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Last Updated

25 Jan 2003

Source: Washington Post, January 25, 2003

Hunt for Clues in Anthrax Case Revived

FBI Agents Return to Frederick Forest in Search Reportedly Linked to Scientist  

By Allan Lengel, Washington Post Staff Writer

The FBI has again returned to a forested area in Frederick to search for clues in the anthrax killings case, authorities said yesterday.

Agents who arrived this week plan to conduct a more "thorough" search of the Frederick Municipal Forest, expanding it to a remote area where they have not looked before, sources said. Law enforcement officials said a weeklong search of ponds and woods in the area last month netted some materials that were being tested for links to the anthrax attacks, which killed five people and sickened 13 others in late 2001.

Sources said the search is tied to scientist Steven Hatfill, who authorities have described as a "person of interest" in the investigation. Law enforcement sources said the search was triggered by a hypothetical statement Hatfill had made about anthrax.

Specifically, investigators are trying to determine whether Hatfill, a former scientist at the U.S. Army's principal biodefense laboratory at nearby Fort Detrick, disposed of any containers or byproducts that may be linked to the anthrax spores that were sent through the mail, law enforcement sources said.

Pat Clawson, a spokesman for Hatfill, said: "[The] bottom line is, it's unfortunate the grown-ups aren't in charge at the FBI. Because they would realize . . . Steven Hatfill had nothing to do with the anthrax attacks, period."

"Somebody needs to seriously ask [Attorney General] John Ashcroft and [FBI Director] Bob Mueller . . . why this is continuing when Steve Hatfill has cooperated 100 percent with the FBI from day one," Clawson said. "The [FBI] surveillance of him continues 24/7."

The Frederick Municipal Forest is a wooded area about four miles northwest of Frederick and Fort Detrick. It is adjacent to the Catoctin National Park, which contains the Camp David presidential retreat.

Hatfill, 48, worked at Fort Detrick from 1997 to 1999 as a virus specialist and lived in an apartment nearby. FBI agents searched his apartment in June and again in August. A few days later, he was fired from his job at Louisiana State University at the urging of the Justice Department.

Last month, the FBI search in the municipal forest resulted in road closings.

Frederick Police Chief Kim Dine said he does not expect any road closings this time because the search is being conducted in a much more remote area.

An FBI spokesman declined to comment on the search but said that water tests in the area show there is no "threat to public health or safety."