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New Jersey Congressman Accuses the FBI of Bungling the Anthrax Investigation

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Filed: Country: Philippines

A New Jersey congressman, who is a scientist and whose district was the location from which the anthrax letters were mailed, is taking on the head of the FBI for what he calls the "lack of progress" in the investigation of "the 2001 anthrax bioterrorism attacks."

"This case has been mishandled from the very beginning, and I have lost confidence in your ability to find and bring to justice the guilty party or parties," Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) wrote in a letter to Robert Mueller, the director of the FBI.

It will be five years ago next month that the U.S. Capitol was shut down under attack by letters full of anthrax. Across the nation, five people died, and 18 others became very ill. The FBI centered their investigation on those who would have had the knowledge and training to turn anthrax into a biological warfare weapon.

Now, almost five years later, in a recent article in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, a scientist from the FBI's own

Hazardous Material Response Unit, Douglas Beecher, writes, "a widely circulated misconception is that the spores were produced using additives and sophisticated engineering supposedly akin to military weapons protection."

Rep. Holt cites this article in his argument to Director Mueller that the FBI has been on the wrong track for almost the full duration of the investigation. "Because of this initial failure, investigators wrongly focused their attention on a small group of suspects," Congressman Holt writes.

He goes on to say, "As a scientist, it is clear to me that this investigation was botched from the start."

Today, in their response letter to Rep. Holt's letter, the FBI wrote, "Contrary to the assertions in your letter, the investigation into the anthrax attacks of 2001 has made significant progress and has been one of the largest and most complex investigations ever conducted."

As to the new scientific study showing the anthrax used in 2001 to be less sophisticated than previously thought, the FBI wrote, "Since the earliest months of this investigation, we have consulted with the world's foremost scientific experts on anthrax and relevant bio-forensic sciences, both inside and outside the FBI. While there have been erroneous media reports about the character of the 2001 anthrax, the FBI's investigation has never been guided by such reports."


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