Ivins's possession of the drying equipment, known as a lyopholizer, could help investigators explain how he may have been able to send letters containing deadly anthrax spores to U.S. senators and news organizations, causing five deaths...Hmmn. This is interesting too:
The lyopholizer Ivins used in the fall of 2001 is commonly employed by pharmaceutical companies and laboratories as well as food processors to freeze a liquid broth of bacteria and quickly transform it into a dry solid without a thawing stage.
Scientists and biodefense experts familiar with USAMRIID's procedures say that Ivins's department rarely used such freeze dryers, because the researchers there worked with anthrax bacteria in a liquid form.
"Dry anthrax is much harder to work with," said one scientist familiar with Ivins's lab. A lyopholizer would fit inside the ventilated "biosafety cabinet" at the lab and could have been used without drawing notice, the scientist said. The machine could have processed a few small batches of anthrax liquid in less than a day, he said.
Other biodefense experts noted that the drying step could have been carried out with equipment no more complicated than a kitchen oven. "It is the simplest . . . but it is the least reproducible," said Sergei Popov, a former Soviet bioweapons scientist who now specializes in biodefense at George Mason University. "If you go too fast you get 'sand,' " he said, referring to the coarser anthrax powder used in the first attacks, in September 2001.
The second batch of letters contained a much finer powder. "To me, it all indicates that the person experimented with the ways to dry the spores, and produced small batches -- some of them not so successfully -- he later used to fill up different envelopes," Popov said. "The spores are naturally clumpy. As I understand, he just over-baked the first batches."
Significant mysteries remain, including whether the attacks that involved letters mailed from Florida and Princeton, N.J., could have been carried out by one person.But did he mail the Quantico letter too?
This is just in from the NYT:
Dr. Ivins, who had a history of alcohol abuse, had for years maintained a post office box under an assumed name that he used to receive pornographic pictures of blindfolded women.I think it's important to remember that Ivin's character is not the issue here. Even if he was a sleazy pervert, as the Feds seem to be trying to establish, that doesn't make him guilty. Conversely, even if he is innocent that does not make him a saint (he may have been a willing member of the Camel Club's anti-Arab harrassment, for example).
Years ago, he had visited Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority houses at universities in Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia, an obsession growing out of a romance with a sorority sister in his own college days at the University of Cincinnati — although someone who knew him well said the last such visit was in 1981.
The NYT article also notes some more disturbing elements of the investigation:
They had even intensively questioned his adopted children, Andrew and Amanda, now both 24, with the authorities telling his son that he might be able to collect the $2.5 million reward for solving the case and buy a sports car, and showing his daughter gruesome photographs of victims of the anthrax letters and telling her, “Your father did this,” according to the account Dr. Ivins gave a close friend.But I guess the really critical part of the NYT article is the scientific explanation, which goes pretty far:
As the investigation wore on, some colleagues thought the F.B.I.’s methods were increasingly coercive, as the agency tried to turn Army scientists against one another and reinterviewed family members.
One former colleague, Dr. W. Russell Byrne, said the agents pressed Dr. Ivins’s daughter repeatedly to acknowledge that her father was involved in the attacks.
“It was not an interview,” Dr. Byrne said. “It was a frank attempt at intimidation.”
Dr. Byrne said he believed Dr. Ivins was singled out partly because of his personal weaknesses. “They figured he was the weakest link,” Dr. Byrne said. “If they had real evidence on him, why did they not just arrest him?”
Another former co-worker, Dr. Kenneth W. Hedlund, who collaborated on anthrax research with Dr. Ivins in the 1980s, had a similar theory.
“The investigators looked around, they decided they had to find somebody. They went after all of them but he looked the most susceptible to pressure,” Dr. Hedlund said. “It is like prisoners of war: if they are harassed enough, they will be driven to do anything. But I don’t believe he would have done what they say he did.”
F.B.I. officials say they do know a great deal about what happened and will make it public, possibly as early as Wednesday. They say the core of their case will be the science, which produced the giant step from a globe of possible suspects to a single lab and a single flask...There's a lot more scientific stuff in the article.
Further, the attack strain contained bacteria with both the flipped and the unflipped DNA, showing that it was a mixture of two strains, which analysts later found reflected a mix of origins — 85 percent from the Dugway Proving Ground of the Army in Utah and 15 percent added at Fort Detrick, according to one person close to the investigation.
To make sure the case for the distinctive features of the attack anthrax could hold up in court, agents collected thousands of samples of Ames strain anthrax from labs around the world, said scientists familiar with the F.B.I.’s thinking. “This is the step that took so long,” one scientist said.