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From: Otis Willie
Subject: FBI Criticized for Failing to Solve Anthrax Case
Organization: The American War Library
NNTP-Posting-Date: Fri, 06 Sep 2002 22:15:46 EDT
Date: Sat, 07 Sep 2002 02:15:46 GMT
FBI Criticized for Failing to Solve Anthrax Case
(EXCERPT) Thu Sep 5, 5:47 PM ET, by James Vicini
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Almost a year after the nation's worst
biological weapon attack, the FBI ( news - web sites) has yet to
figure out who sent anthrax-laced letters that killed five people,
prompting criticism that its investigation is moving too slowly.
Federal law enforcement sources acknowledged they are not close to
making an arrest in the investigation, which began less than a month
after the Sept. 11 hijacked plane attacks on the World Trade Center
and the Pentagon ( news - web sites).
FBI officials said they believe the person who mailed the letters to
two US senators and to the news media last autumn took advantage of
the confusion after Sept. 11, but they do not believe the attacks were
related to the hijacking plot.
Critics said the FBI waited too long to reach out to the scientific
community, that it failed to follow up on some obvious leads and it
may have unfairly focused attention on Dr. Steven Hatfill, a germ
warfare expert who says he's innocent.
Hatfill is one of about 30 US-based scientists the FBI considers a
"person of interest" in its investigation, meaning they have the
expertise, ability and wherewithal to produce the deadly bacteria.
Hatfill, whose apartment was searched twice by the FBI and was fired
by Louisiana State University, said investigators singled him out
because they were under pressure to show progress in the case.
"The assassination of my character appears to be part of a government
effort to show the American people that it's proceeding vigorously
with the investigation," he told a news conference on Aug. 25 outside
his lawyer's office in Virginia.
One FBI critic has been Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, a molecular biologist
at the State University of New York at Purchase and the chairwoman of
a biological weapons panel at the Federation of American Scientists.
She said rapid resolution of the case was critical.
"The significance of the anthrax attacks and our response to it cannot
be overstated," she said in an analysis posted on the Internet in
FUTURE THREAT COULD DWARF 9/11
"By breaking the taboo on the use of bioweapons, this event has
engendered a future threat that could dwarf 9/11," Rosenberg said,
adding that the FBI seemed to be "marking time on the off-chance that
an unknown informer will turn up with a smoking gun."
Rosenberg said she has sent a new commentary about the anthrax attacks
to the FBI, but would not make it available to others. She said she
did not want to interfere with the proceeding investigation by making
Jonathan Tucker, a biological and chemical weapons specialist at the
Washington-based Monterey Institute, questioned how the investigation
has been handled.
"A lot of people are baffled by the way the investigation is going,"
he said. "There is growing bewilderment in Congress and among the
public about where the investigation is headed."
Tucker questioned why the FBI appeared to focus attention on Hatfill,
a former US Army scientist, when it apparently did not have the
evidence to indict him.
FBI officials said they want to avoid a repeat of the case of Richard
Jewell, the former security guard who was initially identified as a
suspect in the 1996 Olympics bombing in Atlanta, but who later was
cleared of any involvement.
Tucker also questioned whether the FBI had been overly hasty early in
the investigation in excluding the possibility of foreign involvement
in the anthrax attacks.
FBI officials said they have no evidence linking the Sept. 11
hijackers with the anthrax attacks.
They dismissed the story of a Florida doctor who treated one of the
hijacking suspects, Ahmed Alhaznawi, in June last year. The doctor
said Alhaznawi had a lesion on his leg that was consistent with the
skin version of anthrax.
The law enforcement sources said the investigation has been especially
difficult because the pool of potential suspects is the same group of
scientists upon whom the FBI has had to rely for expertise in
identifying the bacteria used in the attacks.
They said scientific protocols had to be developed for testing the
anthrax found in one of the letters.
The sources said there was a lack of physical evidence, such as
fingerprints on the letters, or apparent eyewitnesses.
"It's not the movies or television. People expect the case to be
solved in an hour or two hours. It doesn't always happen that way,"
one official said.
"Sometimes, it just takes months and months and months of searching
and digging," one official said. "You are obviously dealing with
someone who is very smart. Smart crooks are harder to catch than dumb
The American War Library
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