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Gripes About Anthrax Probe Leaks

Lawyers for Dr. Steven J. Hatfill, a bioweapons expert under scrutiny for the anthrax attacks, have complained to the Justice Department about its treatment of their client, including the recent highly publicized search of his apartment complex.

Their complaints last week came in a letter sent soon after the Aug. 1 search and in a meeting Wednesday with the federal prosecutor overseeing the anthrax investigation, said Pat Clawson, a friend of Hatfill's who is acting as a spokesman for his legal team.

"We told him we were dissatisfied with the pattern of leaks and statements made by federal agents about Steve Hatfill," Clawson said Saturday, speaking for attorney Victor M. Glasberg.

Also at the meeting was Jonathan Shapiro, a criminal defense attorney Hatfill hired after coming under more intense scrutiny in the past two weeks.

Hatfill, who has denied involvement in the attacks, has not spoken at any length about the matter but planned to deliver a statement Sunday at his lawyer's office in Virginia.

Clawson said the lawyers were particularly angry about the most recent search of Hatfill's Fredrick, Md., apartment, which has been searched twice. Agents have also searched a storage locker Hatfill owns in Florida.

Clawson said Hatfill had agreed to allow the search and his lawyers were trying to schedule a date when, on the next day, the FBI showed up with a search warrant.

"They were willing to cooperate and the FBI executed search warrants instead, catching them completely by surprise," Clawson said. "They were making a good faith effort to schedule an appropriate time."

With a news helicopter hovering overhead, FBI and Postal Service agents wearing protective gloves searched his apartment complex.

A day later, Hatfill was suspended with pay from Louisiana State University's National Center for Biomedical Research and Training, where he had just begun a job as an associate director.

Hatfill, 48, worked from 1997 to 1999 at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute at Fort Detrick, Md., once headquarters to the U.S. biological warfare program and repository for the Ames strain of anthrax that was used in last fall's attacks.

In February 1999, he commissioned a study of how an anthrax attack might play itself out when he was working for the defense and CIA contractor Science Applications International Corp. He was later fired from that job under unclear circumstances.

Many current and former scientists from Fort Detrick and elsewhere have submitted to lie detector tests but Hatfill is the only person whose name has emerged publicly.

Law enforcement officials have said that Hatfill is not a suspect and that no evidence links him to the anthrax letters last fall. They have described him as a "person of interest" in their investigation.

Believing the culprit is domestic, authorities say Hatfill is one of 30 scientists and researchers with the expertise and opportunity to conduct the attacks-by-mail, which killed five people.

Hatfill has denied any involvement in the attacks and once complained that questions about the matter cost him his job at SAIC.

Hatfill's statement was expected to address questions about his background that have surfaced since he was named in the anthrax investigation, Clawson said.

Among them:

  • Why his application for a high-level security clearance was rejected while he was working at SAIC and whether that had anything to do with him being fired.
  • Why at one point his resume said he was a member the U.S. special forces, while Army officials say he flunked out of training after a month. Hatfill did serve in the U.S. Army from 1975 to 1978.
  • Why his resume listed a doctorate in molecular cell biology from Rhodes University when the university says he did not earn the degree. Clawson said that Hatfill had done the necessary work toward the degree, believed it had been granted and later corrected the error.

    Clawson said he has known Hatfill for six or seven years and found him to be a "committed scientist and physician with great compassion."