FBI's mercy killing of the anthrax case

This is our 10th post on the anthrax attacks. Will it be our last? Yes, if the FBI has anything to say about it. They are closing the case. A case they messed up pretty thoroughly from the outset but now want us to believe they've solved, even though the culprit they fingered, Dr. Bruce Ivins, a bioweapons researcher at Fort Detrick, allegedly committed suicide and wasn't available to interrogate. I say "allegedly" because there are other explanations for his demise, most plausibly in our view, an accident involving interaction of alcohol and acetaminophen which caused liver failure. But the "suicide" scenario is central to the FBI narrative, a narrative that portrayed it as the last desperate act of a guilty man as authorities were closing in.

Very convenient story. So "case closed":

The FBI today formally closed the 2001 anthrax case against scientist Bruce Ivins, USA Today reported. The FBI and the Department of Justice also released about 2,700 pages of documents related to the 7-year investigation that USA Today and other news organizations asked for in a freedom-of-information request. The anthrax-laced letters, sent in the aftermath of the Sep 11 terrorist attacks, killed five people and sickened 17 others. (CIDRAP News)

It's clear a lot of effort went into establishing that Ivins was the culprit. USA Today quotes the FBI as expending 600.000 hours of investigation time, 10,000 witness interviews conducted on 6 continents, 80 searches with recovery of 6000 items of potential evidence. But then a lot of effort also went into their earlier "person of interest" too:

The long-running case was marked by the misdirected Justice Department pursuit of another bioweapons lab scientist, Steven Hatfill— who received a 2007 apology and $5.8 million settlement from the U.S. government — and also the development of extensive genetic tools to investigate such attacks and establishment of large laboratory facilities to research biodefense questions. (Dan Vergano, USA Today)

Either way, this was a case of domestic terrorism that occurred after 9/11 and on the Bush-Cheney watch. More significantly, as the only serious bioweapons attack on US soil (the earlier Dalles, OR episode was not a serious attack and was also domestic), the source is significant: the US bioweapons establishment. Bioweapons that can actually work aren't likely the weapon of choice for foreign terrorists. Too difficult to make work, too likely to fizzle, too much trouble. Foreign terrorists who really want to kill someone are pragmatists, going after soft targets with readily available weapons that frighten and work and are readily available: bombs and guns. Just about the only way a jihadist could deploy a real bioweapon would be if someone were kind enough to make it for them.

Like the US bioweapons program. Keeping us safe.

More like this

Well said. So much money is wasted yearly on defense programs against bioweapons, while the proliferation of the real weapons of mass destruction is defended using the Second Amendment. If you want to know what you should be afraid of when it comes to dangerous biochemicals, here's from Democracy Now!'s Feb. 18th show:


The above comment by Alex makes me sad. I come from the only country involved in the Manhattan Project that did not create and stockpile a nuclear arsenal. As such, our nuclear power is unique in that it is next to impossible to create weapons from it, and the technology is based on efficiency and safety instead. However, very few buy these reactors because either they clandestinely want bombs, or, more frequently, people see 'nuclear' and all reason flies out the window. (To anyone serious about public health and energy supply, nuclear is necessary if we are to replace coal and increase quality of life.) CANDU's can burn nuclear weapons and nuclear waste from other reactors, but nobody is interested, and our government is in the process of killing the 60 year project, and shattering one of the scientific jewels of our country.

I seem to recall something in the news that the anthrax came from 4 different production runs at Dugway Proving Ground. Is this the same stuff that was fed to Brian Ross also?

By Anthracite (not verified) on 22 Feb 2010 #permalink

Might I remind you Revere that the bumbling Democrats were in the funding business during this time and have been for the last 37 months and they had control of the House in 01. They scaled back the domestic terrorism operations because Congress didnt and hasnt funded it. They spent a bazillion dollars for the research and to put up MORE facilities for you and me to complain about lately.

Nothing else has happened and therefore, its reasonable to assume this guy was the source. Why spend more money trying to smear the names of the wrong guys when you can put it at the feet of someone who was quirky? So much easier. If something else happens then they will fund the heck out of domestic ops again and move right on ahead to the next guy.

BTW the autopsy showed Tylenol PM rather than an OD of codeine.

Diphenhydramine...... Benadryl for all intents and purposes and the load in his blood was pretty healthy and it killed his liver. He apparently had it in big time for two senators, Daschle and Leahy and may have been the sick little twist that was sending out the anthrax. It was the size of the cuts that tipped the feds off that this might have been domestic terrorism. Growing anthrax is difficult but weaponizing it is even more difficult. We can make anthrax to produce protection by vax or other means, but its a fine line between weps and counter-measures. Inhalation anthrax is almost always fatal and how did Tom Brokaw get on this guys target list?

Convenient yes, conclusive no. I take everything that government tells me nowadays with a truck full of road salt.

At least I can use the road salt in all of this global warming. Either way dead men tell no tales.

Big surprise. The next bus will be along shortly for the next guy to be thrown under it without even an inquest.

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 23 Feb 2010 #permalink

Randy: No, you don't have to remind me. You are highly reliable as someone who sees the whole world in terms of R's and D's. I have no use for Republicans at all because they vote and talk as a block, no matter what they really think (and some don't even think); and I have no use for the spineless D's (at least half the caucus as far as I can tell) who are too timid or gutless or stupid to do what they or their constituents think is right. Many Independents (and I am one) who normally side with the Dems are disgusted with them and the loser mentality of the Administration, too. So, no. You don't have to remind me. But what you are reminding me of is so, so Republican.

Randy... You seem to have some confusion about drugs Tylenol, Benadryl, codeine. Just so that you can organize your future rants better, here is a guide:

Tylenol (acetaminophen): Analgesic, toxic to the liver in relatively small overdoses. When taken with alcohol increases toxicity.

Benadryl (diphenhydramine)(the "PM" part of Tylenol PM): antihistamine (H1), mild sedative. NOT toxic to the liver. Large overdoses doses can cause cardiac arrhythmia or coma.

Codeine? Who mentioned codeine? (other than you).

The rest of your rant doesn't make any sense either but no point in responding to it.

By Mark Spohr (not verified) on 24 Feb 2010 #permalink

Spohr-Everything isnt a rant puss ball. Dimwits automatically start off with the word rant. Dumber ones start it in the second sentence. Ivins for the record was autopsied with the original cause of death being tylenol and codeine. It was though the tylenol that killed him rather than the diphenhydramine but the load he had in his blood for either was enough to take everything out-renal failure.

He also had some sort of thing going for some chick that he worked with and was six kinds of pissed at her for something. She had to testify in front of Congress about this and way too set for me and likely Revere.

The point is simple if you had been around for a while and that is that the load that the guy had for the D along with the coup de grace Tylenol was enough to take him out-So many indications of seizure and very high temp...

So what happened to the initial codeine call? Dont know but its easy to get blood out of a dead turnip for the examination but it wasnt initially done. Revere is posting I believe that this is all too cozy. Me too. But, if you werent in such a hurry all the time to use your Spewie rant attacks tard nards you might be able to listen a little better.

But here are a few interesting things that have been overlooked Spume. Not general knowledge and that is that the anthrax in Ft. Detrick had silicon in it. Well in the 50's/60's they used silicon to attach it to the bug to keep it from sticking together. An interesting process in its own right much less getting particles small enough to attach to it. We dont have any of this because its bio-weps level and prohibited... Where did it come from? Is Ivins yet another patsy? I dont know and we arent ever going to know.

But thats my rant for the day Spermie. You keep attaching and attacking... I am used to it.

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 25 Feb 2010 #permalink

I know I will sound like a conspiracist, but I still think the most plausible scenario for the anthrax perpetrator was Papa Bush putting something in play to help his son look âpresidentialâ. I think it was set in motion before 9/11 and in all the excitement afterward no one thought to call it off, or maybe it couldn't be called off by then.

All of the letters that contained anthrax, also contained instructions to take antibiotics, penicillin, which that particular strain happened to be sensitive to. Except the letters sent to the two Democrats. They had no warnings. What kind of terrorists warn their victims (except liberals) to take effective countermeasures? That new kind of compassionate conservative terrorists.

When 9/11 did happen, staff at the White House started taking Cipro. Why? That is a good question that I have never seen an answer to.

I think the original plan was to frame Hatfill, which was why there were so many coincidental matches to Hatfill's background and travel. Coincidences that could only have been generated by a group that had access to Hatfill's background and current travel plans. If you look at who had access to that strain of anthrax, to Hatfill's background, and who stood to gain the most from a panic about anthrax, it was not Ivins. The owners of BioPort (including Papa Bush) stood to gain (and actually did gain) a lot more. Ivins gained nothing.

Randy, putting silicone on powders is trivial if you know how to do it. Making a few tens of grams of anthrax is a relatively trivial exercise. The problems of bioweapons is in making hundreds or thousands of tons cheaply and putting it in munitions that can be used in warfare and actually have a military useful purpose. The last one is the real difficulty. Unless you want to use your bioweapons to kill civilians, they are not very useful, and killing civilians is not a generally recognized military useful purpose (wink, wink).

I missed the autopsy report. I remember the questions at time of Dr. Ivins death as to why no autopsy was done, so am surprised it has been revealed (somewhere?) that in fact there was one (per message 4 above). Google isn't helping me find that record, so could someone point me to locating the autopsy?

By formerGeorgian (not verified) on 26 Feb 2010 #permalink

formerGeorgian: As far as I know there was no autopsy and he was cremated. The issue of Tylenol PM versus codeine has nothing to do with anything. The issue is acetaminophen.


Lets see now... The guy is committed... By WHOM? Self or ordered. Then he goes and does the Daschle two step with the mail. Then he commits suicide? The codeine report was from the LA Times. So the biggest thing they can do is take a sample of his blood?

Cozy, cozy, cozy. While I dont ascribe to Deadies conspiracy theory with GB I, I cant understand why the vaunted FBI didnt conduct an autopsy. In fact you can bet they did one and only to add to the thoughts of Deadie I would say so that if it was a frame, they could blame who they wanted to.

Who was the asshole in charge of this investigation? Holder......... And if you think thats funny, Reagan first appointed him back in the 80's. Well he went over to the dark side for sure.

Anyway, this has a foul stench to it. Deadie, granted on the siliconization but my point is that this is bio-weps grade stuff. HTF do you get that out the door? Much less how do you do it without someone noticing?

Will WaxJob Waxman do anything about this one? Not on your life.

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 03 Mar 2010 #permalink


....I still think the most plausible scenario for the anthrax perpetrator was Papa Bush putting something in play to help his son look âpresidentialâ.

Let me propose an alternate, IMO more substantive scenario, that centers around lucrative military contracting. No, not with Halliburton and not related to Iraq, but related to the Anthrax Vaccine Immunization Program or AVIP. Here's a snippet from the wikipedia page on AVIP. Note the dates:

In 1998, the Clinton administration required the inoculation of all military members[2][3], despite the fact that the FDA issued a warning letter to the anthrax vaccine manufacturer threatening to revoke its product licenses unless immediate action was taken to correct deficiencies on March 11, 1997.[4] In June 2001, the DOD halted vaccination due to non-FDA approved changes in BioPort's manufacturing process[5].

I repeat, in June 2001, the DOD halted those vaccinations. And then

On June 28, 2002, in the wake of the 2001 anthrax attacks and leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, all military personnel were required to get anthrax vaccination

So, just before 9/11, 2001, the AVIP, and the profits for BioPort, looked like it was headed towards the graveyard. The anthrax attacks revived their fortunes. The FDA quickly gave them the license back, and BioPort was making profits again. The anthrax attacks were certainly convenient for them!!

That's for motive.

Let's look at opportunity. Here's a story from November 2000 about one business partner of BioPort, name of Battelle:

Battelle Memorial Institute has surfaced as a potential contractor to run a $500 million anthrax vaccine lab proposed by the Pentagon.

Battelle marked its foray into the anthrax arena this fall when it became a subcontractor to the only developer of the vaccine, Lansing, Mich.-based BioPort Corp.

But Battelle is not just into vaccines. It has contracts galore with the DOD, including running Dugways Proving Ground, the weapons research facility in Utah that was named as one of the possible sources for the anthrax used in the 2001 attacks. A LA Times story in 2008 had the FBI tying Dugway as the source where their prime suspect Ivins was supposed to have obtained those specific samples of thrax, Anthrax mixture led FBI to Ivins:

Ivins had mixed spores shipped to Ft. Detrick from the Army's Dugway Proving Ground in Utah, a facility operated by the Battelle Memorial Institute in Ohio, a private contractor that performs top- secret work for the CIA and other agencies.

By cross-referencing the dates when those spores were received and handled at Ft. Detrick, the FBI sharply narrowed the list of government employees with possible access to the material.

So you have a company that runs bioweapons research facilities, with access to the anthrax agent, which was also involved in producing vaccines for the DOD, except that the said vaccines contract was at the point of being yanked in the summer of 2001. They (and the people behind them) had the motive and the means.

There's a lot all over the internet about Battelle and BioPort/EBS, some more credible than others. Note especially the relationship between the latter and the powerful Carlyle group. Here's a good blog at Kos, to start...