Panel casts doubt on FBI scientific evidence in anthrax case

By David Edwards
Tuesday, February 15, 2011 14:55 EDT
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An independent panel of scientists has determined that the FBI did not have enough scientific evidence to produce a conviction in the case of the 2001 anthrax attacks that killed five people.

The National Academies of Sciences released a review Tuesday of the science used in the investigation. The $1.1 million report, which was commissioned by the FBI, concluded that the man accused in the case, Bruce Ivins, could have carried out the attacks, but the science alone did not prove it.

In October and September of 2001, letters containing anthrax killed five people and infected 17 others. Recipients included NBC News, The New York Post, Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT).

Even after over 600,000 investigator work hours spent by the FBI’s “Amerithrax Task Force,” the case against Ivins was largely circumstantial.

Ivins killed himself in 2008 just as the government was prepared to indict him. The Justice Department closed the case last year, concluding Ivins had acted alone in stealing the spores from the government lab where he worked.

The report released Tuesday questioned the link between a flask of anthrax found in Ivins’ office and the letters.

“The scientific link between the letter material and flask number RMR-1029 is not as conclusive as stated in the DOJ Investigative Summary,” the report said.

The panel added that another explanation for the link “was not rigorously explored” by the FBI.

“This shows what we’ve been saying all along: that it was all supposition based on conjecture based on guesswork, without any proof whatsoever,” Paul Kemp, a lawyer who represented Ivins, told The Washington Post.

“The FBI has long maintained that while science played a significant role, it was the totality of the investigative process that determined the outcome of the anthrax case,” the Justice Department and the FBI said in a joint statement. “Although there have been great strides in forensic science over the years, rarely does science alone solve an investigation.”

In a September 2007 e-mail to himself, Ivins said he knew of the identity of the anthrax killer. Before his death in 2008, he told friends that government agents had hounded him and his family. These details have given rise to a wide variety of conspiracy theories about the case ever since.

David Edwards
David Edwards
David Edwards has served as an editor at Raw Story since 2006. His work can also be found at Crooks & Liars, and he's also been published at The BRAD BLOG. He came to Raw Story after working as a network manager for the state of North Carolina and as as engineer developing enterprise resource planning software. Follow him on Twitter at @DavidEdwards.
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  • PrissyPatriot®

    Why is an obvious truth spoken out-loud when this occurred called ‘conspiracy’? It was a criminal conspiracy-big difference. I’m so sick of this. And what happened to the Wheeler investigation? Are we supposed to believe he threw himself in the dumpster too?

  • Sunshine1970

    I never felt right about this story and Mr. Ivins’ death…I’m very happy to hear an independent panel confirm what I felt. Something’s fishy about it.
    Now back to the drawing board to figure it out, but that will never happen, I’m sure. Something tells me the government had something to do with it. I don’t know how, but they did.

  • http://gaia-health.com/ Heidi Stevenson

    A wide variety of conspiracy theories? None as half-baked as the one cooked up by the FBI and used to destroy Bruce Ivins’ life.

  • NadePaulKuciGravMcKi

    *The Government’s Dead 9/11 Anthrax Patsy*

    building 7, twin towers, pentagon, shanksville

  • Anonymous

    Why would he put

    Sounds like someone wanted to blame the Muslims. Who would benefit from this ?
    I’m no Perry Mason – but I guessing it wasn’t Bruce Ivins.

  • Spire

    Never forget this shame against Ivins and against you: it gave us the Patriot Act.
    The guilty have since been promoted to cover their own tracks.

  • Spire

    awesome logo.

  • Anonymous

    FBI should be changed to FBA – - Fucking Bungling ASSHOLES!

    This shit organization of do nothings should be disbanded and its headquarters building turned into a homeless shelter!

  • Anonymous

    The intimidation of congress to get the patriot act past through the Anthrax scare tells the whole story, Dick Cheney, Dick Cheney, don’t be afraid to say it

  • http://proudprimate.com Proud Primate

    The biological equivalence of the anthrax is far less of an issue really than the extreme difficulty of the physical preparation of the material, specifically weaponization technology of a trillion-spores-per-gram, where every spore is attached to a piece of polymerized glass between one and five microns in diameter and static charged to repel each other — ie., to behave like a gas inside the envelope. This aspect is beyond all but the most sophisticated weapons labs in the world, ie., Battelle, Dugway, and others, doing things far more difficult than the bio work at Ft. Detrick. Absolutely out of the reach of a solitary individual.

    Here’s a great interview with Prof. Francis Boyle by Alex Jones, and another by Peter B Collins and Sibel Edmonds (mp3′s both) covering a lot of the same ground.

  • Snertly

    It might not have been true, but it kept the public off the FBI’s butt for about two years, so not a complete waste… Unless you look at it from the point of view of a scientist badgered until he committed suicide.

  • Anonymous

    its very hard to find your nose………………

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_EZ4W5CDCIVXKIIKESYBN2EP6VE brian

    I have my PhD in Microbiology, specifically ecology and evolution. This whole thing stinks of a massive conspiracy. Not this report, but the report that was used to indict Ivins was incredibly sketchy at best to ANYONE in the know of molecular biology.

    He was suicided. End of story.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_YHUR5LALBGRBDQ5VAKAL3JDKNU JustinB

    There are many events throughout history that I hope to not be forgotten and many cold cases that should also never be forgotten.

    2 of which are very recent history and both have captivated my attention…

    This is one of them. Please, anyone reading this something in my gut tells me there is something definitely not right about this. I find it odd that this has not gotten more attention. This is a huge mess up on the FBI’s part.

    Another one, not related to this at all but occured a few years after was the radionuclide polonium-210 poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko. The more you read about this one, it’s going to sound like a 007 Movie. This man personally blamed Putin for his assasination on his death bed.

  • Anonymous

    Ivins was not physically in one of the states that the letters were mailed from. They tried to prosecute another man for this crime up until the day before they pointed to this dead man and said that he did it. Why would they continue to prosecute a man when they said they had been following leads on Mr. Ivins for some time? Why did they get their arses handed to them so badly in court when they prosecuted another man for the same crime? This time the person they accused is unable to defend himself in court. Why would he write an email to himself saying that he knew the name of the killer if he was the killer and was about to kill himself? The fact that the anthrax only went to enemies of the Bush Administration and to people who could have stopped the Patriot Act is not mentioned. They do not mention that Jerome Hauer, the same man who came on CNN within the hour that 911 happened knowing far too much information, enough information to have prevented the attacks, warned people and the White House to start taking Cipro right before the anthrax attacks happened.


  • http://www.rawstory.com/ Stumptownhero

    Missing in all of this finger pointing is coverage of the only non-postal worker to die from the Anthrax attacks. Randi Rhodes covered the story which links the death of a small time magazine owner in Florida who was reported to be in possession of pictures of a younger George Bush engaged in homosexual activity in a DC hotel with an old time college friend in the presence of a well know DC escort who took the picture and eventually delivered the negative to the publisher.

    The escort has gone public with these accusations but without human corroboration or the negative the MSN has dismissed her claims and failed to launch an independent investigation.

    One of the more interesting aspects of this suspicious death is the assertion that a company controlled by Rudy Giuliani was awarded the clean up contract of the Magazine’s offices and the claim that another Guliani company ended up buying the building and demolishing it without EVER allowing any of the publisher’s relatives or employees back into the building! Hmmmm?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Gregory-Martin/100000564476826 Gregory Martin

    How odd that they’ve never mentioned Dr. Phillip Zack.

  • http://proudprimate.com Proud Primate

    Oh! Skeptic, are you?

  • Anonymous

    We ALL knew it was Cheney and Rumsfeld so they could shove the unpatriotic Patriot Act up the A55ES of the People!!!

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, kind of like how suddenly, the intelligence agencies that ostensibly didn’t know that they had informants rooming with hijackers, for instance, suddenly knew where they had all been doing flight training.

    But am I questioning the events of 9/11? Nahhhhhh!

  • Anonymous

    Notice that the main targets were democrats at that time.

    Were democrats being sent a message,, by republicans and their military-industrial complex which is controlling this government and it’s policies.

  • Anonymous

    They harrassed this man until he committed suicide just so they could mark this investigation as “solved.” Absolutely criminal. Your tax dollars at work.

  • Anonymous

    This is a case where the single-minded reichies believed that an innocent person wouldn’t commit suicide, so they just hung it on him and pranced away.

  • http://twitter.com/Howieisright Howieisright

    I would really like to learn this but instead of Anthrax I would have farts in the envelope.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2NPRPRYZC3RF424Y4G4NKPY3FM Anya O

    Its so easy to convict a dead man who can’t defend himself, isn’t it? So they say science alone can’t solve a case. Well how do you convict a man if his DNA doesn’t match that which was collected from a rape investigation? How do you convict a man of anthrax poisoning if the anthrax strain linked to him doesn’t match that which was used against the victims.

    These “open-and-shut” cases are always the ones you should question more. Especially when the suspect ends up dead before he or she can have their day in court. This tends to imply that not all is as it seems (coming from the mind of conspiracy theorist).

  • http://www.rawstory.com/ Stumptownhero

    Yea two ego maniac’s, one who brought us PRESIDENT GW Bush and the other who has brought us the TEA Party. Oh yeah great logo!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RT3XX4DFKZ2AD7JHO3D3PZ7G4M ChrisK

    I fear my government.

  • Spire

    looks like somebody took a great big gulp of the koolaid.

  • Anonymous

    In the end…many years from now the world will know that KKKKarl rove was the anthrax mastermind.

  • Anonymous

    Karl Rove is the perp. He has no soul. It is similar to his language. Time to haul his arse in.

  • http://proudprimate.com Proud Primate

    Your comments should have a built-in delete button. They serve no useful purpose.

  • surgethis

    When shadow government officials manipulate evidence it becomes impossible to ever know the real truth. This was the outcome of an investigation never meant to resolve who is behind the attacks. Same as 911 .. the commission was basically damage control after the outcry for an investigation forced it. Otherwise there would never have been any investigation. The covert secret government pretend to investigate only to shut the public up. They needed a fall guy in the anthrax case because they had run out of excuses.

  • ghostof911

    Sorry, but Rove and mastermind do not belong in the same sentence. Rove’s a flunky who knows how to rig elections, but that’s the extent of his expertise.

    You’re on the right track though.

  • ghostof911

    There are bigger fish than to fry than Karl Rove. He can be tossed in the same cage with the rest just to annoy his superiors.

  • ghostof911

    Wrong. They are complicit in serious crimes against the American people. Those who are tried and convicted of crimes must be treated as any other common criminal.

  • ghostof911

    Thank you for the links. The FBI destroyed the original Ames strain and all other evidence. WTF?

    The anthrax issue could be the thread that unravels the entire ball of yarn.

  • ghostof911

    Did he commit suicide by shooting himself in the back of the head with a rifle like Augusto Pinochet of Chile?

  • ghostof911

    As Preznit George W would have said, “He suicided himself.”

  • ghostof911

    Ivins “suicided” himself just like the three prisoners at Gitmo.


  • ghostof911

    There are more of us than in the government. Make the government fear you.

  • Anonymous

    Well, this certainly explains why Ivins had to be suicided — not only could he have easily defended himself against such a weak case, but could also apparently have fingered the real perp(s).

    Seems the FBI learned their lesson after scientist/virologist, Stephen Hatfill, successfully sued the government for first trying to frame him for the Anthax Letters.

  • Anonymous

    “Adam Rothschild calls the Prime Minister of Canada a slave!”


  • Mein Furor

    If it’s not excruciatingly obvious to everyone by now, every single government intelligence organization in this country (and most others) is a propaganda machine. They are so consumed by secrecy, (dis)information manipulation, and self-preservation that they could be considered clinically psychopathic.

    Since journalists have been mostly reduced to little more than a nuisance for them and the courts have repeatedly refused to act in support of the American populace, there seems to be little incentive left for our government to be truthful about ANYTHING.

    How many times during the Bush administration alone have we come to find out we were lied to? Pretty much every single time there was doubt cast over a government statement, the skeptics ended up being right on the money. Anyone with half a brain now must question every claim being made by our government. This is completely unsustainable and will destroy our country if the situation doesn’t change.

    If ever there was a time in world history when a whistle blower mechanism was needed to keep humans informed about the misdeeds of corrupt governments and other powerful entities, the time is now. This is why it is absolutely vital to the health of humanity that we make sure people like Julian Assange and organizations like Wikileaks are allowed to continue their incredibly important work. Without them, power and greed will destroy the fundamental values upon which our country was founded, ultimately resulting in the destruction of our country.

    As in any successful relationship, truth is required to establish trust. Without trust, there can be no relationship.

  • Mein Furor

    It was Cheney. The man is pure evil and possibly the biggest traitor our country has ever seen.

  • Anonymous

    Cheney, Rumsfeld, Philip Zack, and others — Fox News might not report on it, but the truth has a way of bleeding out. People know:


  • http://proudprimate.com Proud Primate

    Yeah. Boyle mentions that destruction of evidence. How like the destruction of the steel from the Twin Towers! Chris Bollyn has done an in-depth study of that issue, which is also fascinating. He talks about it here with Kevin Barrett.

    I should point out for the general reader that Boyle wrote the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989, which was passed unanimously by both houses of Congress and signed into law by President George H.W. Bush.

  • Anonymous

    So of course they had to suicide him. They never could have proved his guilt, so having him “demonstrate” it was just as good for Homicide Inc. Oh, America, I fear it’s too late for you. I just hope the U$ gets neutered before it can infect the rest of the world…

  • Anonymous

    But the FBI already had the anthrax terrorist. They were 100% sure Steven J Hatfill was guilty, until he wasn’t, so certain they were destroying his life, their surveillance made him unemployable and depressed, they paid 4.2 million in a legal settlement. Now they are certain, don’t worry, they know what there doing.

    For those interested: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/28/washington/28hatfill.html

  • Anonymous

    It seems you post the same nonsense every time we have a discussion on criminal conspiracies here on Raw. You post the ravings of a lunatic to muddy the waters in an attempt to make the subject seem crack pot tin foil nutters. I have till now kept my mouth shut but can’t any more.

  • ghostof911

    Brad Friedman has this to sayabout our unwelcome visitors.

    While the notion of paid political operatives subversively using social media to discredit opponents has long been suspected by many, here we have evidence that these tactics are, in truth, fairly common among those who can afford to deploy them. That commenter who always shows up to hijack a comment thread on a specific topic may very well be working for $250/hour.


  • ghostof911

    Great links. They will have wheels elsewhere.


    Point about Boyle was noted. His testimony is indeed credible.

  • Anonymous

    As long as law enforcement relies on “confidential informants” and criminals for their investigations, science and genuine investigation will be sidelined.

  • Anonymous

    FYI. Most urban police agencies refer to the FBI as a f–king bunch of idiots. There are some competent people in the FBI however they are often stymied in their useful work apprehending bad guys like bank robbers, serial murderers, and hostage takers by management and the politics of the DOJ. The FBI is used or rather misused as a GESTAPO or KGB by the executive branch to intimidate alternative thinkers, demonstrators, and those who oppose the US policy of world domination.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_TF72KWIG5DGSPE3ZXDK6FX4KTQ Robert Burned

    The FBI is the enemy of the people.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/L5PHKRPFHK3LLTRDNVH2ZBIWOA Cal

    Bruce Ivins may have worked with the Anthrax bacteria, but he sure didn’t come up with the weaponized version that killed all of those poor souls. That was produced in a secret laboratory (I say secret because the US has signed a treaty banning the production of weaponized bacteria). So where did it come from? The government did their best NOT to investigate this part of the story. Bruce Ivins had nothing to do with this crime, though I’m sure he had a good idea who did since the bioweapons world is fairly small. If anyone wanted to know what their government is really capable of, they need look no further than this debacle. Muslim terrorists my ass!

  • Johnny Warbucks

    Ok. So, where’s the news here?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KYXM5QF7OHZNHXRRS7JX26NRQY Jamie Kelley

    The anthrax mailings were part of the broader false-flag operation designed to scare Americans into supporting the Bush administration’s policy of preemtive war, the suppression of civil rights and the Constitution, and also to flog the media into questioning neither.

    Look no further than Dick Cheney’s shadow government if you want to know who mailed that anthrax.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KYXM5QF7OHZNHXRRS7JX26NRQY Jamie Kelley

    Has there ever been a thorough accounting of exactly what Cheney’s “shadow government” was doing in the days preceding and following 9/11? We know that the Bush White House was taking Cipro on 9/11, more than two weeks before the first reported case of antrax was reported, so clearly someone was in the know. Maybe we need some Egyptian-style demonstrations to demand an honest and objective investigation of this case.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KYXM5QF7OHZNHXRRS7JX26NRQY Jamie Kelley

    Seriously, shut the fuck up kathyf.

  • Jaimie11

    OK City, first WTC attempt, The Kennedys and MLK, Malcolm, Pearl Harbor………..

  • Jaimie11

    Bungling incompetence is a cover for their slick devious operations against freedom and for the criminal oligarchs.

  • Anonymous


  • Anonymous

    Well said – Right on.

  • Mein Furor

    Truly outstanding post. You’ve taken an extremely complicated subject and put it in a concise, logical context. Unfortunately, few people will ever see it buried this deep in the comments. Your post should be turned into a Raw Story article and published on this site.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bob-Zentrails/100001475536421 Bob Zentrails

    You’d think that they would be pursuing this case at least as hard as they pretended to go after Osama bin Laden.

    The fact that the FBI is NOT particularly interested in this case shows just how phony all the RW “terrorists” fear mongering really is.

    The FBI apparently is convinced that Anthrax is not a terroristic threat to us. Why?

  • http://proudprimate.com Proud Primate

    Indeed. They have a lot to lose if the people wake the f*ck up. Anything to head off/sidetrack/detour such an eventuality. Brad Friedman is an olympic eagle-eye.

    Thanks for the link. I DLd the Thursday hours. Always enjoy Brad. One of the best was his interview of Ray McGovern, again filling in for Mike, when Ray brought up JFK and the Unspeakable (in reference to Obama and Panetta having good reason to fear assassination by bloody-handed CIA types) which caused me to buy the book. Probably the best JFK book ever.

  • Jaimie11

    Funny how the FBI bungled that one. Tried to imply a muslim terrorist and Steven Hatfill, who fought back and won, later suing the FBI. Then they had to frame Ivins, drive him nearly mad, and destroy him. Debt is created to pay for this shit and then we get to pay back the debt with interest.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bob-Zentrails/100001475536421 Bob Zentrails

    Sure makes you wonder if Bruce Ivans’ autopsy examiners looked for obscure toxic substances. Say, ones used in the past by the CIA. His suicide was way too convenient.

  • Anonymous

    I was forced to work alongside those fucking assholes so I know first-hand how really dumb and incompetent most of those FBI fuckups are, and that everything you’ve posted here is oh so true.

  • Anonymous

    On that point I will agree!

  • Elim

    They knew Ivins didn’t do it. They framed him and then they got rid of him.