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Last Updated

02 Feb 2003

Source: Washington Times, February 2, 2003

FBI conducts second anthrax probe


The FBI has completed a second search of a Frederick, Md., forest for clues in the investigation into who sent anthrax-laced letters more than 15 months ago.

Law-enforcement sources said the searches, which concluded Wednesday night, in the Frederick Municipal Forest were prompted by a tip to investigators that lab equipment used in anthrax attacks was dumped there. The first search was conducted in late December.

The FBI declined to comment on what prompted the searches, during which investigators in scuba gear carved large holes in the surface of a frozen pond before climbing into the icy water to hunt for clues.

"We conducted forensic searches in a remote area on public land located within the city of Frederick," said Debbie Wierman, spokeswoman for the FBI's Washington Field Office. "These searches ... were related to the FBI's investigation of the origin of the anthrax-laced letters mailed in September and October of 2001."

Authorities have chased thousands of leads in the anthrax investigation but have not named any suspects. The FBI declined to comment on whether any evidence was gleaned from the recent searches. One law-enforcement source said they "might not have been as productive" as desired.

The searches renewed interest in Stephen J. Hatfill, 48, a former scientist at the Army Medical Research Institute at Fort Detrick, Md., from 1997 to 1999. His apartment in Frederick was searched by FBI agents last year.

Mr. Hatfill, author of a novel about an anthrax attack on Washington, has denied involvement in the lethal letter attacks. At one point he held a news conference criticizing the FBI's treatment of him, saying the bureau "ruined" his life. Mr. Hatfill was fired during the summer by Louisiana State University at the urging of the Justice Department.

The Justice Department has referred to Mr. Hatfill is a "person of interest" in the anthrax investigation.

Five persons were killed nationwide in the anthrax attacks, including the two postal workers at the District's central mail processing center, on Brentwood Road NE. The center recently renamed in honor of fallen workers Joseph Curseen Jr. (case 16) and Thomas Morris Jr. (case 15) has been fumigated for anthrax exposure but remains closed indefinitely.

On Dec. 14, the U.S. Postal Service pumped 2 tons of chlorine dioxide through the 17.5-million-cubic-foot building to kill lingering anthrax spores. Analysts continue to conduct tests on thousands of anthrax-spore strips left inside during the fumigation.

Postal Service spokesman Jerry Krieinkamp said officials do not expect to know before the middle of February whether the fumigation was successful.