Anthrax Search Comes Up Empty

FBI anthrax pond screen grab
A high-stakes gamble in the FBI's anthrax investigation hasn't paid off. The Washington Post reports Friday that soil samples taken from a Maryland pond show no traces of the deadly bacteria.

"There were no home runs," said a law enforcement source.

The FBI drained the pond in Frederick, Maryland, in June and took samples as part of the investigation into the anthrax mailings of 2001, which killed five people and sickened 17 others. The pond search took about three weeks and cost about a quarter-million dollars.

But, the Post reports, the search netted nothing but a pile of castaway items – a gun, a bicycle, fishing lures – none of which appeared related to the anthrax case, sources said.

The FBI's Washington field office declined to comment.

Authorities were reportedly acting on a tip that a bioterrorism expert, Steven Hatfill, had talked hypothetically about disposing of contaminated materials underwater. He had worked at the nearby Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick – one of the nation's primary anthrax research centers – and has been described as a "person of interest" in the probe.

Now, Hatfill's lawyer says he wants an apology from the FBI.

"Dr. Hatfill had no involvement in the anthrax attack," attorney Thomas Connolly said Thursday. "It is now time for those law enforcement officials who have orchestrated a campaign of smears to do the honorable thing and issue an apology to Dr. Hatfill and an apology to the taxpayers for spending a quarter-million dollars on a wild goose chase."

With this latest lead now turned cold, investigators are said to be working with scientists to genetically code the anthrax bacteria, hoping to trace it to a particular lab.