HAGERSTOWN, Md. – A biodefense researcher whose home was searched by FBI agents commissioned a 1999 study depicting a hypothetical anthrax attack by mail, a spokesman for his former company said Thursday.
The study was commissioned by Dr. Steven J. Hatfill while he was working for defense contractor Science Applications International Corp., said Ben Haddad, spokesman for the San Diego-bimulated form of anthrax, in a standard business envelope, The (Baltimore) Sun reported.
The newspaper said portions of the study were read to it by a person who has a copy.
A government official close to the investigation said Hatfill is only one of many researchers who have allowed investigators to search their home to help clear them from all suspicion. Some other homes have already been searched.
The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Hatfill's background and interest in bioterrorism does not set him apart from others who are being interviewed in the case.
Haddad said Hatfill and another scientist, Joseph Soukup, commissioned the report in February 1999 in their official capacity as employees of the contractor's biomedical sciences group. He said he didn't know how SAIC used the anthrax report.
"These people asked him to put his thoughts down regarding this subject, so that's why he's listed their names on the report," Haddad said Thursday.
Haddad wouldn't release the report, saying it was prepared for SAIC, not the federal government. He said SAIC employees tap all kinds of scientists for reports, not just studies of anthrax.
Hatfill's telephone at the Detrick Plaza Apartments in Fort Detrick has been disconnected and nobody answered a knock on the door Wednesday by an Associated Press reporter.
Hatfill, 48, has denied involvement in the anthrax mailings, complaining to The Sun in a March telephone message that he had been fired from the defense contractor and blaming news media inquiries.
"I've been in this field for a number of years, working until 3 o'clock in the morning, trying to counter this type of weapon of mass destruction, and, sir, my career is over at this time," Hatfill said.
Hatfill worked in the virology division of the U.S. Army Medical Institute of Infectious Disease at Fort Detrick, said Chuck Dasey, a spokesman for the western Maryland base. He worked for two years at the institute on a fellowship from the National Research Council, Dasey said.
He stopped working at Fort Detrick in September 1999 and was employed by SAIC until March 4.
The Sun said Hatfill was dismissed after his Defense Department security clearance was suspended on Aug. 23. Haddad said he couldn't comment on the report.
Although Hatfill likely had access to anthrax in labs shared with bacteriology researchers, his primary duties didn't involve working with anthrax, Dasey said.
Five people died in the anthrax attacks that began in late September.