Anthrax and Blago for Breakfast

I forgot to mention this yesterday. But I’m going fishing this weekend, and you’re going to be blessed with the fine hospitality of bmaz and the likker cabinet until sometime Monday.

But while I’m sneaking my last Toobz fix in before Mr. EW wakes up and makes me put away the computer for the weekend, I wanted to point to two things.

First, Glenn links to two articles on the testimony of Henry Heine’s testimony before the scientific review of the Amerithrax case. I’m hoping Jim White will have a post up talking about the scientific side of these articles (the short version: Heine raised the same points that Jim has been raising for some time). But I wanted to point to this, from the second article.

After the committee left, Heine expressed frustration that he had already told the FBI everything he just presented, but that no one had listened to him. FBI agents he dealt with were professional, he said, but some officials at the Department of Justice were extremely arrogant.

He said the whole investigation was filled with lies. Officials told different USAMRIID researchers their co-workers accused them of committing the attacks, just to see their reaction. They searched his vacation house and car without warrants.

They misled him about the questions they would ask him in front of a grand jury. And they tried to get him to seek a restraining order against Ivins, only days before he committed suicide, by saying Ivins had threatened to kill Heine during a group therapy session.

Heine is not the only one who does not believe Ivins was the real killer.

“At least among my closest colleagues, nobody believes Bruce did this,” he said. He thinks the FBI went after Ivins because “personality-wise, he was the weakest link.”

Remember how one piece of evidence the FBI used to argue that Bruce Ivins was a killer was the purported death threat he made? Eventually, they got his therapist to report on it. But it turns out the purported death threat was against Heine–and the Government asked him, but he refused, to get a restraining order against Ivins. That, plus Heine’s comment about the FBI believing Ivins was “the weakest link,” suggests that Heine really believes they pushed Ivins at a time when he was losing it psychologically.

In any case, the guy they wanted to use to buttress their case that Ivins was dangerous is now out there arguing that he could not be the killer.

Then there’s the news that Patrick Fitzgerald’s office made an [correction: Fitz’s team didn’t release this; Blago’s did. Which suggests the faulty redactions likely weren’t a mistake at all] uncharacteristic mistake in releasing a key filing with reversible redactions in the Rod Blagojevich case. Blago is using them to try to subpoena Obama to testify, among other things by noting that Obama had a conversation with Blago on December 1, 2008.

President-elect Obama also spoke to Governor Blagojevich on December 1, 2008 in Philadelphia. On Harris Cell Phone Call # 139, John Harris and Governor’s legal counsel discuss a conversation Blagojevich had with President-elect Obama. The government claims a conspiracy existed from October 22, 2008 continuing through December 9, 2008.6 That conversation is relevant to the defense of the government’s theory of an ongoing conspiracy. Only Rod Blagojevich and President Obama can testify to the contents of that conversation.

I’ve noted in the past that when asked about contacts with Blago, Obama only ever said he didn’t talk to Blago about this subject–his replacement.

More interesting, though, are details about discussions Tom Balanoff and (presumably) Andy Stern had about helping Valerie Jarrett get Obama’s Senate seat.  It has always been clear that when Balanoff spoke to Blago about the seat, he was representing Jarrett’s interests–this is one of the things the Obama report on their contacts obscured by starting their chronology with contacts with Blago, rather than showing what went on before those contacts (which was the fine work of Greg Craig–some thanks they gave him!!).

None of this seems to threaten Fitz’s case. But it will make for some embarrassing headlines for the Obama Administration.

Have fun with them–because I’m going to be off grid walking in the mountains somewhere. Have a nice weekend!!

36 replies
  1. klynn says:

    Go have fun. Take some deep breaths of fresh air.

    I know the latest doc dump has been chocked full…However, I look forward to future installments on the Passaro Case. You were on fire with your weeding there.

    • bmaz says:

      Yeah, if I can get a couple of things locked down, we will have some Passaro to dine on here, although for timing purposes it may not be until sometime Sunday because I want to leave a little marker for some folks at DOJ (and those that report on them) when they wake up and head to the office Monday. There is one source I still am trying to contact, so we will see…….

    • klynn says:

      EW @4

      I didn’t mean to put pressure on anyone.

      I just enjoyed the breakdown of the facts and the lead towards an interesting disclosure which may bring change in the future. :)

      It was the “big reveal” language that had me hooked!

      Then again you ARE going fishing!

  2. Jim White says:

    Sorry, but I’m in preparation for getting away this weekend as well.

    Looking at the information Heine provided to the committee, we have this from the second article:

    Heine told the panel that the most common way of growing bacteria at USAMRIID is in flasks. Based on the number of envelopes mailed out (eight to 10), the concentration of spores in the powder (10 to the 12th power spores per gram) and the number of grams of anthrax per envelope (1 to 2 grams), he calculated there were at least 10 to the 13th power anthrax spores in the attacks. Under ideal conditions, growing anthrax in a flask could produce only 10 to the 11th power spores — one hundredth of the total needed.

    “At absolute best, if he pushed it, he could have possibly done it in a year,” Heine said of Ivins, after the meeting.

    Heine refrained from talking too much about Ivins in front of the panel, simply telling them that the anthrax in question most likely would have been grown in a 100-liter fermenter and dried with a lyophilizer.

    Those arguments, and the conclusion that a large fermenter would be needed to produce the attack materials, are essentially the same as what I presented in this diary.

    Then, the article has this:

    Committee member Murray Johnston asked about the silicon found in the anthrax spores, which some have said is a sign the anthrax was professionally weaponized and others have said could have naturally wound up in the anthrax.

    Heine replied that many antifoams added to anthrax to be put in a fermenter contain silicon. So if the anthrax was grown in a fermenter, then “you can achieve the kind of percentages (of silicon) found in the letters with this process.”

    But if the anthrax was grown in a flask, “you absolutely wouldn’t expect it” to have picked up any silicon naturally.

    Those exact arguments and conclusions can be found in this diary.

  3. skdadl says:

    Two of my favourite subjects — fish, and Henry Heine.

    Short of Shakespeare and Keats, there is no more noble name than Henry Heine, and everything that man says is to be taken as gospel truth. Y’hear?

    Have a wonderful weekend, EW. The fish know. We bless ’em as we bop ’em — nobody loves fish as truly as the fishers do.

  4. JohnLopresti says:

    I wonder if pseudonymed *burnt* knows how to reverse redact, or if some other techs have a util like that.

    Keep an eye out for flying fish, if your expedition is near a lake; or do they live in the ocean.

    • burnt says:

      The answer is “it depends.” Anyone with just a smidgen of technical skill can “reverse redact” Microsoft Word documents and PDFs if the people creating the documents are careless. However, awareness of the dangers of these sorts of electronic documents has increased and people are taking measures to prevent the release of sensitive data.

      The easy and effective way (and one that shows up in a lot of documents discussed on this blog) is to physically print an electronically redacted document and then scan the output to a PDF. This results in a fuzzy, hard-to-read, un-searchable document (at least temporarily). For documents produced this way one must rely on human error for the juicy bits to be exposed as Emptywheel discovered in February and MadDog shortly thereafter.

      • JohnLopresti says:

        Thx re scanning technology. Wonder how Blago*s [Благо] forensics tech discovered it. ew and others have been addressing the nuances of bitmapped renditions of portable document format for several years; one occasional visitor kindly OCR*d one multiple hundred page document for a thread hearabouts or at the prior site a few years back, similar to some of the work you have done. I was hoping at the outset of the Obama administration that congress committees would start providing searchable reports as a standard practice.

        • burnt says:

          Blago’s team discovered it because that’s just a standard thing a legal team does these days. Until people are fully clued-in this will continue to be a fruitful avenue for discovery. I doubt this will help with Cheney. He seems to have employed people with brains (evil and devious brains but brains nonetheless).

          But really what this brings to my mind is transparency and accountability. Where is it? This is not a rhetorical question since President Obama made it a cornerstone of his policy–or was I foolish in believing his stump speech?

          It would cost the US government $0 as in zero dollars to provide searchable versions of everything they publish/release from mining regulations to Yoo whitewashing get out of jail free Margolis letters. It would cost nothing. And you know what? Most of the things the goverment puts out are searchable. Somehow or other all the damning stuff isn’t searchable. Hmm… All that junk I made searchable a couple of months ago? The Justice Department made a decision to release it that way.

          Well, I’m not sure where this semi-rant is going so I’ll just end it here. I hope EW is catching fish with Mr. EW and I look forward to Bmaz’s Sunday post on Mr. let’s give him a Pass (can I get a shot at writing the title for the post? I can do pith. I can do pun. I can do grim.)

  5. bobschacht says:

    My wildarsed guess on the anthrax case is that the FBI knows darned well who did it, but the perp is an untouchable, so they needed another target that they could hang the thing on so they could close the case, to protect the real perp.

    OK, tin-foil hat is off now.

    Bob in AZ

    • BoxTurtle says:

      My theory is only slightly different. They know the perp, it ISN’T Irvins, and they have him stashed away as a national security risk. It’s not that the perp is untouchable, but that the anthrax was produced at an undeclared facility in violation of the CBW treaty.

      Boxturtle (Oddly, I think the same regardless of if I’ve got my tinfoil hat on)

    • lysias says:

      My wildarsed guess on the anthrax case is that the FBI knows darned well who did it, but the perp is an untouchable, so they needed another target that they could hang the thing on so they could close the case, to protect the real perp.

      An excellent description of how they handled the JFK assassination.

  6. BoxTurtle says:

    Oh, and if you don’t bait the hook the fish won’t bother you while you’re fishing. Enjoy the weekend!

    Boxturtle (People who get bored while fishing do not understand the purpose of fishing)

  7. Jeff Kaye says:

    If anyone thinks the FBI is not capable of psychologically profiling and targeting someone, manipulting them, consider the case of Theresa Squillacote, a cause celebre in psychologist ethics circles. The quote below is from the American Psychological Assocition. Their narrative of the case is quite biased. You should know, prior to reading it, that Theresa and her husband were innocent, and politically targeted as former Communists sympathizers. They had never done anything illegal prior to the FBI intervention. After trying to get evidence on them for a year, with massive surveillance, and undercover cops, they decided on a different tactic:

    Theresa Squillacote, a Defense Department lawyer, was suspected of spying. Pursuant to a secret court order, she and her husband, Kurt Stand, were placed under round-the-clock surveillance for more than a year. The order permitted federal agents to tap the couple’s phones, bug their bedroom, secretly search their home and download their computer files. Among the telephone conversations intercepted and transcribed were calls involving Squillacote’s psychotherapist.

    The FBI used the information gathered by federal agents, including the intercepted conversations with the psychotherapist, to create a psychological profile of Squillacote. The profile, developed by the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Program (BAP) team, which included a psychologist, was designed to examine Squillacote’s personality and to obtain evidence regarding her espionage activity [NOTE: she had no espionage activity. It was suspected, and ultimately they induced it — JK]. The profile traced Squillacote’s family history, including her older sister’s suicide and her mother’s depression. The profile indicated that Squillacote suffered from depression, was taking antidepressant medications, had a narcissistic and histrionic personality, showed poor impulse control, demonstrated a need for reassurance, approval and praise, and displayed excessively emotional behavior.

    Finally, the profilers made specific recommendations on how investigators could exploit Squillacote’s “emotional vulnerability.” They suggested using a sting operation conducted by a mature male undercover agent, who should “capitalize on [Squillacote’s] fantasies and intrigue.” According to the plan, “the initial meeting should be brief and leave Squillacote beguiled and craving more attention.”

    ….The operation was effective. Squillacote met four times with an undercover FBI agent who posed as a South African intelligence official, and provided him with classified documents she had obtained from the Defense Department….

    Squillacote argued that federal agents used information from the intercepted telephone calls with her psychotherapist to help formulate the “false flag” operation that led to her arrest. Since the intercepted calls were privileged, she argued that any evidence derived from these calls should be suppressed.

    The court of appeals denied Squillacote her appeal, saying that while the communications with her therapist certainly were privileged, and that the court did “not believe that suppression of any evidence derived from the privileged conversations would be proper in this case, given that the privilege is a testimonial or evidentiary one, and not constitutionally based.”

    An appeal went further to the Supreme Court, but they refused to hear the case. I note it here because it shows the FBI BAP in action targeting someone’s weaknesess. That a psychological professional or group of professionals did this to a person was a terrible breach of ethics. I can only imagine what they did to Irvins.

  8. orionATL says:

    if you want to read more about what a stassi the fbi
    has become,

    get a copy of the latest atlantic magazine and read the story about the fbi’s harrassment of former anthrax suspect dr. steven hatfill.

    this is a story of police-state tactics taken against a wholely innocent person.

    it is also one of the greatest object lessons i have ever read about

    the dangers of law enforcent officials using their enormous powers on the basis of no mpre than an unusually long chain of circumstances that appeared to point to hatfill.

    by the way, did you know that hatfill is an american citizen and had a cv that read more like a medical missionary than a calculating terrorist?

    it would be hard to exaggerste what a ruthless, self-serving, monumentally incompetent organization the fbi has become.

  9. orionATL says:


    Stasi, not stassi.

    Stasi = Ministerium fur Staatssicherheit

    take a look at their official emblem in wikiP.

  10. skdadl says:

    Y’know, Petro, for an enlightened counsellor, you are a pretty abandoned critchur. I mean, butter?!?

    And that’s why I like you so much.

  11. orionATL says:


    glenn greenwald has a post dated 4/21 entitled “unlearned lessons from the stephen hatfield case” in which he connects the fbi’s investigation of hatfield to other events and discusses prez obama’s threat to veto any legislation authorizing an investigation of the fbi’s handling of the case calling the prez’s reasoning “orwellian”.

  12. orionATL says:

    fatster @23

    thanks fatster.

    my itouch doesn’t have copy and paste capability and i refuse to pay steve jobs $10 extra in order to get it.

    • fatster says:

      My pleasure (finding links is one thing I’m actually pretty good at). And I do know what you mean about contributing $10 more for this and more for that and, pretty soon, you’ve bought a whole new computer (just in time for it to be put on the fast-track to obsolescence).

  13. lysias says:

    The same reasoning Obama uses to oppose a reinvestigation of the anthrax case (would discredit the government) is presumably the reasoning the U.S. government has used for years to ridicule and squelch any conspiracy theories it does not like.

Comments are closed.