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Last Updated

18 Aug 2003

Source:  Associated Press, June 23, 2002.

Anthrax Probe Frustrates Lawmakers

By CALVIN WOODWARD, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - The anthrax investigation is producing a body of knowledge about the deadly germ but it has not led to an arrest, and that is drawing a hint of frustration in the capital.

"That anthrax killer is out there," Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California said Sunday. "We need to nab this person."

The hunt involves highly complex science and results should not be expected quickly, other lawmakers said. "It's just a very tough case," said Democratic Sen. Bob Graham of Florida, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

He said investigators have learned "anthrax is not as difficult to construct or compound as we had thought it to be," a finding bound to widen the pool of potential suspects.

"Eventually we will know these things," said House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas. "But we must be diligent, thorough, persistent and patient."

Eight months after the attacks by mail killed five people, standard investigative techniques have not cracked the case, special genetic fingerprinting did not yield results and other scientific methods are being explored.

The office of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, where an anthrax-laced letter was found, shares a ventilation system with Boxer's quarters and members of her staff were put on an antibiotic for 60 days as a precaution.

"This hits home in my heart," she said on CNN's "Late Edition."

In a swipe at the effort bring poured into creating a Homeland Security Department, she said officials should spend less time reorganizing themselves and more on going after the bottom line: crushing al-Qaida and finding the anthrax killer.

"These are things we must do," she said. "I have to say we just need a renewed effort to keep our eye on both of these things."

Scientists now have concluded that the anthrax sent through the mail was less than two years old, The New York Times reported Sunday.

The finding indicates that whoever sent the germs could make more, gives credence to the theory that the mailer had links to a microbiology laboratory and casts doubt on the idea that the attacker tapped a limited supply of an old lab sample.

Republican Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, appearing with Graham on ABC's "This Week," said the attacker "could be someone working in a lab even today" who is capable of getting or making more.

Authorities have said the mailer is probably a male loner, with scientific knowledge, a grudge against society and a familiarity with the Trenton, N.J., area, where the letters were postmarked. They do not know whether he is American.