Scientist Wants Leaks Investigated

Dr. Steven J. Hatfill, a former Army researcher under scrutiny in the FBI's anthrax probe, gestures while making his first public statement on the investigation in front of his lawyer Victor M. Glasberg's office in Alexandria, Virginia on August 11, 2002. Hatfill says he had nothing to do with the anthrax letters.
REUTERS
A bioweapons expert under federal scrutiny for last fall's rash of anthrax-laced letters plans to ask the Justice Department to investigate leaks to the news media about the probe, a spokesman said Monday.

"You'd have to talk to his attorney, but I can tell you that they plan to file a complaint with the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility to investigate" leaks to the news media about the probe, Pat Clawson, a friend of Dr. Steven J. Hatfill, said in a televised interview.

"Why would you want to single out someone for national attention if you do not have enough to charge them with a crime?" Clawson said.

"Because he's a member of a small fraternity, the bioweapons defense community, that would be a logical focus of some FBI attention," Clawson admitted on the CBS News Early Show, "but in this case, I think it's gotten completely out of hand."

Law enforcement officials have described Hatfill, 48, as a "person of interest," not a criminal suspect, and said he is only one of about 30 people being scrutinized.

A law enforcement official close to the case, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the scientist has not "received any more attention than any other person of interest in the investigation."

Hatfill's name, however, is the only one to have emerged publicly in the investigation.

Fighting suggestions that he may have sent last fall's anthrax-laced letters, Hatfill said Sunday he has never handled the toxin and fiercely denied any involvement in the deadly attacks.

Hatfill said that he has cooperated with the investigation, only to see his life and work destroyed through speculation and innuendo by law enforcement officials and the news media.

"I am a loyal American and I love my country," Hatfill told reporters outside his lawyer's office. "I have had nothing to do in any way, shape or form with the mailing of these anthrax letters."

Those assertions were echoed Monday morning by Clawson, the spokesman for Hatfill's legal team.

"The Steve Hatfill I have known for several years is a very devout patriot," he told anchor Jane Clayson. "He is a man of good humor, he's a physician, he's a scientist, he's a geek, but he's a healer, he's not a killer."

Hatfill, an American flag pin affixed to his lapel, said he had cooperated fully with authorities only to have defamatory information about him leaked to reporters.

He said he understood that authorities and the media had to consider his potential involvement after the letters killed five people and sickened more than a dozen others. "This does not, however, give them the right to smear me and gratuitously make a wasteland of my life in the process," he said.

Several questions have surfaced about Hatfill, including what appear to be exaggerations on his resume, his involvement in fighting for white rule in the former African colony of Rhodesia and whether he lost his security clearance while working for a defense contractor.

Neither he nor his lawyer, Victor M. Glasberg, would answer questions about his past. But Hatfill did say that anyone's life can be "picked apart" for inconsistencies.

"I do not claim to have lived a perfect life," he said.

Hatfill emphasized that his background is in the study of viral diseases such as Ebola, not bacterial diseases such as anthrax.

He said he was routinely vaccinated against anthrax because of his work at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute at Fort Detrick, Md., once home to the U.S. biological warfare program and repository for the Ames strain of anthrax that was used in the attacks. But he said he had not been inoculated since 1999 and had been susceptible to anthrax since 2000.

It is unclear how much residual protection he would have had from his earlier vaccinations.

Hatfill and Glasberg described in detail their efforts to cooperate with law enforcement but said they had been met with leaks to the press, such as a copy of a novel about bioterrorism that Hatfill had stored on his computer.

Glasberg said the Sunday appearance was part of a strategy to fight back in the media. He added that Hatfill would not submit to another polygraph test.

The FBI has already searched his apartment in Frederick, Md., twice, as well as his car, a storage locker in Florida and the home of his girlfriend.

Glasberg said the most recent search of his home, on Aug. 1, was conducted by surprise with a criminal search warrant, although he had been working to arrange a date for another voluntary search.

Soon after agents arrived, news helicopters were hovering overhead as FBI and Postal Service agents wearing protective gloves searched his apartment complex.

"The FBI agents had promised me that the search would be quiet, private and very low key. It did not turn out that way," Hatfill said.

The law enforcement official said Sunday the FBI would never give prior notice of a search if a warrant had been obtained.

After the search, Hatfill was suspended with pay from a new job with Louisiana State University's National Center for Biomedical Research and Training.

Earlier, Hatfill said, accusations from a reporter about his involvement in the attacks led his previous employer, the defense contractor Science Applications International Corp., to fire him.

Delivering his statement, Hatfill spoke with determination, frequently pointing his finger in the air.

"I am appalled at the terrible acts of biological terrorism," he said. "But I am just as appalled that my experience, knowledge, dedication and service relative to defending Americans against biological warfare has been turned against me in connection with the search for the anthrax killer."

Hatfill's allegations that investigators leaked damaging information about him and alerted the media to a raid at his house echo the treatment of Richard Jewell, who was exonerated as a suspect in the 1996 Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta.

"If I am a subject of interest, I'm also a human being. I have a life. I have, or I had, a job. I need to earn a living. I have a family, and until recently, I had a reputation, a career and a bright professional future," Hatfill said.

Such a personal appeal may generate sympathy for Hatfill among the public at large, and may cause investigators, prosecutors and reporters to tread more carefully, lawyers said.

The government could use Hatfill's own words against him if he ends up in court, however, and his detailed account of how he cooperated with the FBI investigation may cut off some potential defense strategies down the road, lawyers said.