I am posting the entire Reuters story
below. Is it funny, pathetic, or both?
CDC Director Tom Frieden promised Congress to appoint a senior official to oversee lab security in a 2012 letter
responding to a Congressional inquiry
. Asked about this person at the House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations
Hearing on Wednesday (at 1 hr 25 minutes), Frieden could not recall who had been appointed. The next day, CDC spokesman Skinner said the official was appointed in March 2013, and that the official was Joseph Henderson.
One problem: Henderson had been sitting next to Frieden at the witness table the day before. It seems he didn’t know he was the appointee, or he would have presumably informed Frieden and the committee. Will Frieden get another chance to spout happy talk to Congress? Watch his performance at the hearing
, where he probably pissed off every member of the subcommittee with his canned non-answers. (He sounded like a slightly impatient teacher explaining the same thing over and over to slow children, never ever expanding beyond his brief, initial comments. OTOH, there may have been good reasons why Frieden desperately avoided veering from his script.)
Here is the Reuters story:
(Reuters) – U.S. lawmakers investigating repeated safety lapses at government laboratories questioned Thursday whether the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was up to the task of fixing the problem, given similar promises to remedy such breaches in 2012.
The CDC is under scrutiny for a June incident, in which more than 80 lab workers may have been exposed to live anthrax bacteria that was mistakenly sent out of a high-security lab on its Atlanta campus. Federal investigators have since reported dozens of other infractions at CDC labs that handle deadly pathogens such as anthrax and avian flu.
A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee is investigating the incident and the CDC’s response. Committee members are weighing the possibility of imposing new outside oversight on CDC labs and crafting national lab safety standards that would be administered by a single government body.
On Thursday, Committee Chairman Fred Upton made public a 2012 letter from CDC Director Dr Thomas Frieden saying the agency had put a senior official in charge of lab security and was soliciting advice from outside experts in biosecurity.
“We have designated a senior official who will report directly to the CDC Director regarding concerns or complaints related to safety at CDC’s laboratories,” Frieden said in the letter from September 2012 that was addressed to Upton.
Two years later, those measures did not appear to prevent a new round of safety breaches, including the anthrax incident.
Last week, Frieden said the CDC had appointed Dr. Michael Bell to be in charge of lab safety issues and would convene a panel of outside experts to advise the agency.
“These measures sound very similar to the corrective actions Dr. Frieden outlined last Friday to address the current lab crisis,” Upton said. “Why should we believe this time that things will be different?”
Frieden testified on Wednesday at a hearing of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.
When asked about the senior official put in charge of lab security in 2012, Frieden was unable to name the appointee or describe the official’s duties.
“I will have to get back to you about that to get you the name and the details of what was done pursuant to that letter,” he told Representative Gregg Harper, a Mississippi Republican.
CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said on Thursday that CDC official Joseph Henderson was named to the position around March 2013, and that the role included a broader portfolio of responsibilities. Henderson, currently director of the Office of Safety, Security and Asset Management, sat next to Frieden at the witness table during the subcommittee hearing.
“When that letter was written in September 2012, there may have been a person designated in an acting role. Joe was hired full time seven months later in 2013,” Skinner said.