- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 24, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) - Federal authorities are investigating a documentary film crew that allegedly sent letters to Congress mimicking the anthrax mailings weeks after the 9/11 attacks.

An official said the investigation started late last week and the letters were written to look exactly like the ones that were sent to Sen. Patrick Leahy and then-Sen. Tom Daschle in 2001. The official said the copycat letters did not contain any white powder. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the case is still under investigation.

Authorities did not identify the film crew, and it was not immediately clear if anyone would face criminal charges. The group was apparently making a documentary about the original 2001 mailings and had re-created the block-letter handwriting and format of the original letters, the official said.

The FBI and U.S. Capitol Police declined to comment, as did a spokeswoman for Leahy, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee.

After anthrax-laced letters were sent to lawmakers and media outlets in late 2001, the FBI and the Justice Department spent years searching unsuccessfully for the culprit.

The mailings killed five people and sickened 17 others. One of those killed was an elderly Connecticut woman whose didn’t receive or handle one of the tainted envelopes, but whose own mail apparently became cross-contaminated with anthrax.

Coming shortly after the 2001 terror attacks, the case stoked fears about public safety and raised new questions about the government’s ability to protect its citizens from terror attacks.

As a result, officials also made drastic changes in how Congress receives and inspects its mail.

In 2008, Army scientist Bruce Ivins, who had worked for the government on anthrax, killed himself amid intense scrutiny from prosecutors.

After Ivins’ death, authorities declared they had solved the “Amerithrax” case, but some, including Leahy, remained skeptical.

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