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Daschle: Too Early To Assume Anthrax Case Solved

The FBI has indicated that it may release as early as this week some of the evidence it amassed against Bruce Ivins, the government scientist who committed suicide before prosecutors could charge him in connection with the 2001 anthrax attacks.

Five people died and more than a dozen others were sickened after letters carrying anthrax were sent through the postal system to congressional offices and media organizations.

One of those letters was addressed to then-Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota. One of his office workers opened it, and 20 members of his staff tested positive for anthrax exposure.

Daschle tells Renee Montagne that some of the circumstantial evidence suggested in news coverage of Ivins is "potentially encouraging."

But he cautions that the government had similar evidence against another scientist once under suspicion, Steven Hatfill, who ended up winning a settlement from the Justice Department of more than $5 million.

"I think it's premature to come to any conclusions," Daschle says. "What I do wish is that they would be more forthcoming, more open — at least those of us who were directly affected, provided a little bit better information so we have some understanding of these circumstances."

Daschle says the government hasn't made an effort to keep him up-to-date on the investigation.

"I haven't had a briefing from the FBI or anybody else for now over five years. I assume that others who were involved have had a similar set of circumstances," he says.

Daschle says he would like to see closure in the case.

"This has been a very tough ordeal for people that have been affected and it would be nice to say that, at long last, after all these many, many years, we have finally brought this to closure," he says. "After the experiences, the fits and starts of the investigation over the course of the last several years, that's harder to do now, but it would be nice to be able to do that at some point in the near future."

In the years since the anthrax attacks, the country seems to have become better prepared to handle a biological attack, he says.

"I mean, you can't go through an airport and not be familiar with the extraordinary practices now employed," he says. "I don't think we've probably accomplished all that we set out to accomplish. I don't think we're there yet. We've got a long way to go, but certainly we've taken a lot more precautions and we're doing things differently in mailrooms and in airports all over the country."

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