- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 27, 2002

The FBI is going back to the beginning of the anthrax probe by sending investigators to search a federally quarantined building in Boca Raton, Fla., where the first anthrax victims were infected in the fall.
During the search, which the bureau said will begin today and is expected to last two weeks, investigators will re-enter the headquarters of American Media Inc., the publisher of such grocery store tabloids as the National Enquirer, the Globe and the Weekly World News.
FBI Special Agent Hector Pesquera said investigators will use a new technique to locate lingering anthrax spores and will hunt for a letter believed to have been the source of the deadly bacteria that contaminated the building in early October.
Mr. Pesquera, who leads the FBI's Miami division, told reporters that the goal of the search is "to bring to justice the person or persons responsible" for the anthrax attacks.
He said the search "has nothing to do with Steven Hatfill," the bioweapons researcher whom authorities named as a "person of interest" in the investigation.
The American Media building was evacuated and sealed the first week in October, when Robert Stevens, a photo editor there, died from exposure to anthrax.
Mr. Stevens, 63, who apparently became infected at his desk inside the building, was the first of five persons nationwide to die of anthrax.
During the weeks after his death, letters filled with anthrax-laced powder were delivered to media outlets in New York and to two senators on Capitol Hill.
Although authorities believe that a similar letter was sent to American Media, no note has been found. Initial searches of the building focused on the mailroom and workstations used by several other employees who tested positive for exposure to anthrax.
Mr. Pesquera declined to comment on what new tactics would be used to search the building.
He said investigators, wearing bodysuits and plastic boots, will collect thousands of samples with the goal of locating the highest concentration of anthrax spores and determining how readily and prevalently the bacteria spread through the building.
Dr. Dwight Adams, assistant director of the FBI's laboratory division, said spores found at American Media will be compared with the anthrax sent to Washington to determine whether they originated from the same stock.
The FBI has not named any suspects in the anthrax investigation, although the bureau is said to have a list of 30 "persons of interest."
Mr. Hatfill, who twice during the past month has held press conferences declaring his innocence, is the only one on the list to be named by authorities. He worked at Fort Detrick, the Pentagon's top biological-defense research center in Frederick, Md., until 1998.
The FBI has searched his Frederick apartment twice during the past six months, in February and on Aug. 1.
Mr. Hatfill, 48, has accused the FBI of ruining his life by investigating him without naming him a suspect. On Sunday he said the FBI mistreated his girlfriend during a search of her apartment, and he criticized Attorney General John Ashcroft for labeling him a person of interest.
FBI agents recently canvassed downtown Princeton, N.J., with photographs of an unidentified person who shop owners said looked like Mr. Hatfill.
A spokesman for the bureau said the agents' presence in Princeton was routine because anthrax spores had been discovered in a blue curbside postal mailbox in Princeton. The FBI spokesman refused to say whether photographs were being shown.

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