Tuesday, September 16, 2008

FBI Director Mueller to Testify Today on Amerithrax Investigation

"Last week, staff members for Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) pressed U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Taylor and two FBI officials to say when the anthrax case will be closed and why investigators had fixed on Ivins six months after notifying him in April 2007 that he was not a target. Investigators told congressional aides that they are still pursuing leads in the 'Amerithrax' investigation, sources said."---Washington Post (9-16-08)

The Washington Post (9-16-08) reports that FBI Director Robert Mueller (above) will testify about the FBI's Amerithrax Investigation before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, September 16 (today). On Wednesday, September 17, the Senate Judiciary Committee will ask questions about the anthrax investigation.

According to the FBI, there is still a lot of erroneous information about the anthrax spores, which the FBI addresses in a science briefing on the anthrax investigation.

UPDATE: The FBI testimony before the House Judiciary Committee (9-16-08) and before the Senate Judiciary Committee (9-17-08) wasn't really focused on the anthrax mailings at all, in spite of what The Washington Post (9-16-08) predicted. Director Mueller's talk before both bodies was titled "Preparing for the Challenges of the Future."

UPDATE: See my next article about the confusion over whether the anthrax was weaponized or not.

The FBI brought in the best scientists from other government agencies and from academia to help them solve one of the largest and most complex investigations in the history of law enforcement. Will the politicians try to absorb the conclusions of some of our country's most gifted and highly-trained scientists, or will they just grandstand before elections and act like the FBI and the scientists are a bunch of morons? I would like to read what the scientists think instead of watching the politicians show off.

According to The Washington Post (9-16-08):

Authorities have released scores of pages from search warrants that they executed in an attempt to link Ivins, a bioweapons researcher at the Army lab at Fort Detrick, Md., to poison-laced letters that killed five people and sickened 17.

The case relies on a patchwork of circumstantial and scientific evidence tracing anthrax spores back to a beaker in Ivins's lab and a series of work logs, unusual e-mails and behavior patterns that Ivins exhibited. It adds up, officials argue, to a portrait of a man who had the know-how, motive and opportunity to pull off the largest biological attack in U.S. history.

But the material and a series of private briefings by Justice Department and FBI officials have yet to convince a small but vocal group of lawmakers that the government has solved the case.

Last week, staff members for Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) pressed U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Taylor and two FBI officials to say when the anthrax case will be closed and why investigators had fixed on Ivins six months after notifying him in April 2007 that he was not a target. Investigators told congressional aides that they are still pursuing leads in the "Amerithrax" investigation, sources said.

..."I just see so many loose ends in the case that I question whether the FBI is in the right frame of mind to bring this matter to the kind of closure that the public needs," said Rep. Rush D. Holt (D-N.J.).

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. (Mich.) and two other Democrats on the panel have signaled they will scrutinize the FBI's work today. This month, they wrote Mueller asking about missteps in identifying the anthrax strain used in the attacks and tracing it back to Ivins.

Aides to Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said he will pursue answers to 18 anthrax-related questions at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday. Among them: why Ivins was allowed to retain his Army security clearance until late 2007, after he had become the bureau's "prime suspect."

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