Tuesday, September 23, 2008

NYT: Critics of Anthrax Inquiry Seek an Independent Review

September 23, 2008

WASHINGTON — Congressional critics of the F.B.I.’s anthrax investigation are seeking an independent review of the seven-year inquiry to assess the bureau’s performance and its conclusion that an Army scientist, Bruce E. Ivins, carried out the 2001 attacks alone.

Rush D. Holt, Democrat of New Jersey, would create a national commission on the anthrax attacks, a scaled-down version of the commission that studied the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Two Republican senators, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, said they would not rule out a commission but thought a Congressional investigation or a series of hearings might work.

“Ultimately I may join Congressman Holt on this,” said Mr. Specter, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, who served in 1964 as assistant counsel to the Warren Commission on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. “But first we need to decide whether the Judiciary Committee can do the job.”

Beth Levine, a spokeswoman for Mr. Grassley, said he supported Mr. Holt’s goal but feared a national commission might prove too expensive and time-consuming.

The proposals came a week after the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s director, Robert S. Mueller III, said he had asked the National Academy of Sciences to review the scientific aspects of the investigation. Mr. Holt and the two senators said they thought a review by the academy would be too narrow to resolve the case.

“They’ll give us a scientific analysis of the anthrax,” Mr. Specter said. “I don’t know that they can cover the broad spectrum of the adequacy of the investigation.”

Mr. Holt said that in addition to assessing the bureau’s detective work and management of the investigation, a commission could gauge the bioterrorist threat and consider how attacks might be prevented and how they should be investigated.

Mr. Holt’s draft bill calls for an 11-member commission appointed by the president and Congressional leaders. The commission would have subpoena power, would hold public hearings and would complete its report in no more than 18 months.

An F.B.I. spokesman, Bill Carter, declined to comment on the commission proposal but noted that Mr. Mueller said at a hearing last week that he was “absolutely open to third-party review” on the case.

Days after the July 29 suicide of Dr. Ivins, a microbiologist who worked on anthrax vaccines at the Army’s biodefense laboratory at Fort Detrick, Md., F.B.I. and Justice Department officials said he alone had mailed the anthrax letters, which killed five people.

Since then, colleagues and friends of Dr. Ivins, bioterrorism experts and members of Congress have said they do not believe the evidence the bureau has released proves he did it.


Anonymous said...

A "scaled-down version of the commission that studied the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks"? How about instead a version of the commissions that investigated each of the space shuttle disasters instead? They got far more resources and power than the 9/11 Commission.

As an aside, another thing about the FBI and its investigation of 9/11: its web page on "Usama" bin Laden doesn't and never has mentioned 9/11.

Anonymous said...

Scaling down the Bush Administration manipulation would be a nice touch, beginning with a neutral Chief of Staff which the 9/11 Commission did not have in Mr. Zelikow who is an intimate of Condi Rice.