Why Didn’t FBI Investigate AFIP’s Role in Starting the Iraq-Anthrax Rumors?
I’ve been reading the National Academy of Sciences Anthrax Report and noted something odd in follow-up to the McClatchy report of the other day describing unexplained tin and silicon in one of the anthrax samples. (Here’s Jim White’s post on the report.) As McClatchy reported, there’s some weird data about silicon and tin in some of the samples.
The lab data, contained in more than 9,000 pages of files that emerged a year after the Justice Department closed its inquiry and condemned the late Army microbiologist Bruce Ivins as the perpetrator, shows unusual levels of silicon and tin in anthrax powder from two of the five letters.
To arrive at that position, however, the FBI had to discount its own bulk testing results showing that silicon composed an extraordinary 10.8 percent of a sample from a mailing to the New York Post and as much as 1.8 percent of the anthrax from a letter sent to Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, far more than the occasional trace contamination. Tin — not usually seen in anthrax powder at all — was measured at 0.65 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively, in those letters.
But it turns out that the weirdest data–showing the 10.8 silicon in the NY Post sample–didn’t come from FBI. As NAS explained, that data came from the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology.
Early in the investigation, AFIP performed [scanning electron microscopy-energy-dispersive X-ray] SEM-EDX analysis of a New York Post letter sample and found regions in the sample having high silicon content but no oxygen, suggesting the presence of silicon-rich material that was not related to nanoparticulate silica. While this observation could have led to an explanation for the difference between the bulk and individual spore measurements, follow-up experiments apparently were not performed.
A release from AFIP describing their analysis of the Daschle letter (not the NY Post letter) is one of the most cited sources of the claim that the anthrax was weaponized in a uniquely Iraqi fashion.
“Ft Detrick sought our assistance to determine the specific components of the anthrax found in the Daschle letter,” said Florabel G. Mullick, MD, ScD, SES, AFIP Principal Deputy Director and department chair. AFIP experts utilized an energy dispersive X-ray spectrometer (an instrument used to detect the presence of otherwise-unseen chemicals through characteristic wavelengths of X-ray light) to confirm the previously unidentifiable substance as silica. “This was a key component,” Mullick said. “Silica prevents the anthrax from aggregating, making it easier to aerosolize. Significantly, we noted the absence of aluminum with the silica. This combination had previously been found in anthrax produced by Iraq.”
This was the analysis that a USAMRID scientist used to declare that the anthrax was weaponized–which said scientist retracted after later Sandia analysis was done (from the NAS report).
An initial finding by the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP) found, upon gross examination, that the spores exhibited a silicon signal and sometimes exhibited an oxygen signal. Subsequent studies conducted by Sandia National Laboratories (as described in Chapter 4 of this report) determined that the silicon was localized to the spore coat within the exosporium—that is, it was incorporated into the cell as a natural part of the cell formation process. The USAMRIID scientist who first reviewed the AFIP results and made statements regarding the presence of silicon and possible weaponization retracted those earlier statements.
So some of this was known before–that AFIP served a key role in early rumors that the anthrax was weaponized in a way that pointed to Iraq. But the NAS report seems to confirm that the Iraq rumors originated at least in part from AFIP.
That’s all very interesting for several reasons. First, because FBI claims to have gotten data on AFIP’s SEM-EDX tests just last year.
The committee notes that this information was not made available to it or to the FBI until spring 2010.
That would mean FBI didn’t get (or ask for?) the information until after it had closed the investigation (they closed the investigation in February 2010)!
It would also suggest–rather incredibly–that FBI didn’t hunt down this information when they were stonewalling Jerry Nadler about it (as McClatchy reminds).
New York Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler asked FBI Director Robert Mueller how much silicon was in the Post and Leahy letters at a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee in September 2008. The Justice Department responded seven months later that silicon made up 1.4 percent of the Leahy powder (without disclosing the 1.8 percent reading) and that “a reliable quantitative measurement was not possible” for the Post letter.
More interesting still, NAS can’t explain what relationship existed between FBI and AFIP.
The committee also reviewed reports of work carried out in parallel at the AFIP although it is not clear how closely AFIP and the FBI investigative and scientific teams worked together or coordinated their efforts.
I’m also confused about when AFIP did these tests. In its list of official tests, NAS describes the AFIP SEM-EDX tests as having taken place in November 2001.
But somewhere along the way, perhaps along with information about the investigation of a claimed al Qaeda anthrax site explored in 2004, NAS got additional materials from AFIP dating to October 2001.
AFIP Materials related to USAMRIID Specimens October 2001 (41 pages)
And still more interesting is the reference to documents provided to NAS in December 2010–at the time when FBI was trying to stall the release of this document–showing AFIP, along with USAMRID, purportedly conducted anthrax studies on the remains of the Flight 93 9/11 hijackers.
Finally, in the new materials provided to the committee it is noted that [polymerase chain reaction] PCR analysis was performed on human remains from United flight 93 on 9/11/2001 that were identified as those of the hijackers (B3D1). Analysis was performed at USAMRIID and at AFIP for sequences diagnostic of B. anthracis. One assay at USAMRIID gave positive results, but these results were believed by the FBI to be due to laboratory contamination. All other results were negative. As the committee learned at the January 2011 meeting, there were no tests done on remains from any of the other September 11, 2001 hijackers. [my emphasis]
So let’s see. At some point during the anthrax attacks in 2001, USAMRID and AFIP decided to do anthrax tests on material from Flight 93. They purportedly found the hijackers tested positive for anthrax! But on second thought, FBI tells us, that positive result came from “lab contamination.” And then, presumably just after those tests, USAMRID and AFIP, perhaps working outside the chain of the official FBI investigation of anthrax, discover evidence implicating Iraq in the anthrax attacks. Results that, once again, further testing suggested was inaccurate.
Another example of lab contamination, I guess. Funny how that happens.
And the FBI wants us to believe that over the course of a 9 year investigation, they never decided to investigate the circumstances surrounding this partnership that somehow always resulted in convenient propaganda?
Slam Dunk case against
The case against Ivins is still pretty shitty.
Though if a bunch of conspirators were involved the case against him might be less absurd than it currently is.
What the evidence seems to point to here is that the anthrax was made to look like it was Iraqi,and those findings came from Dept. of Defense labs. Furthermore, the FBI never did adequately trace that back to determine exactly by whom and why that apparent fakery was carried out.
The implication I read here is that the anthrax attacks were carried out as part of the falsified intelligence that got us into the Iraq War. As we all know, much of the Iraq deception operation was organized by the Office of Vice President Cheney and the Office of Special Plans (OSP) under Donald Rumsfeld, Steve Cambone, Doug Feith, Luti, et al., and that this same group was also involved in engineering the faked aluminum tubes findings.
If I had to guess, the anthrax never looked Iraqi, they just got AFIP to say it did. After they had already made the even more implausible claim to have tested Flight 93 hijackers and found them positive for anthrax.
Though maybe I have that sequence wrong–it wouldn’t be like the “dark forces” to miss the opportunity to blame Iraq.
And all this gets dumped on NAS at the end of their investigation, along with an al Qaeda site that may or may not test positive for anthrax. Why did the FBI even give them that stuff? Did they know it’d become public? Think NAS was an easy way to release it (which proved out, since I think I’m the first to write about this purported Flight 93 crap).
Guess the real question is: were the anthrax attacks in the wake of 9/11 opportunistic, or was there a coordinated plan of action that would have sprung out of the same “cells” (I wasn’t the one who first applied that term) that had been, since at least 1997, preparing the false intelligence that justified the Iraq invasion?
Dunno. But with all this new info coming after they closed the investigation I wonder if they’ve also gone back to see whether the same person who sent Judy a fake attack was the person who sent Daschle and Leahy a real one.
Who is “they”?
Bob in AZ
My point exactly, this is part and parcel to a coverup. Once the FBI knew that the AFIP floated the idea of Iraqi-protocol-weaponized anthrax, and knowing the mindset of the Cheney WH at the time and since, of course the further investigation was spiked. The “slam dunk” case was made for media consumption and nothing else to see here. However, Hatfill as contestant #1 sued and got $$$ for his sliming, Ivins as contestant #2 conveniently committed suicide (might be worth looking into, like the DC madam case) which resulted in a cost savings and a solution to loose ends, until this investigation’s report came out. Like EW, I’m also curious as to why this information was looked at AFTER the formal FBI report was completed, laughable as that was. Normally government reports aren’t reopened, even the Warren Commission hasn’t made it back to investigation, magic bullet and all.
Is there a contestant #3? It should be Darth and his cabal IMO, but if not they are looking at someone who can easily beat whatever rap the feds try, after all it’s been blatantly wrong twice, with lots of whoop-de-do media play.
The mention of “slam dunk” made me recall this about George Tenet,which btw, aligns itself with leveymg’s comment @28 re: QinetiQ and
Former CIA chief joins the board of QinetiQ – Business News …Oct 25, 2006 … “I am extremely pleased to welcome George Tenet to QinetiQ. His extraordinary track record and experience in the fields of intelligence and …
http://www.independent.co.uk/…/former-cia-chief-joins-the-board-of-qinetiq-421527.html – Cached
QinetiQ: James Bond & George Tenet – The National Ledger QinetiQ, thought by some as the inspiration for ‘Q’, the character that creates spy gadgets for James Bond has a new face. American George Tenet joins …
http://www.nationalledger.com/cgi-bin/artman/exec/view.cgi?…5… – Cached
That was deliberate and I’m glad you picked up on it.
This was a PNAC plan, the specifics would vary but the idea of the “Pearl Harbor” moment did not. Once the anthrax threat eased PATRIOT Act passage, it was no longer useful and generally ignored until someone started asking questions again. It still isn’t solved. It won’t be solved judging from where the string keep leading, and the vested interest by those hiding the ends. It makes one wonder what else Rodriguez destroyed aside from torture tapes.
Why did they so quickly drop the idea that the anthrax came from Iraq? Was it because too many people argued it was impossible?
Okay, I get that, but what made them change course? What made them stop pursuing “anthrax as a terrorist threat”? They very early on, changed course and did not carry it out as such. Why not?
That has always been my theory as well. I really liked the Mother Jones article from Feb 2004, The Lie Factory, by Robert Dreyfuss and Jason Vest. It was such a good look into the Office of Special Plans. And then look where they all ended up. Fascinating…
Like I said, it was a slam dunk case. Just like presidential medal of freedom winner Tenet told GW about the case “proving” Iraq was behind 9/11.
Thanks for keeping up with this. It’s the ability to breaks down things like this that the PTB hate in folks with critical thinking skills.
This whole investigation is one big cover up.
What jumped out at me from this article is that they were testing human remains from Flt 93. If I remember correctly, wasn’t the crash site from Flt 93 a smoking hole in the ground? There was nothing recovered that was recognizable as an aircraft or “bigger than a phone book”. Yet, they not only found some human remains (never heard that before) but they declared those remains to be from one of the hijackers?
I call bullsh*t.
Well, it’s easier to stage lab contamination with materials that you invent out of thin air.
What actually happened to 93?
Really I knew a young lady on that flight, she was never to be seen again. And I did see her drivers license that her family got back as the only memento of her life singed on one edge.. Just saying it happened!! for the lack of much left think all about the physics of it.. straight down at full throttle. Would be much left of anything…;
Getting a driver’s license back when nothing else was left only deepens the mystery, since paper/plastic seems so much less likely to “survive” than bone/metal fragments. And so much easier to counterfeit.
93 is an abiding mystery. If it didn’t crash (and my wingnut son who visited the site told me, fwiw, that had the plane gone another short whatever, it woulda crashed into the dam that failed in the Johnstown flood of 1916, my mom’s home town), wtf did happen to it?
Not so mysterious!
You don’t find it weird that a driver’s license would survive but no bone fragments with dna? Your wiki quote sez remains were identified, but I see no footnote, nor do I remember any press coverage to that effect afterward.
Not saying it isn’t so, just pointing out holes in stories surrounding 9/11, of which there are too many to count. And biggest doubt of all, which is that everything USG sez is a lie.
Yeah. What makes me even more angry is that they can’t even tell the truth about unemployment numbers! Who do they think they are fooling with those faked out percentages? Everybody down here on the ground knows better.
Her Dad is a close friend and he is convinced she was on that flight and died on it.. As for the stuff that goes every where driven by the explosion of the impact lgit weight things can be moved many miles by such forces. What about the eye witnesses that watched it crash and the amateur pictures that were taken?? I don’t have any doubts about.. Beside she was bumped from a flight the evening before that she and her betrothed were trying to take home, he took that flight(work related) and she took flight 93 the next morning… I knew her since birth..
I agree that the Occam’s razor hypothesis is that it did go down where USG reported. Passengers & plane didn’t just disappear in a puff of smoke. Just saying there are still a lot of unanswered Qs, and until they are answered, I’ll reserve judgement.
What was her name?
The reference to the October and November 2001 time frame for AFIP testing brought to mind an earlier Jim White thread,from February 2010,where I posted the folowing commentary. It may(or may not) be of interest:
Gitcheegumee February 22nd, 2010 at 6:16 pm «
Jim, I have to confess that the Ivins issue has never been at the forefront of my priorities.
But,I respect your judgment, and as such, your two threads regarding these issues alerted my interest,and in the process, jogged my memory about an article I had recently read when perusing some comments about anthrax scientist’s David Kelly’s death, elsewhere.
The piece was about Porton Down,the UK bioweapons facility ,and the sudden death on November 1,2001,of Russian born anthrax scientist working there;coincidentally, in the same time frame the anthrax letters were being mailed here in the US…(actually , his death was just one month after the Leahy letter of October,2001.)
He owned a biolab called Regma Bio Technologies , headquartered at Porton Down in the UK, but he had a contract with the US Navy.A VERY informative and encyclopedic article.
NOTE: Scroll down to the section entitled “Death of a Scientist”,in the body of the article.
And as a disclaimer, I am NOT inferring any connection, merely pointing out the coincidence of timing and subject matter.
Porton Down: Facts, Discussion Forum, and Encyclopedia Article
Porton Down is an UK government and military science park. Science park. A science park or science and technology park is an area with a collection of …
http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Porton_Down – Cached
Gitcheegumee February 22nd, 2010 at 7:32 pm «
The Russian defector scientist I referred to was named Vladimir Pasechnik, and for the record, the date of his death is not constant in the many articles referring to it.
It is reported ,in alternate sources,from early November of ’01 to November 21,01.
He and David Kelly were associates at Porton Down.
However, the Regma Bio Technology contract with the US Navy was issued in August 2002, AFTER Pasechnik’s death in November,2001.
I just wanted to clarify that for the sake of the record.
Re: Porton Down connection(s). One facet that has not received enough attention is the QinteQ and Porton Down connection through another Board member and the CEO. Guess who recently took over the US affiliate of the privatized UK biowar company? Steve Cambone. Who was second to the top of the Office of Special Plans (OSP) chain of command under Rumsfeld?
Read the top and bottom several paragraphs of this:
Daily Kos: US, UK Built “Replica” Iraqi DirtyBomb and Germ Labs …- Aug 4 Stephen Cambone, Rumsfeld’s Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, …. Dr. Kelly was head of the Microbiology Division at Dstl, Porton Down, http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/3/27/153157/057/243/484860
I assume you’ve been following the developments in Kelly’s “suicide”? The report of a helicopter at the site of the death?
Reports of mystery helicopters have unfortunate connotations. Seems like something that may waste a lot of time and raise questions about the judgment of those who pursue this angle too avidly, if not altogether a poisoned well. But, certainly raises questions about why this was previously unknown and why the flight log would be redacted.
Would be more significant if the helicopter were somehow involved before the body was found. But, as always . . . step carefully in cow pastures.
Tom Burghardt has done some exceptional pieces on the bio warfare issue. They may be found at Global Research.ca.
Here are a few of the most informative pieces with in depth references to Porton Down and affiliated subject matter:
Biological Warfare and the National Security State
– by Tom Burghardt – 2009-08-09
America’s Ultimate Weapon of Mass Destruction: Biological Warfare
Bioweapons research, secrecy and contamination go hand in hand
– by Tom Burghardt – 2009-08-03
America’s Expansive Bioweapons Industrial Complex
– by Tom Burghardt – 2009-07-29
Dick Cheney’s “Executive Assassination Ring”.
Was British Weapons Expert Dr. David Kelly a Target ?
– by Tom Burghardt – 2009-07-17
Fabulous piece-thanks so much!
This NY Daily News article from March 24, 2002 (1 year before the 2003 US invasion of Iraq) claims “New medical and circumstantial evidence has renewed suspicion that the Sept. 11 terrorists may have played a role in last year’s wave of anthrax-laced letters.” http://www.nydailynews.com/archives/news/2002/03/24/2002-03-24_new_anthrax-9_11_fear_doc_tr.html
And I like this little he said, he said passage. (I don’t trust Woolsey)
Here’s another S/He said (anonymous, CIA?) He said (FBI) passage. This time it is from USAToday, dated March 23, 2002 http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2002/03/23/hijacker.htm :
I smell Dick Cheney’s fingerprints on this. Or maybe Doug Feith?
Bob in AZ
they play hardball
Why isn’t the assertion that DOJ and the USG are working to solve this case (or work for the people at all) immediately thrown out as hearsay evidence?
Better still, why doesn’t it count as outright lies?
Can holograms lie??
I posit that we(gov’t) are operating under both illusion and delusion.
Does a zebra have stripes.
TOT–Totally off topic:
I saw a piece that I thought you may be interested in:
‘Beekeeper’s Lament’: A Rare Glimpse Inside the Endangered World of Beekeeping
Diana Cohn / AlterNet
I chose hearsay because it’s a weaker standard – I was trying to make it easier for people who are still having trouble letting go of their childhood fantasies about Mommy and Daddy.
But it’s a frequent occurrence at FDL: the false premise that the U.S. Government exists to advance the interests of the public then leads to yet another confused and upset diary about how it isn’t.
Why is this premise simply accepted here, without proof?
It seems the most insidious form of the fallacy of appeal to authority.
USG propaganda less likely to be accepted at FDL than at many other sites.
I am cynical about anything being reported about the anthrax attacks and 9-11. However, the more I see these things and as Marcy puts them together the more I see another inside job.
To me it looks like not only were the Bushies and Cheney trying to scare Daschel and the rest of congress to go along with their Patriot Act, but it was being linked to Iraq. What a surprise!–NOT. The NWO crap used words to describe some type of event in the US to warrant a war on Iraq and other places.
“To me it looks like not only were the Bushies and Cheney trying to scare Daschel and the rest of congress to go along with their Patriot Act”
The Democrats don’t have to be “scared” into voting for the Patriot Act. They’re extending the Patriot Act quite happily under Obama.
I’m starting to think that what we need here is to import what the Spanish youth are doing with their demonstrations against their 2-party tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee system. Now it is true that Democrats and Republicans differ significantly on some issues– like, Republicans don’t think that public sector jobs are real jobs, and Democrats do. Republicans don’t believe in public health care; Democrats do.
But both Democrats and Republicans kowtow to the bankers, and both of them are protecting the torturers, and both of them are shielding the companies that collaborate in warrantless wiretaps. And both are supporting the so-called “Patriot Act”. Obama promised change we could believe in, but has given us a continuation of Bush’s military and financial policies, which have deprived thousands of people of their homes and civilian jobs, and have replaced them with jobs fighting foreign wars.
Bob in AZ
Like corporate media, the UniParty is just another moat or wall between the rest of the 98% of us and the 1%ers. The Corbett Report has some of the footage of the Madrid M-15 protests in case one hasn’t had the chance to see it.
OT: From NYT, the Democratic Party is trying to convince Elizabeth Warren to run for Senate. If this is not a bipartisan effort to prevent Warren from becoming the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, just when all her competition is stepping aside for the critical spot, and if the Democrats are truly interested in Warren’s ability to effect change then I say the Democrats are aiming to low.
Encourage Warren instead to run for President! (Warren is someone to fight for the middle class, to fight off the banks/corporate power, to follow the law, etc).
And like Obama, she’d break the glass ceiling. First female American President.
…or was it that Iraq had WMD? Well, same difference, I guess.
Lest we forget, AFIP was involved in an obvious cover-up with respect to what appeared to be a bullet hole in the skull of Ron Brown’s corpse.