Daschle criticizes FBI's handling of anthrax probe

Associated Press | August 3, 2008

WASHINGTON -- Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, whose office was a target of the anthrax attacks in 2001, said Sunday the suicide of the government's main suspect does not mean the case is over.

Daschle said the FBI has not given him any new updates. He also raised questions about the quality of the investigation, noting that the government recently paid out almost $6 million to a former Army scientist, Steven Hatfill, who accused authorities of unfairly targeting him in the anthrax case.

"From the very beginning I've had real concerns about the quality of the investigation," Daschle said in a broadcast interview. "Given the fact that they already paid somebody else $5 million for the mistakes they must have made gives you some indication of the overall caliber and quality of the investigation."

Five people died and 17 others were sickened when anthrax-laced letters began showing up at congressional offices, newsrooms and post offices soon after Sept. 11, 2001.

"I think the American people deserve more of an accounting on this investigation and some appreciation of how to bring this to closure," Daschle said. "I don't know anything about the most recent development, and that's unfortunate. I think all of us, not only those of us directly affected, but all of us need to know more than we do today."

The case re-emerged in the news this past week as investigators prepared to charge a government scientist Bruce Ivins in the case. Ivins died Tuesday in what has been ruled a suicide.

"Unfortunately, it doesn't bring anything to closure," Daschle said. "This probably further complicates their ability to get to the facts."

He said he did not know if the investigation involving Ivins "is just another false track and a real diversion of where they need to be. We don't know and they aren't telling us."

Tom Ridge, Bush's Homeland Security secretary at the time of the anthrax attacks, said he did not know what evidence the FBI had uncovered against Ivins.

"But I know that they were relentless, relentless, both domestically and overseas, both with the notion that it could have been a part of a broader terrorist network, but it could also have been the act of a deranged individual or two," Ridge said.

Daschle appeared on "Fox News Sunday," while Ridge was on "This Week" on ABC.