07 August 2008

Would Ivins Really Have Been Allowed in the Hot Suite After Stopping the Special Immunization Program?

At Emptywheel, Marcy Wheeler has assembled another of her very impressive timelines, in which she has integrated information from yesterday's document dump with other facts from the investigation of the anthrax attacks of 2001. Of particular interest are two early entries on the timeline:

Spring 2001: Ivins taken off Special Immunization Program

September 7, 2001: Ivins put back on Special Immunization Program

From the documents, it is clear that Bruce Ivins was taken off the Special Immunization Program in the spring of 2001 and then immunizations re-started on September 7. That information is impossible to rectify with the chart in the first search warrant attachment, where the government lays out the case for Ivins spending extra time in the laboratory around the time that the materials in the mailings could have been prepared. Note the discussion of Suite B3:
USAMRID containment Suite B3 is a Biological Safety Level-3 (BSL-3) suite of laboratories used by USAMRIID Bacteriology personnel for research on dangerous animal and human pathogens. The flask identified as RMR-1029 was stored in Suite B3 at the time of the letter attacks. Suite access is obtained via a Security Access Control (SAC) badge reader at the door to the cold-side change room, which is secured by a magnetic-lock. A central security system monitors and records a time stamp for each SAC badge and keypad request.

A review of Dr. Ivins's laboratory access records for Building 1425 was assessed to determine trends in working hours and evening times (after 6 p.m.) spent in Suite B3. His regular working hours on average consisted of a 7:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. shift, but he would periodically return in the evenings, presumably to check on the status of various experiments. Beginning in mid-August 200 1 ; however, there was a noticeable spike in Dr. Ivins's evening access to the B3 hot Suite.
If Ivins was taken off of the Special Immunization Program, he should not have had access to the "hot Suite". Here is a chart with a detailed summary of Ivins' after-hours activity from the same document:
As stated above, if Ivins was taken off the Special Immunization Program, it makes no sense that he would have retained access to Suite B3. If that is the case, how can there be access records, after hours, for him to have been in B3 when he was off the immunization program? From the chart, it appears he did not enter the suite after hours in March or May of 2001 and only briefly in April. After hours activity began to build in June and July and then went very high in August, peaking in September and then continuing in October through December. The August time is especially troubling, since he would have been off the immunization program for several months by that time.

Here is a portion of an email in the same document that supports the information above:
September 7,2001, "I was taken off the Special Immunization Program because of what happened last spring, and I've just gotten back on it, getting my anthrax and Yellow fever shots. We are currently finishing up the last of the AVA, and when that is gone, there's nothing to replace it with. I don't know what will happen to the research programs and hot suite work until we get a new lot.
This email confirms that anthrax vaccination was part of the Special Immunization Program. I repeat: How could Ivins have had access to the hot suite while he was off the program?

4 comments:

selise said...

jim - i read this differently than you do. the date of the email is sept 7. we don't know the exact date that ivins was back on the program, although we do know it was shortly before sept 7. could have been a couple of weeks - it doesn't necessarily conflict with the lab access. in fact, i had thought that the spike in after hours lab access might be due to catching up activities. here is the entire email fragment we have from sept 7:

September 7,2001, "I was taken off the Special Immunization Program
because of what happened last spring, and I've just gotten back on it, getting my
anthrax and Yellow fever shots. We are currently finishing up the last of the
AVA, and when that is gone, there's nothing to replace it with. I don't know
what will happen to the research programs and hot suite work until we get a new
lot. There are no approved lots currently available at BioPort. . . .-as been
having us have biweekly meetings on the rPA vaccine progress, and on August 29
I went to the Pentagon - first time there - to go to a meeting in his place on the
vaccine. There is a real bag of worms with a new lot of rPA produced by the
BDP (a private company) for NCI, who is under contract to USAMRIID. BDP
signed a sub-contract with to produce the rPA for a human use vaccine Phase I
trial. They were paid and they produced it. Now they-are refusing to release it
unless the Army pays some incredible sum of money for lawsuit indemnification
(about $200,000 per year for the next 50 years). The Army refuses to do that of
course, and everything is in Limbo."


note the reference to the biweekly meetings and the aug 29 pentagon meeting. to me, that seems to indicate that ivins has been been back on the program for more than a week. depending on how often he was exchanging email with this person, "just" could easily mean a couple of weeks ago or yesterday. we don't know and must look to other evidence to clarify that point.

Jim White said...

Thanks, selise. I've also left a question at Dr. Nass' blog to see if she can help us to understand this question. You have a very good point about the catching up if he got the shots in August.

Pinko Punko said...

Do you think it is odd in terms of someone else was accessing the suite, or the evidence is falsified, or that Ivins had some unacknowledged purpose in the suite? I just don't see anything here that is necessarily a red flag, until procedures and actual practices are laid out. As with many instances, I would not be surprised if protocol and practice weren't the same.

I also find a lot of what Glenn and Dr. Nass are arguing as "logical" to not be logical. I remain keenly interested in hearing the nature of the scientific and genetic evidence.

Jim White said...

pinko: I agree that we really don't have nearly enough information here to know what was really going on. I'm hoping we will hear from someone who knows more about the Special Immunization Program and what it meant to go off of it. When we know if that would have affected whether he had official access that would then allow a better examination of the "records" of his access. I also agree that we need the scientific data to answer the mysteries here, but I disagree with Nass and Greenwald less than you do.