FBI seeks to delay anthrax review

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has asked the National Academy of Sciences to delay its release of a review of the seven year investigation into the anthrax mail attacks in 2001 that killed five people.

New Jersey Democratic Representative Rush Holt believes that the FBI “may be seeking to try to steer or otherwise pressure the NAS panel to reach a conclusion desired by the bureau,” the Fresno Bee reports.

The FBI requested the scientific review in 2008 in order to reduce controversy over its previous inquiry that found a disgruntled government scientist to be behind the anthrax attacks.

“This week I was informed by the NAS that the FBI would be releasing an additional 500 pages of previously undisclosed investigative material from the Amerithrax investigation to the NAS,” Holt, a scientist and chairman of the House Select Intelligence Oversight Panel, said, according to the Fresno Bee. “(This) document dump…is intended to contest and challenge the independent NAS panel’s draft findings. If these new documents were relevant to the NAS’ review, why were they previously undisclosed and withheld?”

The inquiry that the FBI had previously made on the anthrax case was extremely controversial because it concluded that Army researcher Bruce Ivins mailed the letters based on circumstantial evidence. Ivins later committed suicide in 2008. No criminal charges were filed.

Holt, referencing Army scientist Steven Hatfill, who had been accused and later acquitted of the anthrax crimes, called the FBI request “disturbing” and said that they had “consistently botched and bungled this case from the beginning,” according to the Fresno Bee.