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Frustration Growing Over Anthrax Killer

Terrorism: Although the inquiry has become a learning process, there are few leads.

June 24, 2002|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- 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 that "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 mail attacks 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 (D-S.D.), 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 being poured into creating a Homeland Security Department, she said officials should spend less time reorganizing themselves and more time going after the bottom line: crushing the Al Qaeda terrorist network and finding the anthrax killer.

Scientists have concluded that the mailed anthrax 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.

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