- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 13, 2002

Some in scientific and law enforcement communities are asking whether the FBI intentionally put bioweapons expert Steven J. Hatfill in the spotlight in the anthrax investigation casting suspicion on him through leaks and innuendo without formally naming him as a suspect.
Still others wonder if Mr. Hatfill, who publicly declared his innocence on Sunday, isn't getting the same treatment that former security guard, Richard Jewell, got in the months after a bomb went off at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
"There's a tremendous demand for results at this point in the investigation," said a former justice department official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The former official, who has worked with the FBI in the past, said: "It could be that they really do have somebody that they're actually focusing on and they're using Hatfill as a way to take the heat off. But that's a very callous way of operating."
The FBI does not make a practice out of saying to themselves, "We're continuing our investigation and we're not getting anything, so let's go roast some guy like a hot dog," the former official said.
David Franz, a former U.N. weapons inspector who knows Mr. Hatfill, said, "There have been reports that the FBI has a list of persons of interest. I find it interesting that Hatfill is the only one that anyone is talking about." Mr. Franz also worked at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases.
Now a vice president at the Southern Research Institute, a defense contractor, Mr. Franz said he worked with Mr. Hatfill for a short time in 1997 and 1998 at Fort Detrick, the Pentagon's top biodefense research center in Frederick, Md.
In the anthrax case, the FBI has "never named any suspects," said Chris Murray, a spokesman for the bureau's Washington Field Office, which is leading the probe into who mailed the anthrax-laced letters to media outlets in Florida and New York and to two senators in Washington in October. The letters killed five persons, including two postal employees, and sickened more than a dozen others.
Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that "a law enforcement official" said investigators are still not prepared to clear Mr. Hatfill's name, although they have no physical evidence linking him to the crime.
It is not the first time that a "media feeding frenzy" as Mr. Hatfill called it has been sparked by the FBI's apparent interest in a particular person. After the Olympics bombing in Atlanta, investigators hadn't gone so far as to search Mr. Jewell's apartment before newspaper reports said they were interested in the man.
At first, Mr. Jewell was called a hero for noticing a suspicious-looking knapsack in Centennial Olympic Park and helping to clear the area before a bomb exploded, killing two persons and injuring 111. Three days later the Atlanta-Journal Constitution reported he was "the focus" of a federal probe into who planted the bomb.
It didn't take long before his name was used in newspapers nationwide. Not until he endured the heat of an intense media spotlight for more than two months did federal authorities suddenly clear Mr. Jewell of any suspicion.
While a similar snowball effect has surrounded Mr. Hatfill, it did not evolve so quickly. Investigators have twice searched Mr. Hatfill's apartment in Frederick first in February and most recently on Aug. 1, when investigators went in wearing protective gloves.
The interest in Mr. Hatfill is also being fueled by certain elements of his past, including his graduation in 1984 from a medical school in Zimbabwe. The anthrax-filled letters sent to Sens. Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy bore return addresses of a "Greendale School" in New Jersey. There is no such school in that state, but in Harare, Zimbabwe not far from where Mr. Hatfill obtained his degree there is a Greendale School.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide