Tags: holt | anthrax | hearings

Congressman Calls for Anthrax Hearings

By Phil Brennan   |   Tuesday, 17 Mar 2009 02:45 PM

A New Jersey Democratic congressman fearful of future biological attacks wants Congress to probe the 2001 anthrax attacks which killed five people.

Unhappy with the FBI’s investigation of the attacks and the Bureau’s conclusions, Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., has introduced HR 1248 which would create a Sept. 11-style commission to do an independent probe of the 2001 anthrax attacks, according to a report by Congressional Quarterly.

Holt, a senior member of the House Intelligence Committee, represents the New Jersey area which was the source of some of the anthrax-laced letters.

“This is certainly not plowing over old ground or witch hunting,” Holt told CQ, “It’s an unresolved case. And it really must be understood if we’re going to guard against what many people say is the greatest large-scale threat facing the country, which is bio-attack and emerging biological pathogens.”

"The bipartisan commission would make recommendations to the president and Congress on how the country can best prevent and respond to any future bio-terrorism attack," Holt said, according to Agence France Presse. The commission would be given 18 months to conduct its inquiry.

The widely criticized F.B.I. investigation of the attacks first zeroed in on Dr. Stephen V. Hatfill though no evidence linked him to the attacks. After several years of harassment of the former Fort Detrick, Md. scientist agents turned their attention on Bruce E. Ivins, a microbiologist who also worked at Fort Detrick.

Jobless and with his career in ruins, Hatfill sued the government which ultimately exonerated him and paid him $5.8 million to settle his lawsuit.

Ivins killed himself last summer before the government could file charges against him.

“Based upon the totality of the evidence we had gathered against him, we are confident that Dr. Ivins was the only person responsible for these attacks,” federal prosecutor Jeff Taylor told the media on Aug. 6, 2008.

Holt said “This was truly a major event in American law enforcement and national security, and the event raises questions about our preparedness. It raises questions about how we prevent such things from happening ... and whether we are prepared to prevent, to respond to and to bring to justice the culprits of any future attacks.”

He added that he hopes the proposed his legislation would result in changes in the way the FBI conducts investigations. “I should hope so, because the FBI has not done a very good job here,” he said.

CQ reported that Holt introduced a similar bill late in the last Congress, but the session ended before it could be considered.

In addition to getting started earlier, Holt feels the recent report of the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism will work in his favor, having reported “that it thought the most likely next attack would be a bio-attack.”

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