WASHINGTON – A statement read Sunday by Dr. Steven Hatfill, a bioweapons expert under scrutiny for the anthrax attacks:
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Steve Hatfill. I'm a medical doctor and a biomedical scientist.
I am a loyal American, and I love my country. I have had nothing to do in any way, shape or form with the mailing of these anthrax letters, and it is extremely wrong for anyone to contend or suggest that I have.
I've devoted much of my professional career to safeguarding men, women and children from the scourge of different types of disease, from leukemia to infectious disease. I am extremely proud of my service with the government and my efforts to help safeguard public health and protect our country against the scourge of offensive biological warfare.
I am appalled at the terrible acts of biological terrorism that have caused death, disease and havoc in this great country starting last fall. But I am just as appalled that my experience, knowledge, dedication and service relative to defending the United States against biological warfare has been turned against me in connection with the search for the anthrax killer.
Last fall, two investigators from the FBI came by my office. The interview was cordial and short, and the agents explained that polygraphs were being conducted on a wide range of scientists in connection with the anthrax letters. They asked if I would consent to a polygraph concerning this incident, and I immediately agreed. The short interview was over.
Later, I went down to the Washington field office and an onsite polygraph was administered. After reviewing the polygraph charts in private, the polygraph examiner told me that I had passed and that he believed I had nothing to do with the anthrax letters.
The FBI told me they believed I had nothing to do with this incident of terrorism. In due course, following an additional debriefing, the FBI confirmed to me and to my former counsel, Tom Carter, that I was not a suspect in this case. I assumed that my involvement in the investigation was over.
In February, I received a phone call from a reporter all but accusing me of mailing the anthrax letters. He wanted to know precise details about a certain classified project on which I had previously worked, and I hung the phone up on him in mid sentence.
I immediately reported this event to my supervisor as an improper solicitation of classified information. Two days later, I was told by a former medical school colleague that the reporter had phoned him and all but accused me of mailing the anthrax letters.
I know this reporter thereafter telephoned Science Applications International Corporation, my employer at the time, and I know shortly that thereafter SAIC laid me off.
I was devastated by the loss of my job in March, although I can understand why it occurred. Upon leaving SAIC, I took a job with Louisiana State University to work with a consortium group of universities on important federally and Justice-funded programs for biological warfare defense.
Ironically, I was called back to SAIC on numerous occasions to assist with projects I started as well as to help with new projects. SAIC eventually had to contract for my continued services through Louisiana State University.
According to The Frederick (Md.) News-Post of June 27, 2002, in June 2002 a woman named Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, who affiliates herself with the Federation of American Scientists, saw fit to discuss me as a suspect in the anthrax case in a meeting with FBI agents and Senate staffers. I don't know Dr. Rosenberg. I have never met her, I have never spoken or corresponded with this woman. And to my knowledge, she is ignorant of my work and background except in the very broadest of terms.
The only thing I know about her views is that she and I apparently differ on whether the United States should sign onto a proposed modification of the international biological weapons convention. This was something I opposed to safeguard American industry, and I believe she favored.
I am at a complete loss to explain her reported hostility and accusations. I don't know this woman at all.
In any event, within several days after Dr. Rosenberg's reported comments in Congress, the FBI called me again at home. I was asked if these agents could look at my apartment and swab the walls for anthrax spores. I was surprised at the request. Anthrax is a deadly inhalational disease.
Like all researchers, working at Building 1412 at Fort Detrick previously, I had received a limited number of anthrax vaccinations. This is required for all researchers. However, a yearly booster is required to maintain immunity. I have last been inoculated in my records beginning in 99, and since December 2000, I am as susceptible to anthrax as any of you.
So I was surprised at the notion that I might have brought anthrax to my home, and would have been even amused if it was not for the fact that this matter is so grave and serious.
In addition, I have two cleaning ladies with their own keys that come and go and clean. I don't know when they come there, just that things look a lot better when they leave.
Nevertheless, I agreed to the FBI's request without hesitation. I also volunteered to have the FBI search my car and a small, unrefrigerated storage area in Florida where I keep some books, a few paintings and some other personal effects.
The FBI agents promised me that the search would be quiet, private and very low-key. It did not turn out that way.
Within minutes of my signing the release to have my residence and property searched, television cameras, satellite TV trucks, overhead helicopters were all swarming around my apartment block. The FBI agents arrived in a huge truck with hazardous-materials technicians fully garbed in protective space suits. In fact, I had previously helped train one of the FBI agents who searched my apartment.
Responding to my surprise and dismay, the agent in charge apologized to me, saying that the request for this swabbing and search had come from very, very high up.
A written and televised media frenzy ensued and continues, with journalists, columnists and others writing, stating and repeating combinations of defamatory speculation, innuendo and other accusations about me. Several have urged the FBI to step up its investigation of me.
And indeed, last week, the FBI executed a search warrant on my residence. This happened one day after my attorneys had left a message on the lead FBI investigator's voice mail confirming my continued readiness to answer questions and otherwise cooperate.
My girlfriend's home was also searched. She was manhandled by the FBI upon their entry, not immediately shown the search warrant. Her apartment was wrecked, while FBI agents screamed at her that I had killed five people and that her life would never be the same again. She was terrified by their conduct, put into isolation for interrogation for eight hours. I was horrified. The search was another media event.
The next day I was put on paid leave from my new job at Louisiana State University. This is very painful to me, though once again I understand the circumstances in which my employers find themselves in light of these actions taken against me.
As a scientist in the field of biological warfare defense, I have never had any reservations whatsoever about helping the anthrax investigation in any way that I could. It's true that my research expertise in biology, for example, the Ebola virus, the Marburg virus, and monkeypox, and not bacteriology, as in the case of the anthrax organism.
It's also true that I have never, ever worked with anthrax in my life. It's a separate field from the research I was performing at Fort Detrick.
But if I could be of assistance, I was happy to help. This is the price, I think, that scientists in this field are happy to pay. And this price is more than offset by the satisfaction I think we all gain in doing work that we believe is important for the security of our country.
All Americans value the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press, and I believe this is essential for our continued way of life. But with this freedom comes responsibility. That responsibility has been abdicated here by some in the media and some in the government.
I am appalled at the anthrax terrorist incident, and I wish the authorities godspeed in catching the culprits or culprit. I do not object to being considered a subject of interest by the authorities because of my knowledge and background in the field of biological warfare defense. But I do object to an investigation characterized, as this one has been, by outrageous official statements, calculated leaks to the media, and causing a feeding frenzy operating to my great prejudice.
I especially object to having my character assassinated by reference to events from my past which bear absolutely no relationship to the question of who the anthrax killer is.
After eight months of one of the most intensive public and private investigations in American history, no one, no one has come up with a shred of evidence that I had anything to do with the anthrax letters. I have never worked with anthrax. I know nothing about this matter.
As a substitute, the press and now the public have been offered events from my past going back 20 or more years, as if this were critical to the matter at hand. In fact, it is not.
It is a smoke screen calculated to obscure the fact that there is no evidence that I, the currently designated fall guy, have anything to do with the anthrax letters.
No more than any of you, I do not claim to have lived a perfect life. Like yourselves, there are things I would probably do or say differently than I did 10 or 20 or more years ago. Modern information-retrieval technology, coupled with sufficient motivation, can lead to anyone's life and work being picked apart for every error, wrinkle, failed memory or inconsistency. Mine can; so can yours.
Does any of this get us to the anthrax killers? If I am a subject of interest, I'm also a human being. I have a life. I have, or I had, a job. I need to earn a living. I have a family, and until recently, I had a reputation, a career and a bright professional future.
I acknowledge the right of the authorities and the press to satisfy themselves as to whether I am the anthrax mailer. This does not however, give them the right to smear me and gratuitously make a wasteland of my life in the process. I will not be railroaded.
I am a loyal American. I am extremely proud of the work I have done for the United States and for my country and her people. I expect to be treated as such by the representatives of my government and those who report its work.
Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.