From: Otis Willie
Subject: FBI Investigates Anthrax Researchers
Organization: The American War Library
NNTP-Posting-Date: Thu, 27 Jun 2002 21:44:57 EDT
Date: Fri, 28 Jun 2002 01:44:57 GMT
FBI Investigates Anthrax Researchers
(EXCERPT) Thu Jun 27, 6:08 PM ET, by CHRISTOPHER NEWTON, Associated
WASHINGTON (AP) - The FBI ( news - web sites) is looking closely at 20
to 30 scientists in its investigation of last fall's deadly anthrax
attacks, including the biodefense researcher who allowed agents to
search his home this week, a U.S. official said Thursday.
The FBI's interest in the scientists is based on their access to
anthrax and, in some cases, their professional interest in
bioterrorism, the official said on condition of anonymity.
Dr. Steven J. Hatfill, who let agents search his Maryland apartment
and Florida public storage unit this week, commissioned a 1999 study
depicting a hypothetical anthrax attack by mail while he was working
for defense contractor Science Applications International Corp., said
Ben Haddad, spokesman for the San Diego-based company.
The U.S. official said Hatfill is considered one of the "persons of
interest" — a group of 20 to 30 researchers nationwide whose expertise
and access might have given them the knowledge and opportunity to send
the deadly anthrax letters. The group is drawn from 200 scientists
overall whom the FBI wants to look at further, the official said.
The FBI has conducted about 25 searches of homes or apartments,
including Hatfill's, always with the consent of the person
The possibility of searching Hatfill's home came up in a conversation
with investigators, and the former researcher allowed it in an effort
to clear himself from any suspicion, officials said.
He is not considered a suspect and there is no evidence that he is
connected to the anthrax letters, law enforcement officials said
Hatfill did not answer the door at his apartment Thursday in a complex
of brick, three-story garden-style apartments near Fort Detrick.
Hatfill's attorney, Thomas C. Carter, declined to comment Thursday
about the FBI's focus on Hatfill, saying he wants to consult with
Hatfill before speaking to the media.
Hatfill has denied involvement in the anthrax mailings and complained
to The (Baltimore) Sun in a March telephone message that he had been
fired from the defense contractor because of media inquiries.
"I've been in this field for a number of years, working until 3
o'clock in the morning, trying to counter this type of weapon of mass
destruction, and, sir, my career is over at this time," Hatfill said.
The homes of some of the other researchers also have been searched,
said a federal law enforcement official.
Investigators believe anyone skillful enough to send the anthrax
letters without becoming sick must have had extensive experience.
Yet, despite having focused on scientists, the FBI still believes the
attacker may not be associated with anthrax research, the official
The study Hatfill commissioned was written by bioterrorism expert
William C. Patrick III and describes placing 2.5 grams of Bacillus
globigii, a simulated form of anthrax, in a standard business
envelope, The Sun reported.
Haddad said Hatfill and another scientist, Joseph Soukup, commissioned
the report in February 1999 in their official capacity as employees of
the contractor's biomedical sciences group.
Hatfill, 48, is listed as a 1983 graduate on the Web site for the
University of Zimbabwe Medical School, and he provided to the school
his e-mail address. Investigators also have confirmed that Hatfill is
a graduate of the school.
ABC News reported this week that the FBI was interested in Hatfill
partly because he lived, while in Zimbabwe, near a Greendale
elementary school. "Greendale School" in Franklin Park, N.J., was
printed in large block letters as the false return address on the
anthrax-laden envelopes sent to Sens. Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy
There is a Greendale neighborhood near the university in the Zimbabwe
One U.S. investigator cautioned that the FBI has been unable to place
Hatfill near Trenton, N.J., during the time the anthrax letters were
mailed. Officials believe those letters were mailed from the Trenton
FBI agents on Wednesday also searched a storage facility in Ocala,
Fla., used by Hatfill.
Hatfill worked in the virology division of the U.S. Army Medical
Institute of Infectious Disease at Fort Detrick, said Chuck Dasey, a
spokesman for the base. He worked for two years at the institute on a
fellowship from the National Research Council ( news - web sites),
He stopped working there in September 1999 and was employed, By
Science Applications International until March 4.
Another U.S. law enforcement official, also speaking on condition of
anonymity, said Hatfill's Defense Department security ( news -
external web site) clearance expired and never was renewed. Such
clearances must be renewed every five years.
Hatfill was first interviewed by the FBI in December, this official
Although Hatfill likely had access to anthrax in labs shared with
bacteriology researchers, his primary duties didn't involve working
with anthrax, Dasey said.
Five people died in the anthrax attacks that began in late September.
One of the dead was Robert Stevens, a photo editor for a tabloid
newspaper headquartered in Boca Raton, 230 miles southeast of Ocala.
Associated Press writers Ted Bridis in Washington and Gretchen Parker
in Baltimore contributed to this story.
The American War Library