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Friday, August 8

WILLISTON — U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy says he wants to know the motivation of the man thought to have mailed him a letter in 2001 that contained deadly anthrax spores. Leahy, a Democrat, said he hoped that the late Army researcher Bruce Ivins was the person responsible for the anthrax attacks that came weeks after the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

"As you know, the anthrax letter that came to my office was a very deadly one," Leahy said Thursday at a Williston news conference with FBI Director Robert Mueller. "People died who handled the letter that I was supposed to open. That focuses my attention and put everybody in my office at risk right from the start."

It was the first time Leahy spoke publicly about the anthrax attacks since Ivins' suicide last week as prosecutors were preparing to charge him with the anthrax attacks.

Leahy had invited Mueller to Vermont to inaugurate a new headquarters for the state's joint terrorism task force. It was coincidence the visit came in the aftermath of the apparent resolution to the 2001 anthrax case.

Leahy said he and Mueller planned to meet later Thursday to discuss the details of the evidence. Leahy's office said he would have no additional comment after the private briefing from Mueller.

"I put my trust in law enforcement on this," Leahy said. "I certainly hope... that this was the sole person involved."

Leahy said wants to know why people died.

"This is a major, major crime, it went across numerous jurisdictions, involved all kinds of federal and state laws," Leahy said. "The person who did it knew they faced the possibility of the death penalty. We just want to know that this is the only person."

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While the evidence is circumstantial, Mueller said he was confident that a jury would have convicted Ivins of mailing the anthrax.

"We are satisfied that were we to take this case to trial, we would be able to convict Bruce Ivins of responsibility for this attack," Mueller said.

During the news conference Mueller defended the FBI's investigation of the anthrax attacks, even though the Justice Department paid $5.8 million to settle a lawsuit filed by scientist, Steven Hatfill, who had been suspected of mailing the letters, but was later cleared.

"I am unapologetic. I do not apologize for any aspect of the investigation that was undertaken over the years," Mueller said. "And I think it was erroneous to say there were mistakes. We followed every lead. We had conducted 75 searches, probably 9,000 interviews in the course of the investigation."

Mueller blamed leaks for the problems.

"The reason for the settlement was attributable to leaks that occurred in the course of the investigation and those leaks should not have occurred," Mueller said. "And as I say, whatever resolution there was, was attributable to the leaks that were not only unfortunate, but unconscionable."

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