View Full Version : Lawmakers Question Results Of Anthrax Investigation

09-17-2008, 12:16 PM
Lawmakers Question Results of Anthrax Investigation
Sen. Leahy Says He Thinks Ivins Had Help With Attacks


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

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.

09-17-2008, 12:17 PM
Key senators dispute FBI's anthrax case against Bruce Ivins



I'll have more to write about it when it is over, but the Senate Judiciary Committee today -- following the House Judiciary Committee yesterday -- is conducting an "oversight" hearing of the FBI at which FBI Director Robert Mueller is testifying. That hearing can be viewed here.

Already, after 30 minutes or so, the two ranking members of the Committee have both told Mueller that, in essence, they do not accept or believe the FBI's accusations against Bruce Ivins. The Democratic Chairman of the Committee, Pat Leahy (who was a target of the anthrax attacks) told Mueller categorically that he simply does not believe that Ivins was the prime culprit if he was a participant at all, and said he is absolutely convinced that there were others involved in the preparation and mailing of the anthrax. Leahy began the hearing by identifying the U.S. Army's Dugway Proving Ground and the private CIA contractor Battelle Corporation -- but not Fort Detrick -- as the only two institutions in the U.S. capable of producing anthrax of the strain that was sent to him and Sen. Daschele. Leahy asked Mueller whether he was aware of any other institutions capable of producing the anthrax, and when Mueller -- amazingly though unsurprisingly -- claimed he couldn't answer, Leahy demanded that he obtain the answer during a break and tell the Committee today what the answer is.

GOP Senator and former prosecutor Arlen Specter was just as emphatic in telling Mueller that the FBI's case plainly fell short of what could have been used to convict Ivins in a criminal trial. He said he had grave doubts about the FBI's case, and demanded Mueller's consent to allow an independent body to review the FBI's evidence (though Specter, as usual, is either confused or being deliberately obtuse because Mueller keeps committing to having outside scientists review the FBI's scientific methods but not the entire case against Ivins -- a distinction which GOP Sen. Charles Grassley, one of the key skeptics in the Senate regarding the FBI's case, just highlighted and objected to).

Grassley sent a letter to the FBI a month ago demanding answers to a whole slew of questions, and as he is asking them, Mueller -- as he did yesterday -- continues to say that he doesn't have the answers and will obtain them at some point. The Senators are indignant over this, but don't appear to intend to do anything (just as was true for the House members yesterday), though Leahy is at least demanding that Mueller obtain these answers not at some point in the indefinite future, but today, during the breaks.

The bottom line is that it is quite extraordinary that the FBI has claimed it has identified with certainty the sole culprit in the anthrax attacks, but so many key Senators, from both parties, simply don't believe it, and are saying so explicitly. Leahy's rather dark suggestion that there were others involved in these attacks -- likely at a U.S. Army facility or key private CIA contractor -- is particularly notable. It has been crystal clear from the beginning that the FBI's case is filled with glaring holes, that their thuggish behavior towards their only suspect drove him to commit suicide and thus is unable to defend himself, and yet, to this day, the FBI continues to conceal the evidence in its possession and is stonewalling any and all efforts to scrutinize its claims.

It takes a lot for Senators from both parties to so openly and explicitly say they don't believe the FBI's definitive accusations in such a high-profile case. Perhaps that will be understood as a reflection of how dubious the FBI's case here is. Given what far-reaching impact these attacks had, and given that these attacks were -- as our own Government claims -- ones that originated from U.S. Army facilities and perpetrated by U.S. Government employees, it ought to be understood as exactly that.

09-17-2008, 12:17 PM
Mueller Tells House Panel Anthrax Probe Will Undergo Independent Review


Kris Alingod - AHN News Writer
September 17, 2008 7:35 a.m. EST

Washington, D.C. (AHN) - Testifying before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, FBI Director Robert Mueller defended his agency's seven-year investigation of the anthrax attacks but said he would be seeking an independent review of the findings.

Mueller said the National Academy of Sciences will review the scientific approach his agency used in the probe that said army scientist Bruce Ivins was the one responsible for the attacks, a conclusion some lawmakers have questioned.

The FBI announced that it had solved the anthrax attacks on Aug. 6, a week after Ivins committed suicide and seven years after anonymous letters laced with the deadly spores killed five people and infecting 17 others. The agency said Ivins, who worked as a microbiologist at a Maryland biodefense laboratory for 28 years, sent the letters because he feared his research program was in jeopardy and wanted to increase funding and prestige for his work. Ivins had evaded detection by giving investigators the wrong anthrax sample. Another Fort Detrick scientist, Steven Hatfill, was the previous focus of the investigation.

During the hearing on Tuesday, panel chairman Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) expressed dismay at Mueller's failure to provide him with answers. The congressman sent a letter last week asking Mueller about reports that the sample Ivins had given the the FBI was actually from the same strain as the spores in the attack but not in the correct format, that the bureaus "limited testing methods" had caused the identification of the spores to take three years, and that some White House officials wanted the agency to link the anthrax attacks to al Qaeda or Iraq.