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Last Updated

08 Dec 2002

Source: Associated Press, December 7, 2002.

Postal Service Probe on Anthrax Urged

By EMILY GERSEMA , Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) A conservative watchdog group is seeking a criminal investigation into the U.S. Postal Service's handling of last year's anthrax contamination that killed two workers at a Washington post office.

Judicial Watch submitted documents to a federal prosecutor that it says prove postal and government officials knew anthrax spores had leaked from a letter sent to Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., into the Brentwood mail processing center but neither warned workers nor shut down the site.

"The government does not have the right to injure people, to harm them, and that's what (officials) did through their action and inaction,'' Larry Klayman, Judicial Watch's chairman, said Saturday.

Judicial Watch filed the complaint Friday with the office of the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.

Postal Service spokeswoman Kristin Krathwohl said the agency believed the allegations were "without merit.''

"But since this complaint has been filed with the U.S. Attorney's office, we will confer with officials there,'' Krathwohl said Saturday.

Judicial Watch also said the records, obtained through a Freedom of Information request, showed the decision was made not to close the Brentwood facility after the anthrax attacks began in October 2001 because it would have cost the post office $500,000 per day.

The Judicial Watch complaint said a postal policy written in 1999 ordered that premises must be evacuated whenever anthrax had been found.

Klayman's group also filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Friday alleging the government discriminated against Brentwood's 2,200 workers, most of whom are black, by not immediately administering antibiotics after they were exposed to anthrax. The predominantly white staff members in the offices of Daschle and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., were treated promptly.

Brentwood postal workers Joseph Curseen Jr. (case 16) and Thomas Morris Jr. (case 15) died last year from inhalation anthrax. The Brentwood facility still has not been reopened.