September 8, 2008
Kris Alingod - AHN News Writer
Washington, D.C. (AHN) - The House Judiciary Committee has asked FBI Director Robert Mueller to identify White House officials who had pressured the bureau to demonstrate that the anthrax attacks that killed five people seven years ago were part of a second-wave of al Qaeda attacks.
In a letter to Mueller sent ahead of a Sept. 16 hearing on "troubling issues" about the FBI, panel chairman Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) asked Mueller to answer several questions about the bureau's anthrax investigation. Conyers asked for the identities of White House officials who wanted the agency to link the anthrax attacks to al Qaeda or Iraq, why army scientist Bruce Ivins retained his security clearance at Fort Detrick despite being a suspect in the probe, and why another Fort Detrick scientist, Steven Hatfill, was the focus of the investigation despite evidence pointing elsewhere.
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.
A New York Times story alleges 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, and that the bureaus "limited testing methods" had caused the identification of the spores to take three years.
Conyers gave Mueller until noon of Sept. 15 to answer his questions. House Crime Subcommittee Chairman Robert C. "Bobby" Scott (D-VA) and Constitution Subcommittee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) were also signatories in the letter.