WTC hit job

WTC hit job

The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention yesterday took a break from head-scratching over the salmonella that has felled people from coast to coast, walloped U.S. agriculture and made Americans worry their next salad might be their last.

Dr. Julie Gerberding had something more important to take care of - to wit, a bureacratic revenge killing.

Perhaps thinking no one would notice on the eve of the Fourth of July weekend, Gerberding fired Dr. John Howard as head of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health . This was payback, and the orders had to have come from the top, straight from U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt .

Howard's offense? He was the single member of the Bush administration with the courage to tell the truth about the epidemic of illnesses suffered by 9/11 rescue and recovery workers. And he told the scientific and medical truth - no matter that his bosses wanted nothing to do with paying for health care for the sickened.

Worse, Howard fought to get treatment for the workers - until yesterday, when Gerberding called him to her Atlanta office and handed him his walking papers with all the finesse of the Mets canning Willie Randolph .

One measure of Howard's excellent service is that officials ranging from Gov. Paterson to Rep. Carolyn Maloney to Sen. Hillary Clinton> demanded his reappointment. Another is that advocates for the ill have been unanimous in singing his praises.

Feebly, Gerberding said Howard will stay on to consult on 9/11 health programs - programs in which the Bush administration has shown no interest. Howard is a first-rate man. What happened to him is a disgrace and one more federal slap in the face to the forgotten victims of 9/11.