FBI’s Robert Mueller Still Engaging in an Anthrax Cover-Up

photo: hqhwtr via Flickr

photo: hqhwtr via Flickr

Steven Aftergood has just published Robert Mueller’s responses to questions for the record he received from the Senate Judiciary Committee this spring. Chuck Grassley asked Mueller several questions about the anthrax investigation. (The questions start on page 42 of these QFRs.) Mueller’s answers make it clear the FBI was–and is still–trying to cover up details about its investigation of the anthrax attack.

Delaying the Exoneration of Stephen Hatfill

Grassley starts by asking why it took the FBI two years to publicly clear Stephen Hatfill after it had eliminated him as a suspect.

[In a reply to an earlier inquiry I made] the Justice Department said that Dr. Stephen Hatfill was conclusively eliminated as a potential suspect in the Spring of 2006. That’s four years after the government publicly branded him a “person of interest” and instructed his federally funded employer to fire him in 2002. Yet, two more years passed after the FBI knew he was innocent before anyone bothered to inform Dr. Hatfill in 2008 that he had been cleared.

After Mueller basically concedes the point, Grassley asks whether the delay had anything to do with Hatfill’s lawsuit. Mueller indirectly concedes that the FBI did not inform Hatfill because they were still litigating Hatfill’s Privacy Act suit.

Grassley: Is it a coincidence that Dr. Hatfill’s lawyer was informed of the FBI’s findings only after he had settled the case against the government for nearly $6 million?

Mueller: The settlement of Hatfill v. Mukasey, et al. (DDC), resolved complex litigation that had been pending since 2003. The lawsuit included constitutional tort claims against Federal officials in their personal capacity and Privacy Act claims against DOJ and the FBI. THe constitutional tort claims were dismissed in 2005 (including the claim against former AG Ashcroft based on his having publicly referred to Dr. Hatfill as a “person of interest”). The Privacy Act claims (which alleged improper leaks, among other things) remained pending at the time of the settlement.

Mueller’s non-answer basically confirms that the FBI let Hatfill hang out there, virtually unemployable, for two years so that they could settle his suit before admitting to him they had already confirmed he wasn’t the anthrax killer.

Refusing to Investigate FBI’s “Detective Work”

Grassley then goes on to ask about the National Academy of Sciences review of the FBI’s scientific analysis of the FBI’s anthrax case. After Mueller reviews that, Grassley asks whether the FBI would be willing to have an independent review of its “detective work” in the case. Mueller basically says, “no.”

Grassley: Are you opposed to an independent review of the FBI’s detective work, in addition to a review of the scientific evidence?

Mueller: Because of the importance of science to this particular case, investigative steps were often taken to address leads developed by newly evolved science. In addition, the significance of information or evidence we acquired often took on new or enhanced meaning as scientific advances were made. Consequently, a review of the scientific aspect of this case would be the logical first step. There is also ongoing criminal and civil litigation concerning the Amerithrax investigation and information derived therefrom, and an independent review of the FBI’s “detective work” at this time could adversely affect those proceedings.

What an astoundingly bullshit answer!

First, obviously the “detective work” needs to be investigated, if only to explain why the FBI ignored evidence pointing to Bruce Ivins and invented a case against Hatfill. Second, if ongoing litigation (including criminal?!?!?) wouldn’t be hindered by the scientific review, why would it be hindered by a review of the “detective work”? What Muller is more likely saying is just what he admitted with regards to Hatfill: until any civil suits are settled, the FBI doesn’t want to admit to the full extent of its incompetence.

As we have discussed at length, there are reasons to doubt the FBI’s conclusions that Bruce Ivins acted alone (more here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). Indeed, all the FBI has claimed it proved with its nifty new scientific analysis (and Mueller states this) is that Ivins made the strain used in the attack (I’ll leave it to the scientists to address Mueller’s certainty on that front). They certainly have not proven that Ivins mailed the anthrax. Which means, quite simply, they haven’t solved the case.

But Robert Mueller doesn’t want to show the FBI’s work.

Now maybe the FBI realizes they haven’t solved this case, and that’s why they can’t start investigating their own detective work. But if that’s the case, don’t you think they ought to tell the American people that there’s an American bioterrorist running around on the loose?

36 replies
  1. chrisc says:

    don’t you think they ought to tell the American people that there’s an American bioterrorist running around on the loose?

    The warning will come too late for me- I’ve already repurposed the plastic and duck tape.

  2. PJEvans says:

    don’t you think they ought to tell the American people that there’s an American bioterrorist running around on the loose?

    They’d have to admit that there are terrorists who aren’t brown or Muslim.

    It would cost them the support they’ve been getting from the right wing, and might require also admitting that the left has been correct about a lot of things in the last twenty years.

  3. ART45 says:

    Ivins’s death sorta reminds me of the guy down in Texas who was poking into some LBJ mischief, who committed suicide by shooting himself several times in the back after having bludgeoned his own head.

    A very convenient death.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      You’ll like what I thought was the best line in an otherwise middling Mark Wahlberg film, The Shooter. Wahlberg’s character is a Marine sniper set up as a patsy in a political assassination.

      On the run, like Dr. Richard Kimble, and attempting to prove his innocence, he meets an elderly master sniper in his backwoods home. Chatting about great snipes and their set-ups, he claims to know where in rural Texas the other shooters in the JFK assassination were buried.

      “Them boys on the Grassy Knoll they were dead within three hours, buried in the damned desert, unmarked graves out past Terlingua.”
      “You know this for a fact?”
      “Still got the shovel…”

      • powwow says:

        A fictional account that mirrors a quote author Richard Preston got from an anonymous former “influential FBI executive, and scientist expert in forensic evidence” for Preston’s 2002 book about the anthrax attacks, The Demon in the Freezer (as excerpted by Kissin in his analysis):

        “One day, I [author Richard Preston] spoke with a scientist who is an expert in forensic evidence, knows a lot about biology, and until recently was an influential executive in the FBI. ‘We just don’t know who these perpetrators are, and it could be years before we get a break. I’m saying ‘they.’ I personally find it hard to believe it was done by only one person . . . If I wanted to keep tight operational security…I would do it with opsec. Opsec—operational security. It’s a standard security approach for making yourself as invisible as possible. There is a leader who organizes and directs an operation, and a different person carries it out.’ The person who does the operation is expendable.”
        (Pages 246-247).

  4. earlofhuntingdon says:

    I thought Bush had exhausted the ways of saying, “The dog ate my homework.” Mueller adds a few.

    As you say, the important issues are that a) there’s still a nasty bio-terrorist at work, quite possibly still at work for the USG, and b) the FBI abused its police powers by refusing to declare an innocent man innocent until it was no longer financially liable for having harmed him in its investigation. The FBI has also poured tens of millions of dollars or more of taxpayer’s money down a rat hole. Just as it did in failing to get its thousands of computers to talk to one another, let alone any other agency of government.

    Why on earth should we believe that the FBI has fixed any of these management, staffing or investigative/procedural failings, when Mr. Mueller is rather too desperate to deny an objective reviewer the opportunity to confirm his claims?

  5. powwow says:

    I excerpted briefly, in a Seminal diary last week, from a comprehensive new critique by (private, local Maryland attorney) Barry Kissin of the FBI’s botched Amerithrax investigation, but below is a bit more from Kissin’s account – an account which helps demonstrate that Mueller’s “answers” here, as described by emptywheel, are part of a pattern of public dodging and deception by the FBI on both their investigation and the import of the evidence they have. Though long, I highly recommend Kissin’s account (without knowing anything about him) for those needing a clear overall picture of the illogic of the investigation – including a substantive, compelling overview of the scientific evidence trail – painstakingly presented, to accompany EW’s many analyses, and to compare to the new information published by Aftergood/FAS:

    What the Anthrax Cover-Up Is Covering Up

    By Barry J.C. Kissin


    On September 16 and 17, 2008, the House and Senate Judiciary Committees respectively, conducted “Amerithrax oversight” hearings consisting of questioning FBI Director Robert Mueller. Despite widespread concern about the integrity of Amerithrax, the colloquy during these hearings was largely feeble. Congressman Nadler did manage to ask the $64,000 question. Salon.com journalist Glen Greenwald recounted this as follows:

    “Nadler asked one of the most central questions in the anthrax case: he pointed out that the facilities that (unlike Ft. Detrick) actually have the equipment and personnel to prepare dry, silica-coated anthrax are the U.S. Army’s Dugway Proving Ground and the Battelle Corporation, the private CIA contractor that conducts substantial research into highly complex strains of anthrax. Nadler asked how the FBI had eliminated those institutions as the culprits behind the attack. After invoking generalities to assure Nadler that the FBI had traced the anthrax back to Ivins’ vial (which didn’t answer the question), Mueller’s response was this: I don’t know the answers to those questions as to how we eliminated Dugway and Battelle. I’ll have to get back to you at some point.

    “Nadler then pleaded: please try to get back to us with the answer quickly. Mueller replied: ‘Oh, absolutely Congressman.’”

    Shortly thereafter, Nadler’s question was put into writing and sent to the FBI with other questions from the House Judiciary Committee. Nadler’s question read:

    “How, on what basis, and using what evidence did the FBI conclude that none of the laboratories it investigated were in any way the sources of the powder used in the 2001 anthrax attacks, except the U.S. Army Laboratory at Fort Detrick, Maryland? Please include in your answer why laboratories that have publicly identified as having the equipment and personnel to make anthrax powder, such as the U.S. Army’s Dugway Proving Grounds in Dugway, Utah and the Battelle Memorial Institute in Jefferson, Ohio, were excluded as possible sources.”

    Seven months went by before the FBI responded.


    The FBI’s response is not only absurd; it is, to the extent it states anything at all, demonstrably false. Only a few months ago, Bruce Ivins’ “Reference Material Receipt Record” with respect to the anthrax designated RMR-1029 was posted on the internet, now accessible at http://caseclosedbylewweinstein.wordpress.com/2009/07/25/usamriid-rmr-re


    The original copy of said record is in the custody of the FBI. Said record documents that during the summer of 2001, Bruce Ivins sent samples of RMR-1029 to both Battelle and Dugway. Practically all of the science underlying Amerithrax now being reviewed by the National Academy of Sciences is about matching the genetic fingerprint of the attack anthrax to that of RMR-1029. Given that both Battelle and Dugway had RMR-1029, Battelle and Dugway are no less incriminated than Bruce Ivins by the science underlying Amerithrax.

    That the FBI has engaged in cover-up in its Amerithrax investigation is readily apparent. This memorandum addresses the urgent matter of what it is that is being covered up.


    QUESTION: Can you just tell us, of the eight samples that the letters matched to, how many places were they at? You were sort of vague earlier.

    DR. MAJIDI: Sure. Let’s just say they’re definitely not at eight places.

    QUESTION: But can you just give us the number? Why can’t you give us the number?


    DR. MAJIDI: Okay, it’s total two laboratories.

    QUESTION: Total two. Including USAMRIID? Or —

    BACKGROUND OFFICIAL: Two institutions.

    DR. MAJIDI: Two institutions . . . that means USAMRIID and one other institution.

    Of course, the other institution, the “quasi-governmental” lab, is Battelle. It bears pointing out that throughout the entire Amerithrax investigation, no one from either the FBI or the DOJ ever publicly mentions the name Battelle.


  6. dakine01 says:

    But Robert Mueller doesn’t want to show the FBI’s work.

    My WAG is because it wouldn’t hold up to the scrutiny. You know the drill “Trust us, would we lie to you?”

    Uh, yeah Robert, you would lie to us and we know that.

        • Teddy Partridge says:

          I wonder if we’ll ever know when Cheney actually started traveling with his DefCon4 biohazard suit in the limo. That would be a ‘tell.’

          As to Mueller, good for Grassley. I hope whoever is putting together these questions for him has excellent rapport with the White House. At some point, President Obama has to lose confidence in this man. He is a proven liar.

          • ThingsComeUndone says:

            I wonder if we’ll ever know when Cheney actually started traveling with his DefCon4 biohazard suit in the limo. That would be a ‘tell.’

            WH records Darth not traveling with a biohazard suit would also be a tell:)

        • Mason says:

          My theory is that it was one of Cheney’s special ops, just to whip up the fear factor a little more, and enable their putsch.

          Bob in AZ

          I agree and I’ll take it a step further and say I believe Mueller knows Cheney is responsible for authorizing the scheme and the subsequent efforts to frame Hatfill and Ivins ending with a hit on Ivins that was designed to look like a suicide to close the case and bury the truth.

          I will readily admit that my default position is to always suspect the worst in any matter involving the Cheney-Bush Administration. I hate to say it, but I also believe there isn’t anything Obama wouldn’t do to cover-up what they did.

  7. bmaz says:

    Mueller’s non-answer basically confirms that the FBI let Hatfill hang out there, virtually unemployable, for two years so that they could settle his suit before admitting to him they had already confirmed he wasn’t the anthrax killer.

    I wonder if Hatfill and atty have pondered pursuing some type of claim regarding this. May be precluded by the settlement agreement, but I can at least envision an argument that any such provision is voided by the bad faith and fraud of the govt. in concealing this information. I guess the question would be finding and proving separate damages. Dunno, just thinking out loud a little….

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      One would think the withholding of evidence only the FBI could have would be a fraud that would vitiate restrictive terms in the settlement agreement, which would allow him to keep what he’s got and ask for more. Egregious fraud comes to mind.

      • bmaz says:

        There are sure a lot of factors and problems at issue, but it is pretty easy to see a decent potential argument in that regard. Sure something I would think about at least researching if I were Hatfill.

    • ThingsComeUndone says:

      They probably got it from South Africa they introduced it into the bush to make life harder on the rebels I’m betting its a different strain than what we use. Besides we modified the strain to be a better weapon right so the strain would be different.
      I’m sure after a few years our strains have changed.

  8. MartyDidier says:

    Regarding the FBI, there are a few things I personally know. In the Chicago area the FBI here back around 1999 had a few managers overseeing Field Agents that were corrupt. They were linked to what I normally refer to as a Shadow Government linked to a major Drug system linked to my ex-wife’s family (Drug Lords), Big Banks and much more. There are some details that I won’t discuss at this time but for the record they tried to do their jobs as normal but when situations threatened the Criminal System, they did what they could to end the assalt. As an example, requests came directly from the family I was in and immediately people were moved around to make sure things were different. Plus when an Agent and his partner came too close to exposing something big, both were removed — one was retired and the other was fired. There’s a lot more to this that can be added at a another time but additional personal experiences show that there were connections with the Corrupt Chicago (and area) FBI/Police and MOB hitmen.

    The family often talked about how the corruption aided the Shadow Government’s goals with doing what was needed when the time came. It really needs to be considered that when viewing strange and suspicious behavior as with how things were handled with the Anthrax case (coverup) that since there isn’t any common sense being shown, other interests are at play. Their main problem when dealing with the US population is we want the truth and won’t give up until we have it. Watching them squirm needs to be accepted as a huge red flag that something else is at play. What’s at play is the COUP attempt.

    As I’ve mentioned endlessly we are in the midst of a White House Coup similar to what was planned in 1933. This time though they did their homework and many others are involved. There are so many that it’s much like a movement. I ought to know because I was in a drug loard family for more than 26 years who are directly involved in supporting the COUP. Sibel Edmonds has done a good job blowing the whistle on many who are involved in the Federal area however she never spoke about the COUP.

    As I said above, I have personal experience with great detail that unfortunately at this time isn’t allowed to be surfaced other than what I’ve talked about. If you look at what is happening as efforts to support a Coup, many things will start to make more sense. The Anthrax case over all plus many others had a overall goal.

    Marty Didier
    Northbrook, IL

    • ThingsComeUndone says:

      Next to McDonalds Corp head quarters? Thats were the Outfit leadership has gone after leaving Cicero?

  9. ThingsComeUndone says:

    Maybe there isn’t an anthrax terrorist on the loose Darth was willing to out an American spy to start a war the FBI can’t find whats not there. Given the few places anyone can get Anthrax and I’m sure Al Quieda was looked for this very throughly as well as the home team black helicopter crowd then who is left that had access to Anthrax?
    A foreign government after 9/11 we were ready to invade anybody so I doubt they would do it that leaves Darth with means motive and as of yet no alibi.

  10. eCAHNomics says:

    Gee, defense lawyer in any lawsuit involving FBI testimony can just say “anthrax” and ruin the credibility of the FBI’s evidence.

    • ThingsComeUndone says:

      No Dark person Lefty, Union member believes those guys I’m sure there are still anarchists kids from the Haymarket Riot in Chicago and kids of people who fought in the Spanish Civil war who got stories.

        • ThingsComeUndone says:

          Secret police always do but they get great press society doesn’t fear them like they should. Still they listen to our phone calls watch the net and they got nothing on the Anthrax killers so why do we let them keep spying.
          Might as well hire an army of peeping toms and old gossips to get intel.

  11. ThingsComeUndone says:

    Back when I delivered Newspapers I new all the night people serial killer killed his mom stepdad dad’s a racist militia guy my friends route, guy who killed 2 ex wives my route no tip. Hazmat guys opening a funny package my home town my route. Shoot out with cops drive car chase though a highschool football field my late nite donut girl said there was more going on than in the papers
    Drivers go everywhere and are expected crooks living on the night side ignore us the FBI gets serious about stopping crime or the local police for that matter they would pay us.

  12. ThingsComeUndone says:

    Crazy guy after 9/11 parked in his truck sitting on the street with flood lights showing a 5 ft American flag all night scaring a brown driver who thankfully looked Mexican not Arab my route. In college I was mistaken as Palestianian.
    People thought my bro was a Jewish lawyer.

  13. x174 says:

    it’s clear that there is a bigger investigation here.

    Mueller is covering up more than the malfeasance of his own department.

    From the CDC:

    On October 2, 2001, a 63-year-old Caucasian photo editor working for a Florida newspaper awoke early with nausea, vomiting, and confusion and was taken to a local emergency room for evaluation. His illness, which started on September 27 during a trip to North Carolina, was characterized by malaise, fatigue, fever, chills, anorexia, and sweats. [snip] His condition progressively deteriorated, with hypotension and worsening renal insufficiency. The patient died on October 5. Autopsy findings included hemorrhagic mediastinal lymphadenitis, and immunohistochemical staining showed disseminated B. anthracis in multiple organs.


    The anthrax attacks began with the illness of Robert Stevens, a sixty-three year old British immigrant employed as a photo editor at the Sun, a supermarket tabloid newspaper published by American Media, Inc. in Boca Raton, Florida.

    Preliminary testing indicated that Bacillus anthracis was present in samples taken from the American Media building where Stevens worked and the computer keyboard that he used. There was no reason why anthrax should be present in these areas. Investigators concluded that Stevens had been deliberately exposed. Jean Malecki, director of the Palm Beach County Health Department, ordered the American Media building closed. It has never reopened.

    The ill mailroom clerk indicated the mode of transmission of anthrax into the American Media building. Some Sun employees recalled a trifolded letter containing powder and a small, plastic, gold-colored Star of David charm. They were uncertain of the text of the letter. Stevens had taken the letter and sat down at his keyboard with it on September 19.

    On October 15, anthrax was found in letters sent to prominent U.S. Senators Tom Daschle (D-South Dakota) and Russell Feingold (D-Wisconsin). Twenty members of Daschle’s staff were exposed, as were two Feingold workers and six responders from the Capitol Hill Police. The Hart Office Building, home to Daschle and Feingold, was ordered closed on October 16 and would not open again until January 2002, when decontamination had been completed.


  14. x174 says:

    Beginning of the End of the Democracy: Sept-Oct 2001

    upon reflection, i would have to agree with Glenn Greenwald that the Anthrax Scare had a greater impact on the integrity of the country than the bombings of the WTCs. The media was rendered docile (following the attacks at The Sun, The NY Post and The Enquirer as examples) and the Democratic Party (following the anthrax letters sent to Sens. Daschle and Feingold, again as examples).

    just read the symptomology of pulmonary anthrax to get an idea of how horrible it is to contract: it was initially misdiagnosed as encephalitis.

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