Anthrax: Nobody Buys the FBI Story

During the DNCC, I asked Pat Leahy whether he believed the FBI’s claim that Bruce Ivins was the one and only anthrax attack culprit. Today, Lichtblau and Shane have an article showing that Pat Leahy isn’t the only one who doesn’t believe the FBI’s tale.

A month after the F.B.I. declared that an Army scientist was the anthrax killer, leading members of Congress are demanding more information about the seven-year investigation, saying they do not think the bureau has proved its case. 

In a letter sent Friday to Robert S. Mueller III, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Democratic leaders of the House Judiciary Committee said that “important and lingering questions remain that are crucial for you to address, especially since there will never be a trial to examine the facts of the case.”


“My conclusion at this point is that it’s very much an open matter,” Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the top Republican on the Senate committee, said of the strength of the case against Dr. Ivins, a microbiologist at the Army’s biodefense laboratory who worked on anthrax vaccines. “There are some very serious questions that have yet to be answered and need to be made public.”


But in interviews last week, two dozen bioterrorism experts, veteran investigators and members of Congress expressed doubts about the bureau’s conclusions. Some called for an independent review of the case to reassure the public and assess policies on the handling of dangerous pathogens like anthrax.


Senator Charles E. Grassley, an Iowa Republican and frequent critic of the bureau, said he was frustrated by the delay in closing the case and answering questions.

“If the case is solved, why isn’t it solved?” Mr. Grassley asked. “It’s all very suspicious, and you wonder whether or not the F.B.I. doesn’t have something to cover up and that they don’t want to come clean.”


“They took their shot,” said Representative Rush D. Holt, a Democrat who holds a doctorate in physics and has followed the case closely because the letters were mailed in his New Jersey district. “They hoped and maybe believed that the case they laid out would persuade everyone. I think they’re probably surprised by the level of skepticism.”

Many scientists who have tracked the case, too, have found the evidence less than decisive. [my emphasis]

 So let’s see: the Democratic leaders of HJC, the Congressman representing Princeton, Pat Leahy, Chuck Grassley, Arlen Specter, and a bunch of scientists. I’d say Mueller’s going to have an interesting time on September 16 and 17.

Meanwhile, the article reveals even more reason why we shouldn’t buy the FBI’s story:

  • After the FBI claimed to have linked the anthrax to Ivins’ lab and after they questioned him about his late night work coinciding with the anthrax production in April 2007, they told him he was not a target
  • The FBI has delayed closing the case for another 3 to 6 months
  • The FBI still hasn’t determined whether the anthrax had to have been prepared in a lab like Detricks

And the kicker: the supposed "single flask" of anthrax they’ve blamed in the attacks was stored for periods outside of rooms Ivins accessed:

Laboratory records obtained by The New York Times show that the anthrax supply labeled RMR-1029, which the F.B.I. linked to the attacks, was stored in 1997 not in Dr. Ivins’s laboratory, in Building 1425, but in the adjacent Building 1412. Former colleagues said that its storage in both buildings at different times from 1997 to 2001 might mean that the bureau’s estimate of 100 people with physical access to it was two or three times too low.

No wonder nobody believes the FBI’s story.

  1. plunger says:

    “We’ll know our disinformation program is complete when
    everything the American public believes is false.”

    – William Casey, CIA Director (from first staff meeting, 1981)

  2. MarieRoget says:

    …and may I add before bugging out for the afternoon’s activities, a quote from my daughter @ age 12- you guys think all this stuff on the X-Files about the FBI is phony script stuff, Mom, but you watch, it’ll all turn out to be real.”


  3. Leen says:

    Amy Goodman’s interview with Peter Stone from the National Journal.
    Follow the Money
    Convention Cash: Journalist Peter Stone on the RNC’s Sponsors

    Peter Stone covers lobbying, campaign finance and other issues for the National Journal. We ask him the inner workings of the Republican Party and the key players and financiers behind the scenes.…..r_stone_on

  4. MadDog says:

    And I’m particularly curious about this part:

    Dr. Vahid Majidi, head of the F.B.I.’s weapons of mass destruction directorate, said the accumulation of evidence against Dr. Ivins was overwhelming: his oversight of the anthrax supply, his night hours, his mental problems and his habit of driving to far-off locations at night to mail anonymous packages.

    (My Bold)

    This was Ivins’ habit? What other stuff was “anonymously” mailed by Ivins at night from far-off locations?

    And the FBI can prove this how? Is every “anonymously” mailed thingie now the responsibility of Ivins?

    Or did Ivins do this once, or even a couple of times, and therefore the FBI “assumes” Ivins must be their only candidate who could’ve possibly done the antrax mailings?

    • emptywheel says:

      That part was released in the affys supporting the warrants. IIRC, he had done it maybe 2-3 times, all times as gifts, at no times having wrote cryptic notes in the handwriting of children to throw off the scent and implicate muslims.

      But otherwise, I’m sure they’re identical.

      • MadDog says:

        I couldn’t put myself through reading every single one of those, so thanks for your own efforts!

        And since you did, did you get the impression that these additional 2-3 times of anonymous mailings were somehow probative? Your comment suggests you too have some doubts (cynical me, cynical you *g*).

        I agree that the FBI seems to have connected those “dots”, but in a wealth of ignorance, I still have some doubt.

        More questions:

        How does the FBI know about these other anonymous mailings given that they were in fact anonymous?

        How does the FBI link these other anonymous mailings to Ivins, again, given that they were in fact anonymous?

        How does the FBI definitively document that Ivins is taking late-nite drives to far-off mailboxes?

        On the surface, it sure seems to me like the FBI’s “Second Try Team” suffers from a surfeit of imagination.

  5. QuickSilver says:

    I was also struck by his “habit” of driving to far-off locations at night, and wondered if it meant he was meeting people as well. (Offering midnight anthrax cultivation tips? Perhaps the FBI knows that from another source, LOL.)

    Though I hadn’t followed every disclosure, the fact that the FBI took a DNA swab a week before Ivins died was news to me. More significant, I didn’t know Ivins left three boxes full of papers for his lawyer, and that Ivin’s papers have apparently not been examined yet by the investigators or Ivins’ lawyer. I have to wonder, hasn’t someone even peeked? How do people know Ivins didn’t leave a suicide note, or an account of the FBI harassment? It’s as if we’re ignoring Ivins’ side of the story. Did we know about those papers before?

  6. LabDancer says:

    But, it’s all been so easy to dispose of this Case Closed b.s. Why bother in the first place? Could it be they want to set up an image of competence at something…anything…touching on the intersection of national security and foreign policy?

    Could this be why US bombs are reigning down every few days in the area the Afghani border with Pakistan to the Khyber Pass? Periodically & selectively sacrificing Afghani-Pakistani Pashtuns to the cause of manufacturing an October surprise?

    In any event, IMO the real October surprise would be if they demonstrated competence at anything.

    • WilliamOckham says:

      The ‘why now’ question bothers me, too. Did Ivins’ suicide force their hand? Was it Leahy breathing down their neck? All they’ve managed to do is provide fodder for the conspiracy theorists. I don’t see how that helps them any.

      • bmaz says:

        Because Cheney/Bush is determined to close the book on this case before they leave office. The quicker they say it is closed and let the inevitable questions get asked (doesn’t matter if they are really answered, time will dull interest), the sooner they can really close the file and disperse the investigation team, which they will do before leaving. If they waited any longer, there would not have been enough time to let it play out. They are systematically wrapping up loose and frayed ends like this all across the government, obstructing and closing avenues that could be used to pursue them later.

        • WilliamOckham says:

          I guess that works if there are Dems implicated in the coverup. And based on past experience, they probably are.

          • WilliamOckham says:

            Naw, they got OBL when we invaded Iraq, didn’t you hear? OBL are Saddam Hussein’s initials now.

            • emptywheel says:

              I remember when I was flying to Las Vegas for the first YearlyKos, we got Zarqawi. I was sitting next to a guy who said, “We got him!! We got him!!”

              I played dumb and said, “Really?!?!?! We got Osama bin Laden?”

              Said guy tried to convince me Zarqawi was the guy who hit us in 9/11.

          • Hmmm says:

            Getting OBL means denying that trophy — and thereby much of the GWOT juice — to whichever candidate comes next. So I would be very, very surprised if OBL is got in October, and then McC becomes Prez.

          • bmaz says:

            Yep. Looks like the plan may be to just start killing people in that Pak border region until they get OBL. Hey it worked to win the Iraq war! Or not…

      • azportsider says:

        William, I think that, rather than ‘forcing their hand,’ Ivins’ suicide was a convenient way for the Feebs to close a case they weren’t close to solving. They had a semi-sorta-plausible circumstantial case against Ivins–after all, he did work at Detrick, and had reportedly heard of anthrax–so they viewed Ivins’ suicide as a god-given opportunity to get people like Marcy off their backs, and maybe look a little competent in the bargain.

        I don’t think Leahy had anything to do with it, either, Congressional oversight (or the lack thereof) being what it is.

        Call me a cynic, but HL Mencken was right: Nobody ever went broke underestimating the American public’s intelligence.

    • bmaz says:

      Very few, if any, people here believe the government’s case against Dr. Ivins. But of what value is the poll/vote you are asking us to make if the subset of people being asked to vote are all similarly inclined? Seems like a curious exercise.

  7. JohnLopresti says:

    OMBwatch has traced a few looseEnds the administration is closing thru OIRA and the federalRegister process, one of the themes being foreshortening public comment. I hope Mueller shows a classic Gperson interest in dogged pursuit of JustTheFacts when his hearing takes place two weeks hence.

  8. rich2506 says:

    Our local paper, the Inky, ran a piece suggesting that the case was closed. I’m curious, now that our senior Senator Arlen Specter is in the ranks of the skeptics, whether the Inky will admit that there are serious holes in the case. I wrote to them about the points you and “Glenzilla” made about how the FBI couldn’t really account for how Ivins made the 400-mile round trip without leaving any trace of the journey (The lack of any gas or food credit-card receipts does not constitute definitive proof, but is a fact sorely in need of explanation) or witnesses who saw Ivins leave or return.
    We’ll see.

  9. prostratedragon says:

    OT: For the shoebox, McCain’s top econ guy, when he can elbow Phil Gramm out the way, is Douglas Holtz-Eakins, a solidly-credentialed academic who was director of the Congressional Budget Office for part of GWB-I. One of Holtz-Eakins’s tasks in that capacity was to advise Congress on matters pertaining to GSEs such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Whereas, in view of, and considering, I thought his recorded statements might prove of interest, especially his last CBO testimony,

    Testimony on Aligning the Costs and Benefits of the Housing Government-Sponsored Enterprises

    More at this CBO page and in the links at the end of each article; also one more link in a post below.

  10. plunger says:

    9/11 + Anthrax – two parts of one attack on the American psyche. What the government has acknowledged:

    Planning for Anthrax attacks had to have commenced well prior to 9/11.

    Anthrax used originated within the United States.

    Planning and execution originated inside the governmental structure.

    What all of the politicians have told us repeatedly:

    There have been no further terror attacks on US soil since 9/11.

    What the FBI Wanted Poster says Bin Laden is wanted for:


    No mention of an attack in New York City. He’s not wanted for 9/11.

    “The FBI does not yet have ‘hard evidence’ linking him to the 9/11 attacks and so as of 2006 he has only been indicted on the embassy murders; he is officially still only a suspect in ‘other terrorist attacks throughout the world’.”

    There is no evidence whatsoever that Bin Laden is alive, none. Ms Bhutto stated in an interview with the BBC’s David Frost that Bin Laden had been killed, and look what happened to her. There is abundant circumstantial evidence that the anthrax attacks and 9/11 were in fact two pieces of one event…yet few feel comfortable to simply admit the obvious and write about it, and allow comment about it as though it were fact.

  11. skdadl says:

    Well, there we go, Canuckistanians. Steve just had himself limo’d across the street to Rideau Hall to speak to the GG, so the election is on. (Chretien used to walk over hand in hand with his wife.)

    I believe we already know that election day is 14 October.

  12. wavpeac says:

    I sometimes wonder with my evil mind and lack of facts, pretty much just imgagination if…when they were trying so damn hard to bring down clinton, if they bolstered Bin laden. Because his administration as the first democratic two term administration in 60 years showed that balancing the budget was possible. It debunked the idea that the ONLY way to do it was to tax the middle class. It debunked the idea that we needed a strong military war machine in order to be free and prosperous.

    Without debating all the merits of the clinton administration it’s safe to say, I think that he was a threat to the myths that the republicans operated on. It was a very hostile environment that Clinton served under. The whitewater investigation was really an amazing feat on the part of the republicans given that 5 years and 56 mil later they had nothing on him but for lying about his marital affairs. That investigation managed to put a cloud over his administration and tied one arm behind his back. I think that it psychological stirred many of Bill’s childhood issues (being abused, an abusive, battering father) and he acted the way many victims do. He acted childish and defensive, hostile. Like many of my clients who have childhood trauma. He made mistakes and he blew himself up, grandiosity. The american people could feel this, they knew he was seriously flawed. (and yet the flaw felt so familiar).

    I have wondered if this cabal of cheneyites could have been stirring the pot during the Clinton years in an effort to convince the people that a strong military was needed. That the war machine was a necessity. The fact that the Clinton administration was so tied up trying to operate in such a hostile environment to this day amazes me. No republican administration faces or has faced this. To me it says something about the big picture.

    If we consider that Cheney knew all he needed to know about the inner workings of Saddam, Bin laden, The Shaw, Iran. He would have amassed a considerable amount of information over the course of all those years as a major player in each of those previous administrations. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that the middle east with it’s oil was a hotbed of financial opportunity.

    What if Bin laden was bolstered, encouraged, played to create a major military problem that Clinton would be called to solve? What if the hope was to take control of this problem in some way so that it would appear that the replicans had control over the violence and the financial market.

    Maybe they the bush administration was inept and stupid, but I think this does a disservice to the truth. If we consider Iran contra, who those players were at the time, that they still operate in this gov’t today, that these players have financial motive to continue terrorism, that Bush was unconcerned and did almost nothing in response to Clinton’s very loud concerns about Bin laden, (cheney had to know that Bin laden was a threat, if it were true because of his years of experience), that 9/ll occurred, that the investigation into 9/ll turned out a lot like Iran contra, (no one held accountable), that Bin Laden was blamed and never found, that Saddam was blamed but not responsible as proven by numerous reports, that the price of oil has increased and that oil companies are now operating with the biggest profits ever. Last but not least the fact that the republicans always use the language of power and control to win elections. (they use coercion and threats, name calling, (minimize, deny, and blame), treating people as objects-katrina, king of the castle (it’s my country I can do what i want), using finances. They are controlling us, the market and the story. We are fighting something bigger than just republicans and the American people need to understand this.

    Maybe that’s a duh? But it’s seems to me that the American people need to see the big story. The river runs through it, and has for many, many years. I just don’t think we pull the big story together often enough. I realize the facts aren’t there for proving all of it, but there is enough circumstantial evidence. Look at Carter…Iran hostage crises. He was one term…that worked well didn’t it? The more I think about how Carter handled that crises the more I understand the viciousness toward him.

    WE have to see what we are fighting agaisnt. WE cannot change what we don’t accept.

  13. cynic says:

    Trouble is, it was part of something that was SUPPOSED to be a coordinated effort, and largely was, but you can’t have everything, and sometimes the people who plan these disasters well….uh…..slip up.


    Then you find dead former analysts in the woods in Britain and so on and so forth.