethal product, I’d have used a nano-product. Hydrophobic silica coating applied through electrophoresis to a known and stable batch of product (removing any additional element of variability). The nano-product might do exactly what is described — float, in part due to residual static charge. There are already many different nano manufacturers across the country, most unregulated in any way (welcome to the new hazardous waste!), and their manufacturing processes could create what appears to be “finely milled” material that’s uniform.

            And it all could have happened under our noses. Could even have fooled FBI if they were given enough misleading cues, because everybody keeps looking only at a couple of people at Detrick, because everybody continues to build a case around these couple of people. No widening of the net permitted.

            Didn’t realize how possible this was until we did some reporting on a nano-tech firm here in MI, which has refused to provide any information on its handling processes, which received government funding for start-up in spite of refusing to provide any details (claims that safe handling techniques are proprietary info, even thought the product is a spin-off from a public university’s lab). Even transportation companies carting their products have no idea they are moving a nano product that could float freely into the air if mishandled.

            Makes me want to scream out of frustration.

            • bmaz says:

              And EW too. The govt. supposedly has the details on the strain of anthrax vis a vis Ivins etc., and his ability to refine it. Supposedly. Even assuming for the sake of argument that they had that locked in (and boy is that far from the case), have they really established his ability to “mill” the stuff such that it was in the deadly batch? If so, I haven’t seen it. And, to the best of my knowledge (not that great admittedly), the purifying and cooking stuff they have described isn’t the answer to the milling issue.

          • Nell says:

            The Daschle/Leahy material, though very, very fine was not milled. Milling kills spores, leaving debris. The extremely high concentration of live spores is incompatible with milling. (See the link in my reply above to Rayne; also a point argued extensively at the Lake site.)

            There was debris in the media letters, but the material in those was not milled, either.

          • R.H. Green says:

            This line of Ivins’ professional activity has been of keen interest to me, even independent of any, lets call it, unprofessional interests he may have been involved in. I read somewhere last night a referrence to a (yes) Judy Miller story in 2001 about a contract let to develop a new generation of anthrax, one more potent than existing stocks. I’m going to try to find that article and see if it mentions Battele labs as involved. It seems Ivins was engaged in the development of vaccines, possibly to protect those who were engaged in that research. All the data about the conflicts in who was getting contracts to sell vaccine to the government seem highly relevant. For example, this interest in the volitility of the Daschele sample may well be related to some of the odd lab hours, in addition to any possible “extracurricular” activity. And by the way, (diving into foilhat waters), the Dashele sample was not delivered to the senator’s office by the postman. It was somehow “intecepted”, and safely contained. It might be intersting to follow the discovery and chain of custody of that letter. Further, the nature of the contents of that letter may be the reason this case is being closed from scrutiny, to prevent disclosure of secret research.

          • behindthefall says:

            This just gets under the skin, doesn’t it?

            I’m going to state my bottom-line opinion and then hopefully I’ll shut up.

            The “just” in the “just floated out of the envelope” is to me decisive. This is a researcher speaking with some amazement at what he is seeing.

            He did not prepare the potent batch which consisted of individual spores. He did not distribute it. He had never seen it. He quite probably had never seen anything quite like it.

            He went into the lab because his life was being made a living hell, and any self-respecting scientist, when the going gets tough, goes into the lab: it’s home. He probably stared at the wall and wondered where his life had gone.

            I don’t know whether or not to hope that he committed suicide; basically, I hope for his sake that he did not, but the alternative is pretty terrible.

            I think that I would have liked him. I actually miss not knowing him.

            I hope he is at peace.

        • Nell says:

          This summary, dated only ‘2002′ but from internal evidence apparently in August* of that year, is a good foundation. Remarkably clear, calm, and sticks closely to what is known (though strong Lake-ists would take issue with the reference to ‘additives specifically developed for weaponization’):

          ‘Deadly Secrets: Five Deaths, Five Grams, Five Clues: Who Mailed the Anthrax Letters?’ by Paul De Armond

          *The article refers to the “approaching” anniversary of the attacks, which would place it in August or September. Because it says nothing about the mailing site, which certainly counts as an important clue, I believe it was written before the Princeton mailbox was identified.

          (Via Dave Neiwert at Orcinus; I thought it was cross-posted to FDL too but can’t find it.)

          • Rayne says:

            Occurs to me that one might be concerned about average monthly precipitation; does increased humidity affect this stuff at all?

            • Nell says:

              No idea at all. My guess would be yes, somewhat at least.

              But microbiologists would have an informed opinion. Someone should ask Dr. Nass.

          • Rayne says:

            that table on page 3 of De Armond’s paper is exactly what a test would look like — comparing performance of three different “products”.

            Yeesh. Enough to make me puke.

      • R.H. Green says:

        I’m glad you brought this up about the incriminating impact of the Greendale school issue. For me, it has been the most damning data point. However, you suggestion that someone may have become aware of his association with that school and its legal case, causes me to recall that the magazine was found in a search of Ivins’ home. So we are stuck with a delemma here; either he gave himself away, or he was very competently framed. However, there is also a Greendale school in Hatfill’s background. Sorting out the permutions of possiblities here makes my little head swim.

      • zenomax says:

        I agree that the use of “4th Grade, Greendale School” as the return address on the anthrax letters seems to be whispering “Ivins!”

        I believe that Ivins deeply supported many reactionary views (he himself doubtless would have thought of them as “conservative”) regarding what the Right calls “family values,” an ideology fixed in large part on the notion of supposed parents’ rights — among them the right to spank their kids or to restrict their kids’ access to public education about sex, contraception, sexual diversity, or anything else inimical to the conservative agenda. It’s hard to imagine anyone other than the subscribers of the newsletter of the American Family Association (which Ivins was for many years), or of the Family Rights Association, or readers of bloggers promoting these organizations’ issues putting that exact politically significant address on an envelope. The Greendale Baptist Academy case was on no one’s radar screen but theirs (with the possible exception of those groups whose business it is to know what’s on the radar screen of wingnut “family-values” groups).

        It has the same level of cagy, hermetic, secretly socio-political self-reference that you see in one of his favorite pseudonyms, Jimmyflathead, an allusion to the Flathead Indian tribe, correctly known as the Salish, one of the few (if there even were any others) Native American tribes whole-heartedly and enthusiastically to welcome and convert to Catholicism, a distinction that earned them an entry in the Catholic Encyclopedia.

        Ivins has a history of compulsively driving hundreds of miles to mail stalkerish “gifts” to women, so that they wouldn’t associate the gifts with him. He claimed on the web to have thought of himself as the single most knowledgeable person regarding KKG paraphernalia and rituals outside the sorority itself. He hid himself behind addresses with covertly sociopolitical references to his Catholicism. Now, the deadly anthrax mailings were mailed at a letterbox sixty yards from a KKG office filled with KKG paraphernalia, and the sender uses a return address that covertly references a story of interest primarily to those of Ivins’s religious and political sensibility. So I conclude that either he had a direct (though not necessarily unaccompanied) hand in the mailings, or someone very clever person who knew him extremely well hoped to frame him, or a coincidence of astonishing proportions occurred.

  13. GregB says:

    Listen. The guy was a perverted sorority obsessed anti-abortion Democrat with substance abuse problems.

    Stop digging.

    -The FBI

  14. ThingsComeUndone says:

    Either Greendale school or fourth grade alone, and it doesn’t mean much. Both together, the statistical probabilities of that being random are astronomical.

    Maybe a parent who wanted more child custody time? Who were the kids in that class and who were their parents, relatives, parents, etc.
    This kind of thing though is not for bloggers to look at the FBI should.

  15. Nell says:

    While on the subject of the mailbox and posting of the letters:

    It was known on October 22, 2001 that the Hamilton, NJ postal center was the transit point for the anthrax letters recovered by that point. Why did it take the FBI until late July 2002 to get swabs from 600 or so mailboxes that fed into Hamilton to a lab?

    The Nassau Street box in Princeton wasn’t determined to be the site until August 12, 2002. The lab whose testing of the mailbox swabs pointed investigators to the Princeton box didn’t receive any of the material until July 2002:

    Dr. Lacy said his department’s laboratories received swabs of the interiors of about 600 New Jersey mailboxes in the weeks before last Thursday [Aug. 8, 2002], when the swab from the Princeton mailbox tested positive for spores. He said he did not know when the swabs were taken, or whether the recent arrival of the test suggested that the mailboxes had only recently been examined.

    Rush Holt was publicly enraged in August 2002 that it appeared there had been a loooong delay in testing the boxes feeding into the Hamilton post office — and expressed concerns that even then, not all the feeder boxes had been sampled.

    He repeated most of those concerns to the NY Times in a Scott Shane article this week:

    Mr. Holt said in a recent interview that his first doubts came after anthrax was found in his Congressional office in October 2001 but investigators never returned to conduct systematic testing to trace the path of the anthrax spores.

    After that, he said, when contamination at a New Jersey postal processing center indicated that the letters had been mailed on one of a limited number of routes, it took investigators seven months to test several hundred mailboxes and identify the source.

    “Within two days they could have dispatched 50 people to wipe all those mailboxes,” Mr. Holt said.

    I’ve seen some reference to Hamilton-area mailbox testing starting earlier in 2002, but can’t find it; it was either March or May. In either case, an inexplicable delay in determining one of the most obvious points to pin down in a real investigation.

    • emptywheel says:

      Holy shit, that hooks up utterly damningly with the Hatfill timeline. He was called a person of interest on August 6. On August 11, he made a public statement. After that public statement, they started showing his photo around Princeton.

      • Nell says:

        But with no more evidence that Hatfill could have gone to or was in Princeton on either of those days. The stories from the finding of the mailbox all are filled with Hatfill references.

      • Nell says:

        The mailbox sequence, so far as I can tell, is:

        mid-late July 2002: FBI finally sends swabs from 600-ish Hamilton-area mailboxes (taken don’t know when) to lab

        Thursday, August 8: results from Nassau St. Princeton sample test positive; FBI agents remove the mailbox.

        Monday, August 12: Nassau St. box tests positive for anthrax, FBI questions Princetonites about Hatfill, show his photo around. News gets out widely August 13.

        It may have taken another week or two for the lab to determine that none of the other mailbox samples tested positive, or it may have been clear by the time the news about the Princeton box got out.

        I’m at a loss to explain why swabs from every mailbox feeding the Hamilton P.O. were not in a lab being tested by November 1, 2001. Recollections of those in the vicinity of the Princeton box would have been one hell of a lot fresher.

  16. behindthefall says:

    Wasn’t the brother offered an obscene amount of money to rat out Ivins? Who ponies up that kind of cash? Do you suppose the offer would have been honored if the brother had talked? (And then what would that have done to the acceptability of that testimony?) But it is just the offering of so much money when they plead poverty for not being able to carry out genetic tests earlier that gets me.

  17. orionATL says:

    the fbi seems to have been very careful not to do any testing or any data collection that might impugn their charge against ivins.

    – they did not do handwriting (always tricky to be sure)

    – they did not repeat a lie detector test

    – they did not try to work the mailbox area in princeton for an id of ivins

    – they did not mention human hairs in the mail box nor test them apparently

    furthermore,

    they have made a point of publicly revealing info that is very suggestive of ivins involvement – so long as you don’t look at it too closely (big mistake with ew and ggr)

    – the lab genetic testing sounds conclusive for manufacture, but where are the details that would convince experts and skeptics

    – the day off to go to princeton. i too wondered how one could drive around the beltway, around baltimore, up to princeton and back on, a weekday, and get back to frederick in time for an 4pm appointment while presumably being nervous as hell about what you were up too.

    – the sorority fixation/sorority office princeton mailbox gambit

    – the “late” (9pm is late?) night lab work on the days before mailings

    – checking out a piece of special equipment (lysolizer or some such)

    no doubt there are quite few others that could be added to these lists.

    put together the two strategies – don’t do any testing that might throw doubt on the premise and publicly raise suggestive circumstantial evidence –

    suggests to me that the fbi, perhaps from dating from the investigator change in 2006, had no serious intention of ever bringing about a successful conviction of ivins.

    they were instead concerned to finger him publicly

    and/or

    to create a public relations spectacle vis-a-vis a media stomping of ivins that would free them of the burden of having failed for six years to identify the anthrax culprits.

    alas for the fbi, ivins did the one thing that would keep the media hordes and gossipy teevee experts at bay – he killed himself. smart guy.

    at this point, i really would have to see a set of experts comment on the genetic testing that identified mutations which connected the anthrax to ivins lab before i would even be willing to conclude he was involved even in the manufacture.

    in the realm of pure speculation, i have wondered from time to time whether the anthrax mailings were a military effort to surreptitiously test bio terrorism responses in the american population. the dod has been known to do such things, you know.

  18. Nell says:

    If the FBI (and those leaning on them from DoJ and above) weren’t so insistent on wrapping it all up with a bow, a plausible hypothesis would be that Ivins left work on September 17 to pass the material off to the actual mailer. That would give him plenty of time to come back for his afternoon appointment (and to disinfect the hell out of his car).

    The anthrax in the October 9 letters was so pure and fine that the spores came right through the 50-micron pores in the envelope paper; the flap and seams were taped. That’s a tricky business to mail, even assuming the mailer was vaccinated. Surely the mailer would want to use something to surround the envelope in transport. Would something as simple as a ziplock plastic bag be at all effective? I can imagine disposing of that inside other bags inside other bags etc. to minimize the “footprint”.

    • emptywheel says:

      Yeah, that’s what I think is the more likely scenario. I’ll admit all the timing AT the lab is damning as hell. But the rest of it is just plain bogus.

      • greenwarrior says:

        maybe one of his fbi “friends” “invited” him out for the day just so it’d be on the record. or maybe it’s not really even on the record. personally, given what’s been said and unsaid by the fbi, i don’t believe he committed suicide. and that lab in princeton seems like it’d be a more fruitful place to start. that is, if they want to start. a question: what do we know of the swabbed mailboxes being id’d correctly – deliberately or not?

    • suffragette says:

      You wrote “If the FBI (and those leaning on them from DoJ and above) weren’t so insistent on wrapping it all up with a bow, a plausible hypothesis would be that Ivins left work on September 17 to pass the material off to the actual mailer. That would give him plenty of time to come back for his afternoon appointment (and to disinfect the hell out of his car).”

      Of course, Ivins giving it to someone else to drive up to Princeton and mail it would mean the FBI couldn’t close the case since there would be another person involved and they would still have to account for that.

  19. Gerald says:

    EW, I don’t know much about anthrax except that I got vaccinated for it, and I remember that there were jokes about a ”sheep dip” being next. But that is typical for the military. ”Line up, and shut up.”

    Still I do know a little about crazy people and I will state that you can’t really put their actions or the reasons why they consider some things more important than others on any razor edge of logic and expect them to line up.

    Hatfill seemed ok right from the ”getgo” except for some blood hounds ”alerting” to him or his property, while Ivins seems a compendium of suspicious signs.

  20. SaltinWound says:

    Ivins could have been “under orders” to hand off the samples and “under orders” to not tell anyone. I still am not sure everyone in that lab had the same boss and wonder about off the books black ops.

  21. zAmboni says:

    for those who were wondering about the weather on sept 17, ‘01. I went to Weather Underground and looked up archives for frederick, baltimore, philly, and princeton for that day and it appears to have been a clear day in the mid 70s with on mention of any rain.

  22. wavpeac says:

    Maybe the judge in his exchange during the DOJ hearings was referring to the idea that Hatfill was going to get away with it? (as planned) I just can’t see how their discussion made any sense if Ivins was truly who they thought did it.

      • Nell says:

        In the immediate run-up to the Judith Miller article, this was happening:

        After nearly seven years of negotiations, what was intended to be the final session to complete the treaty ended in disarray on Aug. 17, 2001, when the U.S. government decided to block the treaty being negotiated by 143 countries at the Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention (BTWC) in Geneva, Switzerland. To avoid another publicity fiasco like the one that followed its rejection of the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, the U.S. delegation remained in Geneva after rejecting the biological weapons treaty until the negotiating session disbanded in order to prevent other nations from reaching a biological weapons agreement among themselves. Such tactics further angered many American and foreign scientists.

        That’s Ed Lake’s summary, but there was media coverage, much commentary at the Federation of American Scientists site, and it’s alluded to it Judith Miller’s article.

  23. macgupta says:

    Ivins was apparently a prolific letter writer – both the snail and the email kind. Did he write about Greendale School anywhere? If yes, it would mean other folks might know enough to frame him. If no, then yes, Fourth Grade, Greendale School does seem too much to be explained as a coincidence. Thing is, if he was so exercised about Greendale School, it should show up in his letters, and the FBI would have no doubt quoted it as proving another of his obsessions. If he didn’t write about it, then how did he remember it when addressing his envelope? Supposedly this was an obsessive man, obsessive enough to make a connection between a Princeton mailbox and a KKG office. Demonstrate his obsession with the Greendale School case then.

  24. macgupta says:

    Question – was there a anthrax letter mailed from Malaysia to Microsoft at Reno, Nevada?

    The letter shows up in various time lines. The first two tests were inconclusive. I have a CNN link which says the third test confirmed anthrax.
    October 14, 2001
    http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRA…..sm.01.html

    http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRA…..sm.01.html

    “And in Nevada, a third round of tests now confirms a suspicious letter delivered to a Microsoft office in Reno, Nevada contained anthrax bacteria.”

    But after that, I can find no more.

    Is the letter from Malaysia relevant to Amerithrax or not?

    Thanks in advance!

  25. Rayne says:

    WO (63) — but wouldn’t an unknown variant suggest it wasn’t from a known military program?

    macgupta (65) — interesting that it’s sent to a state with a known military bio program, hmmm? haven’t heard anything more about this letter, either.

    • WilliamOckham says:

      We officially haven’t had an offensive bioweapons program since 1972. 30 years is a long time, plenty of time to develop variants that more closely simulate a particular characteristic of anthrax. The known variants likely come from known research.

      The Microsoft letter did not contain anthrax, at least according to my well-placed sources inside Microsoft at the time.

      • Rayne says:

        The Miller article suggests there has been a program, don’t you think? Just not one that’s legal, within existing international treaties.

        Boy, I can’t imagine us ever wanting to violate international treaties.

        /snark

        behindthefall (68) — so was that Bacillus in the Ft. Detrick lab anywhere? Just doesn’t seem like it was, or that the info released has been forthcoming about this point.

        suffragette (71) — rereading Nell’s comment in your post, I have NO idea how the hell one would successfully decontaminate a car into which the highest grade material used in the subject envelopes sent to DC had been carried. There’s just no assurance that a shop vac would do the trick.

        • Nell says:

          Yes, particularly when you read about the processes used to decontaminate the postal facilities and offices in DC and New Jersey. Google ‘Iver Peterson’, who was on the postal decontamination beat for the NY Times.

        • behindthefall says:

          I don’t know what Detrick might have had in storage, but the idea that cultures got contaminated by B. subtilis never seemed right to me: sloppy technique, if you know what I mean, and I always kind of assumed that the people at Detrick were hyper-careful, given the nasties that they work with. I never wanted to even go inside the huts. If there was a strain of B. subtilis that had elsewhere been used for bioattack simulations, then I would be curious about equipment contamination somewhere downstream of the culture vessels. And, according to my bias, not at Detrick.

  26. LiberalHeart says:

    Here’s what I wonder: If Ivins was so intent on casting suspicion on the sorority that he drove all the way to Princeton to mail the letters there, why did he then suggest to investigators that the culprit was from the facility where he worked?

    And couldn’t his interest in the sorority have stemmed from his having been accused of vandalizing Nancy’s property and then having been named by Nancy when the feds were asking for tips in — what? 2002? If the vandalism wasn’t done by him, he might wonder what her problem is/was, and he might have been looking into the hazing aspects of the sorority to see if that kind of behavior is something that was common.

    Also, how did the blindfolded women go from being porn pics to being related to sorority rituals?

  27. Nell says:

    Yes, that was my point: the FBI has to ignore that plausible scenario because wrapping-up is more of a priority than getting to the bottom of what happened.

    The delay in taking mailbox swabs is so long that I can’t put it down to incompetence. That’s the most basic of basic police work in a letter attack.

    I’m wondering just how much attention was paid to any labs closer to the Princeton mailbox, and whether the slow-walking of the postal clues was to buy time for one of them. If somewhere other than or in addition to Ft. Detrick is involved, we aren’t very lucky in having Barbara Hatch Rosenberg as the main gadfly in the case, either.

    • pajarito says:

      That is it.

      FBI knows where to look, but has been told to back off or go somewhere else. They’ve also been told to find a lone wolf, and close the case. Further obfuscate. Explains the two poor suspects, one hounded to death. The weak, circumstantial case.

      And explains the poor police work (slow to get to the mailboxes) and lack of information on eliminating other labs from suspicion. The early focus on one person (Hatfill) is suspicious, as is the later shift to again a single person (Ivins).

      It smells, smells bad.

  28. R.H. Green says:

    I just got in from a run of errands. On the way I realized I posted something stupid, and want to clear it that I now realize it was such. I see that the info on the Greendale school, found in a post-crime investigation of his home, would have a hard time being used on the letters in that crime. Sorry for the waste of space and your consciousness.

  29. Mary says:

    9

    10PM to 7:30 (assuming when he checked out of the hot room he left the building itself, which we don’t know) is 9.5 hours … good reason why that’s not possible: because the envelope was post-marked on the 18th, not the 17th… he COULDN’T have mailed the anthrax late enough on the 17th

    I’m missing something here – it seems like almost any place he mailed from in Princeton, if he drove up the night/wee morning hours of the 17th, would give a postmark of the 18th? I don’t think a middle of the night road trip on the 17th, for a guy with a family, sounds very plausible, but I’m missing why it could not have generated the 18th postmark. If I mail from the box outside work after 4 it won’t get a postmark until the next day (bc of pickups) and if I mail at the box at the nearest post office after 6 or 7 (I forget which) it gets postmarked the next day, and if I take to the main po I can get a hand cancel after 7, through about 9, but if I don’t go in and buzz and pull someone to the seemingly abandoned window, it will get a next day postmark after 7 even at the main po.

    Re: trip timing: what kind of train service was there from Federick to Princeton, if any? If I had a trip with time parameters that involved 95 if you made it in a car, I’d look to a train option instead if possible. I-95 is not a very reliable “fast” route and when I had to use a more southern portion of it for travel, if I had a firm time commitment I needed to meet, I used Amtrak instead and it was faster.

    50/52 – interesting info on the milling and the dilution/freezing possibilitiesey; I didn’t know any of that. Thanks to both of you for the info (and other info at several other places in earlier threads)
    58 – that’s a very nice wrap on one of the several areas of big issues.

    I can’t say why, but something about the differences from the media letters to the Congressional letters gives me a feel of a scenario something like one where A gave parent product to B et al, B et al followed some kind of instructions but were not as trained, technical and careful and that’s why they had a less refined end product that introduced environmental bacillus subtilus into their samples. Someone involved (A or someone else) is unhappy with the technical quality of the first samples and intervenes to take a more direct role in the processing of the second set and it is done to a much more perfectionist scale.

    IOW, the differences between the batches, to me (and I’m a non-science person even though I took organic few decades ago) give a feel of not just a difference in environment and process but almost a difference in the mental and technical approach of the preparer – – a feel that different people were “responsible” for the end products used in the mailings. Something along the lines of a more perfectionist personality having dissatisfaction with the first trial. Nothing concrete to point to at all on that, so probably not worth mentioning.

    • emptywheel says:

      Well, we don’t know whether Ivins has an alibi for the night of September 17. But either he does and FBI hasn’t shared it (like they haven’t shared the results of his lie detector test), or there’s some other reason–perhaps just the really suspicious timing of Ivins’ leave that day, that has them concentrating on the day and not the night.

      But they seem to be (working second-hand through stuff leaked to journalists) saying that 1) he made the trip during the day and 2) (working first-hand through their warrant app) that the pickup at the box was at 5. That is, at least according to the FBI’s apparent operative theory, it is not possible that Ivins mailed the anthrax. If there’s no reason he couldn’t have done it at night, he could still have mailed it, but not as they’re pitching it.

    • ohioblue says:

      The FBI said that Ivins came to work on the morning of the 17th, then signed out and left for 8 hours, returning in time for a late afternoon appointment. The insinuation is that he left, drove to Princeton, then returned for his appointment. However to get a postmark for the 18th, he would have to have mailed his letters after 5:00 pm, which he couldn’t have done if he made the day trip.

      Maybe he did drive up that night after his appointment. No one has speculated as to what he was doing on the night of 17th. Do we know anymore about his appointment and where he was that night?

    • mamayaga says:

      I agree that the differences between the batches strongly suggest two (sets of) preparers. Especially since the second, highly sophisticated batch came only a few weeks after the first, cruder and less effective batch. If all the experts who have expressed admiration for the technical skill needed to produce the second batch are correct, it’s highly unlikely that the person(s) who prepared the first were able in a few weeks to perfect the techniques necessary for the second.

      I’m sure this theory has been floated before, but why are we assuming that the same party(ies) was responsible for both mailings? What if the first was an amateur job, the mailbox was in fact rapidly identified, and actors with access to high-grade weaponized anthrax used a similar MO to further spread fear across the polity and especially to certain senators? We had a whole rash of copycats in 2001 — why couldn’t black ops types be among them?

  30. SaltinWound says:

    Mary, the train to Princeton actually stops at Princeton Junction. To get into town–where I think the mailbox was–there is the irritating additional step of taking a single car train the locals call the Dinky. It’s not something you would do if you were hoping to avoid detection and/or time was an issue. And with that, I have cracked the case wide open.

  31. orionATL says:

    friar will @63 says:

    “Um… Has anybody noted that Bacillus subtilis was used in U.S. bioweapons research as a simulant of anthrax? The most common simulant, Bacillus globigii (BG) is also known as Bacillus subtilis var. niger. The U.S. government has, in the past, aerosolized BG and secretly sprayed it on U.S. warships and the New York subway to test how effectively anthrax could be spread…”

    which provides details that might fit this speclation:

    from orionATL @31

    “in the realm of pure speculation, i have wondered from time to time whether the anthrax mailings were a military effort to surreptitiously test bio terrorism responses in the american population. the dod has been known to do such things, you know.”

  32. wwiii says:

    Maybe this has been addressed already elsewhere, in which case I apologize, but I am curious about the timing of the whole case against Ivins. I mean, why is all this coming out now? While it would appear that the restraining order filed by his therapist maybe precipitated the flow of leaks, the pace of the investigation had been quickening for some months with agents getting extremely aggressive and open about their conclusions in front of family and colleagues. But, even with all that has been said this week about the FBI’s immediate intentions, according to Ivin’s lawyer on NPR the other day, the FBI was still some weeks away from bringing Ivins in. That would put the intended arrest around the beginning of September which, if I recall correctly, is when one launches new product lines. And would not the case then carry on right through the election? Who stood to benefit from such a scenario? I don’t know, but it certainly seems like one could argue that Ivin’s suicide maybe was not the best thing that could have happened for a number of parties here.

    I am also curious about the prosecutor here. He sure did not sound very impressive at the news conference. How does he fit into the overall DOJ/Federal Prosecutor picture? Or is all that has happened just a perfect storm of imcompetence all around?

    I am probably just paranoid but, boy, anthrax has sure been out of the picture for a long time. I mean, Bush has gotten all kinds of credit for preventing another terrorist attack since 9/11 and, now, at the tail end of his administration, when it makes no nevermind to him but could surely have some influence on public opinion, we fortuitously discover Col. Mustard in the Kitchen with the Lead Pipe?

    • emptywheel says:

      Oh, Jeff Taylor is definitely a loyal Bushie. HE was a Hatch advisor during the PATRIOT Act passage (yes, that’s relevant to this case), and then was a counselor to Ashcroft and Gonzales at DOJ. He was appointed under the PATRIOT provision, then when his interim appointment ran out, the judges at DC District kept him on.

  33. orionATL says:

    and pajarito at @78 says:

    “FBI knows where to look, but has been told to back off or go somewhere else. They’ve also been told to find a lone wolf, and close the case. Further obfuscate. Explains the two poor suspects, one hounded to death. The weak, circumstantial case.”

    only i would add:

    one would not necessarily have to tell the fbi to back off. one could just let them ply their trade, in the manner they seem so often to do in these major cases, and then sit back and watch, with some confidence that nobody involved is going to get fingered.

    (though i do feel obliged to give the fbi some credit for doing a decent job at what they do best – white collar crime involving money, and infiltrating dangerous organizations – you know the kind….)

  34. R.H. Green says:

    Do we know for sure that both sets of letters went through the same mailbox, and how is that known; I can’t remember all these deatails in my dotage.

  35. AngryMan says:

    Let me share a few thoughts, some more, some less original. These will be spread over several posts – to keep each shorter.

    The school address. That an event has a low probability of occurring, can probably said better as: said event (or combination of events) has statistical probability of occurring, but not often. In other words, it (they) can easily happen, but won’t happen very often. The fact of coincidence does nothing to establish causality or relatedness. If a harmonious theory, supported by reasonable evidence, tells a compelling story which is further reinforced by the occurrence of a low probability event, then we may have a basis to suppose causality. But mere low probability doesn’t say much IMO. And the theory behind Ivins as culprit isn’t harmonious, hasn’t provided us with reasonable evidence, doesn’t tell a compelling story, and what story it tells isn’t really supported by the coincidence ATMO.

  36. AngryMan says:

    The comment by R.H.Green (#55)seems closest to the truth: “It seems Ivins was engaged in the development of vaccines, possibly to protect those who were engaged in that research. All the data about the conflicts in who was getting contracts to sell vaccine to the government seem highly relevant. For example, this interest in the volitility of the Daschele sample may well be related to some of the odd lab hours, in addition to any possible “extracurricular” activity. And by the way, (diving into foilhat waters), the Dashele sample was not delivered to the senator’s office by the postman. It was somehow “intecepted”, and safely contained. It might be intersting to follow the discovery and chain of custody of that letter. Further, the nature of the contents of that letter may be the reason this case is being closed from scrutiny, to prevent disclosure of secret research.”

    The above closes in on a number of issues. The first is motive, as in who had one to send the spores? The Bush administration clearly did, and hasn’t been shy about ‘collateral damage’ from forwarding their agendas. Members of the Bio-Weapons industry (either creation or protection) clearly had agendas which could be forwarded by this little stunt. Others with motive (including certain foreign powers) could likely be established as well. But, as distasteful as these examples may be (especially to corporate media and the powers that be), they seem more likely than the lone-wolf psycho profile being put forth.

    • JThomason says:

      We have certainly seen the protocol for dealing with state secrets and/or classified material when a defendant attempts to evoke them or when they need to be contained as part of the state’s case as part of a pending matter, but what I don’t necessarily have a keen grasp on is how the suggestion of state secrets or of the confidentiality of a matter being investigated are vetted by US Attorneys. At some point it becomes a matter of discretion. I mention it really really rhetorically and the question is obviously a subtext to much already blogged here, but we really do not have any idea of any prosecutorial decision making processes and the extent to which the investigation has pushed up against black budget or highly classified operations.

      I suppose the obvious question then is whether someone in the DOJ knowing classified elements of the case nevertheless has ordered the continuation of an investigative charade? I think the detail is beginning to wake me up.

  37. AngryMan says:

    Green is one of several who have spoken of or alluded to chain of custody.

    The chain of custody issues, not to mention the accuracy and veracity of test results, throughout this process, must be given serious consideration. Combine that with the need of the FBI and the administration to ‘bring closure’ to this issue, and we have a huge multitude of opportunities for intentional or unintentional errors to enter this process at many, many points.

    Take the swabbing of mail boxes. It seems unlikely that the FBI, or any other agency (in or out-sourced) has experience swabbing 600 mail boxes for multi-year old evidence. The process could be tasked to 600 individuals, with each to swab a box, or it could be tasked to one or two individuals to cover all the boxes, or some other combination. My guess is that fewer individuals performed the swabbing for more boxes – it’s much easier to find, train and manage a few people through such a big task. And, this approach would help explain the lengthy period that this process appears to have taken.

    This testing needs to be very rigorous in approach, ideally with dual controls, and even then issues of boredom would be significant. Can you imagine wiping down the insides of all those boxes? There needed to be some coordination with the P.O. in terms of gaining access, and what to do with mail located in the box, when the swabbing was to occur. There is the issue of labeling each test kit, and what if the wrong label (either created by the tester, or pre-setup in a stock of kits) was used to identify the wrong box. We could be looking for someone who had an affinity for (not to be too un-PC) ‘Dyke’ bars or expensive sports cars, not someone with an interest in sorority sisters (not that the three can’t or don’t overlap). But, how far off base could, even legitimate, FBI go if they ID’d the wrong mail box?

    BTW, while not a statistician, just in the swabbing process, I think there was a higher likelihood of identification error, than I is the likelihood that the school address has a causal relationship to Ivins.

    Again, think of this repetitive process, which doesn’t require a brain surgeon, but which must be repeated with rigor and responsibility. 600 times. Ugh.

    What of the chains of custody of the ’samples’ from the letters, for some of which we have no idea where the authorities became aware of same.

    So we have authorities with mixed motives, many other agents with potential mixed motives (and so far we’ve only explored the commercial angle). Meanwhile we have no clear sense of exactly how chain of custody was maintained – that there were no errors in handling, labeling, testing, reporting.

  38. oboblomov says:

    OT — and forgive me if one of you has already noted this from Meryl Nass:

    Bombshell: Was FBI complicit in Ivins’ death?
    In his news conference on Wednesday, August 6, US Attorney Jeffrey Taylor mentioned (evidence point 4) that while Ivins had been under 24/7 surveillance, he discarded some materials on DNA coding.

    If the FBI was about to charge Ivins, you would expect he was still under 24/7 surveillance, right?

    Well, a tylenol overdose is entirely treatable–curable–during many hours after consumption. The patient receives N-acetyl cysteine or glutathione, which allows the body to detoxify the tylenol. Those who make it to hospital within about 16–24 hours will live.

    SO…why was the FBI twiddling its thumbs during and after Ivins ingested his Tylenol #3 (acetaminophen with codeine)? Attorney Taylor began his remarks saying, “We regret that we will not have the opportunity to present the evidence to a jury to determine whether the evidence establishes Dr. Ivins’ guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”

    Really? I’d like to see the medical records, and see Congress investigate the “traffic” between the agents performing surveillance and FBI headquarters while Ivins was ingesting his poison and starting to die at home.

    I’d like to see Taylor explain what part he played in this willful negligence by the FBI to congress, as well.

    Or was it more than negligence, and was Bush-Cheney’s “fixer”-USA DC an accessory?

  39. AngryMan says:

    Motives & Process:

    In most of our world, authorities are assumed to have something beyond power. That is, they have good motives and good process (knowledge/judgment). OK, some of us are more suspicious – but not most folks. In Ivins’ case, both qualities seem to be lacking, either in reality or appearance.

    Consider, if we have (of course) been violating treaties related to bio-weapons, and restricted activities are somehow related to these attacks, then some key actors might want retain plausible denials regarding treaty violations. A lone wolf theory helps here. This offers one more motive to gloss over the solution to this mystery: using Ivins. So it’s possible that multiple actors are involved, with unrelated but overlapping and sympathetic interests – a situation that becomes especially hard to crack.

    Consider the odd lab hours. Yep, they’re out of character. But, what might motivate Ivins to take this step out of character. Certainly he might do so to hatch a nefarious plot, but remember that he must then have a death-wish (literally) to leave such an obvious trail. In fact, he would have to be incredulous that no one was on to him for several years. And, he might even be expected to leave further clues and/or commission further murderous acts. Some might consider the death-wish supposition a stretch, but remember, the story is that he’s trying to accomplish something for which he’s willing to murder folks in cold blood – and doing so in a way that leaves a path to his door. Further, he knows better than most just how easy it would be to establish that his anthrax was involved. Finally, there doesn’t seem to be a strong connection between anything he has done/said/written, and the apparent hate/disregard he must feel for his chosen victims. The rationals offered for the selection of victims seem dubious at best.

    What if, however, someone invents a solution to a problem that he’s long pondered (or even one he hadn’t pondered because it seemed impossible)? This might have direct bearing on his work, or it might appear as fine art to Ivins. If he was trying to explore this new twist, he probably wouldn’t want to do it on company hours – it could lead to suspicion. He also probably wouldn’t want to admit it to investigators. And, once he’s lied regarding his use of time, he may feel that it would be considered too incriminating for him to admit how he was using his time. This seems like a much more obvious explanation for what he was doing, and a statistically more significant one too.

    Or, we know of the problems he was having in the lab, how he had been released and reinstated based on limited success in the lab. What if he had a creative brainstorm in mind? One he wasn’t ready to share, and hence wasn’t ready to announce so that he could work on during business hours. Perhaps his creative ideas had been shot down too many times (in his mind) – and he wanted to prove things out before subjecting his ideas to scrutiny. While a less likely explanation to my mind, this too could why he was working after hours. And again, it might offer a simple explanation regarding not explaining his activities to the investigators.

    Nothing I’ve read suggests that he was confident about his ability to make his way through the world, no matter how vain or imperious he might behave. I would suggest that he wasn’t a good liar – that’s a skill that goes with making ones way through the world (look at Bush). So how did this poor liar, leave the FBI with basically circumstantial case, while leaving such apparently obvious clues – it just doesn’t fit.

    • JThomason says:

      Nothing I’ve read suggests that he was confident about his ability to make his way through the world, no matter how vain or imperious he might behave. I would suggest that he wasn’t a good liar – that’s a skill that goes with making ones way through the world (look at Bush). So how did this poor liar, leave the FBI with basically circumstantial case, while leaving such apparently obvious clues – it just doesn’t fit.

      In fact he seemed quite open with his colleagues and therapists, or truthful as it were in discussing his circumstances and personal problems, perhaps to a fault.

  40. AngryMan says:

    Probability

    Finally, it appears that the most effective/potent anthrax samples were created with state-of-the-art techniques. Could these have been created in his lab, working for short periods of time after work? Wouldn’t he have had to develop the process, using some degree of trial and error, over an extended period of time? That seems to be the way of science (with no disparagement intended) to use relentless brute force combined with only the occasional spark of brilliance. I would think that it was more likely that the technique for creating the finest powder was created overseas, in a friend or allies lab, with said technique developed over an extended period of time.

    There are others better prepared to answer questions within the lab, but I won’t believe that Ivins could create the super spores, working alone, after hours, for a limited number of hours. Again, this seems like a bigger statistical anomaly than any address on an envelope.

    Now, if this is so, could different players posted the different mailings? And, if so, could they have known the right mailbox to use in Princeton so that when the FBI much later swabbed them, they would only find one mailbox that was contaminated? That seems statistically unlikley, short of some form of collusion.

    I don’t think we’ll (including Congress) ever find out the true story behind these letters. If it does come out, expect it to be 75 years from now. Just my 2 cents.

  41. greenwarrior says:

    The article refers to the “approaching” anniversary of the attacks, which would place it in August or September.

    Right. It was published Aug 16, 2002.

    • AngryMan says:

      Great post.

      We approach this, clearly, from somewhat different perspectives.

      Let us assume that the excess lab time was oriented specifically to preparing Anthrax spores. Has anyone established that this work could be completed within these hours, especially the preparation of the more potent mix? If not, then what is the significance of these hours – and why should we assume that they are related to this task.

      Asked another way, if these hours are insufficient to the task, when else was he working? And, presumably this would have been during more normal hours, so why didn’t he do all this work during normal hours?

      These are wide open holes that need to be closed before the spike in hours can be assumed to have meaning – ATMO.

  42. boloboffin says:

    No, I haven’t. It’s about Ivins’ spike in work. That’ll teach me to leave a window open for hours on end. Sorry for the diary whoring.

  43. KagroX says:

    Outrage!

    Why would he travel to KKG at Washington & Lee, when KKG at Lafayette is fully ONE MINUTE CLOSER?!?

    There. I’ve done my alumni boosterism.

  44. stryder says:

    OT
    Shut up !!

    http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/node/35387

    “Tom Feeley, owner and editor of InformationClearingHouse.info, has endured public harassment, home invasions, death threats and threats to his family simply for running a website.

    Counterpunch writer Mike Whitney has circulated an e mail describing what happened to Feeley in an attempt to draw attention to the matter.

    Whitney writes that earlier this week Feeley’s wife was startled to suddenly discover three well dressed men standing in her kitchen who told her that Tom must “Stop what he is doing on the Internet, NOW”

  45. Hmmm says:

    EW, somebody ought to email Grassley about your updated finding — I’ll paraphrase since the exact point may not have been succinctly made:

    Ivins’ work meeting at 4 or 5 PM on Sept. 17 rules out the FBI’s theory that he mailed the envelope postmarked “Princeton / Sept. 18″, despite his work absence from appx. 10 AM – 4 PM on Sept. 17, because the FBI says that the first time the letter could have been mailed was 5 PM that same day, whereas Princeton is at least 3 hours away by car (X hours by train).

    Oh, and personally I’d change the post title from “Google Maps says Maybe, Maybe Not” to “The Good Ol’ Clock On The Wall Says No Fucking Way.”

  46. greenwarrior says:

    Question: How do we know that the FBI provided data about his spike in hours in Aug, Sep, Oct 2001 is not FBI fiction?

    • Hmmm says:

      Same way we know the postmarks weren’t forged, the DNA matched, and no other mailboxes tested positive for anthrax: Because we trust everything the FBI tells us with our whole heart and soul.

  47. macgupta says:

    Found it – a fourth test conducted at the CDC determined that the Reno, Nevada letter (Microsoft) had no anthrax. One of the stories at this link.

    http://www.anthraxinvestigation.com/ap.html

    Other tidbits:

    This is a Oct 14, 2001 story excerpt:

    “The FBI could not immediately pinpoint where the letter was dropped because Trenton is a regional processing center for southern and central New Jersey, said Special Agent Sandra Carroll, a spokeswoman for the FBI’s Newark office.

    “There’s over 100 different collection boxes or post offices it could have come from,” Carroll said. FBI agents were interviewing mail carriers in Trenton on Saturday as part of a joint investigation with postal inspectors, she said. “

    —- They were interviewing mail carriers but not swabbing mailboxes.

    Jan 15, 2002 – The FBI were at Rutgers Univ.

    TRENTON, N.J. (AP) – FBI (news – web sites) agents examined Rutgers University photocopying machines last week, looking for links to four anthrax-tainted letters mailed from central New Jersey.

    Two agents arrived Friday at the Waksman Institute of Microbiology, a Rutgers affiliate in Piscataway, and asked protein biochemist Richard H. Ebright for the access code needed to operate the photocopiers.

    —- This was believed to be cross-contamination – i.e., some of the Trenton spores somehow got to Connecticut.

    Wallingford mail center retested

    By Associated Press, 4/21/2002 15:26

    WALLINGFORD, Conn. (AP) The Wallingford postal sorting center was retested Sunday for signs of anthrax, months after tests turned up positive for the deadly bacteria.

    About 3 million spores were found late last year during an investigation into the anthrax death of a 94-year-old Ottilie Lundgren of Oxford.

    The Wallingford center process mail for Oxford and surrounding towns.

    • Rayne says:

      Now THAT bit is interesting:

      Jan 15, 2002 – The FBI were at Rutgers Univ.

      TRENTON, N.J. (AP) – FBI (news – web sites) agents examined Rutgers University photocopying machines last week, looking for links to four anthrax-tainted letters mailed from central New Jersey.

      Two agents arrived Friday at the Waksman Institute of Microbiology, a Rutgers affiliate in Piscataway, and asked protein biochemist Richard H. Ebright for the access code needed to operate the photocopiers.

      —- This was believed to be cross-contamination – i.e., some of the Trenton spores somehow got to Connecticut.

      Is that ALL they checked at Rutgers, I wonder? Did they only assume cross-contamination if they found anything at all??

  48. LiberalHeart says:

    When Perry Mikesell, a microbiologist in Ohio, came under suspicion as the anthrax attacker, he began drinking heavily, family members say, and soon died. After a doctor in New York drew the interest of the F.B.I., his marriage fell apart and his practice suffered, his lawyer says. And after two Pakistani brothers in Pennsylvania were briefly under scrutiny, they eventually had to leave the country to find work.

    Much more here:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08…..ref=slogin

  49. Hmmm says:

    BTW how exactly is it that the FBI could have missed this glaring contradiction between their own evidence and their Ivins story? For seven frickin’ years?

    Huh. Maybe some FBI folks with intact integrity managed to intentionally let some of the non-conforming data get into the document dump, hoping that folks who are paying attention (including but not limited to us) would find it, and loudly call bullshit on this mess…? Since they themselves weren’t powerful enough to stop it…?

  50. alabama says:

    It would seem that the FBI isn’t equal to the challenge of cases like this one.

    It should just stay away from the hard stuff, and direct its attention to the dark doings of mafia hit-men.

  51. Mary says:

    82 – got it, we were apples and oranges. I thought the 10:PM to 7:30 reference you were making was for the evening of the 17th/morn of the 18th, but you were talking about the 16/17

    81 – thanks for the train info – does it give more time even, or are there lots of stops?