Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Obama Afraid of a New Investigation into the 2001 Anthrax Attacks

Obama Veto Is Threatened on 2010 Intelligence Budget Measure as agencies call for a new investigation of the 2001 Anthrax Attacks

March 15, 2010, 6:16 PM EDT

By Jeff Bliss

March 15 (Bloomberg) -- 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.

On Feb. 19, the Obama administration released a 92-page summary of a Federal Bureau of Investigation probe that said the late Bruce Ivins, a government scientist, was behind the attacks. Lawmakers including Representative Rush Holt, a New Jersey Democrat, have questioned the thoroughness of the investigation.

Anthrax-laced letters sent to lawmakers and news outlets nine years ago infected 22 people, killing five.

Orszag said the administration also opposes other provisions in the intelligence budget that allow more scrutiny of spy operations. “The president’s senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill” unless those restrictions are removed, he said.

The White House objects to provisions that would require all members of the intelligence committees to receive briefings on matters that now are disclosed only to senior congressional leaders known as the “gang of eight,” Orszag said.

The administration also opposes letting the General Accountability Office, Congress’s auditing arm, conduct investigations of spy activities, he said.

The House and Senate are preparing to meet to resolve differences between their versions of the legislation.

Top Government stories: TOP GOV

--Editors: Jim Rubin, Don Frederick

To contact the reporter on this story: Jeff Bliss in Washington jbliss@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jim Kirk at jkirk12@bloomberg.net

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