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Feds accused of withholding Biowatch info

Nov. 15, 2012 at 9:18 AM

WASHINGTON, Nov. 15 (UPI) -- The Department of Homeland Security and other federal officials have been accused of withholding key documents on BioWatch from a congressional committee.

The congressional committee that oversees BioWatch, the nationwide system for detecting deadly biological attacks, sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, asking her to comply with their request for documents, the Chicago Tribune reported.

BioWatch was launched in 2003 by President George W. Bush to "protect our people and our homeland."

"The response from DHS to date has been inadequate, raising serious questions about the department's willingness to cooperate with efforts to ensure the success of the BioWatch program and transparency about its potential failures," wrote Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., who heads its Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee.

In a separate letter to the Center for Disease Control Director Dr. Thomas Frieden, Upton and Stearns allege the agency has provided "insufficient responses" to BioWatch-related requests sent to him by the committee in July.

The CDC assists Homeland Security in coordinating with local and state health authorities that operate BioWatch.

A spokeswoman for the CDC said Wednesday that the agency "will continue to work toward providing the committee the information" requested.

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