- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Monday’s false alarm anthrax scare at three Pentagon letter-processing centers served as a reminder of the October 2001 anthrax attacks that killed five persons and remain unsolved.

Investigators have made no arrests and have named no suspects in the 31/2-year-old probe into who sent the anthrax letters to senate offices on Capitol Hill and media outlets in Florida and New York.

But authorities, who say they are still devoting more than 1,000 man-hours per week to the investigation, said there’s no statute of limitations on murder so it’s unlikely the probe will end because of a lack of leads.

“We will proceed with this investigation to its end,” said Debbie Weierman, spokeswoman at the FBI’s Washington field office, which is leading the still “intensely active” probe called “Amerithrax.”

“We have 30 FBI special agents and 15 postal inspectors dedicated full time to this case,” she said, adding that a separate team is investigating last year’s discovery of poisonous ricin on Capitol Hill. No one died in that incident, which also remains unsolved.

The Postal Service, meanwhile, said its V Street annex in Northeast reopened yesterday after Monday’s false alarm. Officials don’t think the scare was a hoax, but rather the result of mistaken initial testing.

Several people have faced serious charges in anthrax hoaxes since 2001. Last week, a man who mailed powder and death threats to British officials pleaded guilty in Miami to threatening to use a weapon of mass destruction.

If caught, those behind the 2001 attacks could be charged with murder and using a weapon of mass destruction.

The FBI says more than 5,000 federal grand jury subpoenas have been served during the Amerithrax probe, but declined to give specifics, including about how much the investigation has cost.

Investigators have appeared hot on leads surrounding the U.S. military’s biodefense laboratory at Fort Detrick. In 2003, they drained a pond near the fort in an apparent search for evidence tying the attacks to scientist Steven Hatfill, who once worked at the laboratory. Trailed by FBI agents for months, Mr. Hatfill has sworn his innocence and has a lawsuit pending against the FBI.

Last March, agents interviewed more than a dozen Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) scientists. The FBI declined to comment, but EPA sources said the focus was an anonymous letter accusing an Egyptian-born scientist of plotting biological warfare against the United States in the days before the anthrax attacks.

Investigators continue to follow “any and all leads,” Mrs. Weierman said yesterday.

“We are following up on all domestic leads and continue to partner with the intelligence community to address indications of international terrorist or state sponsor involvement in the attacks.”

The FBI and the Postal Service are offering $2 million for information leading to an arrest and conviction.

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