- The Washington Times - Friday, August 2, 2002

FBI agents returned yesterday for a third time to search the Frederick, Md., apartment of a scientist who had worked at nearby Fort Detrick.

Wearing protective gloves, the federal agents entered the uninhabited apartment at Detrick Plaza, close to the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, where Dr. Steven J. Hatfill worked for two years.

Parked nearby was a dark blue van, its rear doors open. Nearby and open were white cardboard boxes next to two open trash bins.

This time, the investigators were not seen carrying anything from the apartment. On June 26, fully garbed in protective clothing, they reportedly removed computer components and six loaded garbage bags. The apartment was first searched late last year.

Although he has not lived there full-time for about two years, the apartment is still listed in Dr. Hatfill's name.

"We're making progress in the case, but I can't comment on ongoing aspects of the investigation," FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III said yesterday afternoon.

The FBI reiterated that a person is not a suspect until they are told they are being investigated as a suspect. Until told, such people are studied as "persons of interest" by the bureau.

The FBI has reported that it had narrowed its questioning to about "20 to 30" expert "persons of interest" and that Dr. Hatfill was among them.

Although investigators have reportedly searched at least 25 apartments and residences, only Dr. Hatfill has been named.

The FBI also zeroed in on the Frederick center, a leader in research for biological-warfare defense, where he worked. It is one of a few sites in America where the potent Ames strain of anthrax could be produced. The FBI has said it would question and ask 200 current and former employees to submit to polygraph tests.

Thomas Carter, Dr. Hatfill's Alexandria attorney, did not return phone calls yesterday.

Dr. Hatfill willingly submitted to questioning, a lie detector test and searches of the Frederick apartment and a storage shed of personal items at Ocala, Fla. No anthrax was reported found.

Ocala is about 230 miles from Boca Raton, where the first anthrax victim, Robert Stevens, 63, a tabloid photograph editor, died Oct. 2.

The search for a suspect began last fall as five persons were dying from exposure to the Ames variety of anthrax, which they contracted from the mail.

The search intensified after anthrax-laced letters were received in the Capitol Hill offices of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, and Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat.

That mail had been processed through the Brentwood Postal facility in Northeast. Two workers there, Thomas Lee Morris, 55, and Joseph P. Curseen, 47, died. The facility has been closed since, awaiting fumigation.

Other victims subsequent to Mr. Stevens and the Brentwood workers were Kathy Nguyen, 61, a hospital stockroom employee in New York, and Ottilie W. Lundgren, 94, of Connecticut.

Dr. Hatfill was involved with bacterial-warfare studies at Fort Detrick. He moved in January 1999 to work for Science Applications International Corporation, a government contractor with offices in McLean.

While there, he commissioned a report about anthrax uses. Written by William C. Patrick III, an authority on bioterrorism, two pages of the report described how the poison could be sent through the mail in standard business envelopes.

Dr. Hatfill's security clearance lapsed in August 2001, and he left Science Applications in March. Now the 48-year-old scientist is on the biomedical research and training staff at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide