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FBI lab reports on anthrax attacks suggest another miscue/ McClatchy

Posted May 19 2011 11:46pm
McClatchy's Greg Gordon has written another excellent piece on the anthrax letters. The focus this time is on the silicon and tin added to the spore prep, and how the FBI resolutely failed to investigate them as a means of solving the case
The existence of the silicon-tin chemical signature offered investigators the possibility of tracing purchases of the more than 100 such chemical products available before the attacks, which might have produced hard evidence against Ivins or led the agency to the real culprit.
But the FBI lab reports released in late February give no hint that bureau agents tried to find the buyers of additives such as tin-catalyzed silicone polymers.
The apparent failure of the FBI to pursue this avenue of investigation raises the ominous possibility that the killer is still on the loose.
A McClatchy analysis of the records also shows that other key scientific questions were left unresolved and conflicting data wasn't sorted out when the FBI declared Ivins the killer shortly after his July 29, 2008, suicide.
And here is a classic example of how the FBI promulgates BS it knows is total BS:  by failing to allow the purveyor of crap to be identified, everyone at the Bureau saves face, and the media will print the excrement FBI provided:
A senior federal law enforcement official, who was made available only on the condition of anonymity, said the FBI had ordered exhaustive tests on the possible sources of silicon in the anthrax and concluded that it wasn't added. Instead, the lab found that it's common for anthrax spores to incorporate environmental silicon and oxygen into their coatings as a "natural phenomenon" that doesn't affect the spores' behavior, the official said.
Gordon printed the unsourced comments, yes--but then he made clear their total lack of veracity
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.
An FBI spokesman declined to comment on the presence of tin or to answer other questions about the silicon-tin connection.
...The silicon-tin connection wasn't the only lead left open in one of the biggest investigations in FBI history, an inquiry that took the bureau to the cutting edge of laboratory science. In April, McClatchy reported that after locking in on Ivins in 2007, the bureau stopped searching for a match to a unique genetic bacterial strain scientists had found in the anthrax that was mailed to the Post and to NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw, although a senior bureau official had characterized it as the hottest clue to date.

FBI officials say it's all a moot point, because they're positive they got the right man in Ivins. 
... the FBI never found hard evidence that Ivins produced the anthrax or that he scrawled threatening letters seemingly meant to resemble those of Islamic terrorists. Or that he secretly took late-night drives to Princeton, N.J., to mail them.
In a chapter in a recently updated book, "Microbial Forensics," Velsko wrote that the anthrax "must have indeed been produced under an unusual set of conditions" to create such high silicon counts. That scenario, he cautioned, might not be "consistent with the prosecution narrative in this case."
...As a result of Ivins' death and the unanswered scientific issues, Congress' investigative arm, the Government Accountability Office, is investigating the FBI's handling of the anthrax inquiry.
UPDATE:  Further stirring the pot, Maureen Stevens has amended her lawsuit against the federal government with testimony from 2 of Ivins' supervisors, who say Ivins could not have been a sole perpetrator of the anthrax letters.
... After obtaining these statements, Stevens' lawyers successfully argued to a federal judge that she should be allowed to withdraw from her previous agreement with lawyers for the U.S. that Ivins was solely to blame so her attorneys could use the new evidence at trial. Attorneys for the federal government didn't object and her motion was granted April 14.
The change means Stevens' attorneys are now free to take additional statements and search for other evidence that might conflict with the FBI's conclusion...
Trial is currently scheduled for Dec. 5 before Senior U.S. District Judge Daniel T.K. Hurley in West Palm Beach...
Hurley has refused U.S. government attempts to get the case dismissed, and his rulings were upheld by an appeals court.
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