Veto of Intelligence spending bill could halt further 2001 anthrax mailing investigation

The threat of a veto to Congress' intelligence spending bill for this fiscal year by President Barack Obama's administration could potentially halt further investigations into the 2001 anthrax mailings case.

Obama's administration has raised concerns with an amendment by U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, a Republican from western Maryland, to the intelligence spending bill to investigate the handling of the Bruce Ivins anthrax case by the FBI.

The anthrax amendment was adopted by the House of Representatives last month following its proposal by Bartlett and Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., the representative of the district where the anthrax letters were mailed.

Bartlett and Holt's amendment seeks to make the intelligence community's inspector general investigate intelligence suggesting foreign influence in the anthrax attacks was overlooked.

"Many critical questions in this case remain unanswered, and there are many reasons why there is not, nor ever has been, public confidence in the investigation or the FBI's conclusions, precisely because it was botched at multiple points over more than eight years," Holt wrote in a letter last week, The Frederick News-Post Online reports. "Indeed, opposing an independent examination of any aspect of the investigation will only fuel the public's belief that the FBI's case could not hold up in court, and that in fact the real killer may still be at large

The amendment was never adopted by the Senate and the investigation would not take place unless the Senate, during a conference committee to hammer out the differences between the two bills, agrees to it.

Those negotiations, however, are slow going at best, with a March 15 letter by Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag to four congressional leaders noting that their version of the budget bill "still contain several provisions of serious concern to the intelligence community," The Frederick News-Post Online reports.

"The FBI is confident that the attacks were planned and committed by Dr. Bruce Ivins, acting alone," the letter said. "The commencement of a fresh investigation would undermine public confidence in the criminal investigation and unfairly cast doubt on its conclusions."