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Further Indications of a Cover-Up in the Anthrax Attacks

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Anthrax spores

COMMENT: In past posts and programs, we have noted evidence of a cover-up in the anthrax attacks of 2001. Now, a former FBI agent is suing the bureau, charging that he was subject to professional retaliation in exchange for questioning the official pronouncement that Bruce Ivins was the “lone nut” perpetrator of the attacks.

Although Richard L. Lambert thinks it possible that Ivins was the mailer, he thinks the bureau was railroading him.

“Former F.B.I. Agent Sues, Claiming Retaliation Over Misgivings in Anthrax Case” by Scott Shane; The New York Times; 4/9/2015.

When Bruce E. Ivins, an Army microbiologist, took a fatal overdose of Tylenol in 2008, the government declared that he had been responsible for the anthrax letter attacks of 2001, which killed five people and set off a nationwide panic, and closed the case.

Now, a former senior F.B.I. agent who ran the anthrax investigation for four years says that the bureau gathered “a staggering amount of exculpatory evidence” regarding Dr. Ivins that remains secret. The former agent, Richard L. Lambert, who spent 24 years at the F.B.I., says he believes it is possible that Dr. Ivins was the anthrax mailer, but he does not think prosecutors could have convicted him had he lived to face criminal charges.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Tennessee last Thursday, Mr. Lambert accused the bureau of trying “to railroad the prosecution of Ivins” and, after his suicide, creating “an elaborate perception management campaign” to bolster its claim that he was guilty. Mr. Lambert’s lawsuit accuses the bureau and the Justice Department of forcing his dismissal from a job as senior counterintelligence officer at the Energy Department’s lab in Oak Ridge, Tenn., in retaliation for his dissent on the anthrax case. . . .

 

 

Discussion

2 comments for “Further Indications of a Cover-Up in the Anthrax Attacks”

  1. Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far…“:

    Washington Post
    FBI admits flaws in hair analysis over decades

    By Spencer S. Hsu
    April 18

    The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000.

    Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far, according to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and the Innocence Project, which are assisting the government with the country’s largest post-conviction review of questioned forensic evidence.

    The cases include those of 32 defendants sentenced to death. Of those, 14 have been executed or died in prison, the groups said under an agreement with the government to release results after the review of the first 200 convictions.

    The FBI errors alone do not mean there was not other evidence of a convict’s guilt. Defendants and federal and state prosecutors in 46 states and the District are being notified to determine whether there are grounds for appeals. Four defendants were previously exonerated.

    The admissions mark a watershed in one of the country’s largest forensic scandals, highlighting the failure of the nation’s courts for decades to keep bogus scientific information from juries, legal analysts said. The question now, they said, is how state authorities and the courts will respond to findings that confirm long-suspected problems with subjective, pattern-based forensic techniques — like hair and bite-mark comparisons — that have contributed to wrongful convictions in more than one-quarter of 329 DNA-exoneration cases since 1989.

    In a statement, the FBI and Justice Department vowed to continue to devote resources to address all cases and said they “are committed to ensuring that affected defendants are notified of past errors and that justice is done in every instance. The Department and the FBI are also committed to ensuring the accuracy of future hair analysis testimony, as well as the application of all disciplines of forensic science.”

    Peter Neufeld, co-founder of the Innocence Project, commended the FBI and department for the collaboration but said, “The FBI’s three-decade use of microscopic hair analysis to incriminate defendants was a complete disaster.”

    “We need an exhaustive investigation that looks at how the FBI, state governments that relied on examiners trained by the FBI and the courts allowed this to happen and why it wasn’t stopped much sooner,” Neufeld said.

    Norman L. Reimer, the NACDL’s executive director, said, “Hopefully, this project establishes a precedent so that in future situations it will not take years to remediate the injustice.”

    While unnamed federal officials previously acknowledged widespread problems, the FBI until now has withheld comment because findings might not be representative.

    Federal authorities launched the investigation in 2012 after The Washington Post reported that flawed forensic hair matches might have led to the convictions of hundreds of potentially innocent people since at least the 1970s, typically for murder, rape and other violent crimes nationwide.

    The review confirmed that FBI experts systematically testified to the near-certainty of “matches” of crime-scene hairs to defendants, backing their claims by citing incomplete or misleading statistics drawn from their case work.

    In reality, there is no accepted research on how often hair from different people may appear the same. Since 2000, the lab has used visual hair comparison to rule out someone as a possible source of hair or in combination with more accurate DNA testing.

    Warnings about the problem have been mounting. In 2002, the FBI reported that its own DNA testing found that examiners reported false hair matches more than 11 percent of the time. In the District, the only jurisdiction where defenders and prosecutors have re-investigated all FBI hair convictions, three of seven defendants whose trials included flawed FBI testimony have been exonerated through DNA testing since 2009, and courts have exonerated two more men. All five served 20 to 30 years in prison for rape or murder.

    University of Virginia law professor Brandon L. Garrett said the results reveal a “mass disaster” inside the criminal justice system, one that it has been unable to self-correct because courts rely on outdated precedents admitting scientifically invalid testimony at trial and, under the legal doctrine of finality, make it difficult for convicts to challenge old evidence.

    “The tools don’t exist to handle systematic errors in our criminal justice system,” Garrett said. “The FBI deserves every recognition for doing something really remarkable here. The problem is there may be few judges, prosecutors or defense lawyers who are able or willing to do anything about it.”

    Federal authorities are offering new DNA testing in cases with errors, if sought by a judge or prosecutor, and agreeing to drop procedural objections to appeals in federal cases.

    However, biological evidence in the cases often is lost or unavailable. Among states, only California and Texas specifically allow appeals when experts recant or scientific advances undermine forensic evidence at trial.

    Defense attorneys say scientifically invalid forensic testimony should be considered as violations of due process, as courts have held with false or misleading testimony.

    Note that, back in 2008, FBI investigators concluded that the hair samples recovered from a letter in the Anthrax case didn’t match Ivins’s hair, which, all things considered, is kind of amazing.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 19, 2015, 5:11 pm
  2. There’s an update on a military investigation into the accidental shipment live anthrax spores, of the same strain as the one used in the 2001 anthrax attacks, to labs around the US and world over the last twelve years. The lucky recipients? All 50 states, plus Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Japan, United Kingdom, Korea, Australia, Canada, Italy, Germany, Norway and Switzerland:

    Military.com
    Pentagon Now Says Army Mistakenly Sent Live Anthrax to All 50 States

    Sep 01, 2015 | by Richard Sisk

    Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work has repeatedly said the scandal over the military’s mistaken shipment of live anthrax spores around the nation and the world would get worse — and he was right.

    The number of labs that received live anthrax has more than doubled to 194 since Work and Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s top acquisition official, released a report in July on the shipments of the deadly pathogen from the Army’s Dugway Proving Grounds in Utah.

    The number of states receiving live anthrax also more than doubled to include all 50 states and Washington, D.C., plus Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

    The number of countries that received live anthrax went up from seven to nine — Japan, United Kingdom, Korea, Australia, Canada, Italy, Germany, Norway and Switzerland, according to the Pentagon’s updated accounting of the shipments through Sept. 1.

    There have been no deaths or serious illnesses reported from the military’s 10-year program to ship anthrax to private and military labs for testing to develop vaccines and detection devices, according to the Defense Department.

    However, at least 31 military and civilian personnel were treated with antibiotics as a precaution after a lab in Maryland discovered in May that a supposedly irradiated anthrax sample contained live spores.

    The Pentagon boosted the count on June 10, saying it was 68 labs in 19 states and four countries. When the department issued its 30-day review of the scandal on July 23, Work said, “We know over the past 12 years, 86 laboratories in 20 states, the District of Columbia, and seven foreign countries ultimately received what were supposedly inactivated spores that originated at Dugway.”

    Work called the incidents at Dugway and throughout the system a “massive institutional failure.” He said then that he expected the numbers to climb as the Centers for Disease Control investigated for possible “secondary” shipments by the primary labs which received anthrax shipments.

    According to the latest Pentagon count, 88 primary labs received live anthrax and shared it with 106 secondary labs for a total of 194 labs.

    The samples were from the so-called Ames strain, a particularly virulent form of the bacteria used in the 2001 Anthrax attacks. After letters containing the substance were sent to the offices of news media and U.S. lawmakers, five people were killed and 17 others were infected. Bruce Ivans, a government microbiologist, committed suicide after authorities were preparing to charge him in the case.

    The Pentagon’s review released in July said, “The low numbers of live spores found in inactivated DoD samples did not pose a risk to the general public, Nonetheless, the shipment of live BA (Bacillus Anthracis) samples outside of the select agent program restrictions (at any concentration) is a serious breach of regulations.”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 4, 2015, 11:44 am

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