Monday, November 26, 2001

CHESTER, Pa. The Nov. 13 FBI SWAT team raid of two houses here was part of an “ongoing global investigation,” U.S. Attorney Patrick L. Meehan said. An attorney for three city officials who were questioned following the action will seek this week to make public any evidence federal authorities have on his clients.
“The FBI doesn’t go running amok,” Mr. Meehan said last week during a briefing on security issues sponsored by the Delaware County Chamber of Commerce. “There was a tremendous amount of information gathered in weeks of work. It was part of a global investigation.”
Anthony List, who represents Chester Health Commissioner Dr. Irshad Shaikh, his brother Masood Shaikh and Chester city accountant Asif Kazi, said his clients were asked by the FBI about the anthrax-laced letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle during a four-hour interrogation following the raids.
The Pakistani natives also had their pictures and fingerprints taken, and provided handwriting samples.
The three were questioned again at FBI offices three days later. But with no charges filed, Mr. List said he will file a motion in federal court this week to have the reason for the searches made public.
“My clients have the right to have this cloud of suspicion removed,” Mr. List said. “These are people in sensitive positions in local government, which is the reason the investigation should be concluded. They’ve done the search, the analysis, the interviews. Why leave it hanging any longer?”
Mr. List acknowledged that the information on the affidavit presented to obtain the warrant “must have been substantial. We know they aren’t being investigated for back parking tickets.”
The three are scheduled to appear before a grand jury on Dec. 20.
Dr. Shaikh, 39, was asked during both interviews with the FBI about his knowledge of chemical and biological agents.
Dr. Shaikh has been in the United States since the early 1990s, earning his master’s and doctorate degrees from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. He was a physician in Pakistan before coming to this country.
On his 1999 divorce decree, he lists his occupation as “doctor,” although he is not a certified physician in the United States.
Dr. Shaikh has never become a U.S. citizen, nor has his 40-year-old brother, Masood, who joined the city staff in 1997 as part of the lead abatement team.
Masood was a psychiatrist in Pakistan for three years, earning his degree there. He holds a work visa. Masood, who is single, lives with his unmarried brother in a three-story, multiunit home several blocks from Mr. Kazi.
The Shaikh brothers have known Mr. Kazi for “17 to 18 years,” Mr. List said.
So when a city accounting position became available, the brothers contacted their old friend, Chester Mayor Dominic Pileggi.
All three were highly qualified, the mayor said, with “superior qualifications that were far above the other applicants.”
Mr. Kazi is a U.S. resident, having become naturalized shortly before taking the job here in 1999. He is married, and his wife was not detained during the raid.
The raids were the first FBI investigation of homes in relation to the September 11 terrorist attacks. Mr. Meehan has maintained secrecy surrounding the reasons for the FBI’s very public search and seizure frustrating many local residents.
Streets were shut down as 30 agents stormed the two residences that are several blocks apart. Some officers donned “moon suits” to enter the homes, indicating some certainty that anthrax was present. That was later found not to be the case.
FBI officials in Philadelphia, where the investigation is being directed, also have declined to comment on the probe.
In fact, all documents pertaining to the case are sealed.
“This is an example of balancing the line of finding facts and protecting every individual, American or not, from police or government activity,” Mr. Meehan said.
The silence is troubling local residents, who seek an answer to a simple question. “What were they looking for and what did they find?” asked Maria Simcox, who lives down the street from one of the two homes.
“They bring out seven to 10 plastic garbage bags of materials, and we don’t have some kind of right to know?” asked Mary Buck, another resident of Edgmont Park, a three-block section of red-brick houses in this town of 40,000.
Chester is a town where the streets turn bare as dusk falls; even in the daylight, business is hardly brisk. The oldest city in the state, the town was founded in 1644.
In Edgmont Park, where flags wave in almost all of the yards and residents gather daily to talk to each other on the wide sidewalks, Tom Watras still wonders what was in those bags.
“I’m sure that if we were in danger, they would tell us,” Mr. Watras said. “I would hope, anyway.”
Resident Henry Crofcheck was convinced the Justice Department had located solid evidence in the anthrax cases.
Four doors down, the SWAT teams poured through the front and back doors of Mr. Kazi’s home as Mr. Crofcheck and his neighbors watched.
“I really thought this was serious. I thought they really had somebody,” said Mr. Crofcheck, who has lived in the racially mixed neighborhood for 29 years.
Mr. Pileggi said the case remains a “curiosity.”
“People now are asking, ‘when will we know what this was about?’” he said.
Dr. Shaikh said that federal agents are doing exactly what they should do.
“I completely understand what they did,” said Dr. Shaikh. “They have to do this when they feel there is a reason. I have, in my job, the same responsibility in times of attacks. I have the power to quarantine, and I know there are people who would doubt that kind of action. So I am not a victim of anything when you think of those thousands who died on September 11.”

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