The FBI Pursues An Anthrax Lead

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Has the FBI been dragging its feet on the anthrax investigation? One person who thinks so is Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, a bioweapons expert at the Federation of American Scientists who has become a public thorn in the agency's side. There has been a likely suspect for months, she claims, yet the FBI has not made an arrest. Without naming the suspect, she says he has received the anthrax vaccine, has a job that involves devising bioterror scenarios and once worked for the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Md. That facility works with the Ames strain of anthrax, which was used in the attacks. She also says the suspect recently "had a career setback that challenged his high ambitions and left him angry and depressed."

Last week FBI agents searched the Frederick, Md., apartment and Ocala, Fla., storage facility of Steven Hatfill, 48, a biodefense scientist who seems to match Rosenberg's profile. According to former colleagues, Hatfill has been vaccinated for anthrax, worked for the Army institute from 1997 to '99, and last summer — in a potentially fatal blow to his career — lost his government security clearance. Moreover, in 1999 Hatfill commissioned a study of a hypothetical terrorist attack in which anthrax is sent through the mail. He has another odd link to the case: the anthrax-filled letters sent to Senators Patrick Leahy and Tom Daschle had the same fictitious return address: 4th Grade, Greendale School, Franklin Park, N.J. There is no Greendale School in New Jersey. In the 1980s, Hatfill attended medical school in Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia), not far from a Greendale school.

Thomas Carter, Hatfill's attorney, says his client has met with the FBI several times, has been cooperative and has "never been a suspect." FBI sources say that Hatfill is not a suspect but is merely one of about 15 scientists whose homes were searched in the investigation and that no incriminating evidence was found in the search.