Journalists Name Former DC USA as Hatfill Leaker

Apparently, at least some of the journalists who reported that Steven Hatfill was a "person of interest" in the anthrax investigation have revealed their sources (after being released by those sources).

Attorneys for the former Army physician who was branded a "person of interest" in the deadly 2001 anthrax mailings named three federal officials Friday who they said leaked investigative details that harmed their client.

The physician, Steven J. Hatfill, has not been charged with a crime and maintains his innocence. Hatfill is suing the FBI, the Justice Department and a handful of present and former law enforcement officials. He alleges that the leaks were illegal, damaged his reputation and violated his right to privacy.

"We have identified three of the leakers who were previously anonymous," one of Hatfill’s attorneys, Mark A. Grannis, said near the outset of a sparsely attended hearing in federal court. "Some of the most damaging information leaked in this case [came] straight out of the U.S. attorney’s office."

The anthrax mailings killed five people and sickened about 20 others from Florida to Connecticut. Coming on the heels of the suicide attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and on the Pentagon, the mailings led to the shutdown of a Senate office building and heightened the nation’s fear of prolonged terrorism.

Hatfill’s attorneys alleged that the three officials who leaked investigative details to the media were: Roscoe C. Howard Jr., who from 2001 to 2004 served as U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia; Daniel S. Seikaly, who served as Howard’s criminal division chief; and Edwin Cogswell, who formerly served as a spokesman for the FBI.

This is where this suit will get interesting. Many of the stories that Hatfill named in his suit complained about the revelation of facts pertaining to ongoing FBI searches: news that dogs searching for anthrax had responded to locations on Hatfill’s property.

The agents quietly brought the dogs to various locations frequented by a dozen people they considered possible suspects — hoping the hounds would match the scent on the letters. In place after place, the dogs had no reaction. But when the handlers approached the Frederick, Md., apartment building of Dr. Steven J. Hatfill, an eccentric 48-year-old scientist who had worked in one of the Army’s top bioweapons-research laboratories, the dogs immediately became agitated, NEWSWEEK has learned. "They went crazy," says one law-enforcement source. The agents also brought the bloodhounds to the Washington, D.C., apartment of Hatfill’s girlfriend and to a Denny’s restaurant in Louisiana, where Hatfill had eaten the day before. In both places, the dogs jumped and barked, indicating they’d picked up the scent. (Bloodhounds are the only dogs whose powers of smell are admissible in court.)

The same article even states that the government didn’t have anything that it considered real proof against Hatfill.

But officials say they aren’t close to making any arrests in the case. "We’re still a long way from any proof that we could take into court," says one senior official.


Officials have been particularly careful to point out that Hatfill is one of "around 12" people they are looking at. They say he is not a suspect, or even a target of the investigation.

So it’s not like this article pinpointed Hatfill as the one target of the investigation–it did just the opposite.

Which is why I think things might get interesting from here. I’m not actually sure what the standard of secrecy for non-grand jury material is. But some of the stories Hatfill points to–and therefore the leaks–don’t support the case that the leaks pinpointed him and therefore ruined his career. Perhaps the government will settle to make this go away, but perhaps not; perhaps the government will push this trial, which might lead to more disclosure, rather than less.

23 replies
  1. bmaz says:

    No, to go further with this suit would compromise our means and methods of anthrax detection,; therefore, state secrets must preclude any iota of further exploration. I would think that prosecutor Mike Nifong Roscoe C. Howard Jr. has some issues however. Is Daniel S. Seikaly related to Ronny Seikaly, the former Miami Heat center turned volleyball player?

    • emptywheel says:

      I agree that Howard has some issues–unless his are the quotes trying to batten down the attention on Hatfill. That is, if Howard were trying to remind journalists that they had no proof against Hatfill, it would be a little different than if he was the source for the “person of interest” quote.

  2. afox says:

    The anthrax cases leave one gaping. Seldom has the FBI been so incompetent. One almost could believe they do not wish to solve the cases. Or someone does not wish to have them solved.

    Then one asks, who stood to benefit from raising the terror level?

    • eCAHNomics says:

      Perhaps the FBI has already solved the case, but the answer is inconvenient.

      On Marcy’s point about the newspaper article going out of its way to say the case hasn’t been solved, the article does name Hatfill as a person of interest. IANAL, but I believe the legal cliche that applies here is unringing a bell. Once Hatfill’s name was in play, no matter what the caveats, he was toast professionally.

      Besides there were plenty of others (who is that female lawyer who looks like Cruella de Ville?) who argued vigorously that it had to have been Hatfill.

  3. merkwurdiglieber says:

    These anthrax attacks were the whip used on the press and congress to
    spread the personal sense of threat needed for suspension of critical
    thought for the upcoming enabling act for Junya… years later still
    no real push for answers as to how US military grade anthrax was used
    for this. “You don’t want to know” runs all through this.

  4. manys says:

    So it’s not like this article pinpointed Hatfill as the one target of the investigation–it did just the opposite.

    I’m having a little trouble parsing this article, but wouldn’t this assertion disintegrate in light of the fact that his name was the only one mentioned?

  5. wavpeac says:

    Hatfill was “spitting” mad about the accusation from day one.

    It was already a bit inconvenient to have it “look” (even though it didn’t REALLY) like it was one of our own. I think the gov’t would have rather it look like a middle eastern terrorist. I wonder if there was some investigator who actually did his job when he decided to identify the string of anthrax and where it came from. It seems to me that the anthrax was identified as “our stash” from IA before they accused a local. Timeline??

    I sure would like to know how all the facts unfolded and when it was in the process that they started pointing the finger at him.

    I just knew at the time, that I really didn’t think it was him. He was weird but he was so puffed up about being accused that it didn’t seem to fit.

    And…I think it’s also interesting that we never caught the “guy” but son of a gun…it has never happened again. What does that mean?

    The whole case has fascinated me from the beginning.

  6. JodiDog says:

    From what I read, the US authorities thought Steven Hatfill was a culprit in the Anthrax scare, and they harassed him continually. Stopped him repeatedly, kept him from being employed, leaking, leaking continually, searching over and over.

    Now two points need to be made. Anthrax weaponry is serious, coming close to nerve gas or nuclear materials. Perhaps not as deadly overall, but in it’s own way with some worse characteristics.
    1.) It doesn’t dissipate or go away like most nerve gas.
    2.) It is not as easily detectable as most nuclear material.

    The point is made that these events didn’t occur again and this is a similar justification like comments made in the Atlanta serial killing of young black boys which stopped once the primary suspect Wayne Williams was arrested and jailed. “Investigate, watch or jail the prime suspect, and see if the crimes stop.

    I won’t argue that too much. And Hatfill does now have recourse financially to regain some of what he lost in the courts.

    The main thing I do wish to say is that I would take the Bloodhounds alerting very seriously.
    On scent dogs I am very familiar. When I was growing up with a father and two older brothers that loved to hunt, I was exposed to dogs and their abilities. I remember being curled up next to my mom at the fire roasting hot dogs, and marshmallows, and heating coffee, and hot chocolate, while the hounds sounded in the distance and my father and brothers and other male members of the family bounded about the dark country side hunting raccoons. My mom and I liked to shoot, and mom was a skeet champion as a young girl, but we liked to shoot targets, not animals, and sometimes vied against each other at the fair shooting ducks (the mechanical kind).

    Most people don’t know it, but bloodhounds are tested in trials, time and time again, and the current (at the time) best bloodhound in the country alerted again, and again to Mr Hatfill and his vicinity. Other dogs not as accomplished alerted a lot of the time.
    However other less famous cases have shown the dogs, or at maybe better to say, the dogs and their handlers have made obvious errors. For example the serial rape of 3 young girls in Florida where a man arrested after “Tinkerbell” alerted to him was freed after 3 months in jail once the DNA was checked.

    Personally I think the handlers made the mistake with the “scent pack” given the dog in that case.

    These kinds of things are worrisome to anyone that deals with particularly noxious materials.

    The fact that the FBI found a manuscript written by Mr Hatfill about these kinds of things also was real problem for him.

  7. wavpeac says:

    Oh yea, I remember that…that’s probably why I was fascinated!! Yea, and what about David Kelly…a story still waiting to be told…among many.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  8. FrankProbst says:

    The leaker has a pretty good defense: Hey, if Scooter Libby and Karl Rove can do it, why can’t I?

  9. rich2506 says:

    Speaking of unsolved cases, the Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) just had their bus mysteriously burst into flames (The driver, the only occupant at the time, got out unharmed) at a rest stop right after a encounter on the road with the McCain campaign bus.
    We’re quite sure, of course, that no one will ever connect the two incidents.

    • JodiDog says:

      Why would you connect those two incidents?

      Or are you saying the McCain bus fired an RPG at the IVAW bus?

  10. orionATL says:

    radiofreewill –

    i wasn’t at the time you wrote, but now i have a bit of a break from nails and screws.

    if you are willing to believe (recent local story) that the u.s. cdc,

    in order to gain congressional attention and increased funding for its tuberculosis programs,

    exploited the situation of a young lawyer with t.b. who went to greece to get married,

    by treating the case sensationally as an instance of a thoughtless purveyor of a terrible infectious strain of tb traveling heedlessly around the world on crowded airplanes,

    then you might believe what i believe about the anthrax matter.

    which is,

    that it was a deliberate effort, possibly by dod officials, to add to the fear generated by the sept 11 assault on the wtc.

    and that, specifically, it was intended to generate and reinforce in the public mind the notion that the “weapons of mass destruction”, not just an airplane or two, would be a threat from terrorists.

    while there was eventually talk of mushroom clouds,

    much of the initial chatter from the wise folk in dc involved death from things humans have feared for eons,

    small pox and bubonic plagues, anthrax, botulism (locally, birders were detained by police because they were using binocs at a water reservoir), poison gases.

    as p.r., the anthrax attacks were a stroke of genius.

    were they “on the books” of the dod?


    “off the books” of the dod – relying on the private institutional partners of the offensive being readied to go after saddam hussein?

    of course, it could have been some kid with a chemistry set,

    or maybe it was them russians.

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