A reporter yesterday asked United States Attorney Jeffrey Taylor what evidence -- hard evidence -- the FBI had against Bruce Ivins in the 2001 anthrax attacks.
"We have a flask that's effectively the murder weapon," Taylor said.
But this is not like Colonel Mustard in the library with the candlestick.
A lot of ambiguity remains because the FBI's investigation hinges on the complexities of microbiology and genealogy.
And it's not just that we don't understand those details. The FBI did not release them.
What the FBI tells us is this: the anthrax started out in a wet, almost liquid form. Then somehow Ivins -- and only Ivins -- converted that into the fine, weapons-grade powder that was sent through the mail and killed five people.
That's an exceptionally elaborate process for just one person, said Brenda Wilson, a microbiology professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She did post-doctoral research on anthrax.
"It don't believe that he could do this all on his own. It does require more people than one," Wilson told TPMmuckraker.
"First you have to lyopholize it," Wilson explained. "Lyopholiziation is a drying process. But then after you dry it down, in order to make it weapons-grade, you have to do a lot of grinding and stuff -- it's like a milling process. And during the milling process you need to add substances to it, like sillica, that sort of coats the spores and makes them less sticky."
"People would notice what he was doing. People would be aware of him doing it. I know what people are doing in my lab. Even if he wanted to be sneaky about it, people would know that things were done."
"I could see if someone else made it and he took it and did something with it. That I could believe," Wilson said.
Officially, the U.S. does not have or keep any weapons-grade anthrax. President Nixon ordered the dismantling of U.S. biowarfare programs in 1969 and the destruction of all existing bioweapons, including anthrax
Wilson pointed out the the FBI talked about the flask of "wet" anthrax but there is no evidence they found any other remnants of the weapons-grade version beyond the letters sent in the mail.
"Where is the original batch? We know somewhere it had to be made and put into those envelopes," she said.
We also talked to George Weinstock, a professor of genetics and the associate director of the Genome Sequencing Center at Washington University in St. Louis.
Compared to Wilson, Weinstock comes from a different field of science, so he had a different set of questions about the Anthrax investigation.
His main question was: How exactly did the FBI link the weaponized anthrax from the letters in 2001 to the flask of "wet" anthrax in Ivins' lab?
When matching DNA, its much easier to prove something doesn't match than proving it does, he said.
We hear a lot about DNA matching in people -- such as paternity testing. But matching spores of anthrax is different. They're not as complex, so the odds of two sets of anthrax spores sharing the same genetic code is much higher.
In court documents, the FBI said it tested roughly 1,000 samples of anthrax before concluding that Ivin's anthrax was a parent strain of the anthrax in the letters.
Based on that level of testing, what are the odds that the "forensic microbiologists" got a false match?
"This might put the chance at one in 1,000. Think about one in 1,000 if it was a paternity suit? Whether that would stand up in court, I don't know. You really need to look at a much larger sample to have accurate statistic," he said.
"We need more information about these particular spelling mistakes" in the spores' gene sequence," Weinstock said. "We just don't know that information and it wasn't presented in the affidavit."
McCain's energy plan misleads the public and ignores the risks of nuclear energy.... McCain, whose plan to boost nuclear power is an insult to voters' intelligence.... Before gas prices started soaring and McCain emerged as the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, his ideas on energy sounded very much like Obama's, focusing on renewable power, carbon controls and efficiency. Campaign consultants doubtless deemed that too crunchy-granola for the GOP base, so he has taken to tossing it red meat by talking up nuclear power and increased offshore oil drilling. But misleading the public about nuclear energy will not serve the country, or his campaign, well.
Reidar Visser, a fellow at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, writes on his website historiae.org that the recent failure of the Iraqi Parliament to pass an elections law exposes the weaknesses of the post-2003 political system in Iraq.
Read The Full Article:
Four days after falsely suggesting that no"prominent Republican" has "said that [Sen. Barack Obama] isnot patriotic, or that he's got a funny name," Sean Hannity claimed onthe August 4 edition of hisnationally syndicated radio program that Obama "can'tpoint to a single instance in which President Bush or [Sen. John] McCain or[former White House senior adviser] Karl Rove or Sean Hannity or talk radio orany other major Republican has made an issue of Obama's race." Infact, as Media Matters for[...]
Read The Full Article:
It’s rule #1 in the Republican playbook that if you repeat something often enough — irrespective of its veracity — it becomes common wisdom. Somehow, I don’t think that rule is going to work for Senator Tubes. TPMMuckraker: On Saturday, Stevens visited the small town of Ketchikan, for their annual [...]
Read The Full Article:
But that's OK. This isn't a new product.
Citing Stability in Iraq, Bush Sees Troop Cuts
By STEVEN LEE MYERS and SABRINA TAVERNISE
Published: August 1, 2008
President George W. Bush on Thursday suggested the possibility of further troop reductions in Iraq as the security situation continues to show marked improvement.
Mr Bush said July had been a "month of encouraging news", with violence declining to its lowest level since early 2004. He added that General David Petraeus, the top US commander in Iraq, had said that while progress was still "reversible" there was now a "degree of durability" to the security gains.
US may reduce forces in Iraq by spring
By PAULINE JELINEK, Associated Press Writer
Fri Jun 22, 6:52 PM ET
WASHINGTON - The U.S. may be able to reduce combat forces in Iraq by next spring if Iraq's own security forces continue to grow and improve, a senior American commander said Friday. He denied reports the U.S. is arming Sunni insurgent groups to help in the fight against al-Qaida.
Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, the top day-to-day commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, did not predict any reductions in U.S. forces but said such redeployments may be feasible by spring. There are currently 156,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.
U.S. general in Iraq outlines troop cuts
Michael R. Gordon The New York Times
Published: June 25, 2006
WASHINGTON The top American commander in Iraq has drafted a plan that projects sharp reductions in the United States military presence there by the end of 2007, with the first cuts coming this September, American officials say.
American officials emphasized that any withdrawals would depend on continued progress, including the development of competent Iraqi security forces, a reduction in Sunni Arab hostility toward the new Iraqi government and the assumption that the insurgency will not expand beyond Iraq's six central provinces. Even so, the projected troop withdrawals in 2007 are more significant than many experts had expected.
U.S. Signals Spring Start for Pullout
General Restates Position, Noting Contingencies, During Rumsfeld Visit to Baghdad
By Ann Scott Tyson and Ellen Knickmeyer
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, July 28, 2005; Page A18
BAGHDAD, July 27 -- The top U.S. military leader in Iraq said Wednesday there could be substantial withdrawals of some of the 135,000 U.S. troops in the country as early as next spring.
"If the political process continues to go positively, and if the development of the security forces continues to go as it is going, I do believe we'll still be able to take some fairly substantial reductions after these elections in the spring and summer," Casey said before meeting with Jafari.
Building Iraqi Security Forces Must Continue, Sanchez Says
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 11, 2004 – The commander of coalition forces in Iraq said today that continuing to build Iraqi security forces is key to a successful transfer of sovereignty.
Handing over security to the Iraqi people will depend upon the coalition's ability to quickly stand up Iraqi security forces, especially the police, the army and the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps.
This involves building the security forces in small units and police stations to provide the law and order in the cities, he said, and also giving Iraq the external security capacity it will need over the next couple of years. "I think it's going to take us awhile," he said, "but we're committed to it, and we'll be here until that's done."
Sanchez said the 129,000 U.S. service members currently in Iraq are an adequate number, "and we'll manage their redeployment as the operational and tactical situation dictates."
Here's the draft of the 2008 Democratic National Committee platform. Ambinder does some quick analysis.
Read The Full Article:
Ron Suskind’s new book alleges that the White House ordered the CIA to forge a letter from the head of Iraqi intelligence to Saddam Hussein linking the dictator to the 9/11 terrorists. The American Conservative’s Philip Giraldi argues today that “an extremely reliable and well placed source in the intelligence community” told him Suskind’s overall claim “is correct,” but that it was Douglas Feith’s Office of Special Plans — not the CIA — that forged the letter:
My source also notes that Dick Cheney, who was behind the forgery, hated and mistrusted the Agency and would not have used it for such a sensitive assignment. Instead, he went to Doug Feith?s Office of Special Plans and asked them to do the job. … It was Feith?s office that produced the letter and then surfaced it to the media in Iraq. Unlike the [Central Intelligence] Agency, the Pentagon had no restrictions on it regarding the production of false information to mislead the public. Indeed, one might argue that Doug Feith?s office specialized in such activity.
A CIA counterrorism expert said that, in the run-up to war, Feith’s office recommended that the CIA?s finding of no link between Iraq al Qaeda relations “be ignored. Not challenged, not made the subject of a critical dialogue between policymakers and analysts, but ignored.”
That's one hell of a nervous smile.
Brett Favre is back and with the NY Jets. The good news for Packers fans is that because of the Jets green unis, they just have to slightly adjust the tint level on their TVs to pretend he?s still a Packer.
My message for Jets fans is equally unenthusiastic. The move works as a buzz creator, it already has proven that, but I doubt it works in any other sense. Peter King reported that the Jets didn?t start negotiating until late Tuesday night, so the deal as a whole took under 24 hours to do. During his press conference, Favre conceded that he didn?t know much about the Jets at all, that it was all a new experience to him, that he didn?t know how things were going to work out. In other words, this arrangement resembles a shotgun wedding, or if one prefers, a regrettable one night stand. Favre seems to just want to play and the Jets want to be relevant.
Favre has, what, maybe one more season left? He comes to a team with a different offense. With just a few weeks left of preseason, he has to pick that up basically on the fly. He also forced out Chad Pennington, who was released by the team. Pennington had a noodle arm but was respected in the locker room. Favre?s resume engenders respect, but he?s still the new guy. Favre?s production won?t be as good as last years, because of age, the new team, and less receiving talent overall.
What this all means to me is that the Jets will struggle early in the season. Then if the Jets get into a 2-4 or 2-5 hole, they probably end up 7-9 or 8-8, missing the playoffs. After the season, Favre will realize that he put an unnecessary little asterisk to his legacy and retire. The Jets meanwhile also realize it was an impulsive decision and a publicity stunt. That?s what I think is most likely to happen, anyway.
Read The Full Article:
Echoing Dana Milbank's July 30 Washington Post column,Fox News host Neil Cavuto repeated as fact a disputed version of a comment Sen.Barack Obama reportedly made in a closed-door meeting with congressional Democrats, citing it aspurported evidence that Obama's "messianic thing is getting alittle over the top." Milbank wrote:Inside, according to a witness, hetold the House members, 'This is the moment ... that the world is waiting for,'adding: 'I have become a symbol of the possibility of[...]
Read The Full Article: