- The Washington Times - Monday, May 12, 2003

FREDERICK — Mayor Jennifer P. Dougherty confirmed yesterday that the FBI is considering draining a pond in Frederick Municipal Forest to search for evidence related to the 2001 anthrax attacks.

“They have probably found something that tickles their interest, which is why they keep coming back,” Miss Dougherty told The Washington Times.

The plan stems from a new FBI theory reported over the weekend by The Washington Post about how the person behind the attacks could have packed the deadly spores into envelopes without being infected or leaving traces in homes, buildings or on open land.

The theory is based on evidence recovered from the pond this winter, according to anonymous sources close to the investigation cited by the newspaper. FBI spokeswoman Debra Weierman declined to comment yesterday on the story or on searches conducted at a series of ponds in the forest.

The attacks nearly 19 months ago killed five persons and sickened 13 others.

The pond findings offer physical evidence in a case that so far has been built almost exclusively on circumstantial clues, the newspaper quoted sources as saying.

Two sources familiar with the items recovered from one of the ponds described a clear box, with holes that could accommodate gloves to protect the user during work. So-called glove boxes are commonly used to handle dangerous pathogens. Vials wrapped in plastic also were recovered.

For protection against airborne bacteria that might be released, a person could put envelopes and secured anthrax powder into the box, then wade into shallow water and submerge it to put the bacteria into the envelopes underwater, some involved in the case believe, the newspaper reported. Afterward, the envelopes could have been sealed inside plastic bags to be removed from the underwater chamber.

Miss Dougherty said yesterday that about six weeks ago FBI agents raised the possibility of draining the spring-fed pond that is roughly an acre in size and 10 feet deep. “Obviously, they want to find other evidence,” she said. “And they think that, as I recall, they want to find other things being hidden by the muck.”

She said FBI divers began searching the pond in December and January. The search was aided by scientists from the Army’s nearby germ warfare lab, the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID).

Some investigators said the water theory is the result of the FBI’s interest in Steven Hatfill, a physician and bioterrorism specialist who formerly worked as a researcher at USAMRIID.

Attorney General John Ashcroft has described Mr. Hatfill as “a person of interest” in the investigation. Mr. Hatfill formerly lived in an apartment outside Fort Detrick’s main gate, about eight miles from the ponds.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

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