A conservative group is suing the Bush administration for access to
documents about last fall's anthrax attacks, asserting that top officials
might have known the bioterrorist attack was coming.
Judicial Watch said yesterday 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.
Judicial Watch, which also has sued for documents about Vice President
Cheney's energy task force, represents U.S. postal workers at the
Brentwood post office in the District. Two workers from Brentwood died of
inhalation anthrax before officials closed the site, which had handled
anthrax-laden letters headed to Capitol Hill.
Larry Klayman, chairman of Judicial Watch, said administration
officials said last fall that some White House staff members 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. "We want to know
what the government knew and when they knew it."
"We did not know about the anthrax attacks. Period!" said Gordon
Johndroe, a White House spokesman.
Johndroe said he did not know 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
administration would release the documents.
Judicial Watch is suing the U.S. Postal Service, the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention, the FBI, the Department of Health and
Human Services and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious
Federal agencies have come under fire for failing to realize that the
postal workers at Brentwood were at risk for anthrax even after an anthrax
letter was discovered on Capitol Hill and treatment had begun for Senate
staffers. Health officials have said they did not realize then that
anthrax could have escaped a sealed envelope.
Klayman said the mistake goes beyond a bad judgment call.
"They deliberately withheld information," he said. "The political
elite, they'll be protected from day one. The ordinary folks will be
treated in a lesser fashion."