Obama May Veto Call for New Anthrax Mailings Probe

An effort by U.S. lawmakers to reopen the closed 2001 anthrax mailings case with a new investigation into possible foreign influences could be stymied by a veto from President Barack Obama, the Frederick New- Post reported Saturday (see GSN, Feb. 26).

U.S. Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag issued a letter last week that faults an amendment to a House spending bill calling for the U.S. intelligence inspector general to undertake a new probe of the issue.

The House and Senate intelligence spending bills "still contain several provisions of serious concern to the intelligence community," Orszag informed senior congressional officials in the letter. The Senate version of the bill does not contain an anthrax probe amendment.

Orszag said objections to the spending measure were strong enough to warrant a recommendation to Obama to veto the whole bill should lawmakers decide not to resolve the issues when they reconcile their two versions in conference committee.

Some lawmakers have criticized the FBI's finding that former Army microbiologist Bruce Ivins acted on his own in producing and mailing letters containing anthrax spores that killed five people and touched off widespread concern following the Sept. 11 attacks.

Orszag said Obama officials had serious qualms about "the appearance and precedent involved when Congress commissions an agency inspector general to replicate a criminal investigation."

He wrote that "the commencement of a fresh investigation would undermine public confidence in the criminal investigation and unfairly cast doubt on its conclusion."

Anthrax amendment co-sponsor Representative Rush Holt (D- N.J.), whose district includes the mailbox from which the letters were sent, countered that view in a letter sent last Thursday to the OMB director, writing that "many critical questions in this case remain unanswered" and that "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."

Orszag said the spending measures would negatively affect the balance of power between Congress and the White House. He also took issue with a provision that would expand the Government Accountability Office's oversight to include intelligence agencies which he said were exempt by law from GAO purview (Megan Eckstein, Frederick News-Post, March 20).

March 22, 2010
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An effort by U.S. lawmakers to reopen the closed 2001 anthrax mailings case with a new investigation into possible foreign influences could be stymied by a veto from President Barack Obama, the Frederick New- Post reported Saturday (see GSN, Feb. 26).