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RESPONSE TO TERROR

Anthrax Threat Known, Suit Says

Terrorism: White House staffers were warned of attacks and took Cipro, group says. Action is filed on postal workers' behalf.

June 08, 2002|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A conservative group is suing the Bush administration for access to documents surrounding last fall's anthrax attacks, saying that top officials may have known that the bioterrorist assault was coming.

Judicial Watch said Friday it has yet to receive documents from several agencies after filing requests under the Freedom of Information Act. The group says the documents will show who knew what and when they knew it.

Judicial Watch, which also has sued for documents about Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force, represents U.S. postal workers at the Brentwood mail-handling facility in Washington. Two workers from Brentwood died of inhalation anthrax before officials shut down the facility, which had handled anthrax-laden letters headed for Capitol Hill.

Larry Klayman, chairman of Judicial Watch, noted that administration officials said last fall that some White House staff had begun taking the antibiotic Cipro on Sept. 11, weeks before the anthrax attacks were made public.

"We believe that the White House knew or had reason to know that an anthrax attack was imminent or underway," Klayman said.

White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe denied the charge: "We did not know about the anthrax attacks. Period."

Johndroe said he didn't know with certainty why staffers were given Cipro but guessed it was "a precautionary measure in the early hours of Sept. 11 before the situation could be fully assessed." He said he has not seen the lawsuit and had no comment on whether the documents would be released.

Judicial Watch is suing the U.S. Postal Service, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the FBI, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

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