Lingering mystery: Congressman calls for probe into 2001 anthrax attacks
Agence France-Presse
Published: Monday March 16, 2009

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More than seven years after the first bio-terror attack on the United States, Congress is considering creating a commission to probe the government's response to the anthrax-laced letters that killed five people.

Representative Rush Holt, a Democrat, has submitted a bill that would create a bipartisan commission to investigate the government's handling of the 2001 attacks, which also exposed 17 people to the powdery anthrax spores.

"Myriad questions remain about the anthrax attacks and the government's bungled response to the attacks," Holt said in a statement.

Holt said in a statement that the commission would review an investigation conducted by the FBI, which for years pursued the wrong suspect before turning its attention to a government anthrax researcher who committed suicide before he could be charged.

"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.

The commission would be given 18 months to conduct its inquiry.

The Justice Department concluded last August that Bruce Ivins, a bio-defense researcher at the US Army's Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, was solely responsible for sending the anthrax letters.

Ivins committed suicide in July 2008 after being informed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation of plans to bring charges against him.

Initially, the FBI's suspicion fell on another bio-terror expert, Steven Hatfill, who was declared a "person of interest" and pursued until 2006, when the leadership of the investigation was changed.

In March 2008, the FBI settled a lawsuit initiated by Hatfield for 5.8 million dollars.

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