Lawmakers Question Results of Anthrax Investigation

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) told FBI leaders this morning that he does not believe “in any way shape or manner” that lead anthrax suspect Bruce E. Ivins acted alone.

Leahy, an intended recipient of one of the anthrax-packed 2001 letters, publicly cast doubt on the bureau’s conclusion last month that the bioweapons researcher carried out the notorious attacks as the sole culprit.

“I believe there are others involved either as accessories before or after the fact,” Leahy told FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III this morning at a committee hearing. “I believe there are others out there who should be charged with murder.”

The statements by Leahy, who along with other legislators has received a series of closed door briefings on the case since Ivins’s July 29 death by suicide, mark the strongest sign to date that doubts remain about the seven-year Amerithrax probe.

Mueller announced yesterday that the bureau would enlist the National Academy of Sciences to review groundbreaking DNA evidence that traced the lethal anthrax spores back to a single flask in a U.S. Army lab at Fort Detrick, Md., where Ivins worked.

This morning, Mueller told lawmakers, “We have looked at every lead and will continue to do so,” assuring Leahy that even when the case is formally closed, authorities will follow up on investigative tips they receive.

“Did you personally review the evidence and come to a conclusion there was proof beyond a reasonable doubt?” Sen. Arlen Spector (R-Penn.) asked Mueller.

“Yes,” the FBI director responded.

But Mueller’s response did not put to rest questions about the strength of the government’s case. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) urged Mueller to expose the evidence to a more thorough public vetting. The lawmaker said FBI officials should allow Congress to see interview memos, grand jury testimony and other documents that shed light on the “detective work” conducted by agents.

“This is one of the largest and most expansive investigations in FBI history,” Grassley said. “Congress and the American people deserve a complete review of the evidence.”

Anthrax spores mailed in letters to lawmakers and media organizations killed five people and sickened 17 in what authorities call the largest bioterror attack in U.S. history. The case has taken numerous winding turns, a visible symbol of which rested in the front row of the Senate hearing.

Steven J. Hatfill, a scientist once described as a “person of interest” in the case, appeared with his lawyer this morning in the Hart Senate Office Building, where he was greeted by Grassley. Hatfill received a Justice Department settlement valued at nearly $6 million this summer to resolve a lawsuit accusing authorities of violating his privacy rights. He later received a letter from the U.S. Attorney in the District ruling out his involvement in the anthrax deaths.

By Carrie Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 17, 2008; 11:25 AM

Source: The Washington Post

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