Accuracy in Media

The Justice Department’s treatment of Dr. Steven J. Hatfill has been so shameful that it is an embarrassment. The FBI, apparently desperate to find someone to charge in the anthrax murders case or cases, decided to focus on Dr. Hatfill for three reasons: (1) He had worked at Ft. Detrick where work on agents, like anthrax, that may be used in bio-warfare is carried out; (2) He had written an unpublished novel about a germ warfare attack on Congress; and (3) He had been asked, at a dinner to which he had been invited, about the anthrax attacks and about Cipro, the medicine recommended for those who may have been exposed to the spores.

At Ft. Detrick, Dr. Hatfill had never worked with anthrax spores. He worked with viruses. His unpublished novel, which was submitted for a copyright four years ago, was about an Iraqi terrorist spreading bubonic plague, not anthrax. There were probably thousands of dinner-table conversations throughout the country where the subject of anthrax was brought up and medical doctors were asked about the effectiveness of Cipro. Fearing that if they called Dr. Hatfill a suspect, they would have another Richard Jewell case on their hands, the FBI behaved as though he was a suspect while describing him as “a person of interest.” [The FBI had treated Jewell as a suspect in the Olympic bombing case in Atlanta and were forced to admit they were wrong.]

Hatfill’s long-time friend, journalist Patrick Clawson, has emerged as his spokesman. Clawson described the FBI’s behavior as “one of the most egregious abuses of government power” that he had seen in the 27 years he has been in Washington. He describes Hatfill as a loyal American with no criminal record who had been granted security clearances. Susan Schmidt, a veteran Washington Post reporter, wrote that “no physical evidence” had been found to implicate Hatfill. There was nothing that could bear the weight of the FBI’s suspicions.

Clawson says Dr. Hatfill is a patriot and a hawk when it comes to defending America who would like to see more attention paid to the question of bio-warfare and how to defend against it. Clawson totally rejects the idea that Hatfill would stage a deadly anthrax attack to try to focus attention on the need for stronger bio-warfare defense.

The FBI’s way of generating suspicion of Dr. Hatfill is despicable. They have searched his apartment near Ft. Detrick twice. Reporters and camera crews were there when they made the second search, which involved the use of bloodhounds. It was reported that the bloodhounds went crazy when they entered Hatfill’s apartment, supposedly because they detected scents there that were on envelopes in which anthrax had been mailed. This has been questioned by bloodhound handlers, and an FBI spokesman says they gave no such information to the media. A knowledgeable source says what was reported was completely wrong.

Dr. Hatfill says the FBI has ruined his life. It is too early to say that, but they, with an assist from the Department of Justice, have at least destroyed his livelihood. He had been teaching classes for the the Louisiana State University National Center for Biomedical Research and Training. The center hires instructors to train emergency personnel around the country on how to deal with bio-warfare agents. On July 1, Dr. Hatfill was appointed associate director of the center at a salary of $150,000-a-year, and he recently moved to Baton Rouge.

It has been revealed that 97 percent of the center’s funding is provided by the Department of Justice. On August 1, Justice sent an e-mail to Stephen L. Guillot, the director of the center, ordering him to “cease and desist” from using Hatfill on Justice Department-funded projects. Guillot complied. He ceased using Hatfill, placing him on administrative leave with pay the next day. He didn’t notify all the top officials at LSU about the Justice Department e-mail until Sept. 3rd. Then Hatfill was fired immediately, and Guillot was fired the next day, effective Oct. 4.

Being “a person of interest” to the FBI is not a crime. Putting “a person of interest” on paid administrative leave is not a crime. Hatfill and Guillot have been punished severely for “committing” these non-crimes. It is true that Hatfill embellished his resume by claiming some honors he didn’t have, but that does not justify the treatment that he and Stephen Guillot have received to satisfy the FBI and bureaucrats in what some think should be called the Department of Injustice.




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