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Amerithrax Demand

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) formally demanded a briefing by the FBI before Thanksgiving on the status of its five-year investigation into the fall 2001 anthrax attacks.

In a pointed, five-page letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, dated today, Grassley attacked the FBI’s “blanket prohibition” on briefing Capitol Hill about the attacks, which included two letters directed at sitting Senators and left five people dead and more than a dozen injured. Roll Call reported the three-year-old ban on anthrax briefings Oct. 12, with the bureau saying it was necessitated by Congressional leaks.

“If some individual did act inappropriately by speaking to the media about an FBI briefing, stiff-arming Congress on all future requests is an unacceptable over-reaction. The FBI doesn’t become exempt from scrutiny just because there may have been an inappropriate disclosure by someone on Capitol Hill,” wrote Grassley, a senior member of the Judiciary Committee and FBI critic for more than two decades.

Grassley raised the specter that the lack of briefings may instead have been prompted by an investigation that “has little in the way of results to show for its work.”

He asked Gonzales to force an FBI briefing by Nov. 21, the anniversary of the last death traced to the anthrax letters.

Eye Spy. Google Earth, the search giant’s global mapping initiative, is getting into the swing of the midterms.

Over the weekend, Google Earth added an election guide that allows users to superimpose Congressional boundaries over satellite images of the United States and then scroll across the map to gather real-time information about races. Clicking on a star placed over each district brings up a list of candidates and also links to news about them and information about their campaign finances.

Google Earth product manager Chikai Ohazama said his team of programmers worked overtime to assemble the feature, gathering information district by district. “The target audience is really people across the country who want to learn more about their candidates and haven’t in the past,” a company spokeswoman said.

Roughly 100 million people have downloaded Google Earth in less than a year since its launch, company officials say. Ohazama said he expects the election guide to stay up for the next two weeks and come down shortly after Election Day. The company plans to resurrect the feature around future election seasons.

— Paul Kane and Tory Newmyer

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