As Bloomberg writes:
President Barack Obama probably would veto legislation authorizing the next budget for U.S. intelligence agencies if it calls for a new investigation into the 2001 anthrax attacks, an administration official said.
A proposed probe by the intelligence agencies’ inspector general “would undermine public confidence” in an FBI probe of the attacks “and unfairly cast doubt on its conclusions,” Peter Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget, wrote in a letter to leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence committees.
Given that an FBI investigation into a specific crime has nothing to do with thebudget or any of OMB’s other core responsibilities, it seems that Orszag simply drew the short straw for this little assignment.
As I wrote Thursday:
The FBI says that the anthrax case is closed, and that they have proved that Dr. Bruce Ivins did it.
But Congress is not convinced.
On March 3, 2010, Representative Holt called for a new investigation:
Last week, [Congressman Holt] succeeded in including language in the 2010 Intelligence Authorization Bill that would require the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community to examine the possibility of a foreign connection to the 2001 anthrax attacks.
“The American people need credible answers to all of these and many other questions. Only a comprehensive investigation—either by the Congress, or through the independent commission I’ve proposed in the Anthrax Attacks Investigation Act (H.R. 1248)—can give us those answers,” Holt said in a letter to the Chairmen of the House Committees on Homeland Security, Judiciary, Intelligence, and Oversight and Government Reform.
[Here’s the letter.]
Dear Chairmen Thompson, Conyers, Reyes, and Towns,
I am writing to ask that your committees, either individually or jointly, conduct a probing investigation of our government’s handling of what has been known as the “Amerithrax” investigation.
As you are aware, last week the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced it was formally closing its investigation into the 2001 anthrax letter attacks, commonly known as the “Amerithrax” investigation. The Bureau has maintained since his suicide in 2008 that the late Dr. Bruce Ivins was their principal suspect in the attacks, a conclusion reaffirmed by the FBI when it closed the case last week—despite the fact that the FBI’s entire case against Ivins is circumstantial, and that the science used in the case is still being independently evaluated.
To date, there has been no comprehensive examination of the FBI’s conduct in this investigation, and a number of important questions remain unanswered. We don’t know why the FBI jumped so quickly to the conclusion that the source of the material used in the attacks could only have come from a domestic lab, in this case, Ft. Dietrick. We don’t know why they focused for so long, so intently, and so mistakenly on Dr. Hatfill. We don’t know whether the FBI’s assertions about Dr. Ivins’ activities and behavior are accurate. We don’t know if the FBI’s explanation for the presence of silica in the anthrax spores is truly scientifically valid. We don’t know whether scientists at other government and private labs who assisted the FBI in the investigation actually concur with the FBI’s investigative findings and conclusions. We don’t know whether the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Postal Service have learned the right lessons from these attacks and have implemented measures to prevent or mitigate future such bioterror attacks.
The American people need credible answers to all of these and many other questions. Only a comprehensive investigation—either by the Congress, or through the independent commission I’ve proposed in the Anthrax Attacks Investigation Act (H.R. 1248)—can give us those answers.
As you may know, my interest in this matter is both professional and personal. The attacks originated from a postal box in my Central New Jersey congressional district and they disrupted the lives and livelihood of my constituents. For months, Central New Jersey residents lived in fear of a future attack and the possibility of receiving cross-contaminated mail. Mail service was delayed and businesses in my district lost millions. Further, my own Congressional office in Washington, D.C. was shut down after it was found to be contaminated with anthrax.
Given its track record in this investigation, I believe it is essential that the Congress not simply accept the FBI’s assertions about Dr. Ivins alleged guilt. Accordingly, I ask that your committees investigate our government’s handling of the attacks, the subsequent investigation, and any lessons learned and changes in policies and procedures implemented in the wake of the attacks.
The next day, Representative Jerrold Nadler – Chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties – joined inHolt’s call for a new investigation:
Despite the FBI’s assertion that the case of the anthrax attacks is closed, there are still many troubling questions. For example, in a 2008 Judiciary Committee hearing, I asked FBI Director Robert Mueller whether Bruce Ivins was capable of producing the weaponized anthrax that was used in the attacks. To this day, it is still far from clear that Mr. Ivins had either the know-how or access to the equipment needed to produce the material. Because the FBI has not sufficiently answered such questions, I join Congressman Holt in urging an independent investigation of the case.
Maryland Republican Congressman Roscoe Bartlett and other congressmen have also joined in the call for a new investigation.
In fact, the only airtight case is against the FBI.
For more on the anthrax attacks, see this.
Update: Glenn Greenwald provides a concise summary of the issue:
The administration is … threatening to veto the bill because it contains funding for a new investigation of the 2001 anthrax attacks, on the ground that such an investigation — in the administration’s words — “would undermine public confidence” in the FBI probe of the attacks “and unfairly cast doubt on its conclusions.”
As I’ve documented at length, not only are there enormous, unresolved holes in the FBI’s case, but many of the most establishment-defending mainstream sources — from leading newspaper editorial pages to key politicians in both parties — have expressed extreme doubts about the FBI’s case and called for an independent investigation. For the administration to actively block an independent review of one of the most consequential political crimes of this generation would probably be its worst act yet, and that’s saying quite a bit.