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THURSDAY, DECEMBER 12, 2002                                                Contact: Nick Manetto 202-225-3765

GAO Anthrax Investigation to Begin in Jan.

  

            WASHINGTON, D.C. – On the eve of the start of the long-delayed cleanup of the anthrax-contaminated Brentwood Post Office here, Congress’s chief investigative agency has said it is proceeding with Congressman Chris Smith’s request to conduct a full and comprehensive investigation into how the government and United States Postal Service handled last fall’s anthrax crisis in both New Jersey and Washington. 

Smith recently asked the Comptroller General of the General Accounting Office to investigate differences in how the government responded to the crisis in Hamilton compared to how it addressed the attacks on Capitol Hill. 

            “From the very beginning, there have been dramatic differences in how and when the Post Office and federal government responded to the attacks in Hamilton and in Washington.  We need to know why,” Smith said.                       

            “Throughout the past year, I’ve helped many local postal employees who have had problems with postal management relating to the anthrax closure and I remain very concerned that the closure stemming from the attacks may inadvertently – or perhaps even knowingly – result in long-term adverse impacts on the employees.  This would be grossly unfair to both postal employees and postal customers and I want the GAO to investigate how this situation has been handled compared to other facility closures,” Smith said. 

            Postal officials have repeatedly attempted to permanently transfer scores of Hamilton employees during the time in which the facility has been shuttered. 

            Officials with the GAO met with Smith staff this week to outline the scope of their investigation they plan to begin next month.  Smith has offered to assist the GAO any way possible, and is in the process of preparing a packet of documents pertaining to the crisis, as well as contact information the GAO may need. Officials do not know exactly how long the investigation should take to complete. 

            In addition to the GAO investigation, Smith is pushing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to conduct a long-term medical study of all people who were exposed to anthrax and treated with antibiotics.  Such a study would make sure those exposed are made aware of all potential long-term medical complications and are able to seek the proper healthcare.