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Last Updated

25 Aug 2003

Source: Washington Post, September 5, 2002.

LSU: Justice Did Not Cause Hatfill Firing

By Guy Gugliotta, Washington Post Staff Writer

Louisiana State University hired Steven J. Hatfill only after twice conferring with the FBI, whose anthrax investigators had searched the former Army researcher's home. A month later, Justice Department officials effectively blackballed Hatfill by instructing LSU to prohibit him from working on the university's government-funded programs.

LSU spokesman Gene Sands said yesterday, however, that the Justice Department's apparent turnabout -- the FBI is an agency within the department -- had nothing to do with university Chancellor Mark A. Emmert's decision on Aug. 1 to suspend Hatfill from his $150,000-per-year position and to fire him Tuesday.

Instead, Sands said Steve Guillot, director of LSU's National Center for Biomedical Research and Training, failed to inform Emmert and other university officials of the Justice Department's misgivings regarding Hatfill, who was to serve as the center's associate director. LSU fired Guillot yesterday, Sands said.

Hatfill, 48, a former bioweapons researcher at the Army's Fort Detrick facility in Frederick, Md., is one of several people deemed "persons of interest" in the FBI's investigation of anthrax attacks that killed five people last year.

Hatfill has repeatedly asserted his innocence, saying his life was "utterly destroyed" because of the investigation. Yesterday Hatfill spokesman Pat Clawson condemned the department for first "clearing him and then red-lighting him" at LSU and accused Attorney General John D. Ashcroft of "running amok and trampling the Constitution, all in the name of fighting terrorism."

Assistant Attorney General Deborah Daniels defended the Aug. 1 e-mail to Guillot calling for Hatfill's removal. In a statement, she noted that Justice grants money only with the understanding that it can control who works on projects.

Hatfill began working on contract in April at the LSU center, which trains first responders in how to cope with bioterrorist attacks and receives virtually all its funding from the Justice Department On June 25, the FBI searched his Frederick apartment with his consent, and on June 27 and June 29, Guillot called the FBI to confer about Hatfill, Sands said. On July 1, the center hired Hatfill full time. On Aug. 1, the FBI searched Hatfill's apartment a second time, this time with a warrant. The same day, Timothy Beres, acting director of the Justice Department's Office for Domestic Preparedness, sent Guillot an e-mail instructing the center to "immediately cease and desist" allowing Hatfill to work in Justice Department-funded programs.

In an MSNBC interview yesterday, LSU's Emmert said his office did not learn of the e-mail until Tuesday and had not seen it until yesterday. "We had made an internal decision to terminate our relationship with Dr. Hatfill quite independent of that communication," he said.