Rep. Rush Holt continues to question anthrax investigation

In a recent editorial, Rep. Rush Holt, a Democratic congressman representing New Jersey's 12th District, expressed concern over the lack of professionalism by government investigators in the wake of the 2001 anthrax attacks.
Holt wrote that he he was a first hand witness to the anthrax investigation that occurred after a postal service attack led to 22 infections and five deaths. He began to express concern about the "process and professionalism" of investigators, pegging their evidence taking practices as "sloppy and even illogical," APP reports.
Holt pointed to the story of the FBI's investigation focusing on Steven Hatfill, a bioweapons expert, for five years, even after it became clear that he was innocent. Hatfill later sued the Department of Justice and settled for $5.8 million. In August 2008, the FBI identified a suspect, Dr. Bruce Ivins, a vaccine specialist who worked at Fort Detrick and who committed suicide days earlier.
"As FBI Director Robert Mueller ultimately acknowledged to me, the case against Ivins was almost entirely circumstantial," Holt wrote, according to APP. "The FBI has said that it does not have any direct, physical evidence tying Ivins to the attack. Further investigations, including a report from the National Research Council, have cast questions on whether the FBI conclusively demonstrated that the anthrax used in the attack originated in Ivins’ lab."
Holt wrote that the American people deserve to know how the FBI could have pursued these incorrect leads for so long. In addition, he wrote that the American people should know if the government response to another bioterrorism attack will be more effective than the last.
"In Congress, I have introduced legislation that would create a special committee, modeled after the 9/11 Commission, to investigate the anthrax attacks, including our pre-attack preparations, the incidents, the public health response, the forensic response and the subsequent improvements made," Holt wrote, according to APP. "Such an investigation would help us understand what really happened, why and whether America has grown better prepared to deter biological attacks."
Holt wrote that a congressional inquiry could lead to a starting point in the preparation for future attacks and that it could help place the anthrax attacks in their proper historical perspective. By finding an appropriate focus for future attacks, Holt wrote that the country could avoid overreactions like the War on Terror.
"I believe that many of America’s most dangerous overreactions in the War on Terror — particularly the invasion of Iraq, which Bush administration officials at first tried to link to the anthrax attacks — can be traced directly to the panic induced by the anthrax mailings," Holt said, according to APP. "Our sense that terrorists were everywhere, that even an action as innocent as opening the mail could be fatal, set the United States on a path that will haunt us for years."