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Last Updated

06 Oct 2002

Source: Reuters, October 5, 2002.

Fired Researcher in Anthrax Probe Plans to Sue

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Dr. Steven Hatfill, who has blasted the FBI for publicly naming him as a "person of interest" in its investigation of the 2001 deadly anthrax mailings, on Saturday said he planned to sue for defamation.

The germ warfare expert told a conference hosted by Accuracy In Media, a nonprofit media watchdog group, he would file several lawsuits against various unnamed individuals and organizations, according to his spokesman Pat Clawson.

"He is planning to file several defamation suits in the upcoming months against several individuals and organizations, but he did not specify against whom the suits would be filed," said Clawson, who attended the conference with Hatfill.

Hatfill's lawyer last month asked Attorney General John Ashcroft to apologize and help find a new job for Hatfill, who was fired in September by Louisiana State University's National Center for Biomedical Research and Training.

Hatfill, who is also a medical doctor, has denied any involvement in the anthrax attacks that killed five people in 2001, holding two media conferences to assert his innocence and blast the government's handling of the case.

LSU placed Hatfill on paid administrative leave on Aug. 2, the day after FBI agents searched his apartment near Fort Detrick, Maryland, where he once had worked.

On Aug. 1 a Justice Department agency directed LSU to stop using Hatfill as a course instructor on any department-funded programs. At the time Hatfill was working on a program financed by the department.

Hatfill is one of about 30 U.S.-based scientists the FBI considers a "person of interest" in its investigation, meaning they have the expertise, ability and wherewithal to produce the deadly bacteria.

Hatfill maintains he never worked with anthrax and insists government officials violated Justice Department regulations by leaking information about him and calling him a "person of interest" in the probe.

He told reporters in August that his attorneys had filed an ethics complaint about Ashcroft's conduct.

Federal officials are still investigating the spate of anthrax-tainted letters sent to government officials and media outlets in Washington, Florida and New York last year. Five people died and about a dozen others were treated for deadly inhalation anthrax or the less serious skin version.

Hatfill worked for the Army Medical Institute of Infectious Disease, center of the nation's biological warfare defense research, at Fort Detrick, Maryland. He also worked at Science Applications International Corp., a defense contractor.